RWBY and the library as a place of refuge and calmness

While the above screencap is from a 1931 film, titled Possessed, during the Pre-Code era, the library becomes a place of refuge for various characters in animations that I’ve seen. Some have said that this applies in terms of libraries serving as a gathering place in the aftermath of natural disasters, but they also serve as a safe place for those who were hurt by such disasters or otherwise experiencing hardship in life. On the other hand, libraries are also community spaces, making them places of calmness which sometimes seem removed from the pressures of the outside world, even though the latter is not completely true. In any case, libraries in RWBY fulfill both examples, unlike a short scene in a library in the Sym-Bionic Titan episode “The Phantom Ninja,” as I’ve written about before, which is almost just a setting where barely anything happens. My analysis begins with the library at Beacon Academy, with the library as a community space that allows people to express themselves:

Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang in the library at Beacon Academy

One of the best examples is the episode “Welcome to Beacon,” Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang play a complex card game in the library. It’s a weird card game and battle game of some sort, which no one understands but Ruby and Yang, hilariously, while Weiss and Blake are totally confused. Meanwhile, Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, Pyrrha Nikos, and Lie Ren are sitting at a table nearby, with Nora sitting, as shown below:

At a table nearby
JNPR at a nearby table

Of course, Ruby and Yang are far more into the game than Blake and Weiss by far, as shown below. Weiss has no idea what’s going on and needs Yang to help her understand the game. She eventually uses this confidence to commit a large attack on Ruby in the game, but Yang takes advantage of that and is victorious. Weiss then says she hates the “game of emotions” they are playing.

As the game goes on, Sun introduces RWBY and everyone else to his old friend, Neptune Vasilias, who declares “aren’t libraries for reading?” That’s a sentiment that Ren agrees with, while Sun tells him to “shut up” and not be a “nerd.” He corrects Sun and is willing to see himself as an intellectual.

The scene ends with Blake stepping out and saying she doesn’t want to play the game anymore. With that, the episode transitions to another scene with Blake in her room, and a flashback to her talking to Ozpin, the school’s headmaster, about enrolling in the school. Therein ends the almost four-minute scene in the library, one of the best long episodes in libraries I have seen in a long time.

We then get to the library that is a source of refuge. [1] In the episode “Taking Control,” Weiss hides in her family’s library in her dad’s mansion in Atlas before going to Mistrel. This is after her family’s butler, Klein Sieben, tells her to head to the first-floor library, which is filled with books, as shown below.

She talks to Klein in the library, wishes him well, and then leaves the mansion down a secret passageway. And that’s the end of the library in the episode. It is a passageway to freedom for Weiss, en route to Mistral to meet her sister, Winter, as she does in the show’s following season.

RWBY is not alone in this, but these are the only examples I can think of at the present. Onto other posts!


Notes

[1] While other episodes feature libraries too, none of them are places of refuge like in this episode. They really aren’t. In the episode “A Much Needed Talk,” it is shown that Blake’s father has a huge library stretching across the walls in his home. Then, in the episode “No Safe Haven,” there is a library in the room of Professor Lionheart.

10 of the most beautiful libraries in animated series

Last week I put together a post about 10 librarians in anime and animation, responding to a Book Riot piece about the bad representation that librarians have in popular culture. As I noted there, I defined the term broadly, fitting into discussions about blended librarianship and the stereotypes around librarians, like the idea they excessively revere books (biblioaltry) or grumbling about their advocacy and saying it is “left-wing”, whatever that means. I won’t go over what I noted there again, as I think that would be repetitive, so please read that article for more context. This week’s post focuses on beautiful libraries in animation and anime, like various publications, which focused on the most beautiful libraries in the world as a whole. [1] In the past, I’ve written about and shown screenshots of wonderful libraries, some of which are included in this post, and other animated series that are not, [2] so this is fitting. Some of these libraries would definitely make you part of what was once called the “literati,” meaning scholarly, learned, or well-educated people. Enjoy!

[1.] Sorcerous Stabber Orphen

A well-used library in this magical institution, by sorcerers and others alike. It plays a key part in an episode of this anime, as there is a conversation between two characters, Leticia “Tish” MacCredy and Forte, in the library. The latter confesses his feelings toward her, which makes her very uncomfortable. Later on, we see that Tish has a huge library in her room or office of some type.

[2.] She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

The two dads of Bow (George and Lance) call themselves historians but they can accurately be called librarians, who run a family library in the Whispering Woods, shown in the Season 2 finale of the show, and is a major part of the plot of the episode. While the outside of the library is not pretty in a traditional sense (veins are on the outside, wrapping around the library’s dome), the inside is beautiful. The fandom page for it, calls it a “place for learning,” noting it is a multi-floor residence where the dads live, and presumably Bow’s other brothers (Woe, Sow, Oboe, Gogh, and Waoh) at different points. It is also a museum too! Sadly, the second time Bow and Glimmer visit, it is in shambles! Hopefully, it is repaired and refurbished after the end of the series, with the Horde being defeated! That would be great.

[3.] Classroom of the Elite

This 2017 anime features a library at an elite school somewhere in Japan. Study groups meet there, trying to help students get their grades up. One student says he will no longer participate in the study group anymore, and three students end up leaving. In the end, the midterm exams come and the class, as a whole, performs very well with some scoring some of the highest scores in the school. All in all, the library is wonderful.

[4.] Macross Frontier

In the 18th episode (“Fold Fame”) of this 2007 anime, Michael and Klan, try to find out more about the symptoms of 17-year-old Sheryl and the conspiracy behind it. In the process, they travel to a library for more answers. There are various people in the library, but none of them seem to be librarians. Rather they are patrons. In any case, Michael thinks about the disease affecting Sheryl, a singer extraordinaire who he likes, and later Klan looks at the computer and pulls up old medical journals. Multiple times they are shocked by what they find, with Klan annoyed that it seems Michael (who seems to flirt with everyone) likes Sheryl. The one-minute library scene ends with Sheryl coming into the library, feeling delirious, and almost falling down.

[5.] Adventure Time

In this fantasy series, there is a library where “knowledge lives,” with books almost stacked like bricks in a warehouse. Additionally, the Turtle Princess runs the library (and is basically serving as the sole librarian). The show portrays libraries as a boring place where you “learn stuff,” and is almost deserted at certain times, although it it full of patrons at other times. The Turtle Princess later shushes the protagonists, and there are beings known as pagelings which are the “secret guardians” of the library’s books, fighting off leeches, I believe, which are trying to get at some of the books. The library is shown at the end of the episode from the outside, with the area clearly war-torn in this post-apocalyptic landscape. All in all, it is definitely beautiful.

[6.] Revolutionary Girl Utena

In this 1997 Japanese anime, there are various scenes showcasing libraries, reference, and much more, time and time again, and the library itself is very scholarly at this academy. There are various scenes of characters studying in the library, showing it as a serious place where you do serious work. The lighting on the table even reminded me a little of the Library of Congress. All in all, libraries are central to this anime, more than I would have thought originally when watching it. That, in and of itself, makes it noteworthy! Some of those in the above picture seem to be student assistants in the library, meaning they are librarians!

[7.] Futurama

Not to be confused with the pubic library, ha. Anyway, the public library appears in a number of episodes, including one where Fry fights off the Big Brain and other floating brains (brain spawn) there. The library contains, among other parts, an Ancient Literature room which houses many classical works of literature, with “classical” defined pretty hilariously, as noted on Infosphere. We do see a librarian in one episode, but she is sadly affected by the Brain Spawn and can’t even put a book back in the shelf properly! NO!

[8.] R.O.D. the TV

Some snapshots of the library in the episode “In the Gray Light of the Abyss”

This anime has a whole episode about the place where you would find the most books in Japan, the National Diet Library. In the episode, the library director says they literally have “everything that has ever been published in Japan.” Yomiko is said to read her way through the stacks all day. The director basically gives them a bit of a tour of the library, which is pretty cool, to be honest, and something I haven’t seen in animation, showing the inner workings of the library. In the episode itself, National Diet Library appears for a total of about 11 and a half minutes, which is about half of the episode! The animators likely worked with/went to the library to put together these animations, which look pretty close to how the library functioned and what was in the stacks.

