I don’t know how exactly Bungaku Shoujo managed to go by unnoticed by me. It might have been my lack of enthusiasm with the anime scene and how seasons didn’t appeal to me as they once did, or how I was actually caring about college for once. It wasn’t until I saw pictures for the Touko Amano Nendoroid that I finally found the series and thought, “That girl is eating book. I have to check this out now”.
So I finally managed to watch this last week, and… At first words fail me. Because I don’t think there are many anime out there that seem to fit me so well, but this one just does. It wasn’t just the literature, or just the love story. Everything makes one endearing piece that only Touko and her refined taste could be able to describe.
Girl eats books. I’d be more than glad to do it metaphorically but Touko, she just goes for the literal. That premise had everything to be weird, but as the characters approach it, it is not that big of a deal. It is Touko herself, the Literature Girl, in her entirety, that gives the movie that magnificent touch.
Now, Touko may be the title girl, but in fact, most of the story developed in the movie is not about her. We see everything from the eyes of Konoha Inoue, the unfortunate boy who happened to pass by Touko one day as she was having one of her daily snacks. Since he saw her, she forces him to join the Literature Club in order to keep her secret, as well as write stories to feed her. For the first half of the movie, we see a bit of the fun every day life of Touko and Konoha, until we start learning more about Konoha, his past and his secrets.
Main issue with Konoha is childhood friend Miu Asakura, suicidal and unstable on all accounts, who has influence and control over Konoha’s life. Konoha feels guilty for Miu’s suicide attempt and abdicates his dreams and life for her.
But Konoha has people who love him and care for him; not only Touko, but classmates like Kazushi Akutagawa and Nanase Kotobuki, who has a crush on him. They try to care for him and pull him out of the hell hole he got himself into.
I can’t say I disliked learning about Konoha, but once most of the suspense around Miu gets cleared up and we focus on the two of them and their relationship, that was the part I least liked from the movie. Main problem was Miu herself. She is selfish and controlling and manipulative and suffocating. That was obviously the reaction they were trying to get from us, maybe even some eventual sympathy, but I just could not get over her. She just kept getting herself lower and lower until I didn’t give a damn about what happened to her, I just wanted her out. It wasn’t entirely her selfishness, but how all she could do was harm. She was weak and pathetic for the most part. This weakness, however, can represent a fraction of our own human weaknesses, exactly like Konoha, who is terrified of the harm he has (supposedly) caused her. Jealousy and guilt are deep and devastating characteristics of any person.
On the other hand, we have the very pictures of selflessness in the form of Touko and Konoha. I got really attached to them, for putting themselves through so much for the sake of another person. I wanted Konoha out of it, I wanted him to be free and realize how much poison Miu was to him, but Touko… Touko was a whole new level.
My friend Raphael talked about Touko as a transcendental being, completely out of this world. She would go to the extend of giving everything up for another person. Her literature-eating habits also represented her as a supernatural being that didn’t belong here. No one could compare. No one could reach.
But I didn’t really perceive Touko in that light. My friend was very amused with my quote, “To me, she just looked like a girl having a ton of fun. And well, she ate books occasionally.” After watching her half of Memoire and the Hatsukoi OVA, I still stand by that affirmation. The way her peculiar eating habits are presented and then developed, it feels much like a detail of her personality. Her enthusiasm for anything related to the club, her passion for stories, her talks about the future are very human and quite relatable. For her personality alone, Touko is definitely endearing and very supportive of Konoha. She felt like the most honest best friend. (And for once Hanazawa Kana didn’t annoy me.)
Her caring heart is what I admire the most, and maybe I can’t let myself believe that it is something out of this world. Memoire does a great job at showing more of Touko to the audience, and knowing she would give up her biggest dream, or maybe even more, the single most important feeling in the world for her for the sake of somebody else’s happiness… And you know she’s hurt, the animators made sure to show that sadness in her, but she tries her best to part with a smile. Accepting that as out of this world would feel to me like giving up on this honest love, as if people are no longer capable of that. I don’t live in my own world of fairy tale, but I cannot accept that this sort of love is only present in books.
I would have greatly preferred if this were a TV series rather than a movie. I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the animation and character design, but it was still a beautiful movie nonetheless, as Production I.G is sure to deliver. The Hatsukoi OVA gave me the feeling that I could watch endless episodes on Touko’s assignments and what sort of craziness Konoha would submit himself to in order to feed the literature girl. Also, the resolution to Miu wouldn’t feel so rushed, and we could know characters like Touko’s foster family better. But the movie surely had some scenes that I am not likely to forget for some very long time – especially one scene in the snow between Touko and Konoha, right before the day she has her big college exams.
Touko speaks of books like they are real, keeping and cherishing every single story she has ever eaten. I don’t eat books, but Touko and her spot by the window, a book in hand and a smile on her lips, have a fond spot in my top 10.