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Anime / Blue Literature

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The essence of a masterpiece is "blue".

Blue Literature (Aoi Bungaku) is an anthology anime produced by Madhouse in 2009 featuring adaptations of six classic Japanese works of literature then-recently reprinted under the Blue Literature Series label, and is similar to Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales in that each story uses a different team and art style. These works are:

  1. Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human (episodes 1-4; character designs by Takeshi Obata)
  2. Ango Sakaguchi's "In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom" (episodes 5 and 6; character designs by Tite Kubo)
  3. Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (episodes 7 and 8; character designs by Takeshi Obata)
  4. Osamu Dazai's "Run, Melos!" (episodes 9 and 10; character designs by Takeshi Konomi)
  5. Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "The Spider's Thread" (episode 11; character designs by Tite Kubo)
  6. Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "Hell Screen" (episode 12; character designs by Tite Kubo)

Incidentally, the last two stories take place in the same setting (or are at least adapted as such), although the only common character is the nation's emperor.

Oh, and like we said earlier, these are old (and long ago translated) stories, so only the bits this anime added, namely Kokoro's "Winter" episode and "Run, Melos!"'s Framing Device, will be spoiler-tagged.

This series as a whole exhibits the following tropes:

  • Mood Whiplash: For example, we go from the incredibly bleak and depressing No Longer Human to "In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom," which features slapstick humor even more over-the-top than Bleach gets (and is a musical... albeit in the mold of Sweeney Todd) and then it becomes bleak again.

The individual stories exhibit the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    No Longer Human 
  • Adaptation Distillation: A lot of details were heavily altered from the novel:
    • The trigger for the double suicide happened because he was wangsting over running out of money.
    • The original narrative was read as a journal. In the ending of the novel, the readers discovered that a man has found Yozo's notebook and began searching for the people in Yozo's life after World War II ended]
    • Yozo developed a morphine addiction.
    • Yozo's death was left (even more) ambiguous in the novel. He started living in isolation with a family caretaker
  • Chick Magnet: Yozo draws women like mad, but is at a loss as to how to act around anyone.
  • Creator Breakdown: The book is widely considered a semi-autobiography. The show acknowledges Dazai's gradual breakdown by noting that earlier stories (such as the later broadcast "Run, Melos!") were (relatively) happier.
  • How We Got Here: The arc starts with Yozo reminiscing his failed love-suicide attempt.
  • Kick the Dog Kitten: The head of the secret police does this to a stray he'd been petting just before setting out to tail Yozo and Horiki. It was more of a shove than a punt, though.
  • Snow Means Death: Yozo's spiral into decadence and depression culminates in his collapsing in the middle of a snowy street, ready to die...
  • Snow Means Love: ...until Yoshiko comes along and shelters him with her parasol, giving him the will to live again. They later marry.

