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.
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.
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.