Also known as Pornographer, The Novelist is a Japanese BL drama adapted from a yaoi manga. The story focuses on a university student who begins to work for an erratic author, transcribing his pornographic novels onto paper. The more they spend time together, the more sensual and passionate their relationship becomes.
The Novelist is the first instalment in a trilogy, taking place years after the events of its prequel Mood Indigo. This bold and cheeky BL drama explores the topic of erotica unapologetically. Some of the scenes are provocative and can even get pretty raunchy.
The Novelist Summary
Around 2 hours
Sexy and steamy
Around 22 minutes
Kuzumi is a university student who gets into an accident one day, crashing his bicycle into a random stranger. Kijima is injured from the accident, and his arm must be put into a cast for the next couple of weeks. To compensate for the medical and legal expenses, Kuzumi agrees to work as Kijima's assistant until he makes a full recovery.
Kijima is a famous author who has written many popular pornographic novels. He's currently working on his newest stories, and Kuzumi is helping him transcribe the text onto paper. Although Kuzumi is initially startled by the erotic passages, he gets used to their unconventional working arrangement after a while. Kuzumi even learns to admire Kijima's talent and becomes a fan of his work.
As they spend time together, Kuzumi finds himself intrigued by Kijima, who has an eccentric personality and many quirky habits. In fact, there's more to Kijima than meets the eye. The novelist might be hiding a few mysterious secrets about his life, such as the strange relationship with his editor Kido.
The Novelist Cast
Terunosuke Takezai (竹財輝之助)
Kijima is an author who writes erotic novels. He is socially recluse, hardly leaves his apartment, and barely has any friends. He is an old-fashioned guy who loves books and vintage records, but hates computers and other technology. Kijima has a close relationship with his editor Kido, and the two of them behave like more than just friends.
Kenta Izuka (猪塚健太)
Kuzumi is a university student who starts working for Kijima after injuring him in an accident. He becomes a fan of Kijima's work, finding his novels to be very arousing. With an honest personality, he is naturally trusting of people, but his naivete is what Kijima likes about him. Kuzumi doesn't seem to have a good idea of what to do after graduating university.
Munehiro Yoshiro (吉田宗洋)
Yusuke Ueda (上田悠介)
The Novelist Review
Drama Review Score: 7.1
The Novelist is one of the few BL series that embraces its 18+ label. From the raunchy dialogue to the steamy sex scenes, this drama is very comfortable with depicting the sensual side of relationships. There are lots of kissing, erotic exchanges, and even some tasteful glimpses of nudity. I enjoy the boldness of The Novelist, which celebrates sex in an open-minded and entertaining way.
Unfortunately, The Novelist suffers from a thin plot that is too reliant on sex. There's nothing wrong with having discussions about sex, but that's all they talk about in the drama. The eroticism overpowers every scene in every episode, and the characters' lives are largely defined by sex, sex, and even more gratuitous sex. At some point, you just want to see more emotional nuance, instead of feeling like the plot is only there to set up the sexy smut scenes.
Kijima is an intriguing protagonist with lots of mystery surrounding his motives. Since the first episode, you already suspect that he's toying around with Kuzumi, but the extent of his manipulation unravels as the series progresses. He is meant to be a controversial figure, so you may either despise his character or sympathize with him. Personally, I find him pretty interesting to watch in a dark, sinister way. On the other hand, Kuzumi's character doesn't feel fleshed out and he lacks any complexity in his personality. All the character development obviously went to Kijima, leaving only scraps for the other lead.
The sex scenes in The Novelist are gutsy. I commend the actors for putting in such valiant efforts into their performances, pushing the boundaries more so than the typical BL series. Although the physical components of the romance are excellent, I find the emotional connection to be lacking. The relationship between Kijima and Kuzumi is driven by lust and not love. I feel an intense attraction between them only during sex, but any passion immediately goes away when they do anything else.
Overall, I enjoyed The Novelist for being bold, daring, and different. I just wished the story was handled with more craft and sophistication, instead of relying on provocative sex to drive the plot. The good news is that Mood Indigo, the second instalment in this trilogy, improves upon its predecessor and offers more refined storytelling. I'd recommend that you give Mood Indigo a try, even if you're a little unsatisfied with The Novelist like I was.
