The intense first cold open of Nil Admirari no Tenbin, depicting people committing suicide while cops chase down a guy with a book, did not impress me as much as the opening sequence, with its catchy club beat and stage show extravaganza milieu.
I have a soft spot for OPs and EDs in which the cast “puts on a show” (see also Soremachi and the ending of Kekkai Sensen’s first season). But I’ll admit I also worried this was one of those shows whose OP writes checks the show itself can’t cash (DRAMAtical Murder’s Goatbed-led OP was outstanding; the show was a snooze).
Fortunately, after getting pumped up by the OP, I wasn’t let down by the briskly moving story centered on Kuze Tsugumi, the eldest daughter in an aristocratic Taishou Era family in dire financial straits. Tsugumi has known for a while that in order to save her family she must marry whomever her father can scrounge up. Her little brother Hitaki echoes the suppressed voice in her head saying “what about what you want?”
Tsugumi is short with Hitaki, whom she admits she’s spoiled too much anyway, but when she returns from town with olive branches including a new book and eclairs, she and the family butler find him doused in oil, lighting himself on fire while holding a book.
Fortunately, Hitaki isn’t killed, but his burns require isolation to heal (considering the era, I’m somewhat surprised he survived). Tsugumi and her butler are approached by two hotties in unusual uniforms, which is because the’re from an unusual bureau: the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau, or simply Fukurou (though I personally kinda like “ILIAMB”.
The men from Fukurou explain that Tsugumi’s brother likely fell victim to a “cursed tome”, a handwritten Japanese-style book containing the emotions—in this case suicidal-by-fire—of its author. When the butler brings the men the book Hitaki was holding when he self-immolated, Tsugumi is shocked to find it has flames emanating from it…but no one else can see them.
The more forward of the two guys, Ozaki Hayato, tells Tsugumi that she’s one of a very rare number of people who can see the “auras” around cursed books, and begs her to join Fukurou right then and there. After the incident with Hitaki her father postpones her marriage, so Tsugumi decides to take the job, essentially being freed from the birdcage of her destiny by cursed tome that nearly killed her brother. She also aims to help stop further incidents form occurring to others.
As the sultry parade-of-shirtless-dudes ED suggests, Tsugumi is not only pivoting from family bargaining chip to empowered modern working woman—an interesting premise in and of itself—but is also an unmarried woman joining a bureau staffed by mostly unmarried men. So we’ve got ourselves an otome anime with a reverse harem. I’m willing to see where this goes for the time being.