Tohko has done her best to help her friends overcome their tragedies, can Konoha do the same for her?
Story: Mizuki Nomura
Illustration: Miho Takeoka
Translation/Adaptation: Karen McGillicuddy
What They Say
“I am Tohko Amano. As you can see, I am a book girl.”
It’s been two years since Konoha’s first encounter with Tohko, the mysterious girl who introduced herself so oddly. The two have shared any number of unusual adventures in the interim, but as Tohko’s graduation approaches, she inadvertently confesses a betrayal. Stunned by this revelation, Konoha is further rattled by a warning that his club president will soon disappear!
What is the secret that Tohko has kept hidden? The first act in the finale of Konoha and Tokho’s story begins here!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The previous volume of Mizuki Nomura’s Book Girl series held a secret which didn’t bode well for Konoha and Tohko’s friendship and future. In it Konoha spoke from a future where he wondered about his precious friend and her melancholy during their strange summer vacation. A friend that was curiously absent from his present day. With that immense foreboding in mind we delve anxiously in to the latest story.
Back into the normal flow of time, Tohko has been away from school during her college entrance exams. (I wonder what Japanese students must think of US high school seniors and our SAT tests. I can’t imagine any US students actually studying if given the option of staying home or going to class.) Konoha takes that time away from Tohko and her mandatory book club to try to kindle his budding romance with Nanase Kotobuki.
Konoha’s dates with Nanase are ridiculously saccharine. The awkwardness of the situation at his house and then her house has all the hallmarks of shy teenagers trying to start a relationship. I could almost feel their embarrassment, but sometimes it seems that Konoha is a bit too twee. Nanase remains the perfect tsundare, cold as ice on the outside and a bit stalker on the inside, holding on to even the spare change Konoha gave her. It’s almost ridiculously too precious, until Ryuto decides to intervene.
Cryptically, and maliciously, Ryuto arrives to make the young lover’s lives hell. Threatening Konoha as if he’d been leading Tohko on, he sets off a chain of events which bring back into Konoha’s life all of his past mistakes. First his old editor, second Miu, and finally a confrontation with a distraught Tohko. Konoha is tipped off by Tohko’s comments during the last major event with him and his friends, evidence that she had read his novel’s manuscript prior to editing. When he attempts to dig deeper Tohko breaks down in tears and departs.
It’s then that Konoha discovers the secret that Tohko has been hiding from the world.
It’s not surprising that Tohko has a tragedy in her past. We knew that her parents were not part of her life anymore, and that she was living with a woman whom she considered an Aunt and her ‘cousin’ Ryuto. The aunt has remained a cold shadow who we’ve only seen once until now. Ryuto is a piece of work who has been part of several of the novels so far, often playing a major side role in the events.
How I hate Ryuto now. Beyond his manipulation of Takeda and everyone else in this novel, we learn that he’s to just malicious but also just plain crazy. His words to Konoha lead down a rabbit hole of jealousy, false friendships, and the relationship between an author and an editor. Throughout it all are two sides screaming at Konoha to write or don’t write. To write means confronting the part of himself that he’s been running from, but it also might just be setting himself up to reenact a terrible tragedy from the past.
Tohko remains a young woman who hides a bleak past with a sunny smile. Closer to Konoha than his girlfriend, closer in many ways than family, she wants only for him to write for her, or so it seems. A girl who lives with the knowledge of all the skeletons in her family closet, and lives with an uncaring and emotionally broken woman who went so far as to murder Tohko in the pages of a novel and profit on the deaths of her parents. A complicated tragedy of two women and the man stuck in the middle.
And just what is Konoha’s relationship with her? He says it’s like that of a sister, but his admiration seems to be far deeper than that. She’s the only girl he’s that comfortable around, and that level of comfort isn’t usually seen between a boy and girl unless they are in a more intimate relationship. We’re supposed to believe their relationship mirrors the one between Tohko’s aunt and her father, at least from his perspective. What about Tohko’s?
Konoha can’t be the author Tohko wants, and it almost breaks him. Nanase, whose done nothing to deserve the grief she’s suffered in this series, comes to his emotional rescue. Where does that leave Tohko? At the end of the novel it becomes painfully clear that Ryuto is not going to let the dead sleep quietly, and unless everyone act out his story he was going to make life hell for Konoha and Nanase. The real question is, can Konoha save Tohko from her own personal hell? Until now she’s been the one saving everyone else, and it’s unclear if Konoha can get it together and be the one to rescue another for once.
Just when Konoha thought he’d found his footing after a long and tumultuous journey, Tohko’s past threatens to drag him back in to a mire of dangerous liaisons and life imitating books. Tohko’s parents fate isn’t unexpected, but the circumstances surrounding it are darker and more complex than I expected. I certainly didn’t expect Ryuto to play the role in this scenario that he is. While the Book Girl series has never shied away from complex dramas and murder, it’s never felt more personal for the lead as it is here. A twisted tale of jealously leaps from a book to real life and back to the pages of a book in a cycle which it looks like only Konoha is going to be able to break. The cliffhanger ending is leaving me on edge, and it’s going to feel like a long wait for the final volume of the main story of a Book Girl and her author.
Content Grade: A –
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A +
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 23rd, 2013