2020’s Bond and Book: The Devotion of “The Surgery Room” is the first volume of Mizuki Nomura’s Bond and Book series. The 2021 translation is by Nicole Wilder.
Books speak to first year high school student Musubu Enoki and not metaphorically: he listens to conversations between books. This is a great power and, to quote an arachnid-themed character, with great power comes great responsibility.
For example, the books in his school’s library gossip incessantly about history teacher Mr. Takekawa, who uses the pretext of private tutoring lessons to sexually harass students. Musubu feels that he should do something about this. However, simply going to the authorities will not do. Nobody will believe that he overheard books talking about the issue. What can he do?
The matter of the lost copy of Pippi Longstocking seems far more straightforward. It was left on a bench some time ago and now languishes in a train station’s lending library1. It desires nothing more than to be reunited with Hana, the girl who left it on the bench.
This seems simple enough. However, the clues the book can offer about its former owner are fragmentary and as it turns out, woefully out of date. Musubu manages to track down Hana’s address, only to find a building site. Much has changed during the years the book spent in the lending library, including — thanks to divorce — Hana’s surname.
Fate smiles on Musubu. It just so happens that the missing Hana attends the very same school as Musubu. Furthermore, her determination to put an end to the predatory Takekawa’s campaign of harassment functions as a meet-cute between Musubu and Hana. Problem — problems — solved!
Except that while Pippi may love her long-lost owner, Hana does not love Pippi. Pippi was not lost. She was discarded by Hana, for whom Pippi recalls only the bitter memories of her parents’ divorce. What is Musubu to do?
It’s just the first case of the many that bedevil poor Musubu.
For reason, at least some booksellers seem to think the title is Bond and Book: The Only Way of the Operating Room, which appears to be a wild mistranslation of the title (which references Kyōka Izumi’s Meiji-era story, “The Surgery Room”). Did someone at some point run the Japanese title through Google Translate?
As it happens, this is not a universe where people necessarily sit around waiting for Musubu to swan in and solve their problems for them. In Hana’s case, she very deliberately puts herself in her teacher’s path, to expose his activities and get him fired. Too bad that the administration will almost certainly ignore the schoolgirl’s complaint. Musubu proves of use in the end when he lies, saying that he and not the books saw the teacher touch Hana inappropriately2.
False testimony in a good cause might seem to send something of a mixed message, which gets us to Musubu’s girlfriend, Princess Yonaga. On the one hand, Musubu is certain she’s the girl for him. On the other, not only is she a book, but she’s also psychopathically jealous, shrieking threats whenever she suspects Musubu may have glanced at another book’s alluring pages. It may seem romantic when one’s significant other croons
“Cheater, cheater, cheater … I’ll curse you, I’ll kill you, I’ll dance on your grave — ”
“So I curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, curse upon curse, absolutely curse you! I won’t let you cheat on me!”
But maybe it’s just abusive?
Which gets me to “But aside from that, what did you think of the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” The conceit is intriguing. Musubu always makes things better. It’s not always clear what will happen. And yet … this book was not quite to my taste. I won’t pursue the series further. Other readers may enjoy it more than I did.
1: This appears to be a library of the “take a book, leave a book” variety.
2: At which point some of you may triumphantly declare that surely, given that there’s a (supposed) eyewitness, nobody will blame Hana for the interaction with the teacher. Nobody will assert that she enticed a helpless adult into a forgivable error. I regret to report that a vocal minority does that … even though other harassment victims back up her story. This is a fantasy universe but (alas!) not that much of a fantasy universe.