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Bibliophile Princess Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

The things we do for books.

What They Say:
Lady Elianna Bernstein’s entire family loves to read, and they retain so much knowledge that they’re considered a national resource. Despite that, they’ve always remained politically neutral… until Elianna agrees to pretend to become betrothed to the Kingdom’s heir, keeping unwanted suitors away from the Prince and giving Elianna access to the Royal Library. But when she notices that Prince Christopher might be seeing another woman, Elianna realizes she may not be on the same page that she thought she was on concerning her part in this story. Has she missed some important subtext? And if so, perhaps it’s time for this avid reader to start changing her plot and write a new chapter in the saga of the Prince and the Bibliophile Princess!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo which is encoded in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that’s fairly straightforward as it’s heavy on the dialogue and not much in the way of action but it’s worked in a really good way. There’s a lot of intensity to the dialogue at times and the way that karuta works in how the pieces are read off has its own particular style that comes through in a rich way. The instrumental music accents the scenes nicely while the opening and closing songs are very well handed with the expanded design. It’s a solid release through and through in the audio area that will please fans.

Video:
Originally airing in 2022, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format giving it a standard amount of room. Animated by Madhouse, there’s a whole lot to like in how this series is designed with its attention to detail in the characters and the general locations that we get. The room and settings are done up in a good way where they feel lived in and filled with variety depending on the locale while the character animation feels like it exists fully within it rather than just layered on top of it. Colors are a bit more muted but that allows the standout scenes to do just that when the color design is ramped up. Fans of the series will be very pleased by what we get here.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard-sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs without a hinge inside. The front cover works a familiar key visual piece of the two leads together where it’s very light and like a fairy tale in a lot of ways with the soft colors but nice definition to all of it. The logo is kept small in the upper left corner so that it doesn’t detract from the main visual itself since it’s very appealing with its overall look The back cover has a good pairing shot of the two leads that looks quite dreamy as it sits next to a cute tagline for the show. The summary of the premise is clean and easy to get into and the episode and disc count is clearly listed as well. The production credits break things out there cleanly and the technical grid lists all the elements of how the release is put together accurately. No show-related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

© Yui / Satsuki Shiina / Ichijinsha / Bibliophile Princess Production Committee

Menu:
The menu design for this release has some minor in-theme elements to it but mostly just works some nice visuals. The static design is one that works well for the show since we have such nicely detailed character designs set against solid settings with a rich color palette. It’s easy to leave it up on the screen for a while as the theme song music plays out because it’s a charming wallpaper when you get down to it on a big screen. The layout works well and the navigation block along the lower right has the best kind of details with the edge framing for it, the red background, and the pieces that are used to highlight what you’re actually selecting at the moment with the flowers and colors. It’s just a perfect little piece that makes it feel like some real effort went into the design and choices made to fit with the show.

Extras:
The extras for this release are kept simple with the clean opening and closing sequences, which are always welcome. The mysterious “bonus episode” has you thinking it’ll be some of those basic web shorts or something but it turns out to be the 90-minute special that was put together with the show that has a lot of fun in going nito some of the production of the show but also bringing some of the cast to doing things like going horse riding, exploring the world of books, and much more. It’s rare to get these extended pieces subtitled like this but it’s a lot of fun to explore these things with the actors.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series Mushikaburi-hime, Bibliophile Princess is a twelve-episode anime adaptation that arrived in the fall of 2022 which was picked up by Sentai and streamed on HIDIVE. The original light novel series began in 2016 and is ongoing with seven novels so far, released in English by J-Novel Club. It also has a manga adaptation that they’re also releasing in English. The anime caught attention because of its key visuals initially and that it was produced by Madhouse with Taro Iwasaki directing it. Iwasaki has a lot of episode direction credits but also some good shows such as Sweetness and Lightning and One Week Friends among a few others. The material is ideally suited for the kind of production Madhouse is able to put together here because it’s not quite so action-oriented and that allows the backgrounds and character animation to stand out more as it’s about the interactions and engagement there.

