The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Libra of Nil Admirari
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Libra of Nil Admirari ?
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How was the first episode?
Libra of Nil Admirari doesn't do itself many favors in the early going. This episode front-loads its least impressive content, starting with a whiplash-inducing tonal swing from a grim first scene to a peppy opening theme song. I actually kind of like the opener, but it feels way out of place in the context of the story around it. The initial hook of Tsugumi's arranged marriage is hardly original, especially in this genre, and her attempt at cheering her brother up by going shopping by herself is pretty lame from a storytelling standpoint. It eventually gets better, but I imagine a fair number of viewers will have bailed out before anyone starts talking about cursed tomes.
On the positive side, Tsugumi goes through a simple but satisfying character arc over the course of the episode. She starts out as a passenger in her own story, doing little more than standing by and watching as things happen to and around her. Her brother's brush with death helps to snap her out of that mindset, even if it does come with a heaping helping of guilt. A way forward presents itself once Tsugumi discovers her ability to detect cursed tomes, and so she decides to take some initiative and join up with the folks who are trying to stop the tomes from spreading any further. While it may take a while to get going, that's a decent way to start off a series.
As a consequence of this episode's narrow focus on Tsugumi, we don't really get much of a feel for the rest of the cast. Most of her would-be suitors have yet to appear outside of the opening and closing credits, and the handful of characters we do encounter play one-note supporting roles. Then again, I'll take that over the obvious alternative, which would be trying to cram everyone's introductions into one episode. There will be plenty of time for the rest of the guys to make their grand entrances over the next few weeks, and for now the limited scope of this episode works in the show's favor.
Libra of Nil Admirari looks like a solid entry in its genre, with an intriguing premise and decent writing. Tsugumi makes for a decent protagonist, and the visuals are good enough to keep up with the limited action. If you're in the market for a reverse harem show, you could certainly do far worse. I doubt it'll have much appeal beyond its core demographic, but give it a shot if the setup sounds like your cup of tea.
This period piece, which is set in an alternate version of Japan's 1930s where the Taisho era extended a few years longer, is also a reverse harem. Given the plethora of hot bishonen making cameos or more throughout the episode, it should work just fine for an audience seeking that appeal specifically, but the real question is whether it has any draw for viewers outside the target audience.
One thing that the series does have going for it is that heroine Tsugumi isn't a complete doormat. She's not hugely assertive either, as she does go along with her father's arranged marriage plans without protest, merely accepting that it's her duty to help the family out financially in this way. She's also too willing to blame herself for Hitaki's fate, as it's his fault that he can't accept something that he should have known was coming eventually. However, she scored big points with me by agreeing to join Fukurou of her own will and cutting her hair stylishly shorter as a symbol of her effort to change and adapt. If she's allowed to take initiative more instead of just being led around by all of the handsome potential love interests, then this one could have some broader appeal.
Tsugumi also has an active task before her that only she can do, giving her automatic value to any Fukurou member who might otherwise be annoyed with her presence). If done well, this series should be able to stand just on its merits as a story about dealing with supernatural books, with the reverse-harem elements just being a side flavor. The first episode does an adequate job of setting up that potential, though I'm concerned about how effective it will be at building up tension; even in the attempted suicide scene, nothing in this episode was quite dark or intense enough to power a dramatic story. The artistic effort is also no better than average and the color scheme is fairly flat, though I could accept that as an effort to differentiate it from a modern-era setting. Contrarily, some of the bishonen's more modern fashion flair contradicts the setting.
Little concerns like that keep me from giving this one a more favorable rating. There's also just too much competition this season for a middling show to stand out. Still, I could see coming back to this one later in the season if comments about its progression are favorable.
This feels like a banner season for extremely average shows to me. I haven't run into too many all-stars, and I've been blessed enough to avoid any strict garbage, but the “hey, this is pretty watchable” hits keep coming. And so it goes for Libra of Nil Admirari, a perfectly watchable otome game adaptation that hits its goals with a perfectly moderate degree of grace.
Libra centers on Tsugumi Kuze, a young woman growing up in the “25th year of the Taisho Era” (a bit of an invention, considering the Taisho Era only lasted fifteen years). In order to save the Kuze family name, Tsugumi agrees to be married off to another family, prompting an angry response from her young brother Hitaki. One unexpected suicide attempt later, and Tsugumi finds herself introduced to the world of evil tomes, whose emotions influence those who possess them. And of course, Tsugumi turns out to have the very rare ability to see these tomes, making her a person of great interest to the division responsible for acquiring them.
Narrative-wise, Libra is all pretty standard stuff so far. I appreciated this episode's close focus on Tsugumi's feelings about her arranged marriage, which helped grant a little individuality to this fairly predictable premise, but the story beats are all pretty common to the genre, and not executed with too much creativity here. There also wasn't enough time to feel any sort of connection between Tsugumi and her new coworkers, as this episode was basically just about Tsugumi reaching the point where she feels confident enough to choose her own destiny. Libra is essentially all potential at this point—it's set up a fantastical government bureau stuffed with cute boys, but we've yet to see if those boys can build a convincing rapport with our heroine.
Execution-wise, Libra also lands in the middle of the pack. There's not much fluid animation, but this episode didn't really demand that much animation, and there are no glaring issues like flatly shaded backgrounds or ugly CG characters. The show's fire effects were a little suspect, but on the whole, there is very little about this show's design that distinguishes itself in either a positive or negative direction, with only the vaguely period clothes and setting help it to stand out.
Ultimately, Libra is so perfectly average that I'm not left with much to say about it. This first episode thankfully avoids that hint of predatory menace common to otome adaptations, but it's otherwise entirely true to all the conventional assumptions of its genre and executes on them in strictly functional ways. If this is your genre, give it a glance. If not, it's an easy skip.
This is looking like a good season for reverse harem heroines who don't just sit back and let their love interests walk all over them. Tsugumi of Libra of Nil Admirari at first seems like she might be a blank slate, but she's more representative of the change in women's roles in the early 20th century: from biddable domestic-minded female to someone who's more willing to stand up and make her own decisions. As the idea of the flapper is said to have come out of the Spanish Influenza epidemic and the realization that life is short, Tsugumi realizes that maybe just sitting back and doing as she's supposed to isn't the best use of her life when her younger brother Hitaki is possessed by a “cursed tome” and almost burns himself alive. Since they'd just been fighting about Tsugumi caving in to her arranged marriage, Tsugumi feels enormous guilt over the incident, but it also proves the catalyst for her admitting to herself that no, she doesn't want to just get married like a good daughter. That she cuts her hair (it's not quite a bob, but it's significantly shorter) is both symbolic of her decision to cut away her past self and also a shout-out to the time period.
In some ways this feels like a much darker version of last season's Märchen Mädchen. As in that series, this one relies on books that have special powers, although in this case it's handwritten Japanese-style texts that have been infused with the author's emotions. That's an interesting distinction and follows the idea that something handwritten is inherently more personal than a typed message, be that a letter or an entire novel. Hitaki's book has the words “flame” and “coffin” in it, so him attempting to immolate himself makes perfect sense; another person simultaneously tried to strangle himself, which presumably also has to do with the title of the cursed tome found near him. That Tsugumi has developed the power to see cursed tomes' auras is clearly a major gift to the Imperial Library Information Asset Administration Office if they can convince her to join: with her help, they can identify cursed tomes before anyone gets their hands on them.
As of right now we don't know much about anyone besides Tsugumi, which feels like a good pacing decision. Hayato and Akira, the two potential suitors thus far introduced, seem to fit the impulsive guy/calm guy trope, with Hayato standing out as the route the show may follow, but the focus really is more on Tsugumi and establishing her as a character. It looks like she'll have four more love interests as the series progresses, so hopefully the pacing can maintain this level of thoughtfulness. Everyone has a relatively distinct character design, so we shouldn't be stuck trying to remember which blond guy is which going forward, and there's a pretty great vocal cast to keep everyone appealing. Add to that the (nipple-less) fanservice in the ending theme and the unintentionally hilarious idol group format of the opening and this is off to a good start for reverse harem fans who also enjoy the power of a good book.
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