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Anime Review: Gekijouban Bungaku Shoujo @

Just an ordinary literature girl

(Whoops... typed this review up last night and forgot to post it. Don't mind!) I've been looking forward to Literature Girl The Movie since a friend pointed me at the OVA episode and short special that had been released a little while back. Technically, the movie was released earlier, but it only recently came to DVD and got translated; both are based on a series of light novels. It's made by Production I.G. and clocks in at just over an hour and 40 minutes including the end credits. (By the way, there's a little something after the credits, so don't stop there if you watch it.)

Bungaku Shoujo is about Amano Touko, the literature girl who eats stories (literally ripping up books and eating the pages as she reads them), and Inoue Konoha, her underclassman in the literature club who writes "snacks" for her. But Konoha knows the secret of the mysterious writer Inoue Miu, who vanished after publishing her hit first novel, a pure love story called Resembling the Sky... a secret that will come back to haunt him.

Plot & Characters: Bungaku Shoujo is an engaging drama (more than just a love story) that mixes grave melancholy with uplifting idealism and a delightful qurkiness. While a little fantastical, it's charmingly so, and a couple times throughout it I was impressed at the characters' depth of emotion, intelligence, and (in some cases) maturity. The direction and scene composition are adept and effective, helping to create a tranquil yet fragile tone, even while the pacing feels sometimes a little abrupt. From time to time, it feels like a lot of content got compressed into just 100 minutes, which may be in part because many of the characters have pre-established relationships that are only subsequently, if at all, explained. For only leaving a mild impression of doing so, it's actually respectable. At this point, I think I'm still sorting out my feelings towards the ending, but my gut tells me it's an excellent story that could gain, rather than lose, impact on rewatching.

Art & Animation: As usual, Production I.G. does a pretty respectable job. The animation is typical of their style, which I've always felt feels almost preternaturally standard for anime, but that's not a bad thing when it's executed with this much attention to detail. The faces are expressive, the characters all look attractive, and the backgrounds are often full of detail and tinted in tasteful arrangements of mood-appropriate colors. My only complaint would be the somewhat intrusive presence of 3D CGI from time to time, especially leading into one of the most important scenes in the movie. (The planetarium scene.)

Music & Sound: The music for Bungaku Shoujo is understated, melodious, and expressive. It follows standard orchestral practice well, and supplements the movie commendably without ever standing out. The voice cast is made up of big names, headlined by the recently-prolific-for-good-reason Hanazawa Kana as Touko. The rest do a generally superb job, even if Hirano Aya can't quite escape sounding like her usual self and Irino Miyu makes Konoha look and sound a bit too much like Syaoran from that other Pro-I.G. series.

Audience Considerations: Though the summary may not sound like it, Bungaku Shoujo is actually nominally aimed at a male demographic, with no shortage of attractive girls and a physically bland-looking protagonist, but the story and overall quality should be accessible to any gender, and the movie generally avoids straying into fanservice/ecchi territory while substituting more subtle (and consequently more effective) humorous undertones. There's of course no gory violence, and while the concepts it approaches are sometimes quite serious, it manages not to be indulgently depressing. For viewers who demand high-octane action or spirited adventure, however, they may want to look elsewhere than Literature Girl.

Overall: Bungaku Shoujo is slightly off the beaten path, intelligent, and moving. It's not without its flaws, but they're insubstantial compared to the serious, immersive, and fascinating story that unfolds within the bounds of the movie. (For a shorter and more lighthearted peek into the Bungaku Shoujo universe, I also recommend both the "Kyou no Oyatsu - Hatsukoi") short as well as the Bungaku Shoujo Memoire OVA, of which 1 episode is currently available.)


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