[9.] RWBY

The library is a book repository and stores archived information at Beacon Academy. It is a quiet place for students to study or read, with students using the area as a place to gather, socializing and playing board games. While there, you can also make calls outside the kingdom, and there is access to several holographic computer terminals, which are freely available to the same students. This all comes from the fandom page for the academy, but the library shows up a bunch of times in the series, including other libraries elsewhere in Remnant.

[10.] El-Hazard

In this 1990s series, this library is shown multiple times, first by a resident scholar of a mystical land, and secondly with no one. It is full of books and information! It is a wonder to behold! There’s nothing much more to say about this, however, as it doesn’t show up that many times and you don’t see that much around the library. Even so, it definitely stores information in a way that is accessible to those who use it, without a doubt.

That’s all for this post! Onto other posts about libraries in the week to come.


Notes

[1] I am specifically referring to Stefanie Waldek’s article, “10 of the Most Beautiful Libraries in the World” in Galerie, Rachel Gould’s article, “The 10 Most Beautiful Libraries in America” in Culture Trip, Duncan Madden’s article, “Ten Of The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” in Forbes, an article in The Guardian titled “The world’s most beautiful libraries – in pictures“, Sarah Dimarco’s article, “Inside 25 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, Megan Barber’s article, “The 20 most beautiful libraries in the U.S.” in Curbed and an article in Love Happens titled “Top 20 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World.”

[2] This isn’t counting the libraries in Bloom Into You, Ascendance of a Bookworm, Stretch Armstrong, DC Super Hero Girls (also see here), Bravest Warriors, Sym-Bionic Titan, Kandagawa Jet Girls, Gargantia, Paradise Kiss, Kuttsukiboshi, Ice, Wandering Son, She-Ra: Princess of Power, Carmen Sandiego, and Steven Universe.

Lacking “proper, consistent representation”: Librarians in popular culture

As I continue to chronicle mentions of libraries and librarians in popular culture, mainly in animation, I came across an article in Book Riot by Rachel Rosenberg, who says she enjoys “storytimes, books, movies, travel, cross-stitching and sarcasm,” calls herself a “library tech & soon full librarian” on Twitter, and has written about children’s books on libraries and librarians, quaranzines collected by libraries, picture books written by librarians, NYPL-recommended books, the first Puerto Rican librarian in NYC (Pure Belpré), and many other topics. [1] The article, published back in March, is titled with a valid question: “Why Aren’t There More Librarians in Pop Culture?” She begins by saying that librarians are still “lacking proper, consistent representation in pop culture,” asking how “many librarian characters can you name,” specifically not those librarians who are in a scene either running or shushing people, rather someone who is “interesting and funny, perhaps with nuance and more to do than just reminding someone about fines or telling them to be quiet.” She goes onto say that “librarians often get a bad rap,” saying that librarians are “information detectives” and “Knowers of Things! Doers of research! Creators of fun, free programs!,” adding that the characters she will highlight are those which “reflect aspects of the real job of a library professional,” lamenting that her list is very White, arguing that “pop culture needs (a) more librarians and (b) more POC librarians,” an argument which I completely agree with. She goes onto mention the following librarians on the silver screen in-depth, complete with relatable moments: Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lizzie Benson in Jenny Offhill’s book (Weather), Mary in Party Girl, Tammy Swanson/Tammy II in Parks and Recreation, and Bunny Watson in Desk Set.

She concludes by telling people to ask librarians about their daily work, expanding the understanding of the “strange and delightful lives” of librarians, saying they can “probably tell you some very interesting stories that you won’t soon forget.” While I can’t comment on any of the examples she pointed out, as I haven’t watched any of those series or films, I would like to provide ten examples of positive librarians [2] in Western animations and anime. Merriam-Webster defines librarians broadly as anyone who works in a library, specialists in care and management of a library and as library directors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also defines the word broadly as those who help people “find information and conduct research for personal and professional use,” typically needing an MLIS or MLS, with some positions having additional requirements. Similarly, the now-defunct LISWiki describes librarians as those “responsible for the care of a library and its contents, including the selection and processing of materials and the delivery of information, library instruction, and loan services to meet the needs of its users” with most possessing some type of library degree. [3] While this definitely differs from archivists, scribes (defunct profession), and superintendents of documents, one could say that library technicians (formerly a BLS category) easily fall into the category of librarians (as they would be paraprofessionals) and librarianship as a whole. As such, I am using librarian broadly here, as Hisami Hishishii, Yamada, Azusa Aoi, Fumi, and Chiyo Tsukudate are student assistants, while others (George, Lance, Dr. Oldham, and Lilith) are self-taught. Perhaps “The Librarian” in Hilda is the only one a professional degree, and a presumed reference librarian, along with Myne in her former life. None of those on this list, however, are bibliographers, reader’s advisors, interns or those with a practicum. I thought I’d point this out before going forward.

Anyway, like Rosenberg’s list, my list is composed of mostly light-skinned, with the exception being George and Lance. So here it goes! Enjoy! Comments are welcome.

Dr. Oldham in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Dr. Oldham is a white-skinned male sage and medical doctor, who works in a library on a spire, an equivalent to an ivory tower. They spend over two and a half minutes in the library, with bookshelves shown, with Oldham having a shelf of books nearby, which could be called a reference shelf. In this way, he does fulfill his library duties as he is serving a patron, although not in the way we usually envision. In another episode, a library is shown which has data files and not books. Sadly, he does not appear in any other episodes. Still, this laughing librarian (laughing at Ledo, who acts arrogant and declares that the social organization of Gargantia doesn’t make sense) lives on for me in so many ways.

George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Lance (on the left) and George (on the right)

This show, which is known for its LGBTQ representation, included two characters which can arguably be seen as librarians, although they call themselves historians. They are George and Lance, the middle-aged black dads of series protagonist Bow, and they run a library in a magical forest called the Whispering Woods. In the season 2 finale, Bow and his friends, Adora and Glimmer, work with them to translate an ancient message. Adora accidentally releases a monster into the library and Bow reveals his true identity to his dads, who end up embracing him for who he is, accepting it, something which many see as echoing family coming-out stories from the LGBTQ+ community. In a later episode, Bow and Glimmer meet George and Lance who tell them about an ancient rebellion and fail-safe on a superweapon, information which becomes vitally important going forward.

Myne in Ascendance of A Bookworm

Myne loudly declares she wants to reorganize the church library

Myne, the protagonist of this anime, advocates for re-organizing all the books in a temple library using the NDC (Nippon Decimal Classification) system, the Japanese version of the Dewey Decimal System” and even though she is unable to organize all the books she wants since magic books are “off-limits,” she still makes her “mark on this society,” with libraries shown to have value various times in the episode. Myne, a librarian in her former life, tries to make books so she can share them with others, ultimately creating a library. Anyway, she is dedicated to reorganizing information, first by her own design, then following a library classification system, which is amazing, as I haven’t seen any animation to date do this, or have a PSA about it, so that’s cool.

“The Librarian” in Hilda

While she has not yet gotten a name in the show’s first season, she has become a fan sensation, is a feisty character, and has been a subject of a lot of chatter on the fan base. She is, so far, a mysterious librarian who has an extensive, and unmatched “knowledge of cemetery records and mystical items.” In one episode, she drops a book on a nearby table, telling Hilda and her friends that it might be of interest, giving them what they need. In another, Hilda comes upon the hidden special collections room, and she is told that reference books cannot be circulated, so she copies a page from the book, able to lift the enchantment on her friend and mother just in time thanks to the information she learns in the episode. In yet another episode, the librarian anticipates her question, able to draw upon her expertise to help them, even giving Hilda the necessary materials to raise the dead, even while warning her, doing so in order to help Hilda, a patron, with something important. In the final episode of the first season, we see her walking across the streets of Trolberg, and she will likely have a role in the show’s upcoming season, which will begin streaming sometime in December 2020. The series is popular enough that it even spurred a fan-made cartoon titled Zilda which is inspired by the show, ha.

Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D the TV

Hisa in various episodes of R.O.D. the TV

Although she only a library club member at a high school in Japan, she still seems to fulfill her library duties to the best extent possible and likes to hang out there with others. She never shushes anyway and helps other patrons, although she is not seen in her library duties as much as I would like. Even so, she is friends with the protagonist and Anita King (a papermaster), who puts on the persona, at times, of a bratty young girl. This series also features an episode which focuses on the National Diet Library, the equivalent of the Library of Congress in Japan, which was awesome, and book burning by the villains who want to “make a point” and engage in thought control in a plan which is megalomaniacal from the start.