    In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom 
  • An Aesop: Less obvious than most, but the author of the original work intended it to be this, of a sort. Shigemaru, the representation of the natural world, and Akiko, representing human society, interact to bring about the ruin of both; when Shigemaru kills her at the end, he himself perishes because if you remove your ties to society, it's like figuratively committing suicide.
  • Anachronism Stew: The story is implied to be set in the Heian Period. That doesn't stop the iPods, photo-taking cellphones, bubblegum, Meganekko, Gratuitous English, and references to cosplay.
  • Animation Bump: The animation during the dance sequence of the first episode is awesome. The rest of the episode, average.
  • Battle Aura: Parodied; one of Shigemaru's marks starts powering up, only for Shigemaru to slap him in the face and resume robbing him.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Shigemaru will occasionally talk directly to the audience or complain about incorrect narrative slides.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood splatters onto the camera.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Of the grotesque sort. Appropriately so; the theme of the original story is pretty much Cherry Blossoms Mean Death.
  • Driven to Suicide: Metaphorically speaking, Shigemaru. By cutting himself off from society, represented by Akiko, he has committed a form of suicide.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?? when one of Shigemaru's marks pulls out a thin, short katana, Shigemaru pulls out his thick long machete.
  • Gratuitous English: One of Shigemaru's ex-wives is a blue-eyed blonde who speaks in badly-accented English. However, on paper the English is good for the most part. ("Pork... is most favorite food in my life!") The first musical number in Chapter 1 also peppered with English.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Akiko's hair is long, perfectly straight and impeccably groomed, as opposed to Shigemaru's wives, all of whom have shoulder-hair length (at most). Compared to them, Akiko is very feminine and sophisticated.
  • Love at First Sight: Shigemaru falls hard for Akiko, who takes full advantage of this.
  • Manchild: If Akiko doesn't get her way, she'll generally go for this trope then whiplash to super-Femme Fatale mode.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Akiko
    • Possibly subverted, depending on your point of view. Akiko ISN'T actually all that manipulative. Usually she just tells Shigemaru once, 'do it or I won't be your wife anymore'. She never needs to confuse, weedle, control his actions or thoughts, or even use emotional blackmail all that hard. The issue is really that Shigemaru is so obsessively hooked on her that it takes months or even years of being a mass-murdering psychopath before he gets over it. And she THEN reveals that even her weak threats of 'leaving him' were empty, since she's just as hooked on him. It's no wonder he snaps and kills her.
    • The message left by Akiko to her servant ("Wait for us, we will return soon") suggests that Akiko was merely playing along until Shigemaru calmed down and that she intended to convince him to come back to the city. We never really find out for certain if Akiko did feel something for Shigemaru or if she saw him as her puppet.
  • Mind Screw: The ending makes enough sense until the couple is covered in cherry blossom petals and is no longer there when they blow away.
  • Mood Whiplash: There's the above transition between stories, but the story itself features plenty of it, flipflopping between slapstick humor and our protagonist killing people in cold blood, for some reason.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The house where Shigemaru and Akiko live quickly becomes this, as Akiko fills it with her severed-head collection.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Arguably, Shigemaru's youngest wife seems to have developed it towards Shigemaru and Akiko.

  • Adaptation Distillation: The original novel was split into three parts and had another character only referred to as the narrator. The anime only showed the middle section and omitted the part where Sensei had been betrayed by his uncle and feared that he is no better after what he did to K.
  • Audible Sharpness
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both of them. In "Summer," Sensei gets the girl but is guilty over K's suicide for the rest of his life; in "Winter," K realizes she actually does love him, but commits suicide anyway because he can't bring himself to take the girl Sensei loves.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: Sensei wakes up to find a bit of K's blood has splattered onto his face.
  • Diegetic Switch: The girl plays the main theme for the "Kokoro" segment on a koto and a piano in the "Summer" and "Winter" episodes, respectively.
  • Driven to Suicide: K.
  • Gonk: They went out of their way to make K look as grungy as possible. And his ridiculously slanted eyes don't help matters.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Apparently when you slit your throat, every drop of blood bursts out of the wound in a single instant.
  • Love Triangle: Sensei loves the girl (it may not be an full-on relationship, but her mother is all for it and Sensei has "dibs," having lived with them all this time), but she loves K, who is too loyal to Sensei to let himself reciprocate. Doesn't lead to a very happy ending.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: "Summer" is based on the original novel and shows Sensei's perspective; "Winter" shows us K's side of the story. And for whatever reason, the episodes are inconsistent in that they take place during the titular seasons.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Sensei in "Winter," nearly all the time.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A light, peaceful piano tune plays over both bittersweet endings.

    Run, Melos! 

    The Spider's Thread 
  • An Aesop: Fairly obvious one about the value of compassion and not being selfish. This story is based in an Buddhist parable called The Spider Thread

    Hell Screen 
  • Crapsaccharine World: The viewer can already tell that the setting is pretty screwed up behind its Brazil-level colorfulness by the end of "The Spider's Thread," but this episode gets to really show off how terrible the monarchy is.
  • Mad Artist: Yoshihide gradually turns into one.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Yoshihide's painting.
  • Smug Snake: The king.
  • Title Drop