Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 12 (Fin)

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I’m not shy about my love for shows that are efficient enough to wrap everything up with an entire episode to spare, but this final DnH reminded me that yes, a show can wait until the last episode ever and still finish things in a satisfying manner without feeling rushed or overstuffed.

lot goes on this week, but it’s well-organized and well-paced. Virtually no time is wasted, and what idle time it does have it uses on nice character beats, which are also curtain calls here in the finale.

We start with Minafes(t), which we learn immediately turned out to be a great success with a huge turnout. Meanwhile, as karmic comeuppance for her attempts to poach Minafes patrons for her little symposium, Aoi’s auditorium is effectively deserted. Waah-waah…

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That idle time I mentioned above makes sense, because once Minafes is off and running, our club members are backstage spectators until their own performances. Kana and Senri spend it trying to cozy up to an unwitting, Kyoutarou before shooed off by Tamamo, who does the same exact thing.

It’s cute and true to all three characters, while also underlining that these three were always the more superficial of Kyou’s suitors, below Nagi and Tsugumi. Tsugumi, meanwhile, remains the only one of the club members who knows Kyou has become a Shepherd and will gradually disappear.

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Bitter over losing to Minafes, Aoi succumbs to pure mustache-twirling criminality, loosening the screws on the light assembly fated to fall upon Tsugumi. But she’s caught red-handed by the crack Shepherd team of Kyoutarou and Nagi, the latter of which makes good use of her strong legs and big breasts to subdue the perp.

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But while occupied with Aoi, the lights fall anyway, just as Tsugumi is below them. With just a moment to work with, Kyoutarou does the only thing he thinks he can to save her: use a book to transport himself, Nagi, Aoi, and the lights away. Tsugumi looks up at the now-empty catwalk, confused, but very alive. Success!

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Aoi ends up…somewhere else, and is so upset, she unleashes a vicious, incriminating tirade about how she just wants Kyou to disappear so she can create her perfect academy…and have President Mochizuki all to herself.

The camera stays close to her for the duration of the rant, but due both the lights above her and the reverb in her voice, I already knew she had been teleported onto the stage of her precious symposium!

What’s so deliciously awesome about this is that it not only punishes Aoi for all her misdeeds, but also ensures she won’t take any further action, since she’s now effectively confessed both to Mochizuki and a fair amount of the student body. The jig is up. Crime doesn’t pay, Aoi.

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With Tsugumi’s future saved and Aoi neutralized, it would seem our two young Shepherds are on a roll. But as they confer with their boss atop the school library, it’s clear they erred. Well, it’s clear they erred when they teleported onto a stage with dozens of people watching! They’re supposed to work in the shadows.

Kyou doesn’t care. He did what he felt he had to do to save Tsugumi, he doesn’t regret it, and he’d do it again. For those reasons, the boss laments that he’s not Shepherd material after all, even if Nagi is. The problem is, his book is already gone, so Shepherd or not, he’ll still disappear from everyone’s memories. Bummer.

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Tsugumi, neither as dumb as she looks or as weak as she says, knows what Kyou did for her and why. And even though she’s sad about losing him, she realizes The Show Must Go On. Compartmentalizing her pain, she takes the stage and delivers a hell of a speech about just how far her Happy Project went, thanks to teamwork, camaraderie, and love.

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She then passes the mic to Senri, who sings a beautiful but melancholy song that could serve as a lament for the loss of Kyou…who as it turns out got back in time to hear the speech and praise her for it.

He tells her his situation, but she assures him she won’t forget him, or let him go away, no matter what happened to his stupid book, and he draws her in for a big ‘ol hug. As it happens, his ex-boss re-makes his book for him, owning up to the fact he was wrong about Kyou being Shepherd material.

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Aoi formally apologizes, having been both chastened and moved by Tsugumi’s speech and under the forgiving Mochizuki’s guidance. The Happy Project gets its club room back (buh-bye, random guys!) and things return to normal. When Kyou comes home one day to find movers at Nagi’s old apartment, he looks a little sad, now that the newly-made Shepherd has moved on…

…But as it happens, Nagi is in his apartment, leaning on his bed watching the ‘tube as always. Turns out she was made Shepherd of Shiomi Academy, so she’s not going anywhere! Then Tsugumi and the rest of the club arrive at the door, and Nagi is eager to ‘make another scene’ to give them the wrong idea, and it’s medetashi medetashi.

But ‘Wait’, you might ask: ‘What about consequences?’ To which I’d respond: ‘lighten up!’ ita pleasant, charming rom-com that was always more about the threat of bad things happening and how to avoid them, not bad things actually happening. Besides, not being a Shepherd is a pretty big blow, and the fact Kyou still has to juggle six girls, and I’d say he still has challenges in store.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 11

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When first faced with their clubroom predicament, courtesy of the scheming Aoi (who thinks she’s doing the Shepherd’s good work), for a moment I wondered “Gee, why don’t they just use their superpowers to get rid of the excess members? Then I remembered this wasn’t InoBato. ;)

Kyoutarou also tells everyone to look on the bright side: the Happy Project is still alive and kicking and they’re all together, so who cares about a clubroom? This is true, but it’s also refreshing, as so many other club-focused anime make the loss of their venue seem like the end of the world.

