Bond and Book: The Devotion of “The Surgery Room” Is an Unreciprocated Love Letter

Bond and Book: The Devotion of "The Surgery Room," written by Mizuki Nomura and art by Miho Takeoka, has a stellar premise and a protagonist, Musubu, with a unique power: he can listen and talk to books. Throughout this first book, he uses this ability to help others in unique ways, and by all means, this should be a great setup for a vignette-style slice of life light novel with some fantastical elements.

This, accompanied with the potential to give each book a unique voice and personality depending on their author, story or genre, should make for a beautiful love letter to fiction that any avid reader could enjoy. Unfortunately, that is far from the case, with it being particularly difficult to get past the first chapter and the target audience being unclear.

The light novel is broken into five chapters, which stand on their own so readers can have favorite chapters without relying on sections that may not have been appealing. This is partially because Bond and Book is repetitive, constantly reminding the reader what Musubu can do. If these were individual books, the constant reminders could be overlooked, but when back-to-back chapters cover the same setup, it's tedious. Despite the repetition, Bond and Book suffers from a lot of telling and not enough showing.

For instance, if it were not for the accompanying art, what Musubu looks like would remain a mystery for the most part, as he is designed to be a self-insert character, but he's one that is hard to relate to due to his bland personality. Plus, with the first-person narration, what can be seen is limited to Musubu's perspective. Although, this is at times inconsistent, relying a lot on Musubu clarifying how he knows things he shouldn't.

As for the story itself, this varies per chapter, with some fully leaning into the premise of a schoolboy talking to books to help people, and others -- particularly "A Summer Running Wild With Fifteen Boys" -- pose the question: does this chapter benefit from the fantastical premise? Meanwhile, "An Urgent Request From Steam From Another World," works better because it shows how a high school student can assist others, in this case, a struggling author, in a way that is believable with hints of magical realism.

Unfortunately, this is the second chapter, so one needs to make it past the first chapter to truly see the positives of Bond and Book. The first chapter, "A Happy, Happy Day for Pippi Longstocking," does have some merits, as this section truly displays how much a good book can mean to someone; however, there is a major issue in this chapter, and that has to do with how it deals with sexual harassment.

bond and book

How it's handled is uncomfortable and degrading most of the time, especially when the books throw in their unwelcomed opinions on the victims. Along with this, the harassment is a catalyst that could've been easily replaced with something else, which would've been preferred so readers could be spared from having to be reminded about a truly terrible occurrence that is handled poorly and serves very little to the characters and story beyond setting up why two people meet.

This is not the only cringey moment in Bond and Book, as Musubu has a relationship with his favorite book, thus bringing into question the dynamics and rules of their romance. While the basic premise -- Musubu hearing books -- is clearly defined, other fantastical elements -- like this relationship -- are murky and confusing. Plus, it's an unhealthy relationship that is awkward to read about and raises the question of who is this for.

While it's nice to see that Bond and Book covers a variety of topics, this lack of specificity makes it unclear who the audience is. Initially, with the first chapter, it seems like this could be a romance novel between a boy deeply invested in books and a girl who's lost her love for fiction; however, that story is dropped in favor of the following chapters, which deal with a variety of dynamics. While seeing how literature can impact people in so many different ways is a plus, there seems to be a lack of connection between these chapters aside from Musubu, some recurring characters and the premise about sentient books. Therefore, those who may like one chapter, may not be interested in another, making the overall reading experience inconsistent.

There is so much to explore with this concept, and Bond and Book has glimmers of true potential. Unfortunately, it's a hard read to get into and lacks focus. Worst of all, for a light novel about books, it fails one of the biggest rules of storytelling: show, don't tell.

Bond and Book: The Devotion of "The Surgery Room" is available now in English from Yen Press' Yen On.

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