For general information on this series: Book Girl entry
This review is for the third volume of Book Girl by Mizuki Nomura (with art by Miho Takeoka). The English edition was released by Yen Press in August 2011, and the entirety of the eight-volume series has been localized.
Book Girl and the Captive Fool follows in the footsteps of Famished Spirit (vol 2) and Suicidal Mime (vol 1), providing a mystery for Konoha and Tohko in a drama-filled story steeped in literary references. Though each book tells its own self-contained narrative, I still suggest reading the novels in order for the sake of the overarching character arcs.
In this installment, the story begins with Tohko deciding she and Konoha need to discern who is cutting up books in the school library. As can be expected, this leads into a more significant mystery and a great deal of soul-searching for Konoha and a number of other characters. A good amount of focus this time though is given to Konoha’s acquaintance Akutagawa, the stoic member of the archery club who would speak to Konoha off and on in the first two books. Though it is unlikely readers will have faced the exact situations Akutagawa faces in this story, I feel many will be able to relate to the thoughts and feelings he keeps bottled up inside–all of which is conveyed powerfully through the author’s introspective prose (and its well-handled translation).
As is the case in the first two entries, this third novel gradually reveals how there is much more to various characters than there first appears. As the first two books dealt with issues such as depression and eating disorders, this title delves into self-harm. Meanwhile, the unstable nature of romance continues to remain in full-force, as a violent love triangle comes into play and a couple other subplots continue to develop in engaging ways. The highest praise I can give to the Book Girl series though would be toward its characters, and the ways they develop from one book to the next. Konoha continues to develop as the series protagonist and viewpoint character, still struggling with his past while dealing with this installment’s theme of what it means to be a friend. Friendship is a topic dealt with all the time in high school stories, but the way Book Girl goes about it (partly via a school play of the fittingly-titled Friendship by classic Japanese author Mushanokoji Saneatsu) is certainly a bit more unconventional.
One final point worth mentioning: The plot twist at the end of this volume… It really caught me by surprise, to say the very least! It not only paints everything that happens in book three in a new light right at the last minute, but it presents some really exciting possibilities for later books in the series. As such, it goes without saying I strongly recommend this volume to anyone enjoyed the first two.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended