The Book of Bantorra

Alt title: Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra

TV (27 eps)
2009 - 2010
Fall 2009
3.432 out of 5 from 3,141 votes
Rank #6,265

In a land where the souls of humans fossilize to become books, a group known as the Armed Librarians strive to maintain and protect the tomes stored within the Bantorra Library. Meanwhile the Shindeki church is transforming people into living weapons. These human bombs are known simply as ‘Meat’, and they have been programmed to carry out a single action: to kill Hamyuts Meseta, the Armed Librarians’ director. Now, alongside the threat of Dragon Pneumonia, the Librarians use their powerful and unique psychic abilities to stop the Shindeki Church at all costs. But when one of their colleagues betrays them and steals one of the seven war machines of the past, the Librarians must work even harder to prevent their enemies’ nefarious plans from coming to fruition.

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Reviews

ThatAnimeSnob
5.5

INTRO The Book of Bantorra is in a few words great ideas ruined by terrible storytelling. I liked the themes and the development of the cast while getting alienated by illogical actions and unsupported line of events. Very good on a theoretical level and a nice one-time watch, but it’s a plain mess when seen in action or repeat. THE STAFF - Animated by David Productions, before everybody knew it for their excellent job on the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure franchise. Seriously, nothing else they made sticks out much despite the attention to detail (Ristorante Paradico, Level-E, Ben-to). - Directed by Shinohara Toshiya, a nobody who made some bucks through raving fangirls by taking over fan catering works for dumb chicks, such as Inu Yasha movies and Kuroshitsuji. Not much of a roster to expect something good. - Based on light novels, so nothing to expect in terms of plot. ART Characters and backgrounds have a pleasing amount of details and colors, with rather smooth animation and cool visual effects that blend well with the action. Very nice looking if you don’t think much about it, but if you do everything falls apart. For example, each Armed Librarian wears clothes that hardly fit the setting. The world they live in is like England of the mid 20th century (giveaways are the aristocrats and the shape of the airplanes). So what does a group of people like a cowgirl, a Hindu girl, a masked ninja and a woman running around without a bra are doing in here? They feel like they popped out of an rpg.It is a minor issue to be bothered by a blend of real history with magic, in a world where the supernatural overlaps technology. It is also immersion breaking when they do not justify why they are wearing the same clothes almost all the time when they otherwise have the power to look any way they like with a spell. Imagine a woman dressed all the time as a maid in the library, going to battle STILL dressed as a maid. It feels lazy and makes the world seem artificial. Same goes with the pretty girls always wearing revealing clothes. It’s obviously fan service, thrown in there without an in-story excuse and constantly telling you not to give a damn about the show. As weird as it sounds, clothes are part of aesthetics, and the lack of variety takes away credibility. SOUND Music themes are good; despite the depressing tone they fit the mood. Voice acting is ok, excluding the squeaky pitch all young and naive girls have; I don’t fancy that. What I really didn’t like were the super long talks, a classic mistake of direct adaption from light novels to screen. They went overboard with the things a monologue can achieve, turning the plot into mostly a dribble of long philosophical monologues, instead of actions. It wouldn’t be that much of an issue if the dialogues were great and excused, but they are ridiculously cryptic, symbolic and in the long run unneeded to the point of confusing you for no reason. This is obviously done to make the series feel more mystical and it works up to a point, but since the story is one big mess of out-of-place events, all that talking is actually quite superficial despite the really psychological and philosophical issues it encompasses. Keeping it more simple and working on the line of events would produce a far better product. SCRIPT The entire story is made to be a mockery of ideals and high expectations, which I liked, with a concept that is quite uncommon. It takes place in a world where the dead turn to stone tablets, simply called books. Anyone touching a book can access the memories of the dead and learn from their life experiences. The conflict comes in the form of two religions, one that gathers and stores the books in a library (Armed Librarians), and one that abuses people as cattle and books as tools in order to advance in life and reach heaven (New World religion). It sounds awesome and makes you expect a lot, only to be greatly disappointed with the execution, since it makes no sense whatsoever. The first three episodes are used as an introduction to the setting, and it’s achieved through the lazy method of characters blabbering for several minutes, explaining things they normally have no reason to mention as they are all self-explained on their part. Force-feeding the viewer with things like “Hi, I am this and I do that and that one works like that and the other one is like that”. The same as treating him like an idiot. These episodes are also badly-paced, since you are thrown in this weird setting right in the middle of a war, followed by a line of flashbacks, explaining the story of each individual. The mid episodes are