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Kyoutarou tells Nagi about losing the room, but she either forgets, or specifically wants to hang off of Kyoutarou and ask him what he wants for dinner to torture Tsugumi, who does not like hearing the words “Nagi” and “last night” in the same sentence.

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When the StuCo (really Aoi) schedules a celebrity alumnai-fueld symposium on the same day as Minafest, and the club brainstorms their next move, Kyoutarou receives a vision of the future in which a stage light falls on Tsugumi’s head, apparently killing her. With that, everything concerning the club room, Minafest, or the harem situation falls by the wayside for Kyoutarou. All that matters is changing that future.

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Over a Nagi-prepared repast of pre-packages shumai, Kyoutarou tells Nagi he wants to become a Shepherd. Yes, even after everything Nagi did to get him to hook up with another girl. If he’s not a Shepherd, he doesn’t have the power to stop what will happen to Tsugumi. From his perspective, it’s better for her to forget him than for her to be dead. I can’t say I disagree with him. Set aside, for now, is the Shepherd Boss’ implication that between Kyou and Nagi only one can become a Shepherd.

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When the boss starts erasing Kyou’s book, Tsugumi, on the phone with Tamamo and talking about him, senses something is amiss when she can’t recall something she had deemed unforgettable. She races to Kyoutarou’s in the rain, where Nagi is conveniently absent that night, and tells him she doesn’t want to forget him, planting a big ol’ smooch on him.

After showering (from running in the rain), Kyoutarou tells her he has to do this, and she begs him to take her with him. He tells her everyone will forget her if he does and asks if she’s okay with that, and she turns the question back around on him. “It’s for the best,” says Kyou, not mentioning this is the only way to save her life. “I hate Shepherds,” Tsugumi says, crestfallen. “Especially Kakeis who have become Shepherds.”

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The next day Kyoutarou receives and urgent call from Kana telling him something’s wrong with Senri. He races to her house to find Senri dressed like a nurse and Kana dressed as a bunny, and they totally ambush him with their feminine wiles. He manages to fight them off and get an explanation, which is that Kana read on the internet that this was how you kept a guy from going away.

While yes, this scene was a bit excessive, it did reinforce what Kyoutarou will be giving up when he becomes a Shepherd. It also shows that while Senri and Kana can put on the charm, the two come on a bit too strong to be serious contenders for his heart. I appreciate the teamwork, though…as I’m sure a part of Kyou does.

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Back at school, Tamamo demands an explanation from Kyou, not for his recent visit to Senri’s, but for a newspaper article about him “selling his body” to the StuCo in exchange for making Minafest an official event. Kyou assures them it’s just another one of Aoi’s tricks. He’s not going anywhere…at least for now.

Senri visits Kyou on the roof (while Nagi stays out of sight), and tells him she’s decided to sing at Minafest, not for the sake of anyone but him and the other Happy Project members. Asking him if this was a future path he saw, he responds that she chose it all on her own. Senri makes him close his eyes again, but this time she kisses him…on the forehead.

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The rest of the club finds out about Senri singing, and the rumor spreads throughout the school, increasing interest in Minafest. Tsugumi and Senri even go on the school radio to promote it, and Senri takes the opportunity to ask Miyu to be her emcee, in an effort to repair their relationship (that Senri is going to perform heartens her pink-haired friend).

Aoi hears of these countermoves but isn’t concerned; she’s confident she’ll be proven right in her belief (fueeld by texts from her “shepherd”) that the library club shouldn’t exist. Meanwhile, it seems President Mochizuki may be on to her subordinate’s treachery.

Aoi may not even be totally wrong, though, as Kyoutarou can’t seem to find a path where Tsugumi won’t get killed at Minafest…even though finding one was precisely the catalyst that led him to become a Shepherd in the first place!

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 10

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While last week was more of a battle between Kyoutarou and Nagi’s Shepherd philosophies regarding Senri’s path, this week focuses more on relationships — specifically, little sisters. Now that Kyoutarou remembers Nagi being his little sister (half-sister; his dad had many wives) who he once saved from pedophile house servants (!!!) Nagi decides she’s in a playful mood and commits to it, moving in with Kyoutarou, who doesn’t resist.

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While Kana is busy making sure Senri has as much fun as she can (read into that what you will), Kyoutarou pays for the privilege of having a busty and voluptuous house guest when Tsugumi makes an unannounced visit, and she comes right out (well, not right out) and asks him to be her boyfriend.

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Well, to pretend to be her boyfriend, at least, for when they visit her little sister Sayori. Even though she’s little and bedridden, Sayori struck me immediately as stronger, more assertive and honest with her feelings than her sister, and sees through the ploy instantly. She’s actually a pretty cool and mature sibling, not at all your typical unreasonable brat who gives her sister’s guy a hard time.

On the contrary, she’s grateful her ‘introverted’ sister has his and her friends’ support. You get the feeling Sayori would rather not be in the hospital so she can look after Tsugumi properly.

