Meet Watase, an awkward teen with an unusual power over the written word. One day he uses that power to do something impossible, which draws the attention of Aiba, a girl he finds interesting. But Aiba lives in a secret world of her own devising, believing that the world around her is a lie. And so Watase's impossible act seems like fate to Aiba, and sets the pair down an unexpected path.
Babel no Toshokan or Library of Babel isn't an original title, not mention the work. In 1941, an Argentine author and librarian named Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story with the same title, about a finite library which resembles to world itself or as the universe itself. In this library, you could find every book that has been written and the books that could be ever written, means it has books beyond space or time. It also means all knowledge or concepts can be found there. It also means every possible permutation of letters are available there. But at the same time, it also
means truth and lies are written there.
Babel no Toshokan manga used this concept of infinite library in conveying a romantic story that's so unique and strange that could be hard to understand. I personally can't say that I could grasp everything in this manga completely. There's certainly some disconnection between events in this manga and unexplained event that will make us thinking that the author leaves the interpretation to us.
The story started off with the two main characters write the same exact 400 words essay which make their teacher angry at them. This leaves the one of them thinking that it could be a miracle, fate and/or a work of angel since the possibility of two people write the same exact 400 words with the same arrangement is almost zero and beyond common sense. Later a twist and the answer come a long with a drama and turns the cute lovey dovey story into a dark one.
Despite how short this manga is, it does talk a lot. The short conversation and monologues presented here are impactful and meaningful, mostly about time-space, fate, reality and dream.
The theme were conveyed in the typical style of Tsubana, with poetic and naturalism sentences.
If you've read many seinen manga, you may recognize that good amount of them have realistic character, which tend to be used in dark/mature story, or really cute characters, which often be used in lighthearted and fun story. This manga can be classified into the latter with simplicity background and panel management.
The art style is so "straight" and "to the point", completely different with the story and conversations which are symbolic and poetic. This is one of Tsubana's charm that I find so interesting and leave me unsatisfied, wanting more.
I can't say that I care that much about the character when it comes to their personality. They are reasonable that I think it would be so unfair to judge them. I also see what they choose as a part of fate which discard every reason that come to my mind to dislike or angry at them. This may relate to the nature of the work itself that it's pretty symbolic I chose to see all elements in this story to be symbols including the character.
What I love about the character in this manga is about how lovey dovey they are. As someone who hates love triangle and harem, I hardly find anything romantic and lovey dovey not having annoying scenes at some points. But this manga really answers my need it did make me smile everytime I saw the two character walking together or simply meeting up.
This manga may not have something new to deliver to me despite it's philosophical. But it certainly is clever to use the concept of infinite library and "word is frozen in time" as a gateway in explaining the concept of fate. Character's confusion of reality and dream is also interesting to see. Not mention despite it seems having pessimism views of reality at first, it does deliver a positive-idealistic massage that's not exaggerating.
I enjoy pretty much all that are presented in this manga.
--My Interpretation of Babel no Toshokan (SPOILER ALERT!)--
Babel no Toshokan is a romantic story, a unique kind of romance. This is not something about supernatural. The supernatural element here is only to present the idea of a fateful encounter.
In the earlier chapter, Aiba is described as having a pessimism views of world around herself. She believes the reality to be something so scary to live in. "This world must be a lie" is what she believed. And after meeting Watase for a seems in a strange way (they write the exact same 400 words essay with the same exact arrangement of words), she believed it must be fate for them to meet and Watase might be the gateway to the "real world", a secret path of Angel.
As a way to escape the harsh reality, she escaped to her diary writing poetic short story that resembles the real event she experienced. Watase who has the "library of babel" ability could read everything Aiba write. It leads them to sending letter very often and makes Aiba believes that it's really a fate to meet Watase after all. She trusted Watase so much and was really happy for being with Watase since Watase is a gateway to "real world" she is looking for and there were strange phenomena around her which she believed to be massages from the Angel. Until later she found that Watase lied to her. Everything she believed was torn apart and drove her insane and believed Watase is the Devil that prevent her from discovering the "real world".
The last chapter is somehow disconnected from the previous chapters, but I believe it's not the case. This chapter explains that Watase and Aiba fatefully met when they were kids. Before they met, Watase who was struggling in writing the essay task suddenly realize that his paper writes itself and he could see the projection of Aiba. I have read Tsubana's other works and seems this is some kind of alternative reality. In Mikake no Nijuusei, Tsubana plays with time to present the idea of alternative reality. In this manga, she seems using word instead as this manga is referenced to Bourges' Library of Babel which descrobes the universe as an infinite hexagonal library. Tsubana may use one library as Aiba's world while Watase is the gateway from one room to the other room.
After they met as a child. Watase thinks that he met an Angel which seems more likely refer to Aiba. And this is their actual fateful encounter. The event in this alternative reality seems different to the other alternative reality where Aiba stabbed Watase with dagger. It turns out that Watase is really the gateway to Aiba's "happines", "the secret path of Angel", or you may say "the real world that Aiba is usually looking for". The knife turned out to be flower means the hatred turn out to be love.
Aiba is like a reader in Library of Babel. There are all possibles written books in the library, sad story or happy story. And Watase in this case plays as the Library itself. It's fate for them to meet each other.
This is a fateful encounter type of romantic story.
This was an incredibly strange manga, that could best be described by the word "huh?" I like the general premise with the power being related to words on paper and it being used as part of a slice of life romance type story. I was also fine with how Aiba was kind of crazy, and the mechanic of what others believe to be a supernatural occurrence actually being a completely different supernatural occurrence, because that is a pretty interesting thing to think about. However, as we approach the ending, I don't think the ending is clear at all. I kind of get it in terms of plot,
wherein I think half of it is simply delusion, but rather I don't get what the intention behind such an ending was in that it just seems completely random. In terms of plot, there really isn't much there to it with the plot just sort of fizzling out, which seemed fine at first because it seemed like the manga was trying to convey a message. But in the end, there isn't really a message either. There's some themes throughout the work relating to the value of words, and also of questioning what reality really is, but the ending doesn't seem to try to hone in on presenting a message related to these at all. Rather, the only message I could really think of was that you shouldn't mess with people, because they might already be a little bit crazy on the inside, and messing with them might make them a whole lot worse, which I suppose is good advice, but not one that doesn't really fit as the core theme here. The art was okayish.
tl;dr: A manga that in the end doesn't seem to have much of a point.