Adrift in the flow of time, this story lies both in the future and the past, offering a melancholy glimpse of what’s to come.
Story: Mizuki Nomura
Illustration: Miho Takeoka
Translation/Adaptation: Karen McGillicuddy
What They Say
“I’ve been kidnapped by a bad person. Bring a change of clothes and your homework and come save me!” Duped by this seemingly earnest summons from Tohko, Konoha finds himself forced to spend his summer break at the Himekura villa, writing snacks for his greedy club president. But the shadow of a tragedy from eighty years past threatens to destroy their otherwise peaceful summer! What is the “secret” that stirs the Book Girl’s imagination?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
In this sixth novel of the Book Girl series, the narrative jumps back in time to tell an untold story nestled in-between volumes 2 and 3. After the momentous events of Wayfarer’s Lamentation it’s a bit curious that the author chose to go back rather than move forward. However, it soon becomes clear that this book is a flashback from an unspecified point in Konoha’s future, making this book removed from the linear storyline thus far.
Stepping back in time, we discover that the events of volume two have had lasting consequences for several characters in the story. Chief among those still emotionally involved is Maki, the wealthy artist who is constantly trying to get Tohko to pose nude for her. We find out more about her life, her family, and why she has such an enormous chip on her shoulder. We also discover she’s not without flaws, as she’s inherited the manipulative and unforgiving nature of her grandfather, whom she despises.
She lures Tohko and Konoha into her plot to uncover an old family secret and get one up on her grandfather. Trapped in an old mansion in the hills of a secluded town, it’s the prime setting for a murder mystery. Or, at least, for getting to the bottom of a decades old one. It’s also the perfect situation for testing the limits of friendship.
Konoha isn’t exactly thrilled at having been scammed into spending some of his summer break locked up with Tohko and Maki. The creepy atmosphere of the mansion and it’s employees doesn’t help much. Left alone to their own devices, Konoha and Tohko begin to dig through the history of the mansion. Myth and legend, reality and fiction start to collide as a sordid and bloody tale of unrequited love is uncovered in the pages of an old diary. It’s only when they realize that Maki is recreating the conditions from the most infamous moment of her family’s history that things truly become interesting.
Much like previous volumes the story is told from Konoha’s point of view, and thus the story falls into some familiar flaws. There’s a heavy emphasis on the sleepy setting and dream states, but the novel tends to get lost in the imagery. Konoha dwells on Tohko with a poets fascination and subjects the reader to purple prose about her at any given turn. We get it, she’s a mystery wrapped in a delicate enigma and you’re crushing on her badly. Likewise, Tohko’s grand reveal of the mystery that haunts the mansion is typically overdramatic and suffers from the same wordiness that plagues most mystery novel reveals. I can overlook the info dump and it’s leaps in logic mostly because that’s not really the focus of this series. The author does such a good job weaving the classic literature into the themes of the current storyline that I don’t mind so much. The mystery is there to service the characters, not the other way around.
Much like previous books there’s an outside narrative force, shown in the text as bold face type, scattered around the novel usually at the end of chapters. In previous volumes this has been used for showing us the internal thoughts of an unnamed character that the reader has to figure out the identity of through context. The surprise in this volume is that these are asides for Konoha this time, reminiscing about the events of the summer at the mansion. It’s not a post volume five Konoha, but a post graduation Konoha, which was a complete surprise. I’m sure the author is trying to trick us, the sense of melancholy is rather poignant and it points to a uncertain future for Tohko. Hopefully we’re not kept in suspense for too long.
As usual, Yen does a nice job with the presentation of the story and the translation reads smoothly, I have no doubt that this series is a tricky job for the translator. The color illustrations that lead off the volume differ from the previous by becoming a two fold out spreads featuring Maki, and Konoha with Tohko. The author explains the works used and referenced in the afterword, all novels by Japanese author Izumi Kyoka, although I doubt most of us English readers would know of the books.
A bit florid, and a bit dreamlike, Book Girl continues to be a love letter to literature while exploring the often bloody relationships of it’s characters. The story told in this volume retains the feel of a classic mansion murder mystery mixed with a tragic love affair. The writing does go slightly overboard with it’s lazy, summertime romance imagery and any scene with Konoha and Tohko seems to be beating their relationship over the reader’s heads. Despite that, the change in scenery is a nice break from winter setting of the last few books. Despite taking place after the second novel, a teasing revelation about Konoha’s future is thrown in close to the end, hinting at how events in future books might play out. This series has grown into a solid and reliable good read, and now readers will have to wait for the final two volumes to see what becomes of Tohko and Konoha.
Content Grade: B +
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013