Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Forces ever since one of its members saved her book from a MBC raid when she was in high school. A new recruit in the Library Forces now, Iku is training hard to become a full-fledged member, but is finding that not everyone is like her Prince. Especially not Sgt Dojo, her drill instructor, who seems to have it in for her!
Library Wars was a series I was enthusiastic about at first, but found the dystopian future filled with censorship a difficult one to get though. Once I started focusing on the characters and not the slippery slope that censorship can lead society down, I found the series much more enjoyable, and a really fun read.
The heart of the story is the female lead, Iku Kasahara. She’s not too bright, very athletic, and rather tall (for a Japanese woman). But she’s got a lot of passion, and some decent skills to back them up. Throughout these first four volumes, Iku spends a lot of time incurring the ire of her drill instructor and superior Atsushi Dojo. Dojo is stern and serious, and always yelling at Iku for some mistake she’s made, but he also has moments where he’s kind to her, and looks at her tenderly. These moments are usually short-lived, and though the clues are pretty obvious, we learn why in volume 4.
There is quite a cast of supporting characters as well. Iku’s roommate, Asao Shibazaki is on track to be a librarian, and has a sharp tongue as well as wit, and has no problem using it on Iku, or anyone else that gets in her way. Tezuka is a new recruit to the defense force as well, but is the opposite of IKu in many ways. He’s the “Mr. Perfect of their class, and has a hard time accepting Iku’s faults or seeing past them to her potential. On Dojo’s side is Sgt Komaki, who is Dojo’s friend as well as fellow instructor. He is quiet and soft-spoken, and lends a friendly ear to both Iku and Tezuka. He also enjoys Dojo’s difficulties in dealing with Iku. Major Genda is the leader of Komaki and Dojo’s unit. He is a large man, with a personality to match. He doesn’t mind playing the bad guy when needed, and is a strong and effective leader.
One of the things that really appealed to me in this series is the strength of the female characters. Both Iku and Shibazaki are strong and independent characters. They are not shrinking violets, and even through Iku needs saving a lot from Dojo, it’s because she keeps throwing herself into the action, letting her passion lead her rather than thinking things through first. Shibazaki is beautiful and smart, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She compliments Iku nicely, as she is the calm and thoughtful to Iku’s passion and thoughtlessness.
I also really enjoy the banter between Iku and Dojo. I’m finding I like reading about relationships where the characters aren’t the perfect couple. The conflict adds spice to what could be a quiet and boring relationship. While at first it seems like Dojo has it in for Iku, he really does have her best interests at heart. It really nice to see her realize that, and her feelings for him grow a little with it.
Library Wars is based on a light novel series, and even though this manga has been reworked to emphasis the budding romance between Iku and Dojo, it stays true to the original material. The threat of the MBC and their supporters is very real and ever-present. From a MBC raid of a bookstore, to the Temporary Head Librarian helping out the Board of Education try to get some books out of circulation, to a fire fight over a private library’s materials and kidnapping of Commander Inamine, the MBC and its supporters will do anything they can to get their way. They are reckless and uncaring of the very people they are supposed to “protect.”
It’s never explained why the Federal government created the MBC, but I don’t it’s really necessary either. People who look to censor books and ideas, don’t need a reason, or incident to motivate them. And the fact that local governments oppose the Federal government shows that it’s probably more ideological than incident-based. It’s all too easy to see how quickly a government official with an agenda can get a bad idea supported and in place. We see it everyday in real life. And once you’ve started down that slippery slope it’s really hard to get back up. Explaining it in this series would only be a distraction.
Library Wars hits a perfect balance between humor, drama, and romance. It puts its characters first, letting the reader get to know them before starting in on the action and political drama. And while the romance is always present, it isn’t overwhelming. Yumi takes a subtle approach, using glances and touches to express the feelings of Iku and Dojo, and keeping the story friendly to the not-so-romance friendly. The art is fairly standard for a shojo series. There’s nothing exceptional about it, but it isn’t bad by any means. The men are still good-looking, and Yumi’s abiliy to convey emotions through just the characters expressions makes her a good artist in my book.
Library Wars might not be a series for everyone, but the examples it gives of censorship taken to extremes is important, and shouldn’t be overlooked. And it’s just a really good read.