Lilith in Yamibou

Lilith is a caretaker of the Great Library, a repository that contains “all of the worlds in the universe within books.” While much of the series is her traveling with her crush, Hazuki, searching from book world to book world looking for Eve, which Hazuki knows as “Hatsumi,” who she has romantic feelings for. Later, it is shown that Eve is another caretaker of the library. By making sure that the worlds within the books are secure, in this sense you could say that Lilith is doing her duty as a librarian. Libraries don’t come up in this series as much as I would have wanted, but they are still a key part of this series as a whole.

Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words

In the episode “Did You See the Rain?,” Azusa Aoi serves as the librarian in this episode, while the Girls Club members go on a treasure hunt to find a message, coming in and out of the library throughout the episode. Later Azuza joins them in their quest to discover what the message means. Azusa is a studious person who reads during breaks and takes an interest in learning, as noted on her fandom page, perfect for a librarian!

Yamada in B Gata H Kei

In the episode “Boy Meets Girl. Please Give Me Your ‘First Time’!!” [part 1], Yamada is assigned to be a school volunteer at the library like her crush Kosuda. Yamada says she didn’t like the library because it smells but fantasizes about hiding spots to have love with Kosuda. She tries to seduce him there and it fails. In a later episode, “A Valentine of Sweat and Tears! Love(?) From Yamada is Put Into It” [Part 1],  Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together. Then, in “Improve the Erotic Powers! It’s My First Time Feeling This Sensation…” [Part 2], they are both in the library again, with Yamada trying to get Kosuda interested in her romantically again. This doesn’t work, leaving her alone in the library after he leaves, he then comes back and is embarrassed by her actions. In the first of these episodes, she does perform some library duties, but she is mostly trying, and failing, to get Kosuda to like her in a long list of failed attempts, as she learns more about herself along the way and who she is as a person. In a later episode, of the show, “Throbbing Christmas Eve. What Does a First Kiss Taste Like?” [part 1], Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together. The scene of them in the school library is very short.

Fumi in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers

In the episode “Winter Fireworks,” Fumi does weeding of books in the library, and remembers her kiss with Sugimoto. Later in the episode, she later talks with other students about the role/influence the Literary Club has on the library. In another episode, “Adolescence is Beautiful,” Fumi and Sugimoto go to the library, and kiss there. In any case, Fumi at least knows some library skills, in terms of weeding, which is an important part of library work, even if it can be controversial at times (if you get rid of the “wrong” books).

Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic

In the library, doing her library duties

In the episode, “Hydrangeas,” one of the places they look for Nagisa’s umbrella is at the library and there is a librarian named Chiyo Tsukidate, a fellow student at the school. She is a member of the Library Club who works as a librarian in Astraea’s Library, looking up to people like Nagisa and Tomao, likely having a crush on Nagisa. She is shown, various times, engaging in her librarian duties, checking out books and the like. She is such a nice person and also does her library duties well and efficiently, as shown in the episodes.

Closing words

And that’s all I have for now. There are many other series I mention on my pages reviewing animation and anime, but none of them have librarians I can remember by name, just featuring libraries. [4] One exception to that is Cardcaptor Sakura. In the episode “Sakura and Her Summer Holiday Homework,” the protagonists (Sakura, Tomoyo, and Kero) look for the piglet book, the librarian tells them that one copy should be there after looking at her computer, saying that it is still within the library somewhere, so they look through the stacks for it. Later, Sakura looks through the main study area, to see if anyone has the book, and the book somehow teleports across the library, probably with the use of a Clow Card. In the episode, various librarians are seen going about their duties. Unfortunately, I don’t even think any of their faces are shown, so they are basically in the background. However, this is better than other anime or even Western animation. That’s all for this week. Until a post next week, on another library topic!


Notes

[1] This includes posts celebrating NYPL’s 125th anniversary, drag queen storytimes, NYPL and mental wellness, books that could be included in kindergarten libraries, and a variety of other posts.

[2] As such, I am excluding the unnamed librarian in Steven Universe, the librarian made dumb in Futurama, the old librarian in She-Ra: Princess of Power, Turtle Princess in Adventure Time, the curmudgeon librarian in DC Super Hero Girls, the elderly librarian in Zevo-3, the librarian susher in The Owl House, and the curmudgeon and smug librarian in Mysticons, along with a woman in a cloak, presumably a nun in the stacks of the library, in Aoi Hana (also known as Sweet Blue Flowers), The Mystic Archives of Dantalian (if Dantalian is considered a librarian at all), and a small mention of a librarian in Little Witch Academia.

[3] According to the Australian Library and Information Association, librarians and information specialists have a “strong focus on assisting people and organisations and possess unique technical skills to manage and retrieve information. They thrive on change and seek challenges that require creative solutions.” In addition, the Special Libraries Association notes that librarians are among those who have “responsibility for elements of knowledge and information management,” putting them into the category of “information professionals.”

[4] For Western animation, this includes LoliRock, RWBY, Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, Carmen Sandiego, Neo Yokio, OK K.O.: Let’s Be Heroes!, Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths, and Legends, Sym-Bionic Titan, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Glitch Techs, Bravest Warriors, Amphibia, Victor & Valentino, and Tangled. For anime, this includes Read or Die, R.O.D the TV, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Manaria Friends, El-Hazard, Classroom of the Elite, Kandagawa Jet Girls, Ice (anime), Kampfer, Macross Frontier, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Bloom Into You, Kuttsukiboshi, Lapis Re: Lights, Paradise Kiss, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, Wandering Son, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches to name the ones I have listed so far.

Little witches, comedy, and love in the library

Ako, Amanda, and Croix in the library in the beginning of the episode “Amanda O’Neil and the Holy Grail”

Hello everyone! It’s been a bit slow in terms of finding libraries in animation since my last post on the topic back on October 10. In order to get to my goal, as I stated in my last post of watching “100 anime episodes and 100 animation episodes,” with libraries and/or librarians, I’m focusing on anime for now. Presently, I’ve watched 81 anime episodes, up from 74 as stated in my October 10 post, as noted in this Excel document. In this post, I’ll highlight some of my favorite moments in each of those episodes when it comes to libraries and librarians.

Let’s start with Little Witch Academia. Like any anime set in a school environment, there are undoubtedly scenes in libraries. In the episode “Samhain Magic Festival,” for instance, Professor Ursula researches at the library about a curse, finding the information she needs is at Luna Nova’s Archive Library. In that way, the episode has library and archives themes all-in-one! In a later episode, “Chariot of Fire,” a student, Diana Cavendish, is researching about Croix at the library and Prof. Ursula talks to her, unintentionally revealing she knew Croix well, then leaving not long after. Later in the episode, Diana is still reading a book in the library. Again, the library scenes are short, but undoubtedly worthwhile to say the least. Finally, in the introduction to the episode “Amanda O’Neil and the Holy Grail,” Akko and Amanda meet Prof. Ursula in the library, where she is doing research. While she leaves, they spend time in the library, thinking of how they will find the fifth word, and talk with Prof. Croix about it, and they end up going on an adventure while Croix is still in the library. Libraries galore!

Libraries appear just as many times in the romcom/sex comedy anime titled B Gata H Kei. In part 1 of the show’s first episode, “Boy Meets Girl. Please Give Me Your ‘First Time’!!,” the show’s protagonist, Yamada, is assigned to be a school volunteer at the library like her crush Kosuda. Yamada says she didn’t like the library because it smells, but fantasizes about hiding spots to have love with Kosuda. She tries to seduce him there and it fails, as it usually does. Then, in part 1 of the fourth episode episode, “Throbbing Christmas Eve. What Does a First Kiss Taste Like?,” Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together once more. Later, in part 1 of the show’s fifth episode, “A Valentine of Sweat and Tears! Love(?) From Yamada is Put Into It,” Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together. In Part 2, titled “Improve the Erotic Powers! It’s My First Time Feeling This Sensation…” of this episode, they are both in the library again, with Yamada trying to get Kosuda interested in her romantically again. As expected, that doesn’t work, leaving her alone in the library after he leaves. He then comes back and is embarrassed by her actions.

