What They Say:
As the Shindeki Church marches forward with their plans of conquest, Hamyuts Maseta and the Armed Librarians continue to struggle against them. However, the path to victory is a long and dangerous one, and not easily navigated. Along the way, friends will be lost, new allies gained, and blood will assuredly be shed. With the whole world seemingly turned against them and the Library facing its darkest hour, does Hamyuts still have a trick or two up her sleeve?
Contains episodes 14-27.
The audio presentation for this release is somewhat surprising still as we get two language tracks in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show has both the original Japanese track and the new English language adaptation as well and both of them come across very well here as they utilize the forward soundstage. The show makes good use of that stage with both the action and dialogue as there is some solid placement for both depending on what’s going on. The action goes big when needed and it hits the right notes here with a decent fullness to it while the dialogue is crisp and clear. There’s some depth at times but most of it is pretty much just properly placed without any issues. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from 2009 to 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection contains fourteen episodes spread across two discs with seven on the first and seven on the second. The show has some very good animation to it out of David Production that lets it shine through well with the transfer here. The series uses a lot of detail both in the fluid animation moments as well as the backgrounds, giving it a pretty rich and lived in feeling for much of it. There’s a certain grayness to the world here, not overpowering, but it has an earthy tone to it throughout that’s pretty appropriate for it. Colors have some good standout moments to be sure, especially when the abilities are fully in play, but the overall look is just good and fits the show well.
The packaging for this release is pretty standard for Sentai at this point as we get the two disc collection in a standard sized keepcase. The front cover is dark and sexy as it features Noloty in her usual attire with her chest falling out of it, but it’s something that does fit with her character and background in the series. The background is definitely good as well as it goes with an archaic piece of work that’s half covered in shadow that adds the right kind of oppression to it. Add in the really good looking logo placement and design and it’s a very eyecatching and appealing cover. The back cover is much darker though with a decent quote along the top and a simple but effective summary. The middle section is where it’s more difficult with some murky looking images and the red text on black that’s a little hard to discern. The bottom is much cleaner though with the white text for the production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is a little difficult if only because of the lengthy episode names that are used, so we get some large expanses of text here. The layout is straightforward with a third of the right side featuring Noloty on the first volume looking all seductive from the front cover but with a lot more light to it. The background is a bit more indistinct overall but it fits the flow of the show itself well. The rest of it is given over to the episode selection which has the episode name and number which stretches across a lot of the menu. Submenus load quickly and language setup is a breeze, though it defaults to English with sign/song subtitles. Access times are fast and the layout is easy to navigate.
The extras for this release are pretty simple with just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the second collection of the Book of Bantorra, we get things upped a little bit here in that there are fourteen episodes, giving us a rare twenty-seven episode series total. The first half of of the series is one that I found myself quite interested in and liked when it came to the overall world setting and the various institutions that were introduced since it gave it a grand feeling and tried to do something different with how life itself worked. With the meats, the books and the two big opposing sides that are fighting things out, it had a lot to offer and really gave you things to think about as well with some of the ideas it presented.
The stories here are similar to what we got in the first as well as there’s a good number of them and things seemingly are dealt with crisply and quickly in some cases. The standalone tales continue to add more to the overall nature of the world and how some of the characters are defined, but they’re not really character tales in a way. While we get some time with Milepoc hunting down Lascall in order to deal with that threat, we really don’t get to know Milepoc herself. And considering what she did to wipe her memories away in regards to Volken, I’m not sure we could really get to know her now anyway since she took a big chunk of who she is out by drinking the Argax.
Volken’s tale is one that definitely had its moments in the first set and that all comes around here again as well as we see that he’s making inroads in coming back to the Library, but it’s all for his own other purpose. His belief that Hamyuts is hiding something is certainly not without merit but it’s his approach that makes things complicated. When he does come back, it ends up being a sequence that has him leaving not soon afterward, but this time with Olivia Livlet, someone who is already quite complicated herself because of a past that gets explored in dealing with a part of the Church and some of their more sinister operations. It’s quite intriguing to see her childhood and how she found some sense of safety, but it’s done so quickly that it’s almost a wash in a way. And because of the nature of her personalities, it’s also hard to say at times who we’re really hearing from.
My main conflict with the show is that since it is so rich in material and characters for the setting, I feel like we could have easily had a hundred episodes for the show. Stories that are resolved in two or three episodes feel like they’d carry an entire normal thirteen episode season if done “right”, and by right I mean taking the time to us get to know the characters instead of the whiplash movements back and forth for events. All of the stories have a lot of potential and things to offer, but we move through them so quickly, often because of how Hamyuts has it all figured out before it happens and sets things in motion to deal with it, that the thrill of the stories are removed. Sadly, it at times almost feels like we’re watching a series of recaps rather than the real story itself.
But I do really like some of the reveals that come from this half of the series, such as learning the truth about the relationship between the Library and the Church and seeing new ascension at the Church itself with a surprising member. This also goes into giving us a better look at Lascall than we had before, especially as it all goes towards the point where the world is going to end and she becomes more than just a tool, just for a little while. What I disliked was in the final arc that we got Ruruta fully introduced as a character from the distant past, talked about here and there but that’s about it, suddenly becoming a focal point in such a fast manner that it felt like it came out of nowhere. And that’s a problem with a lot of the show but it all really comes down to that recap feeling it often presents.
Book of Bantorra is a series that I really feel hugely conflicted about because of how it operates. You can easily imagine spending years inside the material that’s presented here and it wouldn’t feel padded out by doing so. But what we get is a hard and fast look at things as we barrel through episode after episode with these characters in their fight between Library and Church as the stakes raise and curiouser and curiouser elements get brought into play, from the Cerulean Death to the truth of the Church and the end of the world itself. There’s a lot of character to like, but their lives are like candles in the wind here where you know it’s best to not get attached. I don’t mind characters being killed, but we don’t connect well enough with them to make an impact. I love a lot of things about this show but there’s some real hate to be had as well with its execution. I wanted so much more out of it than it was willing to give for whatever reason that it left me disappointed but still craving more and more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 17th, 2012
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.