The Novelist has a super weird premise. A bike injury leads to a job offer, which involves transcribing the erotic passages from a pornographic novel. Realistically, none of this would happen in real life, and nobody in their right minds would agree to such a working arrangement. Still, we go along with this fantasy plot, which was kind of interesting due to the sheer unusualness of the events. At the very least, it gets points for creativity.
Due to the explicit subject matter, The Novelist may seem vulgar at times. It speaks very frankly about genitals, sensual pleasures, and numerous sexual positions. However, once you get over the novelty of the unique premise, the eroticism doesn't really feel that edgy. Of course, your tolerance levels may differ from mine, but I never got the feeling that I'm watching anything indecent. Yes, the series can get a little naughty or raunchy at times, but the suggestive content never crosses the line and become too obscene.
In the last two episodes, Kijima's manipulative plot is unraveled. We find out that he's a massive fraud who has been lying about everything. All along, Kuzumi thought he's helping Kijima work on his latest novels, but it turns out that none of his transcripts actually mattered. The truth is that Kijima has been wasting his time, asking Kuzumi to do meaningless work for the past few weeks. He has no good reason either, lying just for the sake of toying with a stranger's emotions.
I do like this plot twist, which takes the story to a more sinister place, and I'm okay with that! However, the problem is that the story doesn't feel interesting anymore after the shocking reveal. It never recovers after the plot twist, and a lot of momentum is lost in the last two episodes.
Realistically, Kuzumi should want nothing to do with Kijima after his betrayal. However, the plot forces him to reconcile with Kijima anyway, but does so in such a slow and boring way. It really feels like they were dragging the story for those last 30-40 minutes with a lot of unnecessary angst. Even though I like the idea of the plot twist, I didn't love the aftermath that ensued. Bring back the erotic passages, because this shit is boring. 🥱
Kijima and Kuzumi
The romance suffers because of Kuzumi. I don't hate him, but he feels undeveloped for a main character. His personality is not defined well, outside of being stupidly honest and unbelievably gullible. This is a problem because Kijima's character has so much personality, whereas Kuzumi is like a blank slate. As a result, their relationship doesn't feel as compelling as it should have been.
It's also difficult to overlook that Kijima has deceived and manipulated Kuzumi in a weird entrapment scheme. He took advantage of this young man's kindness, using him as a toy for his twisted version of entertainment. This doesn't feel like the healthiest foundation for a relationship, and the series hasn't redeem Kijima enough to the point that I could forgive him. The dynamic between them is off, and there's a hard time connecting me to this couple, no matter how saucy their sex scenes might be.
Kijima and Kido
It was heavily implied that Kijima and his editor Kido seemed to share a history together. There's an air of mystery around their ambiguous dynamic, making you want to learn more about why they're so familiar with each other. Fortunately, this relationship gets a lot more proper attention in the prequel series, Mood Indigo, where everything is explained.
Which love interest do I ship Kijima with? Hmm, my answer would be… *thinks long and hard* …I guess, Kuzumi by default, because at least he's honest with his feelings. Once you have a wife and a baby like Kido, you pretty much remove yourself as a viable candidate for BL contention.
If I was solely reviewing their performances from the sex scenes, these actors would get top marks. All three of them are daring, gutsy, and quite enthusiastic. They're so naturally comfortable with the physical intimacy, displaying a level of professionalism that is admirable. If only all BL actors were as open and confident as them, I would be overjoyed.
However, their actual acting was just okay for me, albeit a little inconsistent. In some scenes, they nailed all the emotions required from them. But in other scenes, maybe not as much.
The Novelist's ending is a mixed bag for me. I didn't love how long it took for Kijima and Kuzumi to get back together. A lot of valuable time was wasted on meaningless scenes that didn't develop the characters and didn't move the plot along. However, there were moments that I enjoyed, such as when Kijima finally dropped his bravado and showed some vulnerability. I also love the kissing scene in this episode. Their long tender kiss evolves into a rapid succession of smaller, gentler kisses.
