Tohko’s story is finally told, and Konoha’s story comes to an end.
Story: Mizuki Nomura
Illustration: Miho Takeoka
Translation/Adaptation: Karen McGillicuddy
What They Say
“You don’t have to write. I’ll stay with you.” Nanase’s words may have saved Konoha, but Ryuto’s words only trouble his heart once more: “I might break Kotobuki.” And just after, Tohko vanishes. All that remains in her empty house is a shredded school uniform. Can Konoha follow her? What answer will he find as the truth gradually comes to light? Tohko’s prayer, Kanako’s hatred, Ryuto’s anguish – the story hidden at the root of them all is about to be revealed! The bold final episode of Book Girl!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
When we came into this final volume of the Book Girl series, the last story left to be told was Tohko’s. She might be the titular character of the series, but it’s been Konoha’s story and it’s from his perspective we’ve watched it all play out.
In the last volume we discovered Tohko’s tragic past, with the death of her parents leaving her to live with an uncaring woman whom she calls her aunt, and a cousin who has more issues than you could count. Tohko had been hiding the motive for her coaching Konoha with his writing, and that she had sought him out with the selfish desire of making him her author. Konoha, who was still struggling with the problems his writing caused, swore off being an author and turned to Kotobuki’s waiting arms.
When we join back up with Konoha he is fighting with his decision to part ways with Tohko, and is paranoid about Ryuto’s threats towards Kotobuki. It’s been clear throughout a large majority of the later volumes of the series that Konoha’s thoughts about Tohko were starting to stray out of the sisterly impression and into the romantic. However, Kotobuki is the one who showed romantic interest, and Konoha had all sorts of warm fuzzy thoughts about that relationship as well. He’s torn between a love that can be and one which isn’t even fully realized.
Then the trouble starts up with Ryuto in earnest. He attacks Kotobuki in the library, leading me to wonder how far the broken teenager was going to take his attack. Takeda simply sits back and allows it all to happen, proving that her loyalties are not necessarily on any one side in this strange conflict. It’s the last straw for Konoha, who has to bring in Akutagawa to keep Kotobuki safe. Ryuto continues his rampage of dissaster, showing up drunk at Konoha’s house on one occasion and crying in front of his house on another. He’s basically the worst curse you could wish upon someone.
Then we discover something which nearly breaks Ryuto, and it’s the end result of his on again- off again relationship with Maki. It’s one last shocking plot twist to all of this teenage drama. Ryuto does not take the surprise well.
All of Ryuto’s actions are just a smoke screen. There’s no proof that all his anguish about Konoha’s relationship with Tohko was a life or death situation for them. It does create the opportunity for Konoha to take his rightful place as an author. In the middle of him worrying about Tohko he discovers just how much he cares for her, something that everyone else realized but that he couldn’t admit. Watching him take the role that Tohko previously filled and spin a tale of love, loss, and redemption to heal a broken family was the perfect grand finale for the series. Tohko remains true to herself throughout the entire thing, a guiding hand who was also still just a teenager in a tough situation.
Ryuto finally gets what was coming to him, delivered by the hands of Takeda. I find it hard to sympathize at all with Ryuto, even when we discover where all of his guilt is stemming from. He refuse to talk to Konoha in anything but riddles, spent most of the last two volumes threatening Kotobuki, and in the end he gets off lightly for his abuse and crimes.
I can’t help but feel that Kotobuki ended up getting the short end of the stick in this whole mess. Her role in the story was necessary to provide the elements one would expect from a story about teenagers and young love, and she’s not the only one who suffered, but she got the least out of all of these troubles. For as sweetly sentimental the story can get, the fact that not everything works out perfectly for everyone in the end grounds it.
Each volume of the Book Girl series have focused on the same themes of love and loss. Complicated relationships made more complicated by broken expectations and violent reactions. That comes full circle when we discover the fate of some of the characters we met in previous volumes. Some have fallen further into despair and others have risen above their tragic pasts. With so much coming back into play from earlier volumes, I found myself at a loss to remember who some of the characters referenced where. That’s an honest problem in any book series featuring a large cast, and it becomes a greater issue when confronted with names which are not in your native language.
The ending shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone reading. The epilog shows that time has healed some of the worst of the wounds, although it is perhaps maybe a bit too optimistic for some of the supporting cast. Konoha finds the author he was meant to be, and with some maturity perhaps he can find out the man he wants to become.
The story of the Book Girl comes to an end here, or at least the main tale does. There are four short story collections and four side story novels, but short story collections tend not to sell well in English so I wouldn’t be surprised if Yen Press and Hachette passed on them.
Book Girl and the Scribe Who Faced God Part 2 ties together all of the pervious volumes in the series to wrap up everything with a satisfying close. Maybe too well considering how bloody some of the events play out. I’m sure a few people might feel betrayed by what Konoha ultimately decides to do and with whom, but it fit with the overall theme as it had been set up over the course of many volumes.
The Book Girl series as a whole is a complicated work of fiction. It’s an author writing about authors talking about books written by other authors, and often featuring a mystery or two on top of that. The mental gymnastics to keep all of those elements straight would make any author sweat. Taking all of that, translating it into another language, and releasing it as a series is something that took a lot of guts.
The series started off more confusing and rougher than it needed to be. Some of the tricks employed to keep the drama high and the readers in the dark were silly, but they worked. As each new volume came out I found myself curious as to where this whole story was leading, and about the secrets the broken cast was hiding. In real life I usually try to distance myself from anyone whose lives are filled with this much self made torture. Relationship troubles are one thing, but the police probably have everyone in a file after the events that transpired over the course of this series!
The only real issues I have with the series are often displayed by Konoha himself in the final pages of the last volume. It’s pointed out that Konoha’s writing is too sweet, too optimistic. The lovingly described details of Tohko perched in a chair are told over and over again. That cloying level of adoration permeates the story, to the point where I sincerely wanted Konoha to do something crass. Yes, Konoha is too girly and the story knows it. He’s fragile and the writing lingers on his emotional musings, and it’s taken into account, since no one questioned Konoha writing under a female pseudonym. It’s a terribly clever way to mask writing a male protagonist as a female author, but that sweet puppy love is almost too much at times and strains the credibility. Then again, I’m not a teenage boy and never was, who am I to judge what could go on in a young man’s head?
I haven’t read any of the classic novels that were the plot fodder for the Book Girl series, and yet I feel like I have a decent understanding of several of them now.
Konoha, Tohko, and the rest of the characters are fully fleshed out individuals and it’s easy to find favorites to root for. It’s hard to dislike Tohko, even after discovering that she isn’t as perfect as she appears. Konoha is an open book, who might come off as a bit too innocent for a high school boy despite his emotional problems. They’re all damaged, and that is something many books about teenagers seem to struggle with depicting.
Despite the slow start, I highly recommend this series, especially for young aspiring writers. It’s been great fun to read.
Content Grade: A –
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A +
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 21st, 2014