Yuu and Touko are shocked to see every table of the library filled with people studying for exams

Finally, there is the yuri anime, Bloom Into You. In the episode “The Problem With Choices,” Touko and Yuu end up studying in the library together for school midterms day after day, until finally they end up studying at Yuu’s house because the library is crowded one day. The romance between them continues to blossom!

So that’s all for this week.

Libraries, librarians, and pop culture reviews

Hey everyone! I just thought I’d write a post to update you about reviews on this site and such. Also, enjoy this funny library rap I found from the 1990s. I don’t remember where I found it from, but I think it was shared first by Jennifer Snoek-Brown of Reel Librarians. It’s been a bit slow in terms of the libraries I’ve found in animation and anime, to date. Currently, for anime shows, I’ve found libraries and/or librarians in 74 episodes, and the same in 65 episodes in animation shows. Anime, for me, is an animation produced in Japan, like Wandering Son or R.O.D. the TV, to give an example. This is in line with how the Anime News Network defines it, saying they define “anime based on the origin of the animation. If it is primarily produced in Japan, it is anime,” although those works that are like anime are not inferior to anime itself. Animation, on this blog, refers to any animation which is produced outside Japan. While that usually means ones produced in the U.S., it also can mean ones produced in France, the UK, or elsewhere as well. Anyway, I’m trying to get to 100 anime episodes and 100 animation episodes, then writing an article on the topic, perhaps for somewhere like American Libraries or another publication. Currently, I’m 69.5% on the way to my goal.

When it comes to anime, there are a few shows which dominate the list in terms of appearances of libraries. R.O.D. the TV is above any of the others by a long shot, with 12 episodes featuring libraries in the series, as they are a key part of the story, as I’ve explained in a post on here. Similarly, Ascendance of a Bookworm prominently features libraries as well, showing up in six episodes, one of which is all about library classification. I haven’t written about them on posts on this blog at this point (and may do so in the future), but the series Manaria Friends features libraries in six episodes, and Whispered Words does so in five episodes. Similarly, a series which I’m slowly moving through (I just finished episode 19 of season 1), a classic from the 1990s, Cardcaptor Sakura, has libraries in four episodes so far. I expect there will be more in upcoming episodes. However, I have written about the four episodes in El-Hazard which feature libraries and the four in Revolutionary Girl Utena. I just added in the show Yami, the Hat, and the Travelers of the Books (also named Yami to Bōshi to Hon no Tabibito and Yamibou), where “Eve is one of the caretakers of the Great Library, a repository containing all of the worlds in the universe within books.” I thought that meant that the 13-episode series had a library in every single episode. However, the first two episodes, episodes 4-11. This increased the count from 71 episodes to 74 episodes, which helped me get closer to my goal that I noted earlier.

For animation, I’ve had a tougher time, although there have been some good animations that have featured libraries time and again. Lolirock has libraries appearing in 15 episodes, more than any other series I have seen to date! At the same time, there were the same elements within five episodes of RWBY, four episodes of Adventure Time, and four episodes of Hilda. Similarly, libraries are integrated into three episodes of Tangled, three episodes of The Owl House, and three episodes of DC Super Hero Girls. I’d like to give a mention to the three episodes of Bravest Warriors, three episodes of Cleopatra in Space, and three episodes of Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters which have the same themes. Of these examples, I especially enjoyed Eugene reading the tiny books in an island library in the “Islands Apart” episode of Tangled, and Isabella making a joke at the end of the Victor and Valentino episode, “Decoding Valentino,” after the library collapses into the ground that the library is “lib-raried,” which is one of the best library jokes I’ve seen in an episode. I further enjoyed the “Lost In Language” episode of The Owl House where Luz travels to a library, returning overdue books, and meets Amity, who is reading in the library to children and is impressed by that. Amity, who has a crush on Luz, is surprised, and both work together to fight off the book monster, then return it to its normal form. She later reconciles with Amity, who is coming around to liking her. Apart from this, I hope to see some more simulated libraries, like those in episodes of Bravest Warriors (“Nothin’ Stays the Same” and “War Without Tears”), in other series. I haven’t written about libraries in LoliRock, RWBY, Victor & Valentino, Tangled, and The Owl House, so that gives me something to write about.

As I continue to finish Tangled and Little Witch Academia, watch more episodes of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, along with upcoming seasons of Hilda and other shows, I remain confident that libraries will pop up once again, allowing me to complete my goal, then move on with my analysis going forward.

A Mysterious Librarian is the Breakout Star of Netflix’s Hilda

This article is reprinted from the original on I Love Libraries.

Two years ago, the animated series Hilda premiered on Netflix, and a minor character called “The Librarian” (voiced by Kaisa Hammurlund) quickly became a fan sensation. Although she only appears in about three minutes of the show’s first season, this feisty librarian has been mentioned in 20 fanfiction stories on Archive of Our Own and has a Tumblr blog dedicated to her. She has also been a subject of a lot of chatter among the fanbase, from Twitter to Reddit. The official Hilda Twitter account has described her as a mysterious librarian who has an unmatched, and extensive, “knowledge of cemetery records and mystical items.” Overall, this character is among the most positive pop culture depictions of librarians, along with fellow animated shows Cleopatra in Space and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

During the show’s first season, the characters spend only nine minutes at the Trolberg public library, but those scenes make a strong impression. In the show’s sixth episode, protagonists Hilda, David, and Frida travel to the library, searching for information to cure David’s awful nightmares. Before they can think of the right text, the librarian drops a book on a nearby table, telling them they will find it of interest, and slides away on a rolling ladder across the stacks. Once the group starts reading, they realize the book indeed contains the information they need. When Frida expresses her confusion with the librarian’s prescient actions, David tells her that it is her job to find what they need.

In the next episode, the protagonists’ journey to the library to learn about dragons. While Hilda laments that she would rather be in a “deep, dark forest,” her elf friend, Alfie, calls the library a “forest for the imagination”; Frida adds that research is the “greatest adventure of them all.” After Alfie locates the right book using the card catalog, he expresses his love of “a good subject-based classification system,” in keeping with the show’s portrayal of elves as comically fixated on paperwork and organization. This scene reinforces the impression from the previous episode that libraries are wondrous places of valuable information.

Much of the library’s screen time for the season takes place in the eighth episode. In the first scene, Hilda looks for a “cozy place” to read. Thanks to the instincts of her pet, Twig, she stumbles upon a hidden special collections room in the library, a space that comics writer Matthew Garcia calls “the real wonder” of the episode. Among the stacks, Hilda finds a spell book whose contents spur the plot of the episode. Afterward, she is reminded by the librarian that reference books, like the spell book, cannot be circulated. Filled with enchantments, the books become, in Garcia’s words, a “creature of their own.” Alfie has several wonderful lines in this episode, calling libraries “thrilling temples of the unexpected.” Thanks to the information Hilda learned during her time in the library, she lifts the enchantment on her friend and mother just in time.

In the episode that follows, the protagonists visit the library again, searching for information following a possible encounter with a ghost. Before Hilda has a chance to ask for help, the librarian anticipates her question. After some hesitation, the librarian draws upon her extensive expertise about everything from local gravesite locations to ghost summoning rituals in order to assist the group. She gives Hilda the necessary materials to raise the dead, while warning her that she will be “piercing the veil” between the human world and the world of the dead. While she later calls this activity “fun,” she does so in order to help Hilda, a patron, with something important. The librarian’s actions in this episode highlight the responsibility of librarians to serve patrons to the best of their ability.

In the show’s final episode, we see the librarian walking across the streets of Trolberg. Whether she is goth, a witch, a vampire, a queer-coded character, or a version of Hilda from the future—all of which are popular theories among fans—there is no doubt she will have an important role in the show’s upcoming season, which will likely begin streaming on Netflix in either October or November of this year. In the end, the librarian in Hilda serves as a positive depiction of librarians in animation which eschews stereotypes, hopefully making clear the importance of librarians and libraries for years to come.

Read or…die?: Paper masters, embers of the British empire, and books galore

Anita, Nenene, and Maggie in the first episode of the 26-episode anime in a room filled with books.

On August 29, Amy recommended I watch “Read or Die,” otherwise known as R.O.D, which they called a beloved anime series. Earlier this month, I tweeted about how the 2001 OVA is interesting because one of the protagonists, Agent Paper, is a book nerd (bibliophile to be exact) who is “often too distracted from the task at hand by reading books,” and that libraries are bursting out of this anime. She has the power to manipulate paper, perhaps a bit like Paper Star in the Carmen Sandiego series.

