You are an Armed Librarian. Granted amazing powers, you have been recruited to represent the Library of Bantorra--a sacred duty that generations of Librarians have been protecting long before you. You are mortal enemies with the Shindeki Church, who will do anything to undermine you—including hollowing out the memories of fellow human beings and implanting them with bombs to kill you and your Acting director.
And what is so special about the books in the Bantorra library as well as being an Armed Librarian, you ask?
The books kept safe in Bantorra’s sprawling, hazardous labyrinth (which only you, as an Armed Librarian, can navigate and defeat to reach the books) are the souls of everyone who has ever died, their memories forever encased in stone pages where anyone may touch and read them if they so choose. But not everyone looking for a book is doing so with innocent intentions. Book sellers and dealers abound and there is power in the knowledge you guard: often, you guard great magical power and secrets.
Welcome to the library.
Tataka Shisho: The Book of Bantorra is a surprisingly ambitious tale using the occasional over used, clichéd characters all crammed into 27 episodes. The first few episodes will fool you into believing that it is entirely episodic, that each chapter you're shown have nothing more in common other than it is about Armed Librarians, Books, and the established characters the series piles on you within the first 15 minutes.
Herein lays the beginning clues at how ambitious and clever Book of Bantorra's plot may be (well, it certainly took me aback that they tried to pull it off with such nearly one-sided characters.) Everything which appeared disconnected in the first few episodes begin to tie together the further you plod forward. The more time spent paying attention to details the more interested you might become in finding out what happens next and the larger the plot promises to be. The story line is pleasantly convoluted in my humble opinion. Peel back one layer or two and you have seven more to go through. Once you do you tend to make a conclusion about what you've learned-- but as soon as you come to it, the show flashes you coyly with hints that may lead you to second guess what you thought you knew completely. It made for a very good reason as to why I kept wanting to watch.
Book of Bantorra is in no hurry to tell its story in the beginning. At the very least, that is what I was lead to believe. However, what starts out at a leisurely, clue-strewn pace soon changes to a bit of a sloppier, rushed tune in the middle. Bantorra throws a lot of characters toward you that make it difficult to really care about them all. They throw several that at the very least you can sympathize with...But in doing so I feel as if they've sacrificed a few interesting side characters stories they shouldn't have.
Bantorra is also a tricksy hobbit of a series. It give you reasons to like this character, hate this one, love this one, tolerate the other--and by the next episode you find that the character you hated most you end up liking and the one you liked most, you ended up hating.
To say I am impressed with Bantorra despite it's record-skips of sloppy character development and rushed-in-the-middle-writing would probably be obvious. It does skip around sometimes and cuts out, as I remarked earlier--what I feel to be important onscreen time for side characters and it has the age old issue of parading out semi-interesting people you think might pan out...But the series actually gives them nothing more than a name and a line, and then never giving any background about them. Forever dooming me to be eternally curious about an essentially NPC character that the writers thought might be important but gave up have way for whatever mystical reason.
Still, I can over look these inconsistencies and slights to get into the meat of the story and enjoy it. The heart of the story in Bantorra caught me unexpectedly: after being (what it felt like to me, anyway) emotionally beaten by a two-by-four, the upbeat, surprisingly positive message behind it all made me sit back a little bit. The end moral of the story vibe to a semi-bloody plot wrap-up felt a bit like an overdone children’s song sung by a frightening purple dinosaur, a song about reminding everyone that we all should love each other
…And I found myself liking it anyway. Either I am a five year old stuck in an old geek lady’s body or as I grow more wrinkles I want more feel-good messages in my anime.
Bantorra's animation is generally high quality. While it isn't focused on superb details and sharp textures, it isn't a styled or overtly artsy anime and doesn't bring to mind anything art nouveau or comic-bookish. Characters have been drawn or rendered in a manner reflecting both their personalities and unique attitudes. You don't mistake one character for another because they are consistently drawn with distinguishing traits, either uniforms worn, facial features, or expressions. Anyone not part of the main cast, unfortunately, falls to the usual budget-saving-all-look-alikes. Luckily, I wasn’t watching Bantorra for the extras.