the peak of interest, since they are fleshing out characters and setting. They are still presented in a disjoined manner, since the non-linear narrative constantly jumps in space and time at random intervals to further confuse you even more. This eventually leads to the final episodes which are taking place in the present and serve as the final confrontation of… I have no idea. Why is everybody fighting for in the last arc again? I see their motives, their thoughts, their strategies… and it makes no sense! Here, have a taste of what the plot is like: There is this savior who saves the world by killing everyone before losing his memory, and then people are born again although they were all dead, and form two religions that aim to kill each other’s leaders, but in reality it is all a set up as they both work for the same goal making their fighting completely meaningless, and the memories are needed to empower something that is triggered by the love of a little girl, plus there are android super soldiers we only see briefly in a flashback, and a boy turning into a mind controlling lizard that uses a spell that creates coma-inducing snow, but there is a bioorganic weapon made to stop the villain, and she loves death because killing is salvation, before we learn there was a disease in the past caused by a witch, and they need to fight the very monsters they placed in the dungeon as guardians of the books in order to access her memories, so here’s a half-naked cowgirl. And that was only a small part of what is going on in the show, presented with cryptic monologues and a non-linear plot, so have fun not getting any of it. It makes Xamdou Lost Memories to feel like a walk in the park. Yes, you can always read a wiki about what is exactly going on, but that only further proves how badly written the series is if you can only get it with external aid. And even IF you get it, it still makes no sense: The lover of the savior was killed for no given reason, triggering the entire story with no justification. The current director of the Armed Librarians, ms. Huge Boobs, was there to kill the savior since day one, yet she didn’t despite him being at the palm of her hands, defenseless and oblivious to her powers. She only acted when the world was about to end, which contradicts her goal to prevent the apocalypse. The librarians didn’t know the truth about what happened in the past, even when they had the witch’s book that proved her innocence and a billion other books revealing the dark history. They were gathering the books for centuries so they can learn from the past, only to never learn anything. And those are just what I still remember fondly; there is a ton of less important nonsense going on, including amnesia, mind control and magic gismos. No well-written story would implement amnesia to slow down the plot, magic to allow the bad guys to appear and disappear at will. And in no chance in hell would it force-feed us the whole backdrop story through monologues in the first episodes. CAST What you mostly get are half naked women in the role of the good guys fighting a bunch of fascist bastards who exploit the weak and turn them into mindless weapons and murderers. There are a lot of cheap shots and shock effect in topics where being more subtle about it would have kept both sides of knowledge and faith more grey. Something I really liked is how most characters receive a great amount of focus in the form of the aforementioned flashbacks during the mid episodes. You see the effort in fleshing them out, and you are made to care about them. Setting aside their stupid costumes, the characterization is great. Not everyone gets it though; that cowgirl remains just a cowgirl with huge tits. And too bad everything is ruined by the ridiculous plot: How was that boy turned to a mind controlling lizard? Why was the leader of the opposing religion making his head invisible? There was no need for the oversexualization of the females. And then there are the drone-making gizmos to completely finish off any sense of characterization, since they turn people to mindless killers in a few seconds. One moment they are good villagers minding their business, the exact next they are suicide bombers, brainlessly wasting their lives by dropping onto the heroes. Where did they get all those bombs anyway? Was bomb creation arts part of the brainwashing package? Wow, great deal, be brainwashed now and get the knowledge to create bombs for free. Order now! And if that wasn’t enough to turn everybody into a plot device, there is still the snow that throws people into a coma. Magic comatose snow, the cheapest way to evaporate the importance of characters, by massively taking out anyone who doesn’t matter, in one simple step. LEGACY Because of all the issues this show has, there is no replay value. Noone would be willing to suffer through all this crap again, unless he is a really big masochist. There is also not much enjoyment to get out of it, unless you are one of those people who just want to overthink the themes and don’t give a damn about the plot making sense. Very bad in overall, not recommended as anything more than yet another proof of light novels sucking ass.

OnLittleFeet
7.5

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.   STORY 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.     ANIMATION 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.   SOUND: 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..   CHARACTERS 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. OVERALL 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.

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