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The essence of a masterpiece is "blue".
Blue Literature (Aoi Bungaku) is an anthology anime produced by Madhouse featuring adaptations of six classic Japanese works of literature 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:
- Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human (episodes 1-4; character designs by Takeshi Obata)
- Ango Sakaguchi's "In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom" (episodes 5 and 6; character designs by Tite Kubo)
- Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (episodes 7 and 8; character designs by Takeshi Obata)
- Osamu Dazai's "Run, Melos!" (episodes 9 and 10; character designs by Takeshi Konomi)
- Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "The Spider's Thread" (episode 11; character designs by Tite Kubo)
- 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:
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Besides the examples shown below, the host, Masato Sakai, voices most of the stories' protagonists.
- 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...).
- Twelve-Episode Anime
The individual stories exhibit the following tropes:
No Longer Human
- Aya Hisakawa: Shizuko.
- Chick Magnet: Yozo draws women like mad, but is at a loss as to how to act around anyone.
- Compilation Movie: It'll have a bit of extra material and get released to theaters.
- 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.
- Driven to Suicide: Twice!
- And that's just twice for Yozo; Yoshiko also tries it after her rape.
- Ear Cleaning: Back in school, Yozo to another boy.
- Hell Is That Noise: Glass windchimes.
- High Octane Nightmare Fuel: The monster Yozo sees himself as. Yozo's other assorted creepy visions, and the flashbacks to his failed double suicide, provide still more.
- Kick the
DogKitten: The head of the secret police does this to a stray he'd been petting just before setting out to tail Yozo and Horiki.
- Mamiko Noto: Yoshiko.
- Romi Park: Tsuneko.
- Screamer Trailer: Some flashbacks.
- 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.
- Title Drop
- Wangst: Yozo. He's got money and charisma and somehow manages to be suicidally depressed. The only explanation is an incident where it's implied he was molested by several women as a child.
- To be fair, this is very different from the novel, in which the sexual abuse just one of his many problems and he was already a very troubled child when it happened.
- Furthermore, depression doesn't always have a clear-cut cause. Anyone can fall victim to mental illness, no matter how "successful" they are.
In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom
- Adult Child: If Akiko doesn't get her way, she'll generally go for this trope then whiplash to super-Femme Fatale mode.
- 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.
- Bishie Sparkle: Akiko's main weapon
- Blind Without'Em: Shigemaru's youngest "wife".
- 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
- 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.
- Expy: The boar is one of Bonny from Bleach.
- Femme Fatale: Akiko.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball
- Gorn: The severed heads.
- Gratuitous English: One of Shigemaru's ex-wives is a blue-eyed blonde who speaks in badly-accented English. However, on paper it's Surprisingly Good English for the most part. ("Pork... is most favorite food in my life!") The first musical number in Chapter 1 also peppered with English.
- Infant Immortality: Shigemaru kills every one of his ex-wives except the underage one, who Akiko decides to keep alive as a servant.
- 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.
- 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.
- Moral Event Horizon: Debatable, but plenty of viewers feel that Shigemaru crossed this when he started collecting human heads purely for Akiko's enjoyment.
- The Musical: No, really.
- My God, What Have I Done?
- Nana Mizuki: Akiko.
- Room Full of Crazy: The house where Shigemaru and Akiko live quickly becomes this, as Akiko fills it with her severed-head collection.
- Screamer Trailer: As Shigemaru strangles Akiko.
- Squeaky Eyes
- Suspiciously Similar Song:
- The song Akiko sings in Chapter 1 while Shigemaru kills his wives is (instrumentally) a Suspiciously Similar Song to "Wait" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- The first number in Chapter 2 is (instrumentally) a Suspiciously Similar Song version of "No Place Like London" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- Also, a Suspiciously Similar Song version of "By the Sea" from Sweeney Todd plays while Shigemaru is carrying Akiko through the woods.
- This Is Your Premise on Drugs: In many ways, it's a gender-reversed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Feudal Japan... and ON CRACK (and possibly acid as well)!
- Through the Eyes of Madness
- Title Drop
- Token Mini-Moe
- Why Did It Have To Be Sakura: Shigemaru's so scared of them he goes batshit insane in one encounter!
- Yandere: Akiko's first request to Shigemaru is to kill all his other wives so it'll just be the two of them. Then she goes straight-up Cute and Psycho and has him kill people for her own amusement.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: The anime-original "Winter" casts everyone in a different light.
- 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 chinky 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: (Sort-of) type twelve; 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.
- No Name Given: Everyone.
- POV 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.
- Rikiya Koyama: K.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Sensei in "Winter," nearly all the time.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: A light, peaceful piano tune plays over both bittersweet endings.
- Adaptation Expansion: A Framing Device is added.
- Creator Breakdown: Takada has to deal with a bout of this when it comes to "Melos"'s ending.
- Framing Device: A man named Takada has to write a story to be adapted to stage titled "Run, Melos!" while dealing with memories from his school days about his best friend, Joshima; their relationship is very similar to the story's protagonist, Melos, and his friend, Selinuntius. Used to great effect to make the story a Tear Jerker.
- Hiroyuki Yoshino: Selinuntius.
- Ho Yay: Joshima acts flirtatiously around Takada and him asking Takada to go to Tokyo sounds like they are eloping together (Takada proclaiming that he is willing to follow Joshima to the ends of the earth did not help). Probably not a coincidence that the character designs are by Takeshi Konomi.
- Large Ham: Everyone in the stage segments--kind of hard to avoid, being a Greek-style play. Dionys gets special mention, though.
- Mikako Takahashi: Melos's sister.
- Ryusei Nakao: Dionys.
- Tear Jerker
- Write Who You Know: During his Creator Breakdown, Takada has trouble dealing with the parallels between himself/Selinuntius and Joshima/Melos, and considers making Melos never show up to save Selinuntius as result. However, it turns out that Takada was Melos all along.
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
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: That spider...
- Demoted to Extra: The Buddha from the original story.
- Hell Is That Noise: The hell sequence is made ten times creepier by using background music from the No Longer Human arc.
- High Octane Nightmare Fuel: A rather unpleasant description of the Buddhist hells
- that looks like an Acid Trip Dimension
- Mamoru Miyano: Kandata.
- Mind Rape: The gist of Kandata's stay in hell.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Kandata.
- Title Drop
- What Do You Mean It's for Kids?: Yes. This story was written for children.
- Complete Monster: The king.
- Crap Saccharine 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.
- High Octane Nightmare Fuel: Lots of people burn to death.
- Mad Artist: Yoshihide gradually turns into one.
- Moral Event Horizon: The king crosses it when his royal yacht crashes into a bunch of locals...and he orders that they be beheaded for daring to interrupt his party as they beg to be saved from drowning.
- Smug Snake: The king.
- Title Drop
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Yoshihide's painting.