The series is one that will certainly appeal to those with a love of books as our leading character, Alianna Bernstein, has a love of them herself. She’s a well-liked young woman from a smaller noble family that becomes the center of attention when she agrees to become the fiance to Prince Christopher. He’s doing this because her family is largely neutral and not much of a problem in the larger things he and the royal family have to deal with. Though Elianna isn’t smitten with him beforehand, she’s agreeing to it easily because of a few reasons that are understandable but none more so than the fact that she’d have access to the royal library. That sets her up for several years of good reading, which she voracious consumes, all under the watchful eye of Alexei in the archives.

© Yui / Satsuki Shiina / Ichijinsha / Bibliophile Princess Production Committee

The problem is that after a few years of this, the rumor mill is going pretty strong that it’s a sham. Which in some sense is true but political marriages to non-political people are fairly normal throughout history in the real world. Elianna’s view of the world is certainly colored by her love of books and the way things can be written in a kind of fairy tale way when it comes to relationships. Watching her as she starts to feel threatened by the arrival of Lady Irene, who she likes at first but then starts to wonder if her position here is weaker than she imagined, ups the tension well. The idea of being a safe placeholder for a few years while Christopher found what he needed for himself and the kingdom is a natural path to go down, especially as she begins to lose access to things, particularly as she uncovers darker secrets accidentally and the plot of her own death is interrupted.

It is, early on, a lot of familiar material from this kind of place and setting when it comes to palace intrigue and those that operate within it – including the somewhat naive folks like Elianna. What we discover after a few episodes that there is a bigger play in motion with Christopher’s interest in Elianna and the demands made for him to actually try and marry her. It goes into some interesting directions in regards to the family heritage and all for Elianna and how useful they’ve been over time by both being neutral but also being well-read in regards to giving advice and providing context. So you can see why they’d want to keep to that and not get drawn into bigger things but that would have happened in some way, one can imagine, by the nature of how kingdoms and rulers change. Bringing this into something where Christopher had fallen for her when they were little and has worked to figure out how to marry her and realize the love that he feels leans into the classic fairy tale material and it works well if viewed in the right context.

© Yui / Satsuki Shiina / Ichijinsha / Bibliophile Princess Production Committee

The back and forth over the course of the series that seems to pull on the characters is fairly normal stuff in this area as well but it also avoids making it overly dramatic. There are moments to be sure but this is one of those series where things tend to be calmer and more introspective, focusing on feelings and quiet glances, than anything else. And that gives it a kind of sweet charm as it progresses and you see what’s driving the characters and as they reveal more about themselves. It’s no surprise that Elianna takes some time to really shine with who she is as a character since it’s a mild self-insert piece early on before she’s really defined, but it serves well to engage with and as she becomes more direct it works well. The early material has to deal with the misunderstandings and uncertainties that come from someone who is wrapped up in books and not quite clearly seeing what’s both at stake and the way others are looking to deal with her as a problem.

While we get a lot of supporting characters along the way and the array of nobles causing problems or commentary, the show really does keep its focus just on the two leads. And because of their natures and how they’re presented, particularly the color design for the series, it all has that sweet and relaxing vibe about it. It’s easy to become frustrated with Elianna at times with how she gives in so quickly to her fears and fretting, but it’s also not entirely unexpected with her upbringing and how few challenges she’s had to face since her main quest has simply been to read books. The two are definitely cute together and it’s the kind of show that scratches a particular itch because it’s entirely wholesome for the vast majority of it. You just like and root for this kind of thing to work because sometimes you just want that feel-good story.

In Summary:
Bibliophile Princess is just as sweet as the key visuals and promos make it out to be. It’s a delightful little journey that if you’re open to what it wants to be and is, you’ll enjoy it because it’s put together pretty well. I really liked the visual design for it and the performances are solid in capturing the characters and the emotions of the moment. The settings are appealing and the areas where it leans into the dreamy side of things hit a sweet spot for me as well since I was definitely in the mood for something like this. It’s definitely disappointing that there’s no dub for it as it could have been a lot of fun to get something as charming as this and to just lean into it even more. That said, it’s a well-put-together set with a great visual encoding, a good-looking packaging, and a strong set of extras thanks to the “bonus episode” being what it is. Fans of the series will definitely enjoy this a lot.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, 90-Minute Bonus Episode

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 5th, 2023
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

© Yui / Satsuki Shiina / Ichijinsha / Bibliophile Princess Production Committee


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