Anime Adaptations of the Written Form: A Look at Bungaku Shoujo

This is actually her cameo in Amagami SS.

Bungaku Shoujo

What makes a good adaptation? Does it have to explain every minute detail of the character? Does it capture the spirit of the source material? I’ve thought about it recently with an increasing number of anime being adapted from other mediums. Whether it’s from a manga, a light novel, or a visual novel, each of these shows has to make changes from medium to medium. As an example of these changes, I took a look at one of my favorite light novel series: Bungaku Shoujo, or its English title: Book Girl.

The first animated adaptations of the light novels were OVA’s. If someone who hasn’t read the books, would they be able to enjoy them on their own? I don’t think so, as they serve as character studies and don’t have much plot to them. It’s very specific in its objective. Each OVA focuses on one of the three main girls in the series: Amano Tohko, Asakura Miu, and Kotobuki Nanase. They showcase the particular strengths of the girls; along with their relationship with Konoha, the protagonist of the series. Ultimately, the role of the OVAs is to provide the building blocks which lead us to the movie.

The movie is an adaptation of the fifth volume in the series. The title of the US version is “Book Girl and the Wayfarer’s Lamentation.” It deals with Tohko preparing to head to college, Nanase’s relationship with Konoha, and the return of Miu, Konoha’s first love. The central story of the movie corresponds with the movie is Miyazawa Kenji’s Night on the Galactic Railroad. The movie ties in with this as the story deals with the journey of Miu and Konoha’s relationship. The story and Miyazawa Kenji is referred to specifically in the movie. The final conversation between Konoha and Tohko takes place on a train as well.

I found the movie to be a good adaption of the fifth volume of the light novel. First, it cuts out what it needs to cut out. Taking a light novel and putting it into 100-minute movie means having to trim extraneous elements to meet a time limit. It succeeds, in that it makes the plot flow as it should. Secondly, it captures the essence of the characters. Nanase, in particular, has some very subtle moments that show how much she cares about Konoha. Third, it brings the light novel to life. It’s not the best work Production I.G. has done; but the scenes at the end are presented quite nicely.  And finally, what story isn’t better when Hanazawa Kana is voice acting in it?

What elements are necessary for a good adapatation? It’s a subjective view from whomever is watching the show. Each of us look for something different. What do you look for? Drop a line in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Anime Adaptations of the Written Form: A Look at Bungaku Shoujo

  1. Lily M.

    What I look for in adaptations is to, at the very least, be able to see the characters I know. Even a change in the ending doesn’t bother me as much as seeing a character behave in ways I disagree with, because it would stray from the personality or mannerisms described or inferred in the story I read. I think it would be boring if every adaptation was the very same thing as the original material; haven’t I seen it all before, in my head? Is it better because it’s animated/filmed? I think new media require new elements, to work better, to be able to flow.

    Well, making a new story altogether from a good source material would be pretty annoying though 😉

    The Bungaku Shoujo movie made me ache for the books, which I’m very interested in importing! I really wish the art was better though… It was, perhaps, the only thing lacking.

    1. Sabas Post author

      Flow. That’s a good word. Definitely need that in a good adaptation. The worst thing is watching a show and feel like it’s been chopped up. Sword Art Online (groan) and Kaze no Stigma both were like that for me.

      New story is hit or miss. As long as they can capture the spirit of the source material, I’m okay.

      I hope you get a chance to read the books! Currently trying to figure out a way to gift the ebooks for a friend. And yeah, the art was kinda lacking. 😦

      Also, thanks for being my first commenter. 😀

  2. Numbers and Space

    My favourite adaptations are always the ones that add to the experience of the original. Does it have to be faithful to the original? Not really, not for me at least. I’d much rather see it take a new view. My prime example would be ef. Though the events in both the anime and the visual novel are the same, the anime gives emphasis to different parts and creates a completely new experience. An opposing example would be Fate/Zero, I wrote my thoughts on that here. Isn’t it more fun if we can make an anime instead of just animating words?

    1. Sabas Post author

      The anime for ef was really something, wasn’t it? I think it played to the strength of anime in that it was a visual spectacle along with being an adaptation. It really stands on its own.

      Not going to lie, didn’t finish Fate/Zero. But I get what you’re saying.


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