Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wicked Anime Reviews #1 Armed Librarians: The Book of Bantorra

Anime reviews delivered directly to the face!

If you're reading this, you probably don't know what Armed Librarians: Book of Bantorra is. That is the assumption at least. I've been known to make mistakes. Maybe you just like hearing me talk? I only know of a couple of people that enjoy that so that can't be right. Regardless, I'm going to assume you know what Anime is. Book of Bantorra (BoB from here on out okay?) is an anime that aired a few months back. I didn't have this blog at the time so I couldn't review it for you the very moment I was watching it but I realize a lot of people just haven't seen or even heard of this show.

BoB is about an age where when someone dies, they turn into a stone slab known as a book that others can read and learn about their past.
As you can imagine, this sets up for all kinds of shenanigans. BoB is unique in that there is no "true" main character. Many argue that it's Hamyuts Meseta but the story never focuses on her until the end. Throughout most of the series, the focus shifts around from character to character, to see things through different perspectives and continue to baffle the viewer with the mysteries surrounding different events.

The entire plot is arguably hidden from the viewer throughout the anime. Seems like a dick move huh? The series doesn't answer the burning questions until near the end. And if that burning leads to weird skin conditions then that just means it's working. Due to this, I have known a couple people to actually stop watching the show. They couldn't handle not knowing what was going on since there isn't a main character yapping about their goals and what they plan on doing like in other anime. I personally enjoyed this. I was left with hints to piece together for myself and was left with wonder as to how the series would go on and conclude. If you don't like the fact you aren't being spoon fed the plot and sometimes are literally not being fed at all to the point you're starving then you probably won't like this anime. Run away in disgust right now. Go find some food and eat it up. The show summed up in a simple internet meme: The cake is a lie until the last few episodes. Get it? Got it? Good.

The story takes many shifts where vital characters seemingly disappear or are killed off. Much like a roller coaster, the shifting may affect your stomach a little but it's a fun ride if you just let it takes its course instead of trying to change where the coaster is going. Telling you there are main characters who die off isn't a spoiler. It's obvious from episode one. A main character dies right off the bat and I think that's a very interesting move to take for a series since most would be afraid to take that risk. You could say the series has balls. I will admit, this comes with an inherent flaw: if you enjoy a certain character and they happen to die, you might feel a little peeved. Trust me, there is reason to everything that happens in this series. They aren't just killing characters off for the sheer hell of it and they definitely aren't going to allow you to think that the series will be predictable. This is the most enjoyable factor. Many mainstream anime have become stale. Many are predictable down to the letter. This series will laugh at your attempts to keep up with certain events and hand out bread crumbs to follow for others.

The pacing is very quick but again, this is a nice change of pace as most anime are drawn out on purpose to add more episodes in the hopes of making more money or because they catch up to the manga too quickly. The characters are diverse. You have protagonists ranging from those with a huge sense of justice, to utter scum that you want to see dead. That's right, protagonists that you want dead. Kill them with fire! The antagonists also benefit from a healthy range of sympathetic characters to utterly evil in all senses of the word.

The music is beautiful and adds value to the moods of different scenes. The drawing and animation is top notch which is to be expected as this was produced by David Production Inc., the people that offered production assistance to such famous works as Code Geass, Soul Eater, and Kuroshitsuji among others. They were founded in 2007 so they don't have a lot under their belt just yet. New kids on the block yo!

Moving on from the basic elements and moving further into subjective territory are my reasons why I personally enjoyed this series. I'm going to be flat out honest, there were a couple points where I thought about dropping this series like a bad habit. Earlier episodes were riddled with setting up subplots and leaving hints and red herrings scattered about. Trying to piece the puzzle together too early on will definitely leave you flustered. There just isn't enough info yet to piece together the motives and goals. Get over it and if anyone dare tell you they figured it out early, they're wrong. Punch them. Repeat if necessary. The reason I say this is because there is something at the very root of all things tied in to the branching storyline that literally isn't addressed until near the end. If you make it through the series, you'll get those puns.

I enjoyed the topics covered throughout the series: hope, love, purpose, religion, and justice. Oh yeah, there's probably more but those stuck out the most. I enjoyed the cast. Some are super lovable (not just the regular kind) and others are there for people with different tastes. Most of the protagonists are very likable even if many are flawed. I especially loved characters like Volken Macmani for the sole fact that they are in direct contrast with the world itself. The world portrayed is a world of bloodshed, disease, poverty, upper crusts of society taking advantage of the lower, and very twisted views of reality. The reason for this is that there is a major religion present in the show: The Church of Drowning in God's Grace. It is the rivaling force to the protagonists. Their ideology is that the only way to make it into heaven is to drown yourself in as much sin and happiness as possible. Sick and twisted huh? Due to this, the world is a much darker place and characters like Volken stand out because his sense of justice is pure and unrivaled. He isn't the only character of note by any means but I'm afraid to go into depth about characters since I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible.

Another major thing that kept me going was that certain episodes give out MAJOR hints as to what is really going on. If you pay attention, you can piece together things. I'm going to give out an example here. There is a moment where a seemingly complete stranger walks up to a main character and hands him a piece of a book that happens to be exactly what he's looking for. I'll be honest, at first I was thinking, "What the hell? What are the odds of that even happening? I call BS!" Things like this happen early on in the story but if you give it time then you find out how every last detail fits. The event I just described actually makes perfect sense later. Trust me.

Also, yes, I will admit, there are some freaking awesome fight scenes and some crazy powers shown off that also kept my interest. What can I say? A part of me will always enjoy a good action sequence. One of the first major fights in the series involves a guy with a God weapon that parries ANY attack and a woman with a sling that can launch rocks through freaking tanks from dozens of miles away by sensing where a target is through "sensory fibers". And she has the guts to say, "eff that noise" and meet the guy up close to face off against him. How many shows can offer you that?

So go check it out.


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