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As thanks for his service, Tsugumi wants to make Kyoutarou dinner, but since Nagi has moved in, he has to temporarily relocate her to his balcony while she does so, lest Tsugumi get the wrong idea. I’m not sure at this point what the right idea is, though. Why does Nagi want to play house so bad? Getting her kicks in before becoming a shepherd, I guess…but doesn’t constant proximity to him soften her resolve?

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In any case, the next day Tsugumi arrives with her discharged-for-the-day sister, again unannounced. This time Nagi won’t go quietly onto the balcony, and instead creates a sticky situation for Kyoutarou, who must explain more to Sayori than Tsugumi, what exactly is going on. Nagi doesn’t help matters by letting on that they’re up to more than they really are, and Kyoutarou’s sister excuse does seem flimsy, even if it’s technically the truth.

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Nagi may think this is all a big joke and everyone will forget her soon anyway, but Sayori isn’t laughing; she’s legitimately concerned for Tsugumi and wants straight answers. She gets so worked up she collapses. Rather than risk waiting for help, Kyoutarou begs Nagi to use her book-teleportation power to take Sayori to the hospital. Perhaps aware that this is kinda all her fault, Nagi obliges.

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Of course, this means Tsugumi has seen the power of the shepherds, and Kyoutarou tells her the rest, about how he’s in training. Their trip home is silent and awkward as you’d expect, and Kyoutarou figures Tsugumi would rather have nothing more to do with him, but in that he’s sorely mistaken: Tsugumi uses the opportunity to beg him not to go anywhere or be erased from her memories, and then confesses to him.

She walks it back a bit, but it’s out there, and it isn’t as if Kyoutarou isn’t receptive. In fact, could this have been Nagi’s plot all along; to get him and Tsugumi closer? Was she just pretending to be put out by Tsugumi’s visits?

Oh yeah, and the clubroom has been suddenly overrun by a bevy of manga-reading, formerly inactive guys, which is Takigawa’s doing. It appears the Veep won’t allow the club’s pseudo-Shepherd-like activities to continue. How will they fight back?

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 09

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Who makes a better Shepherd: the one who would guide their sheep along a life path that makes the most of their latent talent, or along the path that would net the sheep the most happiness? The question begs asking, because in the case of the “Song Princess” Misono Senri, those two paths are divergent.

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Simply put, as good as she was, or is, or could be at singing, it just doesn’t make Senri happy anymore, which has led her to neglect her practicing. It hasn’t made her happy ever since she learned her best friend Serizawa would quit if Senri beat her. Senri took a dive, yet still won, and lost Serizawa anyway. Her talent hurt someone dear to her, and caused them to drift apart.

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So why keep singing, when it only gives her pain and reminds her of what she’s lost? If she does keep singing, who’s to say she won’t lose more friends to her talent? Nagi, as Shepherd-in-Training, takes the road of maximum talent cultivation at any cost: Senri must get back on track, or she’s doomed to become ‘just an ordinary student’.

Kyoutarou inserts himself in Nagi’s mission and ends up taking it over completely, taking the other road: the road of happiness. He does this not to one-up Nagi, but because he wants to help his friend. His answer is, if singing is painful, Stop. Enjoy life. Have fun with friends. Don’t worry about the labels others give you. Make your own mark. Do what you want, not what’s expected of you. He even suggests the same of Nagi herself.

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Meanwhile, what do we have here? Oh, just Vice Predient Tokigawa obsessively photographing President Mochizuki and photoshopping her face on Kyoutarou’s body for pleasure. She also seems to be in contact with ‘a’ Shepherd, though which one who can say. I can’t say there’s enough here to work with, so I’ll just move on. :)

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Back to Senri, who takes to Kyou’s advice like a fish to water. Who hasn’t reveled in waking up only to realize you can go back to bed? Such Luxury! Or helping her fellow library club members plan their upcoming festival event. Or goofing off with Kana, who assures her no one in the club will hate her for doing what she feels she needs to do to be happy, even if that’s quitting singing forever.

Tamamo initially takes a sterner position, saying she can’t abide people who waste their talents, but later confides to Kyoutarou (in a scene where she’s very physically close to him) that it was her jealousy speaking; she herself wanted to be an artist, but her family forbade it in favor of a path that would lead to more success, if not more happiness. So she doesn’t really begrudge so much as envy Senri’s situation.

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As the episode progresses, one cannot argue that Kyoutarou’s way has resulted in a much bubblier, happier Senri, who literally makes her mark on him by stamping his hand with a smiley face. When Serizawa confronts him about rumors the Song Princess has quit, Kyoutarou refers to the canary who lost its song.

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Then Nagi confronts Kyoutarou, warning him that he could be condemning that canary to a life of mediocrity. Kyoutarou, who is content to give Senri time to ‘find her song anew’, as it were, wonders why Nagi is in such a damn hurry to ‘fix’ Senri…

That’s when the environs darken and the Shepherd recruiter appears, telling Kyoutarou he’s passed the second exam and can become a Shepherd anytime he wants. They transport to the Grand Library, where the recruiter presents Kyou with Nagi’s book.

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Nagi, as we know, is in a hurry to cast away her past in order to become a Shepherd, but as Kyoutarou learns once he opens that book, that is prohibitively difficult as long as her past is right in front of her: Kyou was her “big brother,” which I assume is a term of endearment, rather than an indication they’re actually related.

This is not so much a huge shock for us considering Nagi’s behavior these past eight episodes, but it definitely puts her in a new light for Kyoutarou, who has the power, if he desires to use it, to ensure she lives a normal life, even if that’s not what she wants.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 08

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Did the writers of this episode recently watch Whisper of the Heart? Both center on a yearning young lady who worries about being good enough, both begin with that girl checking out all the same books as a guy, and both end on a hilltop at daybreak. But before I lay into those writers for shamelessly lifting from a classic, I must note that the similarities pretty much end there.

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For one thing, Amasawa Seiji didn’t get nearly as much girl time as Kyoutarou this week. Seriously, Kyou’s all over the shop with the ladies, or rather they’re all over him. From getting squeezed between and fought over by Tamamo and Senri in bikinis on stage, to ending up with Tamamo’s bra, to rescuing Kana from the sea, the show wants to make it clear that yes, he will be giving up quite a lot if he becomes a shepherd.

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It’s not what it looks like! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Senri swung both ways…

Interestingly, the aftermath of Nagi’s kiss-and-run is set aside so that the show can focus on the stakes, one girl at a time, starting with Kana. As we know, Kana is the clown of the group, not counting Ikkei (because Ikkei barely exists). What we didn’t know is that Kana was the clown in her last group of friends…who are no longer friends.

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Then, as now, she didn’t choose to be the clown; it was a role she was given and never challenged it. She put doing what she deemed it took to remain ‘wanted’ in a highly-structured group where everyone had a role to play. After her beach play was a failure, the brittle clown facade is crumbling. She compensates by “trying too hard”, which makes her inner struggle more evident to her new friends, who say “this isn’t like you at all!”, inadvertently goading her into trying even too-harder.

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The club also works to get their client stage time, and, StuCo Veep Takigawa gives no ground in negotiations. They hold out hope they can change her mind (not knowing that she’s trying to destroy their cub!), but for that, they need Kana to write a new script. Only Kana isn’t coming to club.

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One surprising sight was seeing Kyoutarou shadowing Nagi with her trainee shepherd work, with things back to normal; ‘normal’ meaning ‘intermittently awkward and lovey-dovey’. Yet again, Nagi dodges the question of why she wants to be a shepherd so badly, and uses the situation as another opportunity to dissuade Kyoutarou from becoming one. She does that by telling him where to find Kana so he can talk to her, thereby sharing yet another beautiful memory he won’t want to lose.

As payment for her intel, she chokes him with her legs and bites his nose.

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Up on that hill, just before sunrise, he finds Kana, and the discussion turns to books. How Kyoutarou started reading books because he was looking for ways to get along with others, something he’s clearly succeeded out. And if you’ll remember, Kana checked out a lot of those same books, perhaps for the same reason.

I really enjoyed the creativity of the closing scene, whether it’s Kana telling her backstory using Madoka witch-style shadow-puppet visuals, or Kyoutarou turning their talk into a theatrical performance. The sun rising behind the embracing friends as catharsis is reached was also a simple but well-executed visual. Sendai Eri also does her best work of the season here and throughout the episode, demonstrating heretofore untapped range.

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Kana returns to the club feeling much better about herself and her place in it, which she learns need not be in the role of the clown. She’s excited to write the hell out of a new script, and if it flops like the least one, who cares? It’s not the end of the world, and she had fun writing them.

Then Senri embraces Kana once more, imploring her to stop worrying so much about what others think and start worrying about what she wants…lest Senri take him first! Then, things immediately shift to Senri going AWOL on her music instructor. But that’s a story for next week!

Kyoutarou is sure play a role in her redemption as well, but lest we forget: without Nagi’s help, he wouldn’t have reached Kana at that crucial time and place. If he relies on Nagi again, it will further expose the limits to his ability to help others as long as he’s not a shepherd himself.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 07

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This episode of DnH toyed with my expectations, almost as if it was aware of the fact it’s an underdog on my list (ranked fifth out of my seven shows) and needed to show me something to remind me why I’m watching. Last week it successfully maneuvered a substantial overarching plot and presaged future difficulties and conflicts.

This week initially seemed to change gears completely, starting with the four girls of the library club assembled at the table, each giving their argument for why they’re Kakei’s type. Everyone’s cordial — even clinical — but one can definitely sense conviction for their respective positions in all their voices and expressions.

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When Kakei himself pops into the clubroom, Tsugumi abruptly asks him to go on a date…with all of them. At this point I’m pleasantly bemused — is the show going to be this ridiculous with the harem scenario? — but Kakei doesn’t take Tsugumi seriously, as he reads all night and sleeps in, making him late for the date and giving the girls an excuse to invade his flat, where they each act according to the archetypes they defended in the club meeting.

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Nagi barges in unannounced, further angering the girls (who already suspect something is going on, which they’d be right about, but it’s not quite what they think!) and decides to tag along as a sixth wheel, and the 6×6 Gelandewagen of Love rolls off to the mall. At this point, I was tipping my hat to DnH for apparently making an honest attempt to make this harem thing work; a seeming fool’s errand. I should have been tipped off by the looks the girls had as they walked in formation.

