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AKA: Heart Library, Spirit Library
Genre: Library drama
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: G (nothing really objectionable)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Yokohama Shopping Log
Notes: Based on the manga by Takagi Nobuyuki that ran in Dengeki Daioh.

Since this is the first complete review of the series we have, it supersedes Carlos' as the "1st Opinion", in spite of having been written later.
Rating:
 

Kokoro Library

Synopsis

In the mountains next to a small city, sits the little visited and remote Kokoro Library. The city supported library is staffed by three sisters who diligently work to make sure that any patrons who come are able to find what they want. From androids to kaitou, the sisters will deal with a number of unique people who all have their own connection to this remote library.

Review

As this show unfolds, initially what we are presented with seems like a series of unconnected vignettes about the life of three sisters running a small remote library with few visitors. A wide variety of one-shot plots are covered ranging from the normal and directly library related to the more exotic such as stories featuring librarian androids and kaitou. As this series is initially approached, it seems to, in a sense, be about nothing. Most of the one shots are pleasant and diverting enough though.

In the sense of grand plot, honestly the series it isn't really about anything important or deeply philosophical which is normally something I might be a bit more critical of but it has other strengths which help make up for that fault. Instead of deep lot, what this show does a fine job at is slowly creating a general pleasant feeling and atmosphere through which they suceed at actualizing this small (apparently quasi-European despite the Japanese names of many characters) town and connecting it to the viewer. A fine sense of attention to detail in design work on every element combined with the leisurely pacing helps give the world a sort of casual day to day feeling, and thus a bit more depth. The show's setting exists simply to exist and not simply to be a vehicle for the plot.

All the technical aspects of this series only serve to help enhance the setting. The detailed and quite attractive art work and character designs only serve to enhance the atmosphere and mood. The animation itself is nothing stunning but there isn't a huge amount of high action that would really require an ultra-high frame rate and the general animation and frame rates employed were more than adequate for the material at hand. The music is nothing particularly stunning, but provides a certain general quiet and evocative feeling to every scene.

The setting does suggest one important question that should immediately occur to any intelligent viewer, "Why the heck is this library in the mountains?" This is not an unreasonable question, nor it is something ignored by the show. As we close in the final third of the show and the background of the town is explored, the answer becomes apparent. The revelation of the reason for the existence of Kokoro Library and the reason the city would fund such an inaccessible place is rather poignant. The library itself becomes a powerful symbol of hope. Even the seemingly disparate elements and characters that have followed all become linked to this theme in a web of relationships that stretches back over fifty years. With the carefully crafted and actualized setting, these revelations and the actions of the various characters introduced during the series, gained an unusual emotional intimacy for a series that doesn't really focus on a huge amount of character development.

Though in the end, I found the overall Kokoro Library experience enjoyable, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't acknowledge its flaws. As noted before, the show doesn't rely on plot but more on feeling. In that sense this show is almost totally about feeling and atmosphere as even the characters are more important for their symbolic value than their actual personal character development. The accompanying relaxed pacing is going to turn a lot of viewers off. Also since a lot of the individual episodes and elements don't gain their symbolic value until the end of the series, it might be a long wait for people who aren't as interested in the general pleasant atmosphere of the show. Considering that not every episode necessarily links in ultimately with the history of the library, if they were removed, the overall effect and final satisfaction for the viewer might be considerably higher.

The only other complaints I really had concerned the sisters of the main character, Kokoro. The older sister has this somewhat creepy obsessive behavior in regards to Kokoro. There was a somewhat creepy subtext between her and her behavior toward her younger sister that seemed rather jarring and out of place with the rest of the series at time. I could never quite tell if it was just supposed to be comedic or not, but it should have been purged from this series as it simply did not fit. The other sister figures prominently in certain plot elements that are a bit cute, but overused and don't link in directly to the themes at the end, so I wished they would have utilized them less or found other material.

Overall, this was an unusually atmospheric and quite simply pleasant series. A bit of plot editing and tweaking could have probably enhanced the overall experience, but this title was far from bad.

A very atmospheric and pleasant show with a wonderfully sweet and poignant ending. Though I did really enjoy it overall, the ultimate resolution was a bit too delayed and the extremely slow pacing can be challenging to one's patience at times, so I cannot give it four stars. A few elements were out of place and damaged the atmosphere the show was trying so hard to build. This is a slowly paced title with almost no action (except for a few episodes), so the impatient will probably subtract a star or two. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: Fine for young children and strange adults with long attention spans. Innately offensive due to lack of any worthwhile content whatsoever. (Not traditionally offensive, though, in case you're wondering.)



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease Fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Kokoro Library © 2001 Studio Deen / JVC