Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra (Review)

I was one of those kids who grew up with her nose in every kind of book, dog-ear-ing their pages and refusing to get rid of any single one of them.  I viewed, and still view, them as people of a sort, full of their own unique intricacies.  Tatakau Shisho takes this idea to a whole new level; whenever a person dies, he or she returns in the form of a stone tablet, a “book” of a sort.  Unlike the books that I grew up reading, which can only be so detailed on the skills of the author, the “Book(s) of Bantorra” are people, not representations of people.  And much like these very real tome manifestations of human lives, this anime encompasses a wide array of desires, fears, dreams, and failures.

Synopsis
Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra is a tough story to summarize in a short paragraph, as it follows the threads of several characters, their experiences, their emotions, then weaves them all together into a grand finale the builds gradually over the course of the season and surprises the viewer when it finally begins its crescendo.  As stated earlier, in this world, humans die only to return as stone tablets.  One just has to touch the tablet to “read” the life story of its owner.  These “books” are stored at the Bantorra Library in the protection of the Armed Librarians.  With their many and varied magical gifts, the librarians fight the opposing Church of Drowning in God’s Grace, who wants to use the books instead of protect them.

Thoughts
The weakest, though at times strongest, aspect of the anime is its plot, or should I say, plots.  We are presented with a large number of side stories that all interweave into a greater central plot.  Conspiracies, the uglier sides of human nature, the hopeful and beautiful sides, the stories are so different from one another, and yet each affects multiple other stories, growing and rippling off one another.  While this all sounds fantastic in theory, Bantorra struggles to create any feeling of cohesion between the sub-plots for a good majority of the season.  The audience is tossed into the fray and forced to figure out how to piece together the mysteries and doubts.  Forget watching this show weekly, episode by episode with large spans of time in between; you’ll have forgotten what occurred in the previous episode and how in the world it ties into what you’re watching this week.  The confusion lessens by watching arc by arc, and I have a feeling that the anime significantly improves with a second viewing.  The plot does succeed in originality, as the overlapping tales and genre work together to create a a story very unlike any other anime I have ever seen.  Fantasy, action, mystery, suspense, Bantorra covers them all.

Bantorra also boasts an impressive character list on both “good” and “bad” sides.  Due to the anime’s arc-nature, we get surprisingly in-depth viewings of the backgrounds and beliefs of many of these characters.  Even beyond death, their stories return in the form of the books and are told through the viewing (“reading”) of another.  Because of how detailed they are, the characters are unforgettable despite their often short story lines.  Not a single one of them is represented as flat; emotions war against one another, and we see both the best and worst of their personalities.

Protagonist, Hamyuts Meseta, gets a surprisingly low amount of screen time in respects to her main character status.  And yet, you never truly forget about her, since the Church’s mantra seems to be “Kill Hamyuts Meseta,” a phrase their brainwashed disciples repeat over and over again.  She also is one of the greatest mysteries of the anime, as you truly never get to know her and where she comes from until the very end.  And even with her back story told, I still do not feel like I really understand her thought process.  While she should be the heroine and is the Acting Director of the Armed Librarians, she often acts the villain, one who enjoys killing others and glorifies in her own physical pain.  She seeks out death, but is repeatedly disappointed.  Another character who greatly impacted me was Noloty Malche, who wishes to become an Armed Librarian, yet stays in her trainee-status because of her infallible love for all things living.  This belief in inherent goodness is usually displayed in a negative light, even by her peers.  It is the offered reason for her inability to grow in strength; an Armed Librarian must be able to kill to protect.  Noloty, at the most, only ever aims to stop.  However, many who encounter her discover that there is iron power behind her innocent smile.  As she often proclaims, “the world is [hers].”  She envisions the world as she wishes it and will give her all to make it so.  Noloty is impossible to dislike, her disarming smile, offered hand of friendship, and uplifting energy.

The art is exceptionally well done, and I can’t recall a single episode that yelled out, “Not enough time, had to do a piss-poor job on this sequence of images!” I found each of the character designs individualistic and memorable, heck, I’d love to cosplay as either Noloty or young-Ireia if ever given the chance.  The animation, too, moves smoothly from frame to frame.

Overall: 8.9/10 (Very Good)
While the show definitely has its weaknesses in plot and in its overly large cast, I enjoyed the whirlwind ride.  Tatakau Shisho surprised me, delighted me, and reminded me that this world is exactly what we make it, starting with ourselves.

15 thoughts on “Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra (Review)

  1. This is one of my favorite shows. I love all the characters and the all around craziness. My favorite arc was the one with that ant guy. Noloty is pretty good, but I’m a Volken fanboy.🙂

    Not sure if I would classify Hamyuts Meseta as the protagonist or the villain though, haha.

