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Book of Side Plots as Main Plots

February 28, 2010

I originally planned on doing some stuff about Book of Bantorra once it was over, but I’ve been itching to write about it for the past couple of weeks. Since the latest story line ended, I figure now’s as good of a time as any to talk shop about Bantorra.

Bantorra’s the best series I’ve seen since Baccano! I already know that I’ll have to rearrange my “best of the 00’s” list once it’s over, since it’s likely in my top ten at this point, and I’d wager that if it ends on a high note it could likely make it into the top five. It’s that damn good.

In terms of what it’s trying to do, I’d compare Bantorra to X. While Bantorra isn’t about an actual approaching apocalypse like X, both series deal with people fighting over-the-top battles to determine the fate of the world. The Church mirrors the Dragons of Earth in this respect, since they want to change the way things work in the world to further their goals. While the Dragons of Earth want to outright destroy humanity and start anew, the Church is seeking to reshape society under a new set of rules. The fact that the Church and Library are often working together is irrelevant, especially with the Church’s betrayal during the latest arc. The Church is trying to establish a “new world order” with a convoluted hierarchy of true men, mock men, and “meats” while producing books that are worth of entering “heaven.”

This is clearly in contention with the Library’s take on things. While Hamyuts has ideas of her own and doesn’t seem to give a damn about the Library’s goals, the Library appears to be a force trying to maintain the status quo. People like the idea that there’s a group willing to defend the books of their deceased loved ones and they seem to appreciate that there’s a group out there trying to keep the Church from going around and brainwashing people into mindless meat-bomb slaves. They’re essentially cops with super powers that hang out at the local book store instead of the donut shop.

In all honesty, that isn’t the most interesting of set-ups. Evil bad guys wanna take over the world and the dudes that keep them from doing it. Whatever. Despite this mediocre setting, Bantorra manages to be thoroughly awesome by having that set-up have little to do with what’s actually taking place in the series.

Hamyuts couldn’t care less about protecting books and defeating the Church and all of that “proper” Library shit. She does it only because it gives her the chance to do the two things she seems to enjoy in life: killing people and trying to get herself killed. She’s climbed the ranks of the Library not because she upholds its tenants or anything like that. She’s done so because she knows it’s the only way she can guarantee her desires manifesting themselves. Hamyuts’ story is simply using the Church/Library story as a backdrop. The “plot” of the series is nothing more than a device by which the actual stories are told.

That’s what I love about Bantorra. The series takes time to establish an elaborate setting then uses that setting as little more than window dressing for the stories that are far more interesting. Hamyuts’ sadomasochistic yearnings, Noloty’s naive quest to protect “her world,” Volken’s beautifully-executed fall from grace, and all of the other stories are what Bantorra is really about. All of those stories use the overarching plot as a means of delivery, rather than the characters serving as a means for the overall plot to be delivered.

X was like that to a degree as well. Was X really about these guys and those guys fighting to save or destroy the Earth? Yeah, it was, but it was more about Kamui’s struggle with his decisions that led to Kotori’s death and Fuuma’s turning and the other personal conflicts and issues the rest of the cast encountered. Killing and protecting humanity was just the stage, not the main goal of the story.

That’s how I prefer my stories. Plot isn’t the end-all be-all of an anime or a movie. The main plot can be trite and clichéd so long as it’s merely a device used to convey more interesting plotlines. That’s where Bantorra is excelling, and that’s why it’s becoming one of my all-time favorites. With the preview for next week’s episode it looks like we’ll be getting more of what I dig, since we’ll be seeing Chibi-Hamyuts and that evil-looking girl that was hinted at being a major bad guy in earlier episodes.

Who cares about the Library and the Church fighting when we get this cool shit?

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