At some point in the near future, the national government of Japan passes the Media Betterment Act, which “seeks to exercise censorship over all media, including restricting offensive books.” Libraries are the only institutions able to oppose them, and so local governments build up armed forces to defend their libraries, which continue to preserve banned works in their collections and make them available to the people.
When Iku Kasahara was in her final year of high school, a member of the Library Forces intervened during a bookstore raid and prevented a beloved book from falling into the grasp of the Media Betterment Committee. The incident made a big impression on her and, after graduating from college, she enlists. As a new recruit, she must attend classes, complete grueling physical challenges, help out at the local library, and participate in woodsy training sessions.
While we see all of these scenarios play out in this introductory volume, the focus is really on Iku’s relationship with Dojo, her cranky commanding officer. To the reader, it is plainly obvious that he was the one who helped Iku in the bookstore that day, but Iku fails to connect him with her idealized prince. Because he pushes her harder than the other recruits—since he expects more of her—she thinks he hates her and is suspicious of his occasional kindness. For his part, Dojo is clearly smitten and impressed by Iku’s determination, even though her frequent intellectual lapses do try his patience.
Library Wars is a perfectly decent read, but it does have some issues. Firstly, the basic concept, as inherited by the series of light novels upon which the manga is based. If the national government has banned offensive books, why isn’t it going after the publishers of these books isntead of waiting until they’ve actually been printed to go confiscate them from bookstores? That doesn’t make much sense.
Secondly, the protagonist. I really appreciate that Iku is a physically coordinated heroine in her twenties, but wish that she wasn’t portrayed as such a scholastic ditz, forever sleeping in class and having to learn on the job what she was supposed to have learned in the classroom. I found myself sympathizing with Tezuka, her antagonistic fellow recruit, who is annoyed that such a slacker is able to achieve the same honor—a spot on an elite squad—that he was only able to attain through hard work.
Lastly, I am bothered by the inconsistency with which VIZ (presumably) has treated the characters’ ranks. Iku is first introduced as a Corporal, yet she is later identified as a Sergeant on a chart of characters and their positions and, indeed, the insignia on her uniform bears this out. Dojo, in turn, is called a Sergeant but according to the chart and his uniform, is actually a First Lieutenant. I know I shouldn’t let this sort of thing distract me from the story, but it’s a mistake that’s repeated so frequently I just couldn’t help it. Hopefully they’ll correct it for volume two.
I enjoyed Library Wars enough that I plan to continue with the series, though I doubt it’ll ever top my personal list of beloved books.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.