Story: Mizuki Nomura
Illustrations: Miho Takeoka
Translation/Adaptation: Karen McGillicuddy
What They Say
With college exams approaching, Tohko Amano — president of the literary club, closet book-eating goblin, and shameless procrastinator — does the unthinkable and declares club activities suspended! Unencumbered by the demand of his taskmistress to deliver handwritten improv stories, Konoha finds himself helping his oft-estranged classmate, Nanase Kotobuki, in the music room after school. When one of Kotobuki’s friends goes missing before Christmas, though — vanishing amidst rumors of her being an “Angel of Music” — Konoha finds himself swept up in a mystery unfolding as if from the pages of Gaston Leroux’s seminal work…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Often when a personal tragedy occurs, you will hear someone close to them say that they never saw it coming. This can certainly be said for the many of the characters in Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel.
As the book opens, the lead character Konoha is still struggling with his own past. He has new friends, and finally gets himself a cell phone, but is still suffering from panic attacks and is still at the mercy of Tohko’s appetite for new stories. However, Tohko’s time as president of the literary club is coming to an end as college entrance exams loom. Her studies take her out of the spotlight for this volume and allows Konoha time alone with the standoffish Nanase.
What starts as an innocent request for some help filing away papers after school for the music teacher Mr. Mariya leads to a tightening of Konoha and Nanase’s relationship. With a mysterious classmate hounding Konoha about his involvement with Nanase, and about his secret past as an author, it seems that everyone is hiding something from the two. When Nanase’s friend goes missing after promising that they’d spend Christmas together, the search is on to find out what could have happened to the aspiring singer.
For a story that takes place right before the holidays, you couldn’t find a more depressing tale to tell. The framing device for this volume is the Phantom of the Opera, mixed together with a few other novels turned musicals to round out the drama. The secrets that Nanase’s friend Yuka were hiding are revealed quickly in a number of journal entries from Yuka’s hand, that the leads have no knowledge of but the readers do. They paint a picture of a girl forced into a downward spiral of tragedy and desperation, and fill the reader with dread. Even with that insight, the truth about the events is obscured quite well. Tohko eventually returns to the story to help, but besides being present at the conclusion and the events following, she remains distantly in the background. The ongoing story of her, Konoha, Nanase, and their tangled past with Miu gets a surprising nudge in a suspicious direction at the end of this volume, which should make fans of this series eager for more.
The strength of this volume lies in the mystery, and the all too real feelings that something terrible is happening, and the suspense of if Konoha and Nanase can save Yuka in time. The players are all there from the beginning of the story, but discovering how they fit together is a challenge, and the author cleverly misdirects the audience. I was fooled by the time the revelation of events took place, and the tense confrontation at the climax of the story is appropriately melodramatic and heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, there are some things which hold the book back from being great, and they’re almost entirely routed in the trappings of the light novel genre. Most of the melodrama is punctuated by bouts of anime inspired, cartoony exaggeration in how characters react to situations. Tohko’s pouting airs, Nanase’s flighty outbursts, and Omi’s sinister glares are all outrageously detailed. Since the book is mostly told from Konoha’s point of view, it makes me think his famous novel was smothered in purple prose. The humor either falls flat or isn’t funny to begin with, it’s just awkward.
There’s also a problem the overarching Phantom of the Opera references the characters constantly bring up. All of the players in the plot bring it up at various points, and that should have tipped Konoha off to who was involved in the plot long before the climax and conclusion of the book. Instead, he let’s it all slide past in confusion. It’s very odd that everyone seems to have this omnipresent knowledge about the theme of this volume.
The translator and adaptor does fantastic work capturing the individual voices of the characters and creating a flowing, natural sounding script. Tohko’s descriptions of literature as food in particular are immensely fun to read, and with all of the literary references this must be quite the project to work on.
When I read the first volume of the Book Girl series I thought it was interesting, but the characters didn’t have much draw. Was Tohko really a goblin, or was she just a girl with a weird paper eating fetish? The jumping back and forth between different viewpoints became confusing and by the end I wasn’t sure Miu was ever even a real person or just some split personality of the lead character! The series has grown nicely since then, and this is a far stronger novel than the first. A few of the reveals that I had during this volume were probably from the previous two books I missed. Jumping back into the series at book four may not be the best way to go about reading it, but this volume works as a stand alone novel well enough that even someone completely unfamiliar with the series can read it and enjoy it.
Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel gets off to a jumbled start of mismanaged relationships that builds into a gripping missing person’s case. It’s a race against the clock that’s surprisingly suspenseful and kept me up way too late wanting to see how it ended. The cartoony comedy peppering the beginning fails to uplift the serious nature of the story and falls flat. There are a few jumps in logic, and some characters get off far too easy in the end for bad decisions that they made, even though it’s clear that those mistakes will haunt them forever. Despite the flaws, fans of mystery should give this novel a look. A surprise lies in store at the end for those invested in the series and in Konoha’s past with Miu, setting up what is sure to be a dramatic fifth volume.
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 24th, 2012