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The Present Curriculum

Magus of the Library, volume 4

By Mitsu Izumi 

17 Apr, 2024


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2021’s Magus of the Library, Volume 4 is the fourth tankōbon in Mitsu Izumi’s secondary-universe fantasy manga series (Toshokan no Daimajutsushi in the original Japanese). Magus has been serialized in Good! Afternoon since November 2017. The English translation appeared in 2021.

Having squeaked through his entrance exam, Theo begins his academic career in Aftzaak, City of Books.

The would-be kafna (librarian) is but one of a diverse assortment of students. All races and creeds are represented. There are even three boys, Theo among them. All of the students share Theo’s determination to become a librarian. Many share something Theo rejects: a profound distaste for races and creeds other than their own. Prejudice must be trained out of the kafnas before they graduate, so at least in this matter Theo has a head start.

Other matters academic are a challenge. Theo finds that he cannot finish his first pop-quiz. Why? His early education was sub-par; his village was small, his schools ill-funded. Many of the other students benefited from tutors and top-quality schools. Theo is behind from the start.

Despite his poor showing, the teachers see considerable potential in Theo. Can Theo realize his potential? Or will he have to abandon his dream of librarianship?


While the incoming crop of students are new to the teachers, the teachers are very familiar with the types of student with whom they must deals: the overachiever, the prodigy unaccustomed to peers of equal achievement, the rich kid astounded and enraged that others do not recognise their inherent superiority. This suggests that in this universe, organizations can learn from experience, rather than being subject to institutional amnesia.

There’s an interesting throw-away scene. From time to time, kafna officials descend on libraries to examine their shelving and loan policies. They are quite aware that malicious librarians have any number of ways to promote one book over another, from deliberately obstructive shelving to keeping track of who signs out the wrong books. Pro-specific-issue books must be accompanied by anti-specific-issue books. I see some concerns here: does this mean that libraries have to stock the pro-phlogiston books next to the pro-oxidization books? And how are libraries to manage their limited shelf space if they have to present both sides of every issue?

Perhaps related to the above, readers discover details about the unnamed book that librarian and inspiration that visiting librarian Sedona loaned Theo when he was a boy. First, that it may be the only copy in existence. Second, that Theo is certain the contents of the book would cause immense trouble if the contents were shared. Poking around in the setting’s lore, this suggests (to me at least) that Sedona that gave Theo a copy of the so-called Black Text, the local equivalent of Mein Kampf. It is the work that inspired the attempted extermination of one of the ethnic groups to which mixed-race Theo belongs. Why Sedona gave Theo that particular book is unclear, but the narrator makes it clear that one of the Theo-Sedona pair will become a heroic figure, while the other will be a force of darkness.

Is Theo is the great champion? The manga strongly implies that he is, but the hints could be misleading. Perhaps this is the story of a good person’s tragic fall? I’m sure we’ll find out in later volumes. Given this manga’s deliberate pace, much later volumes.

Dramatic tension is somewhat undermined by the fact the framing text makes it clear that Theo did become a legendary kafna. How he will manage that is unclear. Readers will enjoy the suspense.

Magus of the Library, Volume 4 is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books).