Bond & Book: The Long, Long Good-Bye of “The Last Bookstore”

By Mizuki Nomura and Miho Takeoka. Released in Japan as “Musubu to Hon: “Saigo no Honyasan” no Nagainagai Owari” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

If you are reading and enjoying Bond & Book, as well as the author’s prior series Book Girl, then I am going to assume that you are a fan of books. Not just “Oh hey, I like reading” or “I always get the new release of Index when it comes out”, but someone whose entire life is tied up in reading and the titles that have impacted them. Certainly this series is both about and for those people, and while it takes the time to explain the books that it focuses on, there’s a greater depth if you’ve already read the stories in question. Not that I expect too many light novel readers will rush out to buy The Field Guide to Extinct Animals, but certainly The Seagull and The Scarlet Letter are very important to this volume, and being familiar with both stories lends them an added emotional impact. Which is surprising, as the author already knows how to pack quite an emotional punch without the references.

After introducing us to what seemed like our main cast in the previous book, this volume sees Musubu on his own. the reason for that is that he’s gone to a distant town where the bookstores have been shutting down one by one. Only one is left now, and its owner just died in what was seemingly a tragic accident. Now it too is going to close, and Musubu is there to make sure that the books are cared for in their final days there. This irritates Minami, the bookstore’s longest-serving part-timer, who not only felt a close kinship with the former owner but is creeped out by this teen who says that he can talk to books – and they talk back. As the days pass and the closing of the bookstore becomes a major event in the town, will we find out about the owner’s past history and secrets?

Unlike the first volume in the series, this one is more of a novel than a short story collection – in fact, the afterword makes me think the author wrote this one first. It overflows with the love that you can get from reading a beloved book, and how that love can also lead to different things. A couple who loved each other from afar when they were teens reunite years later thanks to The Tomb of the Wild Chrysanthemum. A boy who has become terrified of earthquakes is given a fun series about aliens to read that will calm his mind. And, in the main plotline, an actress and a writer both have ties to this bookstore and its owner, and they’re more than just the Chekhov and Hawthorne stories that wrap around their lives. The ending of the book is incredible, wringing emotions out of you, and making you think that, years from now, maybe Bond and Book will be the series that lodges itself in your heart.

There’s two more volumes out in Japan, and this delights me. I just want to read more from this author, whatever it is. And I want to go back and re-read The Seagull. (Not The Scarlet Letter, though. Sorry, Nomura-san, your work can only take me so far.)

Bond and Book: The Devotion of “The Surgery Room”

By Mizuki Nomura and Miho Takeoka. Released in Japan as “Musubu to Hon: “Gekashitsu” no Ichizu” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

It’s good to be reading Mizuki Nomura again. Book Girl came out before the light novel boom, and as such I don’t think it ever got the attention that it deserved. This new series is not quite a sequel, and does not require having read Book Girl to enjoy it, but fans of that series will figure out fairly quickly that it’s set at the same school a generation later, and that some of the main characters are related to some of the people from Book Girl. This should not particularly be a surprise given that the premise is that a teenage boy names Musubu can “hear” the voices of books, which is not very far away from eating books. That said, while this does have serious moments, Bond and Book is a lighter series, an anthology-style tale where we see Musubu interact with someone and learn about their relationship with a book. Because trust me, books are the lovers here.

As we go through Musubu’s everyday school live, he a) tries to unite a battered copy of Pippi Longstocking with its former owner; b) helps a light novel author whose books are, um, not very good find a wider audience; c) tries to figure out which book has possessed an orchestra club member and caused him to lash out at others; d) goes with his friends to a deserted island to mimic the story of Fifteen Boys by Jules Verne (known everywhere outside Japan as Two Years’ Vacation); and e) try to help a college boy confess his love to the older librarian he adores… before she gets married and he regrets it forever. As he does this, we also hear from the books in question, who are very much characters of their own, particularly Musubu’s girlfriend, the petulant, prickly, and jealous Princess Yonoga.

This was a fun read, though I will admit that I liked some stories better than others. The light novel chapter, while an amusing look at the cliches that come from the genre these days, was not all that great; and the twist of the Fifteen Boys chapter also left a bad taste in my mouth, as it revolved around idols being despised and hated whenever they’re no longer ‘pure’. The fact that these are the two funny stories did not escape my notice – I think that Nomura is simply better at writing drama. The Pippi Longstocking chapter was an excellent look at what happens to books when you grow up or your world changes so much you can’t read what you love anymore. The story with “The Surgery Room” short story (by Kyōka Izumi, from 1895) revolves around a relationship that I suspect is not going to work out, but the whole point of the story is about passion winning out over sense, so hey.

So overall I am pretty pleased, and I would definitely recommend this to Book Girl lovers and book lovers.