Saki NakajimaAtsumi TanezakiYuka SaitouYo Taichi
A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd
Also known as: Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: G
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Asami Sodeyama, Kaori Hayashi, Kenichi Konishi, Tomomi Kamiya, Yuu Nobuta [Team Nico]
Original creator: August
Actor: Atsumi Tanezaki, Eri Sendai, Junji Majima, Madoka Yonezawa, Nozomi Yamamoto, Yuka Saitou, Kei Mizusawa, Miyu Kashiwagi, Rina Satou, Saki Nakajima, Satoshi Tsuruoka, Showtaro Morikubo, Taiten Kusunoki, Yo Taichi
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 1 March 2015
I found it a little uncomfortable in the later episodes, since I'd become fond of the cast and all the possible endings looked like downers. I couldn't imagine Kakei turning down the chance of becoming a shepherd and getting all that power to help people, but equally for him to accept would be a small tragedy for him and his friends. I was pleasantly surprised, though. The show found a good ending and a logical route there. I really appreciated that and I'd recommend this show.
It's good rather than brilliant, mind you, while furthermore it's based on a pornographic visual novel. The anime has no adults-only content, but its story structure is still harem-like. However there's far more to it than that, the characters are honestly portrayed and the themes are interesting.
I think it's about the unimportant people, whether our existence matters and about the fact that anyone can make a difference. Our hero, Kakei Kyotaro, starts the story with only a theoretical interest in other human beings. He likes books. If he's reading, he's happy. He'll even sit reading in your presence rather than talk to you. However he can't leave alone anything he doesn't understand, which is why he uncharacteristically ends up going along with Shirasaki's do-gooding. He can't fathom her, you see. She's acting on something that's neither emotions nor words and Kakei wants to know what it is. Shirasaki is determined but easily flustered and has formed the Shiomi Happy Project, to try to make their school a happy place. This apparently means doing lots of boring things, like handing out flyers, picking up rubbish and cleaning windows.
Kakei provisionally agrees to help. He got involved with Shirasaki by saving her life with his weak and unreliable precognitive powers, which isn't as cool as you'd think because Kakei always ends up embarrassing himself.
Anyway, the Shiomi Happy Project gently accumulates members. Nice, helpful people attract other nice, helpful people. Some are developed in more detail than others (e.g. Takamine, Sakuraba), but I thought there was some interesting material in the subplot with Senri Misono. She's a musical star and a school celebrity, unlike everyone else in the club, but she's hostile to her own identity and is on the verge of turning her back on her talent. The club members are friends, but at times it's almost like a mutual support group. People heal, or change. They enjoy doing boring chores to help strangers.
...and then there's the Shepherd, who's the opposite of that. Shepherds also help people, but in a way that will turn the anime upside-down when you learn how it works. They play God, albeit for the best of reasons, and they're professionals. You couldn't get further removed from the Shiomi Happy Project.
This makes for an interesting story. It's one I found mildly unnerving towards the end, as I said earlier, but it's a pretty cool one and I like Shirasaki's summing up of it in the last episode.
As for the harem stuff, yes, there is female interest in Kakei. However it's all so tentative and innocent that I think it's damaging to be comparing this anime in your head with even a hypothetical porn version. Furthermore the biggest (i.e. only) tease is also ruled out in a fundamental way and isn't jealous of the other girls. On the contrary, she's being trying to set things up for her own selfish, calculating reasons. (This is funny.) The show also has a second boy in the club (Takamine) and has fun teasing us with a possible lesbian couple.
The show also tends to avoid fanservice, which I appreciated. There's a bathhouse (ep.4) and some swimsuits (ep.8), but personally I didn't find those too exploitative. Mind you, I did find it hard not to notice the short skirts that are part of the (rather elegant) Shiomi Academy school uniform. They're a splash of red tartan in what's otherwise a white uniform, albeit with discreet red or blue trimmings. That draws the eye.
Finally there's the comedy, which is a big plus. This is a funny series, e.g. Kakei's heroic humiliations, the sitcom situations inflicted by Kodachi or Shirasaki's biscuits or animal cushions. One of the girls also writes an amusingly inappropriately play, which amazingly the Shiomi Happy Project put on in public.
This is a gentle, kind-hearted show, but with an unsentimental edge (e.g. Kakei) to make its humanism feel more earned. I like what it's saying and I like its characters. Apparently the original computer game was highly regarded too, but I think it would do this show a disservice to start comparing it with its source material. The anime's found a delicate tone that would break, for me, if things got adults-only. I've been avoiding specific spoilers about the nature of the Shepherds, but that's an intriguing concept too. On the downside I think it appears to break its own rules in a small way, right at the end with Kodachi, but that's just a closing twiddle and the show played fair with all the important stuff.
It's nice. I appreciated it.