It's probably for the best that Kijima went back home during the ending. His character seems to be stuck in a miserable rut right now. A change of setting could help him change his mind and get a fresh perspective from his writer's block. Considering Kijima finds the inspiration to publish a new novel months later, I'm guessing it worked out well for him.
With that said, I can't classify this as a completely happy ending. It isn't super clear where Kijima and Kuzumi's relationship stands. First they kiss and have sex, but then Kijima leaves him and the two of them lead separate lives. From a BL perspective, this is more of an ambiguously happy ending at best.
Kijima is a complex character with lots of different dimensions to him. I find him quite entertaining when he's being eccentric and perverted, but that personality more of a front and not really his true self. What you see with Kijima on the surface is not necessarily the truth. He's a master deceiver, from little lies like owning a cell phone to bigger lies like his arm injury. This guy is such a good storyteller that he invents fictional aspects of himself to disguise the reality.
In the finale, we meet Kijima's character for the first time without the lies and the illusions, revealing a very tortured soul. He's struggling with his mental health, facing insurmountable writer's block, has ran out of his personal savings, and feels socially alienated from the world. This is not a happy, well-adjusted man. In fact, the past six episodes have been a display of his spiralling midlife crisis.
You start to understand why Kijima put up a facade of being this sexy, successful writer in front of Kuzumi. It's meant to boost his self-esteem during a very low period of his life. This roleplaying scenario makes Kijima feel good about himself for a change. He gets to project an image of authority and togetherness, while covering up all his actual failures. The version of Kijima that he wants Kuzumi to see is quite different from the reality of Kijima that he tries to hide.
Kijima is a deeply flawed character with a very interesting portrayal. Part of the fun in The Novelist is reading between the lines and figuring out his real motivations beneath all the stories he tells.
Skin & Nudity
Yes, there's a fair amount of skin on display in The Novelist. Kijima gets butt naked during the fantasy sex sequence with Kido. We also see him shirtless and in his underwear. Kuzumi and Kido also show some skin. I think the two of them actually get naked as well, but the views are tastefully obstructed so that you don't end up seeing anything.
A minor note is that there's actually female nudity as well. We see a minor glimpse of a woman's breasts while one of his stories is being re-enacted.
Sex & pornography
The Novelist is an 18+ drama for a reason. It features pornography in the story prominently with excessively graphic descriptions about the sexual encounters. These stories doesn't have the best record with consent, and you may not feel entirely comfortable with the topics like rape or student-teacher fantasies.
It's difficult to avoid many of these adult topics in a series dedicated to pornography. Nothing too vulgar is actually shown on screen, but just know what you're expecting before you start watching this series.
If you're into the more sensual side of BL, the sex scenes in The Novelist are excellent. The sexual encounters between the three characters are raw, passionate, and affectionate with an authentic feel. These lengthy scenes go on for a while, as the characters explore every nook and cranny on each other's bodies.
My only complaint is that the scenes are poorly lit, so it's not always easy to make out the different characters in the darkness. Nonetheless, there's always a sexy and steamy energy in the atmosphere. Plus, you gotta commend these actors for fully embracing the spirit of sex. They aren't shy or reserved in their performances, that's for sure.
The last two episodes
I believe the last two episodes are considerably weaker than the rest of the series. I can even pinpoint the location where the story starts losing steam, right after Kijima and Kuzumi have their angry sex. Following that scene, the plot slows down a lot and it isn't that interesting to watch anymore.
These last two episodes basically make up one-third of the series, so the problem is quite significant. Let's make this part of the story more clear and concise. Trim out the unnecessary filler and add more context for the relevant scenes to make the endgame feel more dynamic. Actually show us what happens after Kijima moves away, instead of just squeezing the ending into a quick epilogue.
The Novelist Episodes
The Novelist has a total of 6 episodes. Each episode is around 22 minutes long. It's a short BL drama, and you can finish the entire series in approximately 2 hours. The Novelist started on July 28, 2018 and ended its season on September 1, 2018.