Before I get further, let me summarize the plot of the OVA. Basically, this anime takes place in a world where the British Empire is a major superpower, with an intelligence agency known as the “British Library” within the actual British Library, ensuring the empire is maintained. It has a special ops division, the MI6, with the OVA following the story of “The Paper,” otherwise known as Yomiko Readman, who is an agent of the library and is part of a team working to track down rare books, keeping them from the hands of evildoers. She lives in an apartment which is filled to the brim with books, so many that she is almost sleeping on them, and is acquiring more all the time. After she is attacked by someone who tries to take her book, Yomiko teams up with a former U.S. soldier, Drake Anderson, and an agent named Nancy Makuhari, the latter who Yomiko falls for, with both expressing feelings for each other. [1] Nancy has the power to phase through objects but cannot control paper like Yomiko. Yomiko reports to the Library’s head, Joe Carpenter (“Mr. Joker”) while Wendy Earhart is Joker’s assistant and secretary, caring for Yomiko’s well-being. This Joker is nothing like the Joker in the Batman series, although he ends up becoming a villain. Anyway, the OVA, which was given bad marks by reviewers for Anime News Network as having an awful storyline, but positively by Robert Nelson and Dallas Marshall of T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews, ends in a huge battle. It results in the injury of Nancy as the villainous plan to broadcast the Beethoven symphony across the world by using a rocket, while Yomiko gets away with a parachute made of paper. Later, she visits Nancy, who has suffered memory loss and is living in a house with people who have a similar condition, talking about how nice her “sister” was, as a way of talking about her.

The 26-episode sequel series, known as R.O.D the TV, meant to be a catch-all term to refer to characters from the Read or Die OVA, manga, and light novels, and those from the Read or Dream manga, begins very differently than the OVA. This series happens five years after the OVA and has stronger character development, even though some criticize it for its “hokey plot and premise.” I would like to be mention Jennifer Snoek-Brown’s post about library call numbers in film, noting that these numbers often serve as clues, props, and plot points. I am noting this because in many of the scenes that libraries are shown, there are also library call numbers as well.

Nenene Sumiregawa is a depressed Japanese writer, with writers block, who has come to Hong Kong to promote her book, later lives with two sisters (the “Paper Sisters”), Michelle Cheung and Maggie Mui, who are bibliophiles, and their little sister, Anita King, in Japan. None of them are blood-related. Nenene reveals she has a friend who was “important to her” which gave her good reviews on her writing, and the three sisters save Nenene from two assailants. The next few episodes are about the growing friendship between Nenene and the Paper Sisters, as the latter are freeloaders who live at Nenene’s apartment. In the third episode, “Let’s Meet in Jinbocho,” we see a bookstore and Yomiko’s apartment which has become her bookshelf. We also hear the future villain mentioned, Mr. Carpenter. In the fourth episode, titled “The Seventh Grade Course,” Anita joins a book club at the local junior high school that is located in a library, with Hisami Hishishii as the only other member. That library, the first shown in the series, is shown below:

Following this, Anita barely escapes an assailant while holding a book in the library. She is saved by her sister, Michelle, barely. The assailant gets away and does not retrieve the book. This is the beginning of the three sisters, and others, handing out “some wicked papercuts with their paper master skills” as one critic puts it, which is a hilarious way to describe it. This is interesting because Anita hates books but while exhibiting symptoms of a “deeper problem,” while she, like the other sisters, have varied powers as papermasters. And yeah there is the “wastage of good paper,” as one person put it, but it’s for a good cause! That leads to the next episode, “They Shout,” where the Paper Sisters get a mission to recover one of the books which were smuggled out of the British Library during a fire four years earlier and are in a Romanian castle. They come across a professor who can manipulate sound, making the abilities of the Paper Sister moot. They figure out how to defeat him, creating a huge silencer, allowing Anita to throw a book at the professor’s head, knocking him out. Unfortunately, the professor sends out such a strong soundwave that it deafens Maggie and causes Michelle (and Anita) to fall down. While Michelle recovers, as does Anita, Maggie has lost her hearing, although she still is able to stop a bullet from hitting Anita. They all return to Nenene’s apartment and sleep in the living room together. By the next episode, “The Right Stuff”, the library is under attack yet again, with books strewn across the floor:

Later, Junior returns from her mission empty handed, unable to find the book…

Then, we have another scene in the library where Anita meets Junior, who is an agent for the British Empire, trying to retrieve a book, although Anita does not know this at the time. As they talk, we find out why Anita doesn’t like books: they remind her of painful memories, like the burning of books and a shadowy figure standing nearby. At the same time, Nenene (and the audience) learns that the Paper Sisters are not sisters by blood but that they adopted each other, becoming a family unit. Hisami tries to sympathize, saying no one will be coming for her either. She tries the best she can to convince Anita to read a book for school.

The episode ends with her reading a report she wrote about Midnight Liberation Zone, one of Nenene’s books. The next episode, “In A Grove,” named after a January 1922 short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa which Akira Kurosawa used as a basis for his 1950 film, Rashōmon, features the Paper Sisters going on a mission to find a book. Everything goes horribly wrong as one of them is arrested, another is stuck in a coffin, and one more is almost killed by a person posing as one of the sisters. The episode ends with an unidentified person putting a book in what looks to be an archives.

The next episode, episode 8, “Seduced by the Night,” features Anita and other students trying to find a “poltergeist” in the library and Nenene traveling to bookstores presumably looking for her book. We also learn about the illegal human experiments by the British government (seemingly the villains in this story), on people to get them to “learn” more words. Anita and the other students end up having a “food break” in the library, ha.

Of course, Junior and Anita connect more, with people thinking that Junior is Anita’s boyfriend (he isn’t). Then, Junior later finds the book, but reports to his superiors that he “can’t find it,” likely looking for an excuse to stay around Anita, which would be my guess. The next episode, “Heart of Darkness,” involves the Paper Sisters going on a mission to recover another one of the books taken from the British Library. They are not successful and are more skeptical than ever of the people they work for. In the episode that follows, “A Christmas Carol,” we learn how Maggie, Michelle, and Anita met. Part of that includes going into a dimly-lit basement library in a house they broke into, and discovering a bunch of books made to look old but are actually newer, with Maggie and Michelle thinking they have been set up. Then, they meet Anita, who begs to join them, but they reject her pleas, with all of them going their separate ways. The following day, Michelle proposes that all three of them become sisters, which Anita tearfully accepts and Maggie accepts silently, becoming M.A.M. (Michelle, Anita, and Maggie). The episode after that, “Goodbye Japan,” features Anita at the school library with Hisa. Anita later gives up a book she had been hiding, with the villains, like Mr. Carpenter, saying that all the pieces are falling into place. There are a couple more scenes in a library later in the episode as well. Anita is given a going away party, and tearfully embraces Hisa, who says she loves Anita, as they both hug each other. They get to Hong Kong and Nenene gets straight-up kidnapped by her editor, Linho, to write the best story that’s ever been told, apparently.

In the next episode, “Twilight of the Papers, Part I,” Nenene is subjected to mind control/hypnotism experiment after she is kidnapped. The Paper Sisters plan her rescue, while Nenene challenges Linho, who is working for Dokusensha, asking if he has been lying to her the whole time, wanting to get her to write for four years so they can conduct some experiment on her. The Paper Sisters break-in and easily move for the facility in their attempt to save Nenene, with Wong stopping them in their tracks. This continues in the next episode, “Twilight of the Papers, Part II,” where they work together to help Nenene and get her out of the building. Linho dies in the sinking of the building, as does Wong, while much of Hong Kong Island sinks as a result of the explosion. They all get out alive, and we hear the voice of Yumiko leaving a message on the answering machine of Nenene’s apartment in Tokyo. It seems the show is really heating up at this point.

Wendy Earhart, part of the British Library, is trying to resurrect all the information from the Dokusensha building which collapsed as the beginning of the following episode, “Forest of Paper Leaves (or “Paper Leaf Wood”).” We also find out that Junior is living with her at her lush apartment, presumably in Tokyo. We also learn that the British worked to find a cure for “Mr. Gentleman,” but then realized they had to transfer his memories and knowledge to another body, so they began human experimentation, and collecting genetic samples from historic figures, with some samples successfully “cultivated.” During this explanation, we see a library, presumably a branch of the British Library, at one point. Thus begins a sort of clip episode.

