Libra of Nil Admirari was one of the shows that I was looking forward to watching the most this season as it revolves around books. Originally a seinen, fantasy, mystery, historical fiction visual novel, studio Zero-G is adapting it into an anime serial with direction from Masahiro Takata. But after watching the first episode, I can safely say that it will more than likely end up being a supremely mediocre series, at best.
The story takes place in the 25th year of the Taisho Era and follows a young woman named Kuze Tsugumi. After having an argument with her brother about her upcoming arranged marriage, she leaves the house to cheer him up by getting him his favourite things. When she returns, she finds him trying to commit suicide by burning himself alive, clutching a book close to his chest. Shortly afterwards, Kuze is visited by the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Bureau and learns that another similar suicide attempt was made that same day. The Bureau, or Fukurō for short, explains that there are books in the world known as “cursed tomes,” that are filled with the emotions of the author, and when read, they can make people act certain ways. The Fukurō are tasked with hunting these books down and removing them from society to prevent tragedies. During this meeting, the Fukurō and Kuze discover that she has the rare ability to sense auras around cursed tomes, so they invite her to join them.
As I mentioned earlier, I was anticipating this title eagerly because the whole concept of being physically affected by what you read in a book sounded completely mind-blowing and original to me. I have never read a story, or seen any shows, that have explored books in such a way. Yet, apart from a few details, I felt wholly unenthusiastic by the pilot episode.
The things that I did like consist of the character designs, firstly. There is this neat vintage aesthetic to them with colouring done in sepia palettes that makes you feel like you are watching a historical show. Secondly, I enjoyed the overtly melancholic piano music. The rhythm for it is slow, as if to build tension, and comes off strongly over-dramatic for the events unfolding in the pilot. But that dark and macabre tone is totally my kind of classical tune. Lastly, and this is entirely superficial, the boys of the bureau are cuties, at least the two that have made an appearance so far, which leads me to believe the series will end up being a reverse harem. Considering this was an otome game, I am not surprised.
Things that were utterly unimpressive? The settings for one. The Tsugumi family have an air of wealth to them. Their Western-style house is fricking humongous, they dress fancy, they have a line of servants, nonetheless, all the décor in the background is so bland and basic. It is not limited to the Tsugumi household, but also other areas, usually inside buildings. I suspect this may have more to do with budgeting restraints than anything else, but still. It made the watching experience very cold and sterile. It also creates a bit of a clash with the designs of the characters.
The show also tries really fucking hard to be dramatic and tense. It is not. There is an air of gravity that hangs over the episode since it involves the serious subject of suicide, however, aside from that the suspense was inherently lacking. I also found it too convenient when the Fukurō appeared so quickly after the fact. Do they have some kind of radar that goes off when these books attack?
Overall, I cannot recommend Libra of Nil Admirari based on the first episode alone. It was lacklustre and unimpressive to say the least. As it stands, a big part of me wants to drop it, but I am a sucker for these murderous tomes and I want to give it another episode or two to see its potential (hopefully) development.
You can watch Libra of Nil Admirari on CrunchyRoll on Sundays.