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    • Ahhh yes, Mokkania–his flesh-eating ants are pretty cool. I really wish he hadn’t had such a short arc, though. It’s hard for me to pick favorites in this show since there are so many who I like: Noloty, Hamyuts, Ireia, Mattalast, Enlike, the twins Yuri and Yukizona…even Minth is awesome. Volken was a tough one for me since I found him so ignorantly idealistic. In comparison, Noloty was also idealistic, but because of her childhood, she has a better understanding of the world. I do admit, though, that Volken has great fighting skills and a nice character design.

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    • I didn’t say that the plot itself was only weak; I mentioned that at times the plot was the weakest and the strongest point of the show. Because of how many sub-plots the show follows and how difficult it can be at times to track them all, it can be confusing/overwhelming for the audience. I actually think the grand plot is pretty genius, how it grabs seemingly unrelated aspects from all the smaller plots. If you do try it out, I hope you like it!

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  2. For some reason this review reminds me of Katanagatari (the many characters) and Mushishi. Have you heard of Koi Kaze? I would be interested in your take on the Anime ^_^

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    • Though brief, each character really leaves an impact on the viewer. I’m interested, though, in how you find the show similar to Mushishi. Is it also because of the characters? If so, then I’d have to disagree, since the impressions you get from the two anime’s casts really differ. And yes, I’ve heard of Koi Kaze, but I’ve never really looked into it. I’ll check it out🙂

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  3. I think I honed in on your take on multiple plots happening all at once. Mushishi does this, although it wraps each plot up in an episode. Maybe it also has to deal with the magical element in both. Just what popped in my head after reading your review =)

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    • Huh, well, I still have to disagree with you :p Mushishi leans more towards the slice-of-life’s episodic stories, ones that are often independent of each other and can be re-arranged into any order. You can’t necessarily do that with the Bantorra arcs, since there is reasoning to why the stories are told in the order that they are. Enough of this! Go watch and see for yourself! ^_^

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  4. I have never heard of this anime, but what a fascinating concept/ take of books as people. It raises all these questions too. If we died and all of our lives are revealed openly to readers of the tablet, how does that affect our actions? Would it affect our actions? And what length would we go to destroy or protect these books? Such an original concept!

    The anime sounds very well done, even if it is a bit confusing. I think I might pick this up some time.

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    • It is really fascinating, and I remember when it first aired, there was a lot of conflicting opinions on it. Bloggers, for the most part, seemed to think of it highly.
      I for one think that if I lived in that world, I would definitely be more careful of my actions. If I had the same lifestyle as I do now, with the same friends and family, I would want them to be proud of the person I was and of the outlook I had on life. Of course, the same rings true in reality, but not in such an exposed way. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this show if you ever do get around to watching it.

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  5. Bantorra’s my favorite anime in recent years, and it’s largely due to the way it handled such divergent characters as Hamyuts and Noloty. They’re wildly different philosophically-speaking, yet the series was able to approach both characters and allow them to tell their side of things without trying to pick sides and tell us that one is somehow a better character than the other. I was shocked at how the series let us make up our own minds about the characters since so many other anime series are very overt about which characters the creators feel are in the right.

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    • It was difficult to constrain my discussion to only a few characters, since so many of them left an impact on me. And yes, pretty much every character was presented in such a way to where it was very easy for the viewer to sympathize with them, even if he/she agreed with the character or not. Thanks for commenting, Landon, and I look forward to interacting with you more!

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  6. I watched it as it was airing. The fact I had to wait one week for each episode was sometimes a bother, sometimes not. After a few episodes I could see it was going to be a show that would take it’s sweet time to reveal things (it was an important drive to the story after all), but even with that knowledge depending on how excited I was about the story at a certain moment (like in the middle of an arc I was a liking more than usual), the more I would want to understand things quickly instead of waiting quietly.

    I agree with you about the characters, many interesting ones with their own stories, and while some may look plain at first, when you learn about them, you see how interesting they are. Also many characters would grow up on me that would make their death scenes have a larger impact (I like shows that aren’t afraid of killing it’s characters, but also not just killing people randomly and meaninglessly).

    One of the points I liked about the show is how there isn’t as much of a good/evil, but actually different sides and ideals, which is something I like.

    I heard that the anime animated the whole light novel series (last volume of it was released when the anime was around on 2/3 of it’s episodes). But looking at it, the anime may have suffered a bit from a rushed adaptation pace. 27 episodes / 10 light novels volumes, means usually 2 or 3 episodes for one novel volume, which imo is a bit too short for a volume (still depends on the kind of novel and all).

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    • The death scenes were often and always moving, whether or not I really liked the person. There were so many deaths, and many of them of favorite characters. Though, I agree that I didn’t find any of the deaths meaningless; they always served some purpose or another. I haven’t seen the light novels at any of my local book stores, but I’ll have to keep searching, or perhaps put in a request. Now that you mention how the storyline quite possibly could have been rushed, I’m intrigued as to how the two differ.

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