The story goes that the resurrection of Mr. Gentleman was put on hold when the place holding the genetic samples was attacked by an unknown force (the superpowered samurai, Gennai Hiraga, in the OVA), destroying half of the samples. Then, in 2001, the events of the OVA occurred, with a fight with the I-Jin. While they “resolved” the incident, they wondered who had been behind the attacks and why, although they suspected that Dokusensha was behind it all. The latter was described originally as serving the Chinese emperors but then tasked with guarding the imperial libraries through many dynasties, studying literature on various topics. They disappeared, then reappeared in 1994, becoming more powerful after Hong Kong was given back to China, with their goal reportedly to “control the world and destroy the British Empire.” After that, they began experimentation on people, with an operation titled “sleeping books” to transfer his knowledge to seven people. This plan as put on hold when the British Library was attacked by an unknown person, with the British later withdrawing from the EU and were expelled from the UN. After they worked with Dokusensha to continue their plan. Wendy goes on to talk about the papermasters, saying that Yomiko disappeared after the British Library was set on fire, and noting some archival footage of her abilities. We also get a profile of the three Paper Sisters which the British are trying to get information on and their missions for Dokusensha:

Wendy continues writing her report, concluding that the collapse of the Dokusensha facility gave them an advantage, then transitioning to Joker’s speech before members of the British Empire, which is well-received. Joker then tells Wendy they need to look for Yomiko…

In the next episode, “In the Gray Light of the Abyss,” the Paper Sisters and Nenene return to Tokyo but are on the run again, accused of helping in the bombing in Hong Kong. All of them work together to find Yomiko, who is in the place where you would find the most books in Japan: the National Diet Library. According to its official website, the library’s main building alone has the capacity to hold 4.5 million volumes of materials, while the annex has the capacity to hold 7.5 million volumes. The library was established in 1947 with the National Diet Library Law, and opened to the public the following year. It is a bit like the Library of Congress in that it supports the Japanese parliament, known as the Diet, which is its primary role, but it also acquires information and materials to be preserved in a long-term manner, and to provide “easy access to information resources.” In the episode, the library director says they literally have “everything that has ever been published in Japan.” Yomiko is said to read her way through the stacks all day. The director basically gives them a bit of a tour of the library, which is pretty cool, to be honest, and something I haven’t seen in animation, showing the inner workings of the library. In the episode itself, National Diet Library appears for a total of about 11 and a half minutes, which is about half of the episode! The animators likely worked with/went to the library to put together these animations, which look pretty close to how the library functioned and what was in the stacks.

Some snapshots of the National Diet Library in the episode

Nenene hugs Yomiko tightly and bawls her eyes out, happy to see her once again. Yomiko then takes them to a place she is living, literally in the stacks itself. She and Nenene talk more, while the Paper Sisters explain what happened. Yomiko expresses doubts about coming with them, then Joker appears, telling her that she should return to the British Library and be Agent Paper once again.

The next episode, “Fahrenheit 451,” which has a slightly changed opening, including Nancy reading a book in a library, and a book falling off Yomiko’s head, ha, begins with a bang. Mr. Joker is impressed by her “hiding place,” and when he tries to convince Yomiko to return to England, and cooperate, she refuses, saying, “Mr. Joker, you are an evil man.” What follows is an eight-minute scene in the library, with the Joker claiming he bought the entire library, a fight between his goons and them. Their time in the library itself ends with them flying out of the library on a paper bird, which is utterly awesome:

After they escape, Joker, still in the library, surrounded by slips of paper, reports that the containment mission has failed, and gives orders for a new mission. Wendy tells all those listening to take new orders and begin mission “Fahrenheit 451.” The British Library agents begin collecting all the books from the bookstores and the Jimbocho region. Little do they know, but the Paper Sisters, Nenene, Nancy, and Yomiko decide to return there, so she can say goodbye to bookstore owners and pick up some personal items. She does get back to her apartment, Junior tries to take the specific book the British Library needs. She fails, stopped by Nancy, to her chagrin. They then find out about the awful plans of the British Library to steal all the books in the area, putting them in a huge pile. The citizenry are alarmed and the books burn in a huge fire. These villains are some of the worst! Awful to burn all those good books! Yomiko tells them to stop and put out the fire, asking them how they could do such an evil thing, with Wendy telling it is a “bit like last time,” referring to the previous fire at the British Library. Anita has a flashback to the burning of books which traumatized her earlier in her life, and Wendy declares that Yomiko will “pay for” what she did.

Well, that was one depressing episode. In the episode that follows, “Sweet Home,” the fire continues, with Yomiko pleading for her to put out the fire. Wendy says they are doing this because “its necessary.” She is shocked that Wendy is staying with them willingly, when it is clear she has changed. She continues to plead for this to stop, but what she says falls on deaf ears. Thanks to her old US army pal, Drake, they are able to escape, with a smokescreen enabling them to slip away undetected. The local booksellers also let them borrow their vehicle as well. More of the world falls under the control of the British Library/British Empire and martial law is said to be coming in Tokyo itself, as they set up shop in bookstores across the world, attempting to gain control of knowledge and ideas, rather than a simple military occupation. Joker says that bookstores and libraries are the “fundamental fabric of a nation’s collective wisdom,” with control of these the “first step” toward constructing a “new world,” that people like Joker want. When they get to the house of Yomiko’s parents, where no one has lived for years, she turns on the generator, with the paper sisters, Nenene, and others impressed by the amount of books she has, with books everywhere, which annoys Anita, of course. Later, as Drake sets up traps, Anita comes outside the house and talks with him, with her trauma coming back to the forefront, and she pleads with him if he knows anything about the fire at the British Library. Drake then describes Yomiko as a fool, saying that no matter how much evil someone has inside of them, she tries to reach out to them.

In the episode that follows, “Confession,” Junior becomes temporarily allied with the heroes, after he finds out that Nancy is actually his mother. While Michelle is accepting of him, Anita is still skeptical, as is Maggie. Nancy is still comforting Yomiko, who is in a deep funk. Anita explains to Nenene what they are running from, reminds her that they are still fugitives. Drake wakes up from his nap and is still skeptical of Junior, although he comes around, like everyone else. Yomiko reveals the truth to them all, which the audience partially knows, the origin of Junior, and how the British Library agents kidnapped him. Junior is so distraught that he phases into the book and they see the British Library Special Operations Center, for a scene that lasts for about four minutes.

It reveals that Yomiko got out of control for how they were treating Junior, and Nancy by extension, leading the library to be destroyed with paper, then unintentionally starting a fire, burning hundreds, if not thousands, of books in the British Library itself. Anita is totally freaked out when she sees the hologram, especially of herself watching the fire burn, implying she has some connection to the British Library itself! The next episode, “The Family Game,” begins with a one-minute scene of them in this holographic library, and ends with Anita stopping the fire, by using her papermaster powers. Anita runs off, completely traumatized. She keeps running until she trips, with Michelle and Maggie helping her up. Yomiko explains that the vision she saw was exactly how it happened and she escaped to Japan afterward with Nancy. Nenene reassures Yomiko that she is not responsible for the current situation. Anita tries to figure out why she was at the British Library six years ago, while Nenene encourages Junior to help his mother. He connects more with his mom, and Anita makes peace, sort of, with her past, while Anita and Junior connect more as well. The Mirror Man comes to the house, demanding to know from Junior where the Book of the All-Seeing Eye was put. The next morning, everyone but Junior and Yomiko have been kidnapped by the British Library. The Mirror Man attacks them in the form of Nenene and gets a hold of the book, but he is easily countered by Anita and Yomiko. Despite her anger at Yomiko, she decides to work with her anyway. Therein ends the episode.

