Book Girl and the Famished Spirit by Mizuki Nomura

The Seijoh Academy Literary Club (which consists entirely of book-munching goblin Tohko Amano and the burned-out prodigy Inoue Kanoha) is back, and this time they're trying to catch a ghost that's been leaving creepy letters in their mailbox. Their investigation leads them to Hotaru Amemiya, a girl who seems to be possessed by the ghost of her dead mother and is apparently being abused by the uncle who's raising her. But the more Our Heroes investigate, the more complex the situation becomes.

Plot-wise this is a vast improvement upon the first volume, which had some serious pacing issues. And while the supernatural elements this time too turn out to be explicable through ordinary means, there aren't any of the abrupt tonal shifts that plagued the previous book -- once we find out the truth of what's going on, it doesn't get any less creepy.

Where this book lags behind The Suicidal Mime is the characters. Inoue and Tohko are still well drawn, but the guest stars aren't as interesting as Takeda and Kataoka, and the sections told from their point of view lack the power of the Dazai-inspired diary entries. I'm also disappointed in the handling of the secondary characters. Akutagawa is relegated to a walk-on role -- if this were a TV show, I'd think the studio had some contractual obligation to write him in -- and while Kotobuki gets some good moments early on (which confirm that even though her lips say, "tsun tsun," her heart says "dere dere") she's sidelined halfway through. OTOH, Maki, who was little more than a plot device in the first book, does get more screen time here, and the les-yay of the first book is cranked way up.

Taken as a whole, I'd place this book on a par with the first -- the improvements in one area match the problems in the others, so all told it's a wash. If you liked The Suicidal Mime you'll probably like this as well; if you didn't, you won't.


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