Reviewby Rose Bridges,
Miss Bernard said. Episodes 1-12 Streaming
Sawako Machida, who wants to go by "Miss Bernard," likes to hang out in the library after school. Unfortunately, she doesn't read that much and doesn't know that much about books. So she goes overboard trying to pretend that she's read more than she has. The other kids in the library club can see through her guise, but enjoy her company anyway. The rest of this cast of big readers includes Shiori Kanbayashi, who loves science fiction, Sumika Hasegawa, a self-identified "Sherlockian", and Endou-kun, the lone boy in the group and Hasegawa's crush. The show pokes fun at both popular books and the attitudes of bookworms.
Miss Bernard Said., like many three-minute gag comedies, is highly specific in its content and appeal. It's worth stating this right out of the gate; this is a show for people who love books and consider themselves big readers. If you're not a bookworm, you probably won't get much out of this series. Luckily, I consider myself a fan of many of the specific authors and books mentioned, from Isaac Asimov to Haruki Murakami. So Miss Bernard Said. works for me, but the question is: how well does it succeed at its extremely niche humor?
The first thing to note is that Miss Bernard Said. doesn't spend much time satirizing the books themselves. For the most part, the humor comes at the expense of book nerds themselves and the culture developed around reading. It doesn't just focus on casual readers like Machida, but also silly things that serious readers do, like nitpick film adaptations. Mostly, it focuses on the way that reading is seen as an intellectual, serious pursuit, and all the chicanery that comes with it from readers of all stripes. In other words, it aims its satire at what you might call "Goodreads culture": the way we all like to show off what we've read and use that to define ourselves. While the library regulars get annoyed with Machida's shallow fakery, they also realize that they'd be hypocritical to complain about some of it. They also try to pretend they've read more of the classics than they have, so they understand where she's coming from, and that pushes them closer to her.
That's another important part of Miss Bernard Said.'s appeal: the characters' strong friendships. It would be really easy for this show to constantly pit the bookworms against each other, but they genuinely like each other's company. That's not to say there isn't plenty of arguing, including over-the-top physical beat-downs—especially from Kawasaki toward Machida. Despite that, it's clear that all these kids are good friends. They do stuff together outside of hanging out in the library, and they think about each other when they're not around. This is most obvious in the way they talk about books to each other.
In that sense, Miss Bernard Said. has something in common with one of 2016's other standout short anime, Please Tell Me! Galko-chan. It captures a side of teenage friendships and social life you don't often see in anime. I don't think I've ever seen an anime that better captures the way my friends and I talk about media to each other. In their stronger moments, Machida and Kawasaki's friendship reminds me a lot of when I'd trade book and movie recommendations with my high school friends. It's a form of intellectual one-upmanship, but also camaraderie. Kawasaki gets frustrated when Machida pretends to read something she hasn't, but some of that is because she genuinely values her opinion.
That's not to say that Miss Bernard Said. is on the writing level of Galko-chan. It's still fundamentally a gag anime, so the characters are mostly two-dimensional. There is some character development, as Machida becomes more of a genuine reader as the show progresses. Still, these are subtle baby steps rather than overriding arcs, making Miss Bernard Said. very specific in appeal. The main draw is all the jokes about books, because everything else is too shallow to stand on its own. There's just enough of an attempt at character development to appreciate it, but only if you're already hooked.
So if you're a bookworm looking for a quirky little comedy, give Miss Bernard Said. a spin. The references and wordplay are guaranteed to amuse you, and you just might find something familiar and fun in the characters too. Don't expect it to set the world on fire, but it's great for a pleasant afternoon curled up in your favorite reading chair.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Funny, original, and clever; characters are simple but familiar and likable, deeply understands bookworms and their friendships
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