In the episode that follows, “Bonjour tristesse (French: Hello Sadness),” Anita and Yomiko work together, using their papermaster abilities to defeat the Mirror Man and fellow British Library goons. Meanwhile, the others are whisked away in a helicopter to an undisclosed location, and Joker says his dream of the world under one banner will soon be true. Yomiko pleads for Anita to help her and fly the huge paper airplane. It doesn’t work out, though. The helicopter somehow crashes and Anita, thinking of her past resentment, blames Yomiko for it happening, even though it isn’t her fault at all, but rather the actions of Junior. Anita then throws the book of the all-seeing eye into the fire, destroying it, to Yomiko’s horror. Both separate, as Yomiko slowly walks away and Anita breaks down, sobbing, assuming that Michelle, Maggie, Nancy, Nenene, and Drake were killed in the crash. A distraught Anita returns to school, visits the library for a short bit, looking for Hisa. She finds her, but Hisa doesn’t remember her, sending Anita into a further downward spiral, after the traumatic event earlier that day…

The next episode, “D.O.D -DREAM OR DIE,” has Anita re-adapting to school. It includes a short library scene, which isn’t even a minute long. Anita asks Hisa what she would like to be when she grows up, with Hisa saying she wants to be a librarian, while Anita says she doesn’t know what she is “good for.” She later goes back home to an empty apartment, trying to care for herself. It’s relatively depressing. In the meantime, some unnamed construction is going on in the city which is connected to the British Library. Yomiko is nearby and follows a cat through the alleys, then into the city’s sewer. She travels to a local bookstore, while the radio talks about the construction of permanent libraries of mankind by the British Library. The bookstore owner notes how bookstores, libraries, and publishing houses are having their books taken away by the British Library, which is building some sort of world communication system, purportedly to share knowledge with everyone equally. Anita talks to Wendy, saying her life is all twisted around, with Wendy saying her paper tricks will not be required once the library of humanity is completed. Anita thinks it over and she goes through the rest of the school day, enjoying Hisa, but realizes this is all a lie. She runs out of the classroom, and the class, like automatons, turn their heads and continue as nothing happened. She returns home to find a sobbing Yomiko, crying over Nenene. We also see that, of course, Michelle, Maggie, Nancy, Nenene, and Drake were not killed, and Junior took out his tracker, turning on the British Library. Junior coughs up blood (oh no). Later, Joker defends his actions to Anita and Yomiko as benefiting mankind, but Anita knows he is lying. They capture him and he wants their unconditional surrender, and we all know that isn’t going to happen.

In the episode after this, “Seize,” Maggie and Nenene try to find somewhere safe to hide from the British Library. They do so, but the British Library agents soon surround Anita and Yomiko, who still have Joker hostage, while Junior and Michelle run away. They hole themselves up in a house while the agents are nearby and Wendy shows Maggie a picture of Anita to convince Nenene to turn herself in. After Michelle tells her that she should turn herself in, Nenene figures out that they have Anita. She agrees to go willingly. In the episode following, “Lie to Me”, Wendy tries to negotiate to get Joker released, and he questions Anita on her past. He says that she was manufactured or brought into existence by the British Library Special Operations Unit, with Maggie and Michelle turned into papermasters by Dokusensha. Anita freaks out at this information, while Junior tells Michelle the information simultaneously. Yomiko questions Joker about manipulating people and toying with their memories, asking him what it will achieve. They somehow escape, but Joker is able to get away thanks to the Mirror Man. He later gives his speech to the world, after Junior is captured, claiming that their plan will bring prosperity and knowledge to the world, although this is a total lie, with the world under the rule of the U.K., with Dokusensha becoming part of the U.K., with cheers from the crowd. The President of the U.S. threatens him, but then Joker says he has all sorts of dirt on him, scaring him into submission.

Then, in the episode after that, “You Know Me”, Yomiko, Nancy, Drake, and Anita are in an underground bookstore/bookshop, preparing to go to the UK to put a stop to the plans of Joker. Anita stays behind while the rest go to the UK. Anita travels around the city, aimlessly, trying to figure out where she can learn about the “truth,” and has flashbacks to good times with her sisters, even with Hisa, her good school friend. She begins crying and later returns to the apartment. Michelle is there and meets Anita, but she isn’t so keen on them being sisters anymore. Maggie tries to calm her down, but Anita keeps saying them as sisters is “all a lie.” Michelle then breaks down crying, saying that even if their memories were fake, the life they shared together was real. Tearfully, they all agree to be sisters again. They all agree, in a three sisters vote, to unleash their wrath on the British Library. They crash-land near London, finding it to be transformed into a 19th-century landscape, with Michelle realizing that the city is “living its mythology.” In the next-to-last episode, “Not A Big Problem”, the U.S. president has had enough, saying they have to take action to stop the UK from “running rampant” across the globe, but the UK decimates the U.S. forces by those that they generated from British novels. In some ways, you could say, like in the original OVA, this shows the limits of American bravado, when it comes to military conflicts. In order to find out what’s going on, they read books from the time to find any clues. In the process, they end up going to a library for a short period to learn more. The days keep ticking down, however. At the British Library headquarters, Joker wants to move ahead despite the warning that there will be no chance to reboot the system. Joker later tells Nenene about his plan, with all the thoughts of Mr. Gentleman going into Junior, with the beginning of a new era as he calls it, with all of humanity changed, with their memories and brains formatted “correctly.” He says he would like her to write an “extraordinary book” for mankind. The others later meet “Mr. Kim” and go en route to the British Library with his help on an underground train. After they arrive, they split into three teams so they can rescue Junior, Nenene, and stop Joker. Junior, in the meantime, is being prepared to be the new host of Mr. Gentleman, while the city of London is moving into the 20th century. Their plan seems to work, but Joker goes forward in the operation anyway, saying that the Paper Sisters and Nenene are no threat.

In the final episode, “From There On…”, even as Yomiko has Mr. Joker hostage, they still continue the plan. She is captured and the plan seems in jeopardy, but Nancy and Drake are completing their mission. The British Library completes Operation Sleeping Books, with Phase 1 of the Gentleman re-issue plan beginning. Yomiko, in the chamber with the Paper Sisters, Nenene, and Wendy, again pleads with Joker to stop this, but he doesn’t listen. Nenene rejects his arguments, saying he is defacing the “free will of all mankind,” when the British Library thinks Mr. Gentleman is the best, allowing him to be inside everyone, changing them at whim. She later declares that people are forfeiting their identity to the project and tells them to “grow up.” The arguing continues, with Yomiko emphasizing how each of us is called upon to “bear the burdens” of our past. In a bold move, each of the members does their part, and ultimately, despite Anita being injured, are able to hobble the project. Joker is gravely injured beyond repair and Junior is greeted by his mom, Nancy, who wears the revealing uniform she wore in the OVA, perhaps the only fan service in the whole series. They think Anita is dead or at least unconscious, but, of course, she recovers. We then see a flash-forward to Japan, where a radio broadcast talks about a UN investigation of the “library project,” Wendy cares for Joker on a lavish British estate, Anita adapts to school once again, Maggie talks to Michelle on the phone, and Michelle reveals, when talking to Junior, that has been a couple of months since the collapse of the British Library. Nancy pledges to be the best mother to Junior possibly, Drake comes home to his daughter, and Yomiko and Nenene are collecting books, while Hisa and Anita have a fun time together, even with Anita reading more than before. The final scene shows the initials of Maggie, Anita and Michelle carved unto the statue of the Virgin Mary in the Chapel, where they first met, showing that their memories were never fabricated and real all along! Dang.

And that’s a wrap! Sadly, libraries don’t show up directly in the last few episodes, but that doesn’t take away from the coolness of this series, with more mentions of libraries than any other anime series that I have ever seen. I’ll always remember and treasure it when watching other series going forward and I recommend others watch it as well. It might be old, by some standards, as it was broadcast from 2003 to 2004, but the animation is top-notch, the plot is interesting, and libraries are everywhere! With that, I look forward to your comments.


Notes

[1] As Theron Martin writes, this OVA has “a little bit of character development in the way it tries to shape the relationship between Yomiko and Nancy…[but] there is not much room to delve into things deeply.”

