When Tohko, resident literature-eating goblin, discovers that someone has been slicing the pages out of the library, she and Konoha launch an investigation. The culprit turns out to be Kazushi Akutagawa, fellow classmate of Konoha’s. As punishment, Tohko decides to have Akutagawa participate in the book club’s play for the school’s cultural festival.
While practice for the play is running smoothly, Konoha can’t help but notice the strange resemblance of book club’s play to the circumstances of the vandalism. And with Akutagawa acting unusual from his normal behavior, the situation becomes increasingly dangerous. Will Konoha step in to intervene, opening up to his classmate, or will he reject it, in fear of being hurt again?
Book Girl and the Captive Fool brings the spotlight back on familiar characters as Tohko brings together Konoha, Chia, Kotobuki, and Akutegawa together to participate in the play. Inspired by Saneatsu’s Mushanokōji’s Friendship, Nomura creates a love triangle in her own vision, surrounding its concerned characters in emotional torment, childhood bullying, and true friendships.
Mushanokōji’s Friendship is a story about how a guy is trapped between love and friendship, having to choose between restraining his feelings for his best friend’s girlfriend in honor of their relationship, or asking his best friend’s girlfriend to come abroad with him. Nomura honors this tale by making the main conflict and Tohko’s play based off it. While adding other sub-plots into the mix, the final result is a story about emotionally destructive characters in adolescent relationships.
Kazushi Akutagawa was introduced back in the first volume as a member of the Archery Club and one of Konoha’s classmates. Akutagawa is best described as a very cool, tranquil, and upstanding individual. But when he joins the play, Akutagawa starts to behave very strangely. There are some clear tells of his expressions that reveal a different side to him, but it isn’t until his past, full of regret and suffering, is discussed that we get an explanation for his actions. Unlike mysteries from previous volumes, like the culprit of a murder or an investigation of a strange phenomenon, the real mystery here is the inner darkness of a human being named Kazushi Akutagawa.
While the black bold text monologues are usually unclear on who the speaker is at the beginning, we soon figure out that the person writing these monologues here is Akutagawa. These excerpts express Akutagawa’s inner thoughts and highlight his self-destructive behavior, and Nomura’s prose helps dramatize the feelings and text itself.
In the past, Konoha has always stood on the sidelines, observing others. After that incident involving Miu, Konoha has always avoided people. He was never in a position where he went out of his way to intervene in another person’s personal affairs. He was afraid of getting hurt again, to undergo the same suffering as back then. But with Konoha becoming increasingly concerned for Akutagawa, he begins to have second thoughts. His original impression is that Konoha and Akutagawa were only just classmates; not close enough to be called close friends but knew each other enough relatively enough more than complete strangers. So when as Akutagawa’s situation becomes more dire and starts to resemble Miu’s incident, Konoha is forced to look at himself in a mirror.
“If a relationship is just going to fall apart someday, it’s best to not get involved at all.
Why continue if it all it results is more suffering?”
Kotobuki has more of a presence in this volume but she still continues to get sidelined in the larger conflicts within the volumes. However, Kotobuki’s behaviors and feelings are becoming more increasing apparent as the overall plot goes on.
Chia Takeda from the first volume returns to Book Girl as appearing as one of the characters Tohko has hired to act in her play. While she continues to have a bubbly personality, her detached side of appears from time to time, exclusive to Konoha only. Chia doesn’t have as much of a role here as well, but with the very few scenes with her, we can see signs of her character developing from her incident.
The real showstopper here however is Tohko. She isn’t chained down with any painful history or has any current emotional stress, but she provides both Konoha and Akutagawa her wisdom with a calming reassurance and with a captivating performance, respectively. While the novel hasn’t presented Tohko with any problematic dilemma, her role has always been to be there for our characters during the worst of times; and with a series known for its melancholy tone, she gives them the warmth they need.
All of the english published covers of Book Girl have illustrations of Tokho outlined with torn pages. With a story that revolves around letters, box cutters, and torn pages, it would make sense for this volume to have at least one illustration with that certain style. The third color illustration depicts Konoha, Akutagawa, and Sarashina stylized with torn pages and scar marks with dark tint of green, contrasting the bright colors palette in the other illustrations.
Another noteworthy illustration is the scene where Konoha and Akutagawa are sitting down on a bench speaking with each other. The picture here has the two characters caged by two strong black border lines, symboling their entrapment worthy of the novel’s name.
Even without the surprising hook at the very end, this is a very solid volume of Book Girl. The real climax here isn’t figuring out the culprit behind the vandalism, but showing Konoha and Akutagawa obtaining their resolution in the end. Book Girl and the Captive Fool shows us that even if relationships break apart, even if feelings get hurt, and even if we continue to carry pain and suffering, we would be still able to stand back up again and embark towards a new future.
Rating: Highly Recommended
Author: Mizuki Nomura
Illustrator: Miho Takeoka
Translator: Karen McGillicuddy
English Publisher: Yen Press