— The Book
Number of episodes: 26
Production Studio: David Production
Fansub Release Viewed: Commie
Likelihood of US Release:
Streaming at Crunchyroll.com
In a world where the souls of the dead can become books that anyone can read, the Bantorra library and its armed librarians guard them from religious zealots.
The Shindeki Church believes that True Men and God are one, so it is the responsibility of these True Men to live life with the goal of their own happiness, in order to give glory to God. Those who don’t have the status of True Men are “Meats,” people without status whose only purpose is to serve as human weaponry in the church’s battle against the Fighting Librarians, namely Hamyuts Meseta, their commander. A group of Librarians, led by a man named Volken, attack a Shindeki ship with the goal of rescuing some of these Meats, but are mostly thwarted when some of them detonate and destroy the ship, and those who fall unharmed into the water don’t appear to have the will to live. As one of them sinks to his death, he has a vision of a young woman who gives him a message.
Back at the Bantorra library, the Armed Librarians regroup, and Volken and Hamyuts Meseta quarrel over what direction their operations should take. Volken believes they should concentrate their efforts on rescuing the Meats, while Hamyuts intends to focus on collecting book fragments related to the Church’s leaders. The young Meat who received the vision manages to make his way to shore and begins to ponder the words spoken to him in his vision. Even though he has been brainwashed to believe that his life is worth nothing and that he’s not worthy of the love of others, the woman said to him, “I love you.”
While I can’t honestly say I was instantly smitten after watching the first episode of this series, I can say that I’m very intrigued by and curious about its central premise, which manages to feel fresh without coming across as forced or bizarre. The idea of a library which essentially houses fossilized souls that can be read by its visitors is a good starting point around which to build a world. If mishandled, I think that the concept could appear gimmicky, but since the first episode of the series spends only brief moments discussing the mechanics of this idea and instead jumps right into the plot, it makes the library seem as though it’s one among many story elements rather than the only notable story element, and I feel like that was a wise choice.
Though not necessarily a good or bad thing by any means, the rest of the episode spends its time creating a lot of questions for the viewer regarding its numerous plot elements. Though its major act of evil so far seems to be extensive human rights violations in the treatment of the Meats, one wonders what else the Church has done to become what appears to be the main antagonistic force in this world. The book fragment found by the mysterious Meat who survived (and who I’m reasonably certain will turn out to be a main character) seems to share its origin with the fragment retrieved by the librarians; how these two will come together and their connection to the overall plot is yet a mystery. And of course the sultry, open-shirt-clad commander Hamyuts is a mystery herself, wielding psychic powers and having what appears to be a pretty laid-back attitude regarding the current mission of the Librarians.
I’ve heard complaints regarding the show that the first episode drops the viewer into the action without enough information to figure out what’s going on, but I find that complaint to be relatively unfounded. Though episode one takes little time to slow down and provide exposition and there are plenty of unsolved mysteries to chew on, I didn't feel confused or disoriented in the least. My assumption, which I think is correct, is that the pieces will be filled in as needed, but the intent is not to present all the plot elements on a silver platter. There will be those whose short attention spans can’t handle this method of storytelling, but I personally prefer no knowing everything at the outset.
The visuals in this series are a mixed bag. The character designs and animation are both quite appealing. The costuming of the main characters feels very nineteenth-century to me, with just a hint of steam punk around the edges. The characters all have a more mature look than you find in most anime. I’ve already heard this called ugly by other reviewers, but I prefer the lack of saucer-sized eyes since it makes the show feel a bit more mature and as if it’s not pandering to the otaku crowd. For those who are feeling a bit out of their element,though, not to worry; the characters still have weird colored hair, so all is not lost. There's some impressive character animation as well, particularly when the librarians go up against the Shindeki Church vessel. Where the visuals really fall flat are the CG components, most obviously the CG-animated ships, which look like they’re taken straight out of a five year old video game. I understand that CG is often used to save money on animating complicated scenes, but I honestly think that these ill-advised CG models look too cheesy. This is one instance where I would advocate sticking with some hand-drawn pans rather than trying to reach too far using cheap CG.
This series is by no means an instant raving recommendation from me; there are plenty of people who will probably take issue with various aspects of this show and despite the fact that it can be found streaming online, I don’t think that it has anything approaching wide appeal. But what I will say is that I’m definitely intrigued enough to watch more. Action series with creative premises and heroes who aren’t obnoxious teenagers seem to be few-and-far-between these days, and I’ll certainly take a flawed series that’s a bit different over yet another shounen action epic or moe harem romance.
- The character animation is well-done
- The story contains enough mystery to be intriguing but it’s not difficult to understand
- The CG animation is pretty terrible
- Those looking to be force-fed the plot will have to look elsewhere