Myne the “bookworm” librarian and the Nippon Decimal Classification System

Myne loudly declares she wants to reorganize the church library and she does so

Last week, on Twitter, I penned a couple of tweets about an episode of Ascendance of A Bookworm, “Harvest Festivals and Staying Home,” where the protagonist, Myne (who wants to be a librarian), “loudly declares she wants to reorganize all the books using a NDC (Nippon Decimal Classification) system, the Japanese version of the Dewey Decimal System.” She later explains this system to the priest, who has no idea what she is talking about because Melvil Dewey “doesn’t exist in this world,” and the “episode ends with an illustration of her lying a desk with books around her.” I further noted that while Myne is unable to organize all the books she wants since magic books are “off-limits,” she still makes her “mark on this society” and there are numerous parts in the episode which libraries could use to promote their value. I mean, I had to write about a series where people literally ride on books through the sky in the opening, right! Ha. Anyway, there’s a lot more going on in this episode and the series as a whole which related to libraries, which I’d like to talk about in this post.

For one, libraries are central to the anime itself. In the first episode, “A World Without Books,” Myne is introduced as a librarian in her former life who liked all kinds of literature but an earthquake crushed her under a pile of books. A few episodes later, in “Forests and Clay Tablets,” Myne and her friend Lutz exchange their future dreams. While Lutz wants to be a “traveling merchant,” Myne wants to be a librarian. There is a large gap until the time that libraries re-appear. In the show’s 12th episode, “Baptism and Divine Paradises,” Myne stumbles across the temple library but cannot enter because the only clergy are allowed inside. Later she pays the High Bishop the highest currency, and he says that her parents will have to approve, and says that she can come by and read whenever. There are a number of interesting themes there, especially when it comes to access of materials. This is one of the major issues for the ALA (American Library Association), as they are about ensuring equitable access to library resources and services. I’ll just quote a little from their webpage on the subject:

Equity extends beyond equality…to deliberate and intentional efforts to create service delivery models that will make sure that community members have the resources they need…Libraries are major sources of information for society and they serve as guardians of the public’s access to information…Core values of the library community such as equal access to information, intellectual freedom, and the objective stewardship and provision of information must be preserved and strengthened, now more than ever…Access to materials, without prejudice, to every member of the community must also be assured. As one of the core values of librarianship, ‘Equality of access to recorded knowledge and information’ which involves ‘insuring that all library resources are accessible to all overcoming technological and monetary barriers to access’ goes hand in hand with democracy and freedom.

So, by making the library exclusive to just priests, they are literally sealing off the information from the population and putting in place barriers. These impediments are also social as well, which the ALA doesn’t focus on, but are important to note. In the episode after “Baptism and Divine Priestesses,” which is titled “The Choice to be an Apprentice Priestess,” Lutz scolds her for collapsing from excitement when she learned should be a librarian at the temple, and her stepfather, Gunther, refuses to let her leave, convinced that the role of priestess if for those who are orphans, as they have to stay at the temple. This is inherently a class barrier, filled with prejudices. Lutz may have a valid point as he cares about Myne’s well-being, but Gunther only says what he does about the temple because of his views about the temple and religion itself, which he projects on Myne. In that sense, it serves as another barrier for her in her quest to bring more knowledge to the world.

Many episodes later, in “Apprentice Priestess,” episode 15 of the anime, libraries reappear. Specifically, Myne lays out her terms to Benno, the head of a local guild, which includes being able to live at home, be treated like nobility, maintain her paper-making studio, and have…access to the temple’s library! As always, having access to the library is vital for her, as it has been since she learned it existed. In the episode after this one, named “Blue Robes and Uncommon Sense,” Myne comes closer to her goal to being a librarian. She makes her way to the library so she can memorize scriptures, then distances herself from her “retainers” (servants), and reads the scripture through the whole day blissfully.

Then there is “Harvest Festivals and Staying Home,” the 23rd episode, the one where the screenshot, at the beginning of this post, is from. There’s a lot to analyze from that episode, which I will do in the next few paragraphs, with some helpful videos and screenshots to assist in that endeavor. Basically, the nobles are getting afraid of Myne, calling her a “plebian,” so someone wrecks the library and leads her to look at it in terror:

Yikes! Myne quickly figures out who did it immediately, as a blue-robed priest had given her a snide comment earlier, and Fran brings her back to the head priest, Ferdinand. She expresses her outrage someone would do such a thing, declaring there should be a bloody carnival for people who ruin libraries. She says that ruining a library is a “declaration of war,” saying that the person who did it deserves the guillotine. Wow. Eventually, Ferdinand says that the library was likely destroyed as a way to keep her from the harvest. She says she will clean up the library herself, with Ferdinand saying that everything is ordered by date of acquisition, and then tells her that she can’t handle it. That is where Myne says she will sort them in her own way:

Here is a clip of those moments, as the screenshots obviously do not suffice:

 

Then, of course, Myne explains what the NDC is, which is a great PSA. One user has assembled the best moments from when Myne talks about the system earlier in the episode, not including when she talks to Ferdinand about it later, as that would be a repeat, into a video:

After all that, she gets a list of books Ferdinand donated to the library. When Myne’s gray-robed servants see the library in such disarray, they predict she will “blow her lid,” if she sees it, but instead she comes to them with a smile. Only a librarian would have a response like this, seriously:

She then develops a system to separate the paper and tablet-based books, then placing them on specific shelves based on their marker. She knows where the books in the library will go and has a whole shelf dedicated to just magic books, hoping she will find some and is excited to read them. We see the library not only with books but with scrolls and tablets as well. This is similarly reflected in the flashback to Japan in the 26th episode, “Dreamlike World,” the last one which has aired to date. We then get a PSA about Melvil Dewey from Myne, which is nice, something which I haven’t seen in any animation or anime to date:

She first asks him about how he would organize the magic books, hanging on every word of the priest, until he says that classifying magic books isn’t something she should be concerned with. He says this is because they will never be on the shelves of the church libraries since magic is the “exclusive domain” of the nobility in this world. As such, he adds that blue robes have “no right” to peruse those books and that even though they are nobles, they are not truly nobles until they graduate the Nobles’ Academy. Then Myne reacts like this, desperately trying to get him to change his mind:

She fails in doing so and is depressed about it, as anyone would be! So, she decides to direct her energy into helping to create more books to keep her spirits up, working with her friends, and the kids in the orphanage, who using sewing skills her stepsister Turi taught them to bind the books. She then presents the picture book she made for kids to the head of the guild. And of course, she gets into a fight over wanting to give the books to the orphanage for free rather than selling them.

As the episode goes on, she tells Benno of her idea: to create a printing press and/or to mass-produce books, admitting it will take a “lot of capital.” Later she gets fitted for her ceremonial outfit, spends time with her adopted family, and thinks she will be spending time with them over the winter. That is until she finds out that she will be spending time at the temple instead of Ferdinand, who predicted in an earlier scene that she will turn “society on its head.” He has her right when he says that she loses herself “when books are involved.” The episode ends with a drawing of Myne sleeping in the library:

Concluding, writing this post, I really do feel like a real librarian today, ha:

Posting schedule for ‘Libraries in Popular Culture’

In the episode “Buddy’s Book” of Steven Universe

Hello all! I know its been a few days since my last post, and I thought I’d put something about a posting schedule on this blog, like I have done on my sister blogs, Genealogy in Popular Culture and Wading Through The Cultural Stacks. Similar to those blogs, I’m planning to spread out the times I post on here, either making them biweekly or weekly depending on how much content I can come up with. Anyway, I have some great posts in the process, one about Ascendance of A Bookworm, and another celebrating a milestone in terms of the episodes I have looked at up to this point. As always, suggestions are welcome.

The hilarious library joke in Futurama

This is reprinted from my post, “Challenges of archival digitization, Robert Caro, and digital archives

In the “Mars University” episode of Futurama, which first aired on October 3rd, 1999, the Planet Express crew go to Mars, which has, in the universe of this wondrous animated sitcom, been terraformed and has a typical college campus called Mars University. Before the episode becomes an homage/parody to Animal House, there is a scene where Professor Farnsworth tells Leela, Fry, and Bender about the Wong Library, adding that it has “the largest collection of literature in the Western universe.” After that, Fry looks in and sees these two disks:

That’s obviously the joke, and is more than a “bookish moment.” It’s basically saying that all the knowledge can be stored on two disks. It’s still kinda funny, although the joke is dated, as these are supposed to be something like CDs (which first came about in 1982). In a future post I’ll definitely bring in the Futurama episode (“Lethal Inspection”) that fellow archivist Samantha Cross of POP Archives reviewed, when I get to that season, as I’m currently only on Season 2 of the show as I plan to re-watch all the show’s episodes, over time.

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