Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou (ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖 – Biblia Rare Books Case Files) begins with a question that has probably struck viewers already – is Goura Daisuke (AKIRA) really suited to working at a bookstore when he doesn’t even read books? How can he help customers at all, beyond just looking up inventory and fetching books they ask for?

For his part, he’s just glad to have a study job, and looks forward to learning as he works.

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Shida (Takahashi Katsumi) suggests that Daisuke and Shinokawa (Gouriki Ayame) might eventually become a couple. Daisuke is quick to deny it, but not nearly quick enough.

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When he gets back to the store, he sees a guy proposing to Shinokawa . . .

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. . . except that he was just acting out a scene from a book with her. Takino Renjo is apparently an old friend who is also a bookseller – as if Shinokawa would have time for anyone not interested in books (except Daisuke).

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Actually, Takino had heard about Daisuke already – especially about the fact that Daisuke doesn’t read. He broaches the subject with Shinokawa, suggesting that the store must be in a dire state if it’s unable to find better help – and its situation will only get worse if the store’s assistant doesn’t seem competent and therefore brings down its reputation.

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It think you can guess how Shinokawa reacts to this – quietly.

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Takino’s critique is somewhat echoed by a patron inside the store who said there wasn’t anything good on display – he bought some stuff, but not what he was looking for. Shinokawa immediately goes to the section he was looking at and realizes that the books on the shelf haven’t changed much in a long time, and it’s important to keep the shelves fresh so that customers who come regularly stay interested.

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Solution? Go to a market for booksellers, where they bid for entire lots of books. To get in, you apparently have to be an association bookseller – they have the name tags ready at the door. Interestingly, they don’t check ID before letting you pick up a tag, which means they’re relying on the fact that they’d recognize you, anyway. So . . . why the tag?

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On the way in, they bump into Inoue, a bookstore owner who Shinokawa hasn’t seen in a while, and who gives her the cold shoulder. No doubt he’ll play a prominent role in the story to come.

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Shinokawa explains the bidding system to Daisuke . . .

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. . . then someone approaches them, greeting Shinokawa. For some reason, he thinks Daisuke had come to the market yesterday. Since the writers wouldn’t have put that detail in otherwise (I’ve noticed a deplorable lack of red herrings in mystery dramas lately), it probably means that someone had been to the market yesterday in Daisuke’s name – which would be as easy as taking Daisuke’s name tag, since no one would recognize him and they don’t check ID.

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Takino takes the opportunity to talk to Daisuke, pointing out his unsuitability for bookstore work, but Daisuke simply says that Shinokawa is teaching him about a new book every day (which is certainly faster than someone who enjoys reading books – as opposed to a speed-reader – would normally be able to read them), and he asks if Takino would like to teach him, as well. I find curiosity to be the most charming of personality traits, and it sure diffused Takino’s criticism here.

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But Takino is the least of Daisuke’s worries, as the lot that Shinokawa was aiming for is won by Inoue, who deliberately overbid her already unusually high price in order to foil her plans.

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Without any other choice, Shinokawa brings in some new books from her home to stock the store. Among them is the story of the episode – The Dandelion Girl by Robert F. Young.

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No sooner does Shinokawa finish telling Daisuke a summary of the story than Inoue bursts in and accuses Shinokawa of stealing The Dandelion Girl from the lot he purchased at the market. It would have easily been the highest-priced book in the lot, so it’s understandable that he’s upset.

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But Shinokawa insists that The Dandelion Girl wasn’t in the lot when she looked at it while Daisuke takes the opportunity of hiding her copy on the shelves – spine facing inward.

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Inoue accuses Shinokawa of being like her mother – willing to go to any lengths to get what she wants. So, it’s pretty clear why he hates her – because of her mother.

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Daisuke convinces Inoue to give him three days to find the real thief.

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Of course, Daisuke only put on a brave face to save Shinokawa – he really has no idea how to find the thief. In fact, he has more evidence that Shinokawa herself is the thief.

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That pretty much gives you a complete sense of what the mystery is all about.

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They get some help from Takino, but the viewer has to look at him as a potential suspect, right?

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Altogether, this was a very tight mystery – well-defined and putting one of the main characters in peril. But Shinokawa has been in worse peril than this, right? Perhaps not, since the future of her beloved store is at risk, and not just a few limbs.

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At the same time, it is a very simple mystery, and we could already spot the name tag trick before we knew there was a mystery to solve.

Just make sure you don’t get misled by this guy’s theories:

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So, call it a toss-up. Yes, it was a real mystery, yes it was engaging because Shinokawa was in peril, but it wasn’t good enough because it was too easy to solve, and certainly didn’t require any knowledge of the book. The motive was tied to the book’s story, though.

We did find out more about Shinokawa’s parents, so that was a beneficial side-effect. Hopefully, there’ll be a more substantial mystery at the end of the series where Shinokawa is going to have to face her past a bit more directly. We’ve only been getting oblique hints all this time, but those hints are all adding up to some truth Shinokawa will have to confront. It probably won’t be anything too serious, though. I’ve been dying for a murder mystery in this series, but the writers are resolute about not providing one.

Thanks to ersby for the subtitles.