Saturday, January 12, 2013
Published: 2010 by VIZ
Synopsis: In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves--the Library Forces!
Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it in for her!
For whatever reason, I haven't been reading a lot of manga lately. That definitely changed when I discovered Library Wars, a series I was drawn to if only because of the title and the synopsis. Libraries, or pretty much the greatest places in the wide world, + futuristic dystopia-like Japan + a guy who looks like Colonel Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist on the front cover is a recipe I could not resist.
Kasahara is our spitfire of a (very) flawed heroine. She has wanted to be a member of the Library Defense Force for years, ever since a mysterious Defense member, her "hero", inspired her to dedicate her life to preventing the censorