Theo has successfully passed the entrance exam to become a trainee kafna and has now gathered at the Central Library with the latest class. His heritage, or rather his ears, do make him stand out amongst his peers but quite a few of his classmates stand out in their own way as well (some of whom are even familiar faces). Now that Theo has arrived it’s time to determine his path within the Library itself, how will this auspicious young man make his mark on history?
Mitsu Izumi seems determined to give even the “background” characters in Theo’s class of kafna trainees screen time and I must confess that the number of new characters introduced here is a bit overwhelming. Izumi does properly introduce all of them with interlude pages but my particular review copy is on ComiXology which doesn’t allow for any kind of bookmarking feature to quickly flip back and forth between pages and I feel like I need to get a physical copy post haste to help keep the characters straight. Ironically, my biggest issue is that the kafna uniform (shown above on the cover) involves covering up the hair and, while everyone likes to joke about how anime characters have the same faces just with different hairstyles, this is legitimately one trick I use to remember people with my partial face blindness! I don’t usually have this much trouble with drawn characters compared to real-life people, and so I’m not sure if other readers will have to double-check the character pages as often as I did, but with 10+ new characters introduced at once (and only one is a boy) I struggled a little bit to keep them all straight.
Of our rapidly expanding cast, Theo is one of only three boys in the new kafna trainee class which lead me to wonder if librarianship is a largely female-dominated position in Japan in the same way it is currently in the US; Magus of the Library has had some interesting lines so far indicating that part of the reason many of the female characters are so driven to work at the Central Library is because this is one of the few professions open to women, and a position here would be about the highest-ranking one they could ever hope to obtain. Of that female cast, one character shows up with a familiar name — Sophie Schwimm aka the “author” of “Kafna of the Wind” aka the in-universe story that Magus of the Library was “based” on. Given that having her name on the cover of the first volume has caused some real-world cataloging issues, with some people believing that she’s an actual person involved with the creation of the manga, I was amused to find that she’s a trainee kafna herself and I’m curious about how active or passive she’ll be in the story going forward. Magus of the Library is simply bursting with an abundance of interesting cast members; Sophie is also the oldest of the new class at 35, the youngest is only 11, and there are plenty of other characters with quirky personalities in addition to those Theo met during the exams. I’m also curious to see which of them end up being more central to Theo’s story and which ones will stay closer to the background, a couple are already standing out and vying for the roles of “reoccurring cast member”. Izumi seems determined to not only tell a broad-reaching story but also one with a huge cast and, while it’s a mildly worryingly goal, it’s a highly ambitious one that excites me as a reader!
While this volume felt largely like a set-up volume, like establishing Theo’s new stage of life, it also dangled a few new tantalizing mysteries as well that reached all the way back to Theo’s childhood. I don’t think we’ve ever seen precisely what was in the book that Sedona loaned him years ago but it appears to have contained some dangerous information about the world; my guess is that it has to do with the Emissary of Wormwood who spread the chaos that led to the current divisions and state of the world (there’s a tantalizing line dropped earlier in the volume that suggests the world that Theo knows is literally encircled and cut off from the greater world as a result of this). I’m dying to know more about this but doubt we’ll get the details for a while, or an answer to some rather ominous foreshadowing dropped about Sedona themselves. I do get the sense however that Theo is going to end up working in Sedona’s office, the Protections Office, in the near future. Not only does it seem a better fit for Theo’s goal of “giving back what books have already given him” than the other division in the Library but it seems as if the manga is subtly putting more focus on it than the others.
Regardless of where Theo ends up, and who his closest friends and allies end up being, I continue to be completely enamored of this series, from the casual way the setting of the world unfolds to the heart-stopping art in each and every chapter. Having gotten the first volume in print recently I can say that the art in the physical volumes is even more intensely magnetic than it is in the eBooks and feels completely immersive, just dragging you back into the story with a single glance at the page. It’s thrilling to see that the series is getting recognition on best-of lists in Japan and while there aren’t similar lists in the US, I hope it’s winning over the hearts of manga fans here as well.