Kiichi and the Magic Books Volume 1 by Taka Amano (amazon)
I have often thought that librarians needed some sort of catchphrase they could declaim as they went into battle. Reciting lines from the ALA code of ethics like “We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.” just doesn’t do it for me. I want something that rhymes and alludes to librarian superpowers. If only librarians were as cool as the Green Lantern, who is able to say “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power.. Green Lantern’s light!”
Kiichi and the Magic Books features a librarian named Mototaro who is often called upon to utter “As birds flying out of formation are books lacking information. Empty pages must need be filled so return to thy home as I have willed.” As catchphrases go it isn’t that great but I’ll take what I can get. Mototaro also wears a purple hat, and is easily identified as a “library man” due to his coat, so he also continues the librarian tradition of questionable fashion choices.
In Mototaro’s world, books are placed in tightly controlled depositories so librarians wander from town to town with a selection of titles that villagers can use as a portable lending library. Kiichi is a young boy, an illiterate outcast in his village because he has a horn on his head which indicates that he has oni (demon) heritage. Kiichi is left alone after the death of his mother and he observes Mototaro in the forest holding a book containing tiny demons that leap from the pages. Kiichi decides that Mototaro is the key for him to find out about his demonic heritage so he decides to follow Mototaro and his girl companion Hana on their journey. Books can be dangerous in the hands of untrained users, because the characters in the books come to life. An elephant rampages through Kiichi’s town, but Mototaro is able to put it back in the book thanks to his nifty rhymes.
The first volume is mostly set-up as everyone gets to know each other. They start on a trip to a book depository where an Oni scholar may be able to help Kiichi. Hana isn’t quite what she seems, and she’s resentful of Mototaro adding another companion to the group. Kiichi is determined to find other Onis, and he starts to work on learning how to read. The art for this title is simple but effectice, featuring plenty of Mototaro’s deadpan expressions and dynamic fight scenes with literary characters that have escaped from their books.Kiichi and the Magic Books isn’t a standout title, but like many of the series published by CMX it has a certain lo-fi charm. I’ll be picking up further volumes but I tend to seek out manga about books and/or librarians.