We are returning to my anime reviewing, and next on the list is Aoi Bungaku, also known as Blue Literature. Aoi Bungaku is an adaptation of 4 famous pieces of Japanese literature, one of which I’ve actually read! The sheer amount of quality put into this series is enough to make me totally super excited.
So without further ado, let’s dig in! Itadakimasu~
First up is No Longer Human. This one was by far the most confusing of all the stories. We have a man who never seemed to fit in with society, even from a young age. This trait was one that often made his father angry, and the fear it caused only made his mental state to worsen. It seems he can only express himself by drawing grotesque images that only resemble humans in its shape. After drawing these “monsters” (as he calls it) he starts having hallucinations of them coming to life.
As he gets older, he joins an activist group, but soon he realizes that the group only wanted him for his money. He eventually runs away from home and attempts to double suicide with a hostess at a bar. However, he survives the double suicide, but from here his hallucinations of his monsters increase.
He continues his life of moving from woman to woman, attempting to become human with them, but none of them are able to fend off his monster. The instance he realizes this, he leaves them. No Longer Human ends with our main character walking out into a snowy night, where he seems to come to terms with his inner monster. It is implied that he finally dies.
Sakura no Mori no Manki no Shita, or “In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom,” is a colorful but bizarre thing to watch. Apparently a forest bandit is in the woods and “finds” himself a beautiful wife (more like kills off everyone else around her). However, she eventually drives him to insanity with her demands, and he tries to kill her beneath the cherry blossoms where they met. Of course, it turns out that he’s actually the one who died. This story is related to the saying that there’s a dead body beneath every cherry tree, and it is their blood that stains the flower petals pink.
Kokoro is a pretty interesting story, and slightly easily to comprehend than No Longer Human. We have two characters, the nameless narrator and his monk friend “K.” The narrator dorms with a widow and her daughter, and seeing that K has no lodgings, he offers for K to live with him. K eventually falls in love with the widow’s daughter, who (from the narrator’s point of view) fears K. The narrator eventually treats K with coldness, which seems to force K to commit suicide.
Unlike the book Kokoro, the anime adds a twist where the story is told from K’s point of view. In this retelling, the season is winter and not summer. Also, the widow’s daughter is the one that seduces K. She also does not have feelings for the narrator, unlike in the original Kokoro, but K is still ridden with guilt. This guilt eventually turns into paranoia and fear of the narrator. Ultimately, K commits suicide here too.
My favorite sub-story of Aoi Bungaku is by far Run, Melos!, if anything for its straightforward plot. Run, Melos! is about a playwright who writes a play based on Friedrich Schiller’s Die Bürgschaft and transitively on the Greek myth Damon and Pythias. In his version of the story, Melos attempts to kill his tyrannical king, but fails and is to be executed. He asks for the help of his friend Selinuntius, who agrees to be Melos’ replacement as Melos goes back to his hometown and attends his sister’s wedding, before coming back to accept his punishment. If the three days are up and he is not back, Selinuntius would take Melos’ place at the chopping board.
The playwright’s story becomes entangled with his real life and his past, in which he had a charismatic friend who ultimately betrayed him. Thus, he ends up incorporating much of the negativity he had towards trusting others, but in the end, the loose ends get tied up nicely for both Melos and for the playwright’s friendship.
The Spider’s Thread is an episode derived from a children’s story of the same name. It’s a pretty gruesome story, so I’m still surprised they let kids read this. Although the book is unrelated to Hell Scene, in the anime the setting for the two stories is the same. Anyways, meet Kandata, a cruel and evil bandit who does a single good thing in his lifetime: he shows pity to a spider he meets in the city. In death, Kandata obviously goes to hell, but the spider he saves drops down for him a thread to heaven. Kandata takes the thread, but when the rest of the hellish denizens try to also climb up, he tries to hog the thread for himself. The thread snaps, and he’s stuck in hell forever.
Someone who joins Kandata in hell is the king in The Spider’s Thread and Hell Screen. The great painter named Yoshihide is commissioned to paint the king’s mausoleum with depictions of the greatness of the country. However, after seeing the king’s cruelty with his own eyes (as in, seeing the king order for Yoshihide’s daughter to be burned alive in front of him) Yoshihide instead paints of the anguish of the commoners and creates a hell scene in the king’s mausoleum. The animation team had a ball here and decided to stick Kandata in the king’s hell scene.
The animation and art is very different from story to story, and I have to admit sometimes the quality is inconsistent too. Kokoro’s art style is different from the style of the other 3 stories, and gives it a very rustic and old-school feel. The other 3 have a very clean-cut art style that I’m quite fond of. In addition to style, there was a great deal of movie-like effects, such as attention to colors. In No Longer Human and Kokoro, there were rarely any bright or contrasting colors, so bright colors actually signal/symbolize something.
On the other hand, in Sakura no Mori, The Spider’s Thread and Hell Screen, there are almost too many colors, possibly to aid the story make your head spin. After all, the contents of these three stories were much more symbolic and open-ended than that of the others. As for Run, Melos!, the animation quality I believe is that best, however I found no particular effects with colors.
Finally, we’re at the end of this review! So thanks for reading!
Over and out, gochisousama deshita~