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, that 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 its 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 was smuggled out of the British Library during a fire four years earlier and is now 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 on 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 volume 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 an animation, showing the inner workings of the library. In the episode itself, National Diet Library appears for a total of about 11 and 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 afterwards 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. Its 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 like 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 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 do 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 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.


[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 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 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 include 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 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 creating 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 from 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.

Reappearance of libraries in the “Stretch Armstrong” series

This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!

On my sister blog, Wading Through The Cultural Stacks I have written about the archives/archivist themes in this series, while in this post I’m going to talk about libraries in the series beyond my last post on the subject.

In the episode, “Masters of Order, the protagonists meet Nathan’s grandfather and Savic at the newspaper archives in the episode, “Masters of Order.” They look at newspapers for more info about the Epsilon Society. The grandfather tells them to keep searching for any amount of information to help. In the process, the grandfather and Savic travel to the school library:

Then, the academy library reappears, again, with Savic and the grandfather walking into the school library. When they go to the library and read books, one character is annoyed at the lack of order, calling it “a jumbled mess.” They are finding nothing and realize they aren’t the only ones there.

In the next episode, the last one of season 2 of the series, titled “Doomsday Clock,” finishes this story. The former security officer for Rook Unlimited says that he was searching for something in the library and he said he’d be willing to help them look for something, finding a paper by a young Jonathan Rook outlining how mind control works.

Library for the win, again! This is nothing like Zevo-3 where a library is in an abandoned part of town and a character does hacking into the government satellite archive at a library, getting an old elderly librarian arrested. Also, archives for the win, because archives are a strong part of the series, giving the characters the information they need. That’s all for this post! Until the next one!

DC Super Hero Girls and Green Lantern’s fight in the library

This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!

Today I’d like to talk about another episode of DC Super Hero Girls, with an episode, “#MeetTheCheetah,” which has a scene in a library. So, this group of teenage girls (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Babs Gordon/Batgirl, Jessica Cruz/Green Lantern, Zee Zatara/Zatanna, Karen Beecher/Bumblebee, Kara Danvers/Supergirl) have superpowers and form a group called the “Super Hero Girls.” One of them, Green Lantern, chases the villain, who has transformed into a cheetah, through a spooky library. The first image the audience sees of the library is a place with typical signs (“Read,” “Sign Up for the Book Club,” and “Book Return”) but also “shh!” and “quiet” signs, exhibiting more stereotypes:

The next time we see the library, Green Lantern is about to enter:

She makes a candle with her powers to see through the dimly-lit library, walking down the stacks, scared the cheetah will attack her:

She even illuminates one of the stacks but sees nothing, turning her candle into a flashlight, walking down the stacks, still afraid.

I love how scenes like this one are framed. Its done very well:

Don’t forget the importance of learning…

or reading…Green Lantern!

Of course, right after this, she is attacked by the cheetah, ending the scene in the library, not even a minute long, but not before we see a bit more of the library.

There is a library shown in the episode titled “#CrushingIt” but the scene is literally only 5 or 10 seconds long, so I’m not even going to include the picture here.

Genderbending in “Bravest Warriors” and the library

This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!

Today’s post will be one of my shortest. So, in one episode of Bravest Warriors, “Merewif Tag,” Plum, a “bravest warrior, transforms into Chris, and declares that learning is not for just for women (which is completely correct). In the process, she goes to a community library in this new form, with her appearance shocking the patrons, one of whom is drinking milk, I guess? At least the library seems to be relatively organized.

Other than that, we don’t see anything more of the library, although this place is pretty cool, as you can have food and drink in there (which is generally prohibited by library rules, unsurprisingly), and the design is awesome. Unfortunately, no other episodes I’ve seen, as of yet, feature libraries.

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen and the case of a beautiful library

This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!

Today, I’d like to talk about Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, another anime. In the show’s ninth episode (“Ghost from the Past”) there are again a librarian-less library, although this one is clearly well-used. First we see the wide expanse of this beautiful library:

Then, there is a conversation between two characters, Leticia “Tish” MacCredy and Forte, in the library. He confesses his feelings toward her, which makes her very uncomfortable, understandably!

She again rebuffs him, annoyed he still has interest in her. Like any woman, she has every right to reject his advances. In any case, I liked how this scene is laid out, with the books in the background. It is done well, artistically:

Later, we see Tish and Orphen. Interesting that Tish has a huge library in her room, or office of some type. I thought that was the best part of the episode:

And that’s all I have for this post. Until tomorrow’s post!

A curmudgeon librarian and superheroes in the library

This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!

For this post, I’d like to highlight an episode of DC Super Hero Girls, the 2019 reboot of a series in the earlier 2010s, titled “#SoulSisters Part 2″ (s1ep25), that extensively focuses on libraries. This goes far beyond another scene in the same show (noted in an upcoming post on August 19). This is clearly a different library, as this is a city library,  and the one in the episode was the high school library. [1] We begin by seeing the grand library, almost looking like a temple, looming over the landscape, possibly modeled after the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.

Below is what that main branch at New York City’s fifth avenue, the Schwartzmann Building, looks like, with some similarities. This building, has a remarkable facade which has also been mimicked in Futurama with the New New York Public Library shown in a few episodes (especially in the episode “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid“) some of which have been This is not to be confused with the hilariously named “pubic library.” Of course, there are many differences here, but part of it, like the lions, may have been modeled on the NYPL branch.

