Bernard-jou Iwaku (What Miss Bernard Said): Episode 1 thoughts

There’s always that one anime each season which gets me interested enough in the premise to give it the ‘3 Episode rule’. That anime this season would be ‘Bernard-jou Iwaku’, or ‘What Miss Bernard Said’. I first came to know of this anime through MyAnimeList’s fall season catalog, as most people, and this is what it says about the anime:

“The story centers around a lazy girl’s love for famous literary works along with her bookworm friends. Sawako “Miss Bernard” Machida wants to be well-versed in literature but she doesn’t actually read those books! Encounter various prominent works including the Bible, The Tale of the Heike, The Great Passage, Fermat’s Last Theorem and more that she hasn’t read.”

I have much in common with this premise. I’ve been in love with the act of reading since primary school; while my rate of finished books has slowed to a crawl recently, I’ve never forgotten the joys of flipping through each individual page. Having just spent three years studying English Language and Literature, I’ve obviously had my share of texts to read, and definitely did not read them all. This little bit of hypocrisy forms a bit of who I am, and I expected an anime that could indulge my fascination with reading as well as inform me a bit on books I could possibly never make through without struggling to stay awake, all in the bask of spending an autumn afternoon in the library with charming characters. Perhaps there would be titles I would recognize, too! In short, I expected Dagashikashi, except with books and reading.

…Well, it turned out to be a three minute anime.

bernard-jou-mal

Nowhere does this say it was going to be three minutes long!! (Picture Source: MyAnimeList)

In fact, for better or worse, those three minutes went by in a flash. I have no problem with short anime – the ones I’ve watched are quite funny or heartwarming or somewhat informative or any combination of the three. I’ve sat through Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan, laughed at the lovey-dovey antics in Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken, and learned a little bit about Osakan stereotypes at the very least from Imouto wa Osaka-okan. But in Bernard-jou Iwaku Episode 1’s three minutes, we are:

  1. Introduced to Bernard-jou (Machida), Endou (the guy in the picture) and Kanbayashi Shiori (the long haired)
  2. Given passing title references to books like Moby Dick and quotes from people such as Isaac Asimov one after another without elaboration
  3. At the mercy of long descriptions of the books which flash onscreen for all of five seconds

This was possibly the worst way they could have done the first episode. We have a boke-tsukkomi routine which is consistently drowned out in the first minute by Endou’s narration. None of the three characters are given any kind of texture to their personality outside of their specific archetypes. Machida makes references to book titles in relation to where she’s heard of them from pop culture (such as Evangelion and “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World”) then promptly jumps to the next reference or quote, with no elaboration at all. Instead, an on-screen paragraph explains what the short story or book is about.

How I wish Bernard-jou Iwaku had a slightly bigger budget and seven minutes instead of three. Tonari no Seki-kun managed to make the school experience of time wasting nostalgic and imaginative with a small budget, and give character to the two main protagonists in its seven minutes. On the animation aspect, Imouto wa Osaka-okan, which was literally flash animation, somehow managed to move more than Bernard-jou.

The thing is, jokes involving classic books are not going to get anyone’s interest if they’re rattled off within 5 seconds. It’s not only not informative, but also people who don’t know the books are not going to get any humor out of it. With seven minutes instead of the breakneck pace of three minutes series like Teekyu, the anime team could be able to give the series a more relaxed feel like how Dagashikashi was adapted into anime from the manga. Give time for the characters to play off each other, and bring interest in the books rather than just mentioning the titles or referring to famous sayings…

I have not read the source manga, but this was disappointing even when viewed as a promotional anime. At the very least, I’m not convinced into checking out the manga other than to see if it is just as disappointing, which means… it’s a success, of sorts. While I recognize the merits of taking an anime by itself, without referral to source material, I like to take my chances and see what changes are made and as such, perhaps by the next few week’s episodes I will have put my expectations more in check.

At the very least I’m interested in why Machida Sawako insists on calling herself ‘Bernard-jou’. Perhaps we’ll get some characterization in finding out why she stays in the library to do nothing but window browse books. I’ll stick with this disappointing start of a short anime for a couple more episodes at least.

bernard-jou-ep-1

Their reactions pretty much sum up my thoughts on this episode…

 

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