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Also bemusing to the point of suspicion: how civil everyone is throughout this date. While ostensibly competitors for Kakei’s attention and affection, the four girls eschew sniping and instead encourage and assist one another in turn, sticking to their archetypes and carrying them out to their natural conclusions.

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As one girl is engaged with Kakei (they each get a scene of alone time with him), the others analyze their chemistry, first with Tamamo, then Senri, then Kana. As they cycle through these interactions, and interesting thing happened: I the viewer began thinking about the type I go for. Rather than resent or envy Kakei, I became Kakei. And part of what makes a successful harem is being able to see yourself in the guy’s shoes…not having a target on the guy’s back.

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The sequences of mini-dates-within-the-date, also showed me that it’s not really as simple as what type to choose. Sure, I’ve somewhat gravitated towards him and Senri (among the four club girls), but the fact is all four exhibit desirable qualities, to the point that the date is essentially one long pleasant stalemate.

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Oh yeah, the date also bent time, becaue I was sure the episode was four-fifths over when Nagi took Kakei aside to tell him they had Shepherd’s work to do. Instead, that was the halfway point. Not that the date of the first half felt long, but it did feel like it was building towards completion. Little did I know the show had far more in store for us!

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But first of all, the Shepherd mission: having to stop a creepy guy from getting a good look at Tsugumi so he won’t develop a wildly popular love doll in her image is a hilariously awesome job. Better still is the fact that Kakei has to suddenly embrace Tsugumi like a lover to do so — knowing full well it could throw off the Utopian balance of the group date. But he doesn’t want Tsugumi to have to live her life being famous for being the ‘love doll girl’ and so does what he must.

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He’s able to explain away his behavior as an ‘experiment’ he and Nagi were performing to test the girls’ reactions. This in tern gives the girls leave to come clean: the group date was a means of researching and considering their response to a question submitted to the club asking what kind of girl Kakei likes.

Therefore the group date works on two levels: one, as a straightforward if slightly empirical harem date, and as a legitimate social experiment and service…that just happened to also satisfy the girls’ own curiosity regarding Kakei’s preferences, as well as their own latent desire to experience dating him firsthand, rather than just in their heads.

But wait, there’s yet another level to come out of this group date, because Who submitted that request in the first place?

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The answer, of course, is Nagi. The request wasn’t merely a prank (though it was partly that) but a carefully-designed gambit in the fight for the open Shepherd position. Kakei would be the first to admit he’s uncertain about becoming a Shepherd, and Nagi wants to maneuver him out of the running altogether.

Witnessing the girls blanking about the Shepherd research is very disquieting for Kakei, and Nagi warns him that if he were to become one his “book” would be erased; everyone would forget he ever existed. Dates like the one he just experienced would be impossible, as would remaining friends with any of the club girls…or anyone, for that matter.

Such is the price of the power to change peoples’ fates a Shepherd gains. It’s not really an unfair price, but having gone from detached loner to a treasurer of friends since joining the Happy Project, it is a steep price for Kakei. Nagi drove that point home by arranging the date.

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Kakei’s never been more unsure of what to do after the weight of that price comes down on him, but Nagi’s plan doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like, because he doesn’t drop out right then and there. Instead, he asks her if she’s okay paying the price. When she says she is, he laments that he’d forget her, causing her to drop her armor of resolve and steal a kiss she’s wanted so badly for so long.

At this point I imagine the Shepherd remembers their past life even if no one remembers them, and in that regard, this kiss is particularly tragic and poignant, because Kakei won’t remember it or anything about Kodachi Nagi if she’s successful. As she skulks away, she insists she’s “given up everything already”, but it sure seems like she’s trying to convince herself of that rather than it being a done deal.

The two people who seem most suitable for each other are the two contemplating erasing themselves from each others’ lives, which is both tragic and compelling. At this point an unhappy ending for both seems certain. Will that turn around, and if so, how? You have my full attention, DnH.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 06

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This week’s DnH took huge leaps forward in its overarching story by finally revealing exactly what it was Nagi was involved in, and why she’s been so interested in Kyoutarou. While it had a lot of serious plot to go over, it managed to avoid getting too dry or tedious by blending it with well-timed comedy, mischief, and would-be romance.

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First of all, the library is fairly impressive, if a relatively simple design: a massive cylindrical shaft lined with billions of books. The Beast’s library ain’t got nothing on this place. It’s part The Matrix’s Zion, part Laputa’s Core, and all awesome; just the kind of place a big book reader like Kyoutarou would imagine in a dream…and he did!

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They mysterious man turns out to be the same one who met with him ten years ago. He likes the progress Kyou’s made with the Happy Project; he’s already passed one of the two tests required to become a Trainee Shepherd, which is what Nagi is. The thing is, Kyoutarou isn’t so sure he wants to devote the rest of his life to helping others realize their happiest possible lives. The Happy Project is a means for him to explore the new feelings he’s developed, but that’s a highly personal thing. Becoming a Shepherd means throwing the self away for the sake of others.