This picture is from the NYPL website back in August 2015.

Anyway, on with the episode. We first see the wide expanse of the library.

Then, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) looks for a book on spells…

As the fandom page on Katana notes, Diana reads this book, finding out information about the Soul Taker, a sword “forged in the 14th century by “the legendary swordsman Urasawa Sengo” and “rumored to steal the souls of its enemies,” those which can “only be freed if the wielder says a certain Japanese incantation.” That becomes key later in the episode. Anyway, there is a hilarious scene where Diana’s phone rings and she can’t turn it off, annoying everyone. I actually had a similar experience once, when I didn’t know how cell phones work, so I can completely sympathize.

She finds Katana is sitting near by, but…

It attracts the attention of the librarian, an older White lady who fits all the stereotypes, which are commonly associated with them. These stereotypes are not unique to this show, as librarians portrayed in Steven Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Futurama are shown similarly: as people with glasses and occasionally old (as is the case in She-Ra: Princess of Power). Even the character in Gargantia, one of the more positive portrayals of libraries, has the appearance of an elderly White man, while the two gay male librarians, George and Lance, in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, are the only non-white (and Black) librarians in animation I can think of off hand, although there may be others.

Moving back to the episode, we then get the strict rule on the wall, declaring “no cell phones!” which seems a bit absurd, as it is vague on what it means.

Katana jokes with Diana, until she figures out that she is the villain who stole the souls of her friends, leading to a fight in the library itself.

Again, the librarian is annoyed, but for a different reason this time. Some librarians have taken this attitude and embraced it, with an ongoing blog called “The Curmudgeonly Librarian” published by a librarian in their late 60s or a “Library Curmudgeon” written by a Canadian librarian. Others have said that library pioneers like Frederick Beecher Perkins, member of a prominent religious family in the U.S. in the 19th century, was a curmudgeon. Some joked that their work in a library had turned them into a curmudgeon. While librarians are often shown as unpleasant and bespectacled in popular culture, interrupting protagonists and shushing them, as Kevin McElvaney points out, being a “librarian is no career for the lazy curmudgeon” because it takes years of “advanced study even to be considered for a position.”

Its because they are breaking a rule hilariously called “no loud fighting.”

When Diana asks about this, the librarian has her only substantive line in the episode: “Its Metropolis, its the best we can hope for.” Diana and Katana apologize for their behavior, but their fighting doesn’t stop. Diana even catches Katana’s hand in a book, and they continue girly fighting. Of course, this sound catches the attention of the librarian, again. As the audience, we see the expanse of the library as a whole…

Until their fighting causes the stacks of the library to collapse, falling like dominoes, with expressions of shock on their faces afterwards. The librarian, cast as a curmudgeon, kicks out Diana and Katana for property destruction, a reason more justified than Turtle Princess asking Finn and Jake to leave the library in one of the Adventure Time episodes. The librarian might be portrayed badly in this episode, almost equivalent to “the original librarian stereotype…of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon” except its a White woman, [2] but what she does is completely justified!

The fact that Katana and Diana apologize for their action afterward doesn’t make up what they did. It’s good they have to deal with the consequences of their actions and being banned from the library, presumably. Their fight then continues outside the library and onto the streets of the city.

Toward the end of the episode, we see the librarian, at night, pushing a cart of books. It makes me think of books being moved around on hover carts in Cleopatra of Space, although there are probably other examples.

While this episode doesn’t counter stereotypes of librarians, [3] it is fun since many other episodes do not focus that much on libraries. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode.


[1] It also goes far beyond “Frenemies” where Batgirl/Barbara Gordon says, as an excuse, “O have a library book I… need to write for the library. So people can read it.Because you gotta have books for the library. Otherwise, it’s just a big empty building, I guess,” which is a bit funny but not true! Other episodes feature a library card, while, the short Taco Tuesdayfeatures the library, where Karen is asked by the librarian to keep quiet when her stomach is growling” while in another short, Kara spends detention “reshelving books in the library while trying to finish in time to get to a concert” while the library is also mentioned in another episode.

[2] The same article talks about librarian stereotypes more, saying, “there are numerous librarian stereotypes, with the most recognizable being the middle-aged, bun-wearing, comfortably shod, shushing librarian. Others include the sexy librarian, the superhero librarian, and the hipster or tattooed librarian. These stereotypes are all characterized predominantly as feminine, white women. Newer librarian stereotypes, particularly those proffered by librarians themselves, tend to be depicted as younger white women. The original librarian stereotype, which was superseded by the introduction of his prudish sister, was that of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon.”

[3] As one example, most of the librarians listed on Early Bird Books either are wearing glasses and are curmudgeons (Evelyn O’Connell in The Mummy, Margaret Gesner in Monsters University, Barbara Gordon in Batman), are snotty elitists (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), seeming cops (The Library Cop in Seinfeld), drinkers (Tammy 2 in Parks and Rec), are ghosts (Ghost Librarian in Ghostbusters), or buff (Conan the Librarian in UHF) apart from Taystee in Orange is the New Black. Parks and Rec features one character, Marlene Knope (played by Pamela Reed) who hates libraries because of interpersonal issues, declaring “the library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They’re mean, conniving, rude, and extremely well-read, which makes them dangerous.”

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