There are some moments where I feel the animators or studio got a little lazy; particularly in distance-shots or comedy moments where faces became a smidgeon sloppy. Some of the expressions and body proportions during fight scenes were a little off as well. Nothing that truly detracted me from continued watching and nothing that I didn't really expect.
Bantorra's scenery shone--unexpectedly--when it was away from the Library. More personality resided in the country side with its worn brick buildings, beautiful blue skies, fluffy white clouds and trees nodding their heads in the wind--than any one setting drawn in the Library. Though I reason portraying the library as a cold, well polished, flat, no-nonsense setting makes some sense…I felt like it was rather drab for something supposedly portraying the main setting for the entire show.
Bantorra's opening credit music changed three times. The original seemed jazzy, and the rest...Well to be honest I don't remember and didn't pay attention. I didn't find them memorable or catchy at all. I imagine that this might be a personal tick on my part as I am often too impatient to have the opening hurry past so that I can get to the meat of the story.
Although I do believe the opening animation style paired with the opening song improved as time went on, I felt like it was struggling to find the right music to pair with the series and, ultimately, failed. It isn't bad. It isn't good enough for me to remember either. The same can be said for the closing credits too. Again, I'm notoriously hard to please when it comes to music--so the fact neither stuck with me may possibly be just personal preference.
The voice acting is as always, excellent. Strong emotions easily come through and are discernable. The background music for certain settings and mood were repetitive but worked. Fighting scenes and special effect sounds were as expected. Bantorra didn't do badly here, but it didn't do anything remarkable either..
The driving force of Bantorra, or any good story are of course, its characters. Which I believe for Bantorra turned out to be both the strongest, yet weakest of all link in the series’ chain. Bantorra is odd, because they dole out this complex (at the very least, in comparison with the animation I have been forced to watch the last year and a half it is certainly far more intricate and layered than other plots I’d compare to mindless drool fests.) story line and then parade a long line of character archetypes we’ve all seen before: the psychotic killer who enjoys pain who has a heart-of-gold, the innocent as well as sweet naïve maiden who spends more time trying to look tough than actually being tough who grows into an equally sensitive woman, the playboy who goes ahead and does some ridiculous stunt to put himself in danger for….whatever reason—possibly to wink into the camera and sail off into the night. The once-seedy-bad-guy-turned good with disgusting habits and takes on great responsibility reluctantly but also secretly has a heart-of-gold. The momma’s boy trapped in an adult body. The actual do-gooder who doesn’t hide who he is but is so dumb to the world around him he blindly runs into fists while moaning about his broken nose and wondering why people keep punching him in the face.
There are all character archetypes I have seen repeated over and over and once more—without any feeling—in anime over the years that, I didn’t think they were going to work here in Bantorra.
But they do.
I believe it is their over simplistic natures which make the complex ending plot of Bantorra work. If the characters had made too much sense it honestly would not have worked as a story. Because the viewer would be spending too much time asking the screen why are you doing that?! That makes no sense! Instead of just shrugging and saying, what can you do these people are dumb. Entertaining, but dumb.
Even as simple as the characters are portrayed, Bantorra genuinely appears to put a lot of effort into getting you as emotionally involved with the main characters as much as they can. I suspect that it is so they can eviscerate any hope of any of the characters you end up liking having anything but a happy ending later. Although, I have said it before in one anime review and I have said it in other places—hurting characters your audience has come to know and love is one of the most bravest thing a writer or a story can do. Not everything is unicorns barfing rainbows in everyday life, so this formulaic but harsh approach often helps Bantorra (as it makes sense and it’s LOL MURDER EVERYWHERE :D :D :D for murder’s sake,) not hinders.
Bantorra’s setting is a new one for me. The draw originally was the idea of Librarians kicking a$$, to be quite frank. The nicely animated scenes, as well as continued intrigued, a plot hinted at being much more deep and complex than the first few episodes hinted at, and the fact that despite its sloppy rush to the finish line it actually worked—is a boon with me. This almost reminds me of Baccano!, but with more sense and less choppy story telling. It’s an over whelming eeeeehhhhh, not a meeeeh for me. It deserves a chance, at least.
Bantorra is definitely something worth adding to your collection and watching. I’d put it up higher than the anime you’ve usually got stored aside for those ‘bored out of my mind’ or ‘waste time until a better series comes out’ anime we all have.