The Novelist is the first instalment in a trilogy, followed by its 2019 prequel Mood Indigo, and a movie sequel called Pornographer: Playback in 2021. There are also a few short movies released in the same year, leading up to the movie sequel.
⭐ Best episode
Episode 3 is action-packed, featuring the first lengthy sex scene of the series. A sexual encounter between Kijima and Kido takes place, even though it was just a fantasy sequence from Kuzumi’s overactive imagination. Later in the episode, Kido and Kuzumi take care of a drunken Kijima, and of course Kijima couldn’t resist making an “Are we having a threesome joke?” in the moment. 😅 Finally, this episode includes the first kiss between Kijima and Kuzumi, which was an electrifying moment.
💕 Most romantic episode
In Episode 2, we see Kuzumi develop feelings for Kijima. The two of them spend a lot of time together in his home, bonding through ordinary activities. While there are no physically intimate moments in this episode, Kuzumi is clearly smitten with Kijima and can't stop thinking about him. His infatuation is kinda cute to watch.
😭 Tearjerker episode
The last two episodes of The Novelist were pretty sad. The traumatic impact of the events in Episode 5 was probably stronger, but there were so many other emotions in the mix. You won't have the time to feel bad for Kuzumi because you're too busy feeling angry at Kijima instead. Episode 6 revealed more about Kijima's failures, and it's kinda sad when he breaks down in the end.
😡 Most triggering episode
Kijima’s deceit is exposed in Episode 5, after Kuzumi confronts him with ~receipts~. True to his character, Kijima doesn’t apologize for what he did. Instead, he only makes matter worse by taunting Kuzumi and crumpling the manuscript paper in front of him. Kijima was already in the wrong at the start, but he continued to be malicious and went out of his way to hurt Kuzumi’s feelings.
Their confrontation leads to an angry, aggressive sex scene between the two of them, blurring the lines between passion and consent. Kuzumi must be in an emotional turmoil, because they finally have sex like he had always desired, but the circumstances are far from pleasant. At the end, they leave on terrible terms with each other.
💋 First kiss episode
Kijima and Kuzumi share their first kiss in Episode 3. After Kijima got really drunk, Kuzumi was taking care of him, until the two of them inadvertently ended up in bed together. Kuzumi used this opportunity to brush his lips against Kijima's, but stopped himself from proceeding further. However, Kijima was the one who took the lead, urging him to continue with the kiss. The two of them spend the night together, tongues deep into each other's throats.
💪🏻 Episodes with skin
Episode 3, 5, 6
We see displays of skin in The Novelist every time the characters have sex. We see Kijima get butt naked in Episode 3. Kuzumi has a shirtless scene in Episode 5. Both Kijima and Kuzumi share a shirtless scene in Episode 6. A lot of these scenes have poor lighting conditions, so you don't see as much since their bodies are shrouded in darkness.
The Novelist Season 2 and Season 3
Mood Indigo 2019 series prequel Drama review
Mood Indigo is the prequel of The Novelist, taking place years before the events in this series. The story focuses on how Kijima started writing his first pornographic novel. It also explores the complex history shared between Kijima and his friend Kido, clarifying exactly what their relationship dynamic was like.
In my opinion, Mood Indigo is a much better series than The Novelist, offering noticeable improvements in the storytelling. Kijima is younger, less jaded, and more vulnerable in the prequel, and you get to understand his character better.
Pornographer: Playback 2021 movie sequel Movie review
Released in 2021, Pornographer: Playback is the movie sequel of The Novelist. This movie takes place two years later, covering Kijima and Kuzumi's long-distance relationship. Although the couple is still together, they go through a rough patch with cheating allegations coming in between them. Expect lots of arguments and angst during this melodramatic film.
In addition to the movie sequel, there are also two short specials that tie into the narrative. Pornographer: Spring Life is a 15-minute special that should be watched before this film, as it transitions the events between The Novelist and Playback. Pornographer: Continued Spring Life is another 15-minute special that should be watched after the film, serving as an epilogue to wrap up this trilogy.