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Nagi is determined to become a Shepherd and “leave the world (and presumably a painful past that likely involves Kyoutarou) behind,” but her Supervisor seems far more keen on Kyoutarou getting the job than Nagi, even though Nagi was there first and at least thinks she wants this (Kyoutarou has to think about it). And here’s what puts an intriguing twist on an otherwise ordinary harem: dating and/or falling for someone disqualifies you from consideration. A shepherd must radiate their love out to all who may need their guidance; focusing that love on one person undermines their duties.

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Even if Senri knew anything about this, she wouldn’t care. She’s at a point in her life when she’s tired of doing what’s expected of her — which doesn’t make her happy — and is doing what she wants, like putting the moves on Kyoutarou. I appreciated this bold, assertive side of Senri coming out when the opportunity presented itself; even if Kyou is more flustered than anything else, it’s a good demonstration of what he’d be giving up if he chose Shepherdom. In any case, Senri’s advances are interrupted by Nagi, whom Kyou has to shadow in order to learn the ropes.

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Their “client”, so to speak, turns out to be Sayumi, whom they have to save from a gruesome freak accident that would keep her from realizing her ideal future as a gifted programmer. It’s a pretty clear-cut job, but perhaps in her haste to either show off or because his very presence took her off her game, Nagi makes a critical error, and Kyoutarou has to bail her out in the most dangerous and embarrassing way he can. Why does Sayumi have a machine gun? WHY NOT?!

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When all is well that ends well, Nagi kicks herself for messing up, Kyoutarou comforts her and tells her to keep working hard, as she is his senpai in this situation. His kindness makes Nagi get all the feels, but now we know what a tricky situation she’s in: She’s close to falling for the guy who she has to fight for the Shepherd’s job, which has no room for love. The sooner she can become a Shepherd, the better…but Kyoutarou is learning quickly, and in any case, has been essentially carrying out the actions of a Shepherd already with the Happy Project.

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After returning the club room and finding Tsugumi waiting for him to share a heart cookie (which he eats all by himself out of ignorance), Kyoutarou is no closer to knowing what he wants to do. But as thanks for his bailing her out, Nagi gets the Library Club officially recognized. As Nagi sees it, if the club continues with Kyoutarou in it, eventually one of the girls will snag him, and he’ll drop out of the running. None of them have the slightest sliver of interest in Ikkei, after all. This fact, and his consoling sessions with Gizaemon, are a pretty funny running gag.

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In addition to the revealing of Kyoutarou’s calling and the continuing battle for his heart, we also got a couple C-plots in Senri’s ongoing rift with her former friend Miyu, as well as the Student Council Vice President Takigawa Aoi plotting to “crush” the Library Club. Even as some light has been shed on the central mystery, several smaller ones remain.

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And now, your Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai Moment of Zen:daito6x

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 05

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DnH is doing a good job balancing all the simultaneous relationships Kyoutarou is cultivating with the various girls in his life. Last week he got a little bit of time with Kana, then made Tsugumi’s year by agreeing to stick with the Happy Project. He spends the first third of this episode with Tamamo, who he noticed is working extra hard for the very, popular and successful club. I wonder if Sayumi realized just how big a favor dressing the club up in cosplay was going to be.

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Anyway, it’s a cute little segment, which like the others, has a way of making one feel like Tamamo is the only girl he’s having these kinds of segments with, even though as I said, all these dealings with these girls is happening concurrently. Not that he’s being a man-whore or anything; it’s the girls, after all, that seem to be interpreting his kindness as a sign he’s interested in romance. And hey, he catches Tamamo clean: no boob or crotch grabs!

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Another girl whose gotten a fair share of Kyoutarou’s personal attention of late is Nagi, who is a suspicious as ever standing in the shadows observing Kyoutarou. We then find out that observing Kyoutarou with the aim of assessing his fitness to be a (The?) Shepherd is her job, handed down by a mysterious suited fellow.

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The buxom Nagi is simultaneously jealous of all the attention her boss is giving Kyoutarou and resentful that he’s seen as having more potential. She’s taken her duty to the extreme by moving next door to him and coming to his house all the time. Things get closer than ever before, and Kyoutarou even whips out the pre-cog power we’ve not seen since he saved Tsugumi to try to see Nagi’s future. Disturbingly, he finds nothing there but a white void and an invisible wall.

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It vexes him, and when he confronts Nagi at school, a chase ensues. Kana and Senri hear him yell something about “last night”, and the rumor mill springs into action. Poor Ikkei and Gizaemon can only sit in the corner, unable to contribute to what is essentially the girls wondering what the heck Kyoutarou is up to. But Kyoutarou has problems that circumvent whatever awkwardness may be brewing in the club room.

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Something’s just not quite right about Nagi, and he finally pays her a visit in her apartment — her dark, empty apartment where she clearly doesn’t really live. She’s got her: she’s the Shepherd who’s been emailing him (though that doesn’t mean she’s The Shepherd; clever wording on her part). And there’s that same Man in Black waiting for him, saying he’s cleared preliminary examination and inviting him to come to the “Magic Library” he’s seen flashes of in his premonitions. Nurturing romances while propelling the mystery forward: this episode was firing on all cylinders.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 04

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Books had always been Kakei Kyoutarou’s Truth; he couldn’t hope to ever encounter anyone as pure, elemental and honest as black words on white paper. So he found companionship in books. He Befriended books. Dated books. Other people were merely obstacles that got in the way of his reading. He saw from a young age how hypocritical and false they often were. Better to get lost in books, which wouldn’t put on airs, betray or hurt him.

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Kyoutarou is kind of a messed-up individual. Sure, all kinds of people loath their birthday, but to have a sepia dream about hospital staff (or something) pretending to have a fun birthday party for him when he knew they’d rather be someplace else? Frankly, treating all people as if they were like that is as silly and wrong-headed as Senri thinking Tsugumi had ulterior motives for nursing her to health.

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Obviously, Kyoutarou’s time in the Library Club has switched on entirely new lights in his world, ones that have nothing to do with books. When he flags down Senri and gets her to believe Tsugumi’s intentions were good, and Senri asks him what good good intentions are, it’s a reflective moment for him. Seeing Senri run from the club mirrored the turmoil in his head regarding whether to stick with it past Golden Week, along with his past distrust of anyone and everyone’s kindness.

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We say “past”, and used the past tense above, because while Kyoutarou still clings to his old reslusive bookworm persona, the reality is he is transforming into something else altogether; something far more sociable. And it’s understandably strange, frightening, and even a little fanciful feeling (the cosplay and the high level of attractiveness of his clubmates also contribute to the “too good to be true” vibe, or rather the “I’ve never felt like this before, so it must not be for me” vibe.

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Sure, it’s a bit bizarre and potentially problematic that every girl in the club seems to have varying levels of feelings for Kyoutarou, as exhibited in how they react to learning Nagi’s his neighbor and has been in his room. The bathhouse segment also seemed to be little more than an opportunity for the girls to be nude, compare boob sizes, but to their credit, the guys stay on their side and don’t try to sneak a peak. Saints! 

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But really, that’s all pretty painless and is over relatively quickly, and the episode moves on to Kyoutarou’s choice: whether to stay with Tsugumi, the others, and the Happy Project, or go back to being alone with his books. Neither choice could necessarily be called wrong, but the latter is certainly safer and more mundane. He’d be returning to a path already well-worn…by himself.

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In the end, even after all the fun and new experiences he’s had, Kyoutarou heads to the library club prepared to take that safer path anyway. “It’s been enough,” he thinks to himself, totally unprepared for a surprise birthday party, suggested and organized by everyone. In he presence of such unbridled joy, Kyoutarou’s heart stirs. It’s a feeling that’s inscrutable now, but like a good book, he wants to dive into it and continue to discover all he can about it, so he decides to stick with the club after all.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 03

"You don't have to try so hard."
“You don’t have to try so hard.” Nice understated flirting here.

Ah, this episode really tickled my funny bone, alone with my “charm bone”, further solidifying its rightful spot on my Fall watchlist. It’s got comedy, but it’s also got lots of great inter-character chemistry, a carefully-building love polygon, and an overarching mystery…and a lot of heart, to boot.

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Take the several scenes where the whole club is together. Even if they’re not super-crucial to the plot, watching everyone goofing around gives us more exposure to them during downtime, and they’re a ton of fun to watch.

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Keep in mind that Kana joined last week, but it already feels like she was always a part of the gang. When she reacts to the adorable animals Tsugumi sewed on their cushions by teaming up with Ikkei to get Tamamo to tell them what The Fox Says, it’s a very surprising but welcome pop culture reference…at least I think it was!

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Relaaax…she’s just measuring his waist for a costume.

This episode includes two non-members who deal with their status as outsiders in very different ways that fit their characters to a T, even though we’ve seen very little of either of them, they make perfect sense as their stories unfold.

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I guess an ambulance would be overkill in this instance…

Let’s start with Music Princess Misono Senri. The whole first half of the episode we cut to her being alone and miserable. When Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei show her the text referring to her, Senri is confronted by a teacher at the same, scolding her for skipping optional lessons. Then it rains, she doesn’t have an umbrella, and she gets a fever. Tsugumi told her to email her if she needed help, and she does.

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The Library Club mobilizes and Tsugumi takes charge of nursing Senri back to health. Senri is bemused by her “unprovoked kindness” but is too weak to refuse it. By the time she’s in bed on the mend, she’s squeezing Tsugumi tight as if she were her mother. And when Kyoutarou sees that interaction, he catches another glimpse of exactly why he’s a part of “Happy Project.” Sometimes they’re just passing out flyers in costume, and sometimes they’re making a positive impact on the life of someone desperate for love and kindness.

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I love how Tsugumi keeps Kyoutarou appraised of the situation via email; and more to the point, Kyou seems to appreciate the updates. That night, he dreams of being led away by an adult with a suitcase, with someone out of sight saying “don’t go.” Is it a coincidence that he wakes up to the sound of his neighbor and fellow library lurker Kodachi Nagi spamming his doorbell? It is not.

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Something rare happens here: Kyoutarou steals a look…but doesn’t get caught!

