Post Reply Episode 4 review - some SPOILERS
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Posted 10/27/09 , edited 10/28/09
This episode requires a fair bit of consideration. I've watched it twice now and I'm guessing there'll still be a considerable amount of ingenuity I've missed.

To say it was good is to damn with faint praise. 'Amazing' might be more appropriate, but that would suggest that the episode's strengths lie in flashy set pieces - the jaw-dropping moments that leave the viewer stunned - and, although there are one or two moments that could qualify (the train crash certainly), the power of this episode ultimately lies elsewhere.

Principally, it lies in the delicate placing of the final pieces of a jigsaw, whose emerging picture is as arresting as it is unexpected. Colio's romance (and there's no use pretending it's anything else, despite the impossibility of him ever physically meeting the object of his love) with Shiron is the heart that beats urgently and insistently throughout this episode. His encounter with Iea, which leads him to receive the final revelation which, in turn, leads him to fight Cigal, is beautifully portrayed, his hand-washing particularly poignant. Similarly, the way some of the memories were intercut with the confrontation between Cigal and Hamyuts was particularly effective. It's Colio, though, that commands our attention in this episode. This is a boy who's gone from worthless nobody, a tool of a powerful and corrupt organisation, to a romantic hero, prepared to give his life to fulfil a destiny that has only just been revealed to him. (And the line "She didn't see me running away" brought a lump to this jaded reviewer's throat.) In fact, this is a series that seems to take particular delight in highlighting the heroism of the 'ordinary' person, for all the Armed Librarians' elegant (or, in the case of Hamyuts, preposterous) character design, and there's something immensely satisfying in the revelation that Colio, Iea and even Carthelo all have a hand in Cigal's downfall.

Speaking of whom, Cigal's battle with Hamyuts is well-handled - exciting without being overly flashy - and his final end is portrayed well, although, once again, Hamyuts' dismissal of Colio, along with her pragmatic derailing of the train earlier (even if it's a goods train, its driver won't be reporting in to work the next day), makes whole-hearted identification with her uncomfortably difficult. That said, she took an awful lot of punishment and, in terms of her sheer guts, you've got to admire the way she handled herself with Cigal.

Questions remain, of course, and we'd be disappointed if they didn't. Who is the bearded man who dishes out important book fragments to characters who need it? Certainly he's on speaking terms with the Church of Shindeki, but he strikes me as a neutral, not an ally. If his giving of the pieces to Colio was a deliberate 'setting up' of a chain of events that he knew in advance would thwart Cigal's plans, then he's possibly even an enemy of the Church, although one unknown to the Armed Librarians. (A thought strikes me: Is he an avatar of Bantorra himself? Hmmm...) What other ancient 'war machines' are out there waiting to be discovered? Is the stone knife the only way to produce books from people's souls? What's going on with Volken at the end of the episode?

The 'world' of The Book of Bantorra remains enigmatic and many-layered and I suspect, with this particular story arc, we've barely scratched the surface.
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