What They Say:
In another time and place, on a world of pain and sorrow, when someone dies, their soul doesn’t go to Heaven or Hell – it becomes a book. A book that reveals the deceased’s innermost secrets… and can be read by anyone. Protecting these priceless treasures is the elite organization known as the Armed Librarians. It’s their job to keep the books and the knowledge within them safe from those who would misuse or destroy them.
It’s a tough, dangerous job, so Chief Librarian Hamyuts Maseta recruits only the best and the brightest psychics to join her team of expert fighters. But will they be good enough to stop the fanatics of the Shindeki Church from wrecking vengeance on the entire world? Only time will tell, but that book hasn’t been written yet.
Contains episodes 1-27.
For this viewing, I took in the English dub. Both language tracks are offered in 2.0. With the amount of action in this title, it really is a shame that there wasn’t a 5.1 mix for it. I think that would have helped add a lot to the atmosphere. Still, for what we do have, the audio is clean, and there is some directionality with the sound effects. The tracks and channels are clear with no dropout.
This is a fairly impressive release, visually. There are some really interesting effects, particularly in the powers of the various characters. The character designs were really interesting too, as this title has some pretty distinct designs for their characters. It’s like every character has something of a minor defect in their design that keeps them from being a prototypical anime character. That’s not really the case, but that’s the best way I can think of to describe it. They are typical, but they aren’t at the same time. Technically, the transfer is mostly clean, though I noted some instances of artifacting during some of the action scenes. It was always brief, mostly being relegated to when there were sudden movements, and most people would probably miss it.
There are five discs in this set, all being housed in a single amaray case with two inserts holding four of the discs. The front cover features Hamyuts fairly prominently, standing with a number of other major and minor characters. On the back is a similar image with many of the other top characters from the series. On the back are also a few screen shots, with the series summary and technical details. I really like the original art of used for the group shots, as it is done in a somewhat realistic style. It’s very nice, and it shows the personality of each member of the group fairly well.
The menus have a fairly basic design, with an image of one of the characters to the right of the screen, and the episode listing to the left. The cursor is a white triangle, which shows up well against the red motif. Though static, it’s a pretty busy looking design, as the background has designs in it as well. But despite the business, it is easy to follow.
All that are available on this release are some trailers and clean versions of the OP/ED.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Bantorra Library is the most important place in the world, as it catalogues all of the books ever made and protects them from any threats. But the books in question aren’t the kind written on paper; rather they are what’s left behind when a person dies—their souls and stories stored in a stone tablet. By placing a hand on the book, a person can then “read” that book, experiencing the life of the person stored within.
Standing against the Bantorra Library is the Shindeki Church, a religious organization that opposes Bantorra’s archives, believing that the Library is hoarding power secrets and looking to make their own mark on the world. Standing against the threat of the Church are Bantorra’s Armed Librarians, a group of individuals charged with the gathering and protection of books and standing in the way of the plots of the Church wherever possible. And leading them is the Acting Director of Bantorra, Hamyuts Maseta, who—more than anybody else—does not let anything stand in the way of getting the job done. In fact, she welcomes anybody to try.
Prior to watching The Book of Bantorra, I had heard a lot of chatter about Hamyuts, mostly talking about what a fascinating character she is. Having now watched it, I can see why that is. From any angle you look at it, Hamyuts is a complete sociopath who is only really happy when she is in the middle of a massacre. The fact that she seems to be pretty much invincible just increases her bloodlust. A day never goes by without somebody questioning her motives and dedication to what is right.
However, at the same time, as the Acting Director of Bantorra, she is also just about the most important person in the world. Everybody knows who she is and what she stands for, but they have to trust that when all is said and done, she is going to make sure she does what is right. At times, she seems to have everybody’s best interests at heart, but at others, it’s impossible not to wonder if she is just screwing with everybody for her own amusement. If she were given a D&D alignment, she’s the perfect embodiment of Chaotic Neutral.
What makes her all the more mysterious is that from the outset, it’s obvious that she knows a lot of things that everybody else is being kept ignorant of. There’s a deeper truth to everything that is going on that she understands, but everybody else is groping around in the dark to try and figure out. And this just adds a third layer of intrigue to her actions: is she acting in everybody’s best interests or is she just trying to please her own dark humor? Or, is it that she is making decisions based on the truths that only she knows? The series does a really nice job of keeping you guessing about her right up until the end.
The other thing I found really interesting about The Book of Bantorra was the not so subtle commentary on the war between religion and thought. There’s a common conception that in real life, these are mutually exclusive ideals (even if that’s not really true): you either accept the idea of a higher power that has all of the answers, or you go looking for the answers yourself and believe there is more to life than just what a holy book can tell you. This is pretty well represented in the war between Bantorra and Shindeki, and what is interesting is that while Shindeki is definitely presented as the antagonist in this series, the reality is that Bantorra (and Hamyuts, in particular) is often found to be committing its own atrocities. Whether it’s Hamyuts killing scores of people at once during her duties, or (her second-in-command) Mattalast destroying the books of innocent people just to protect certain interests, Bantorra’s hands are just as dirty as Shindeki’s. So really, there is no good answer. And when the truth of the conflict between Bantorra and Shindeki is revealed, it leads you to question the reason for everything that has happened.
The Book of Bantorra is a really fascinating look at a world caught in a conflict where opposing powers struggle for the same pieces of a corrupt pie. The many idiosyncrasies of Hamyuts Maseta alone are enough to keep things interesing throughout, but a wonderfully actualized world and intriguing character dynamics at every turn keep it moving and thought-provoking right up to the last moment. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: D
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Running Time: 675 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System