Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd
Sub.Blu-Ray +DVD - The Complete Series
Kyotaro Kakei has always been something of a loner, more invested in his books than the world around him. When he was young, he met a mysterious man called a “Shepherd” who gave him a bookmark that would serve as his ticket to the greatest library in the world. Now a second year in high school, Kakei is still reading his way through life as the sole active member of the library club, waiting for his chance to use that ticket. However, a chance encounter with a girl passing out fliers is about to change everything, making him wonder if just living on the outskirts of life is really where he wants to be.
A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd is not a title designed to catch you with its first episode. The show begins by introducing us to Kyotaro Kakei, a self-contained bookworm with the ticket to a magical library given to him by a mysterious man in his childhood. He has flashes of precognition that help him save the life of classmate Tsugumi Shirasaki when he sees her almost get killed by a derailing tram, ultimately throwing him into not just her life, but life in general. It feels like the start of a harem show based on an adult visual novel, which is exactly what it is. As the early episodes go on, we're introduced to the rest of the girls Kakei gets to choose between in the game version – as well as the obligatory male friend – and everything feels fairly cut and dry. But by about the middle of the series' run, things begin to pick up as we learn more about the man who gave Kakei the bookmark in the first place, the girls' (and Kakei's) pasts, and what's hanging in the balance, making this a surprisingly engaging and occasionally dark story whose ultimate question is whether it is better to read about life or live it.
Interestingly for a story that fits into the harem genre, Kakei doesn't seem particularly invested in any of the girls, and there's some uncertainty over whether or not most of them actually like him romantically. While this latter issue is handled in the last third of the show in a very hurried way, not giving Kakei any real romantic interest in anyone until the tenth episode is a good illustration of how detached from the world he has made himself. Prior to meeting Shirasaki, his only meaningful human interaction was with a young stepsister we see in a flashback; this, along with his unpleasant memories of a lonely childhood, gives the strong impression that Kakei has been self-soothing with literature, something that can make him very relatable, not unlike Roald Dahl's heroine Matilda, who also displayed latent psychic abilities. Although he's apparently game to help Shirasaki with her “Happiness Project” and welcome other members to the Library Club (he's the sole active member at series' start), he's also clearly holding himself back for at least six of the twelve episodes, maintaining his safe distance from other people.
This distance is a central part of both the story and Kakei's character. Many of the usual harem antics are used in the show not because the girls are all in love with him, but because they're trying to figure him out; in fact, a couple of plans are hatched with the full compliance of (straight) male friend Takamine, who has no romantic investment in Kakei. Most of these plots are about figuring out how to make Kakei stay in the club and become more emotionally open with them as a group, especially once his magical potential is revealed. Kakei's detachment from the world, along with his precognition, make him eligible to become a “Shepherd,” a person living on the fringes of reality who helps people live their happiest lives. The caveat is that no one remembers a Shepherd for very long, as a result of the book containing the record of a Shepherd's life being erased. Kakei's rival for becoming a new Shepherd is one of the girls, Kodachi; so she tries to better tie him to the world in order to further her own interests. While most of the girls do develop romantic feelings for Kakei (though there's very little doubt which one he's most likely to end up with), that seems to come after they've all gotten to know him a bit better. In a longer series, this would have worked really well; in only twelve episodes, it makes their crushes feel a bit rushed.
The idea of Shepherds is the most intriguing part of the story, as well as the final revelation of the initial Shepherd's identity. This revelation suggests that Shepherds are groomed rather than randomly created and that people must be made to prefer being on the fringes of the world. This also draws comparisons between this series and Mark Crilley's four-volume comic Miki Falls in terms of how people who help the world relate to it, and if you enjoyed Crilley's work, you'll find a lot to enjoy in this one. Bibliophiles will also notice a few similarities between this series and Carlos Ruiz Zafón's novel The Shadow of the Wind in its use of libraries hidden from all but the chosen readers.
While the visuals aren't anything amazing, there are some moments of lovely animation (often involving hair) and some good choices in terms of color scheme; serious flashbacks are done in muted sepia, and Kodachi's sillier moments use more block colors. One scene in episode eight is done in a style mimicking shadow puppets, which also works well with its depiction of clique culture. Otherwise, the rest of the show is decent, with character designs that are nice but not fabulous and a passable understanding of character anatomy. Kakei's room is fabulous in terms of bibliophile dreams, and the magical library is also well done. Some of the background music feels awkward and annoying, but the theme songs and opera performed by Senri is decent.
A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd is a surprisingly engaging show, equal parts harem and light urban fantasy with some surprisingly dark moments. Most of the characters feel developed (Sakuraba's otaku tendencies are nicely subtle), although it takes Kodachi most of the series to stop feeling like a stereotype, and it's easy to get more invested as the show goes on. It takes a while to really get going, but ultimately it's worth giving this sub-only release a chance.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Not too haremy to be a turn-off, but still enough harem for genre fans, becomes more engaging as it goes, a few surprising jokes
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