When I started watching The Book of Bantorra, I had a vague idea of what to expect - a dark, brooding action show that was oozing with early 20th century style. On that point, I got exactly what I was looking for - but I also got a very engaging story in the bargain, which makes Bantorra a great watch.
The first two episodes of Bantorra are mostly setup and a lot of the main character lying around wanting to die (which is forgivable, given that he's implanted with a suicide bomb and is fully aware of this fact). You meet the characters, you find out about the world, and then in episode 3, you start getting to the real meat of the story.
The gimmick premise is that when people in The Book of Bantorra die, they are turned into stone slates called Books, which allow their memories and experiences to be passed on to future generations. The anime uses this to tell two parallel stories - one of Colio Tonies, a young man caught in a war between a wealthy cult known as the Church of Drowning in God's Grace and the peacekeeping Library, and that of Shiron Byacornise, a young girl with prophetic dreams who once found herself in the clutches of the Church.
The slow pacing has allowed the anime to really shape its world, and the major players are fairly well established by the time the action really starts in episode 3. You have already seen Hamyuts Meseta's ruthlessness and aren't surprised by it when she applies it in the field, while Cigal's narcissism and arrogance are well-defined before you see him unleash a deadly plague on an unsuspecting town.
Seeing the two powers at work is fascinating - the Armed Librarians who are ostensibly the "good guys" operate with a pragmatic and calculated ruthlessness that often brings their members into conflict with each other, while the Church leaders treat their underlings like nothing more than meat and casually throw away lives in order to accomplish simple goals, all while spouting religious rhetoric that chills the spine to hear. The action between them is often violent and bloody, and while the show isn't for those with weak stomachs, it's very exciting when the two organizations clash.
Stuck in the middle of all of this is Colio Tonies, who was a pawn in the war between the two factions (the Church kidnapped him, brainwashed him to serve the "True Humans," and stuck him with a suicide bomb), but comes into the possession of a book that reveals to him the secrets of the Church's past and the truth behind one of history's most reviled figures.
The drama and action of The Book of Bantorra are all top-notch, and the only part of the Book of Bantorra that drag it down are the annoying sound effects, which will hopefully be toned down in future episodes. After building up the world in its first two episodes, the anime really starts going at a brisk pace and maintaining a lot of tension.
I highly recommend checking out The Book of Bantorra if you're at all interested in an anime action series that breaks the Dragon Ball/Bleach/Naruto mold. It's definitely a much more mature story than the light-hearted action romps aimed at younger boys, but it's still fun to watch on almost every level.