Nagi’s tentative, apprehensive observation of Kyou throughout this episode (and past ones); her being disappointed that he doesn’t remember her; the way she casually makes herself at home in his room; his dream…all of it points to Kyou and Nagi having a past that only Nagi seems to remember, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to let Kyou keep forgetting. She just needs to find the right way to refresh his memories — or otherwise just make new ones. That won’t be easy with the bright, shiny Tsugumi around.

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She has it tougher than Senri, who connected with the club simply by receiving an email from the Shepherd saying “a new world is waiting for you after school”, three days before meeting the Library club, who also got a email from the shepherd, saying Senri would “teach them something important.” All very neat and tidy…but to what end? The perceived address of the Shepherd is a long-deserted apartment. Curiouser and curiouser. 

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 02

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The Shiomi Happy Project is shaping up nicely. While Ikkei is present as a token second guy (and the less bookish, more enthusiastic of the two), let’s not kid ourselves: a harem is in the making. At various points Kyoutarou has what could be construed as flirtatious moments with Tsugumi, the newest member Suzuki Kana, and the “Song Princess” Misono Senri.

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That last one seems to have some kind of Secret regarding The Past, one she and the school radio host Serizawa Miyu seem to share. As Tsugumi sets the club to work picking up trash on the school grounds to built trust with the student body, the finding of her tuning fork makes Senri the first direct recipient of the Happy Project’s assistance.

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That’s if you don’t count the blonde, Suzuki Kana, who joins the club quickly and seems to fit right in. She seems to be withholding certain information about her circumstances; it could be, for instance, that her old cell phone didn’t break, but she didn’t have one to begin with until Kyoutarou helped her pick one. That, in turn, would mean Kakei, Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei were her first contacts. She just had a lonely vibe about her.

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Speaking of lonely, Kodachi Nagi is on the periphery of this episode, observing the growing club occupying what was once Kyoutarou’s Fortress of Solitude. While it’s pretty clear she’s at least partly responsible for bringing the various club members together (she means to get Senri to join too), when she’s interacting with them, it’s only to tell them to pipe down, which is clearly an act, because they wouldn’t be in there making noise if she hadn’t done…whatever she’s doing!

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One of the side effects of agreeing to participate in Tsugumi’s Happy Project is that he’s becoming a lot more tolerable of things that aren’t books, like people and non-reading activities. He even volunteers to accompany Tsugumi to Senri’s house at night, concerned for her safety. And after seeing her wait outside the door, he finally decides to give her the key to the clubroom, and leave to make copies for everyone.

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Tsugumi means to convince him to stay with her past Golden Week, and she’s off to a good start. Similarly, if Nagi, as a member of “Shepherd” is gauging Kyoutarou’s own shepherding abilities through experimentation, well, she’s off to a good start too…as is the show itself.

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There’s a pleasant, understated earnestness about it, along with a warm, amiable energy. Kyoutarou is aware that conditions around him are shifting rapidly, but not for the worse, and he’s willing to go with the flow and see where Tsugumi’s light takes him.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 01

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“It’s not what it looks like!”

W-Won’t you make school fun with me?

Even if it isn’t Oscar-worthy stuff, sometimes you simply have to admit you were overly pessimistic and doff your hat an anime for being far better and more interesting than you thought it would be. Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai (A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd) managed to be one of those cases.

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Public humiliation fetish?

Part of that is that the show looks a lot better than the promo art suggested, part of it is that all the characters have an intrinsic charm and vitality about them, and most encouraging of all, despite the “shepherd” epithet, this is not a misogynistic show. Sure there’s a boob grab, but it’s incidental to a desperate rescue from a train derailment.

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Ironically, misunderstanding of the material at hand befalls all of Kakei Kyoutarou’s giant school, Shiomi Academy, when out-of-content pics of him groping classmate Shirasaki Tsugumi circulate about the web. But Kakei is no molester. All he’s interested in is reading, and maximizing the time he has to read. He’s like the Katsuragi Keima of books.

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I like. This cat.

He also has a certain degree of precognitive intuition, hence predicting the train would derail, necessitating his grabbing of the introverted Shirasaki. She’s the Sekiya Naru of this show: someone who is tired of being mousy and inert. She wants to start something—even if she’s not sure what that something is—something new.

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That’s what ultimately sways Kakei to join her “Shiomi Happy Project” until Golden Week, despite the possibility it will take time away from reading, and the Student Council President Mochizuki Maho’s objections to him wasting his abilities on”activities with ambiguous goals, objectives, and motivation.”

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Kakei’s position is thus: to him, books “shed light unto the darkness,” but Shirasaki and her Happy Project could be another source of light, so he’s willing to give it a try. He’s joined by his friend Takamine Ikkei and Shirasaki’s friend Sakuraba Tamamo. Once the club members are set, they all receive a text message at the same time.

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It’s congratulations from the titular “Shepherd”, a school legend that grants wishes to those who maximize their potential. We later learn that Kakei himself is a candidate to join “Shepherd”, which really exists and is more than one person. While the promo art and basic synopsis of Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai suggested a potentially iffy harem, what we got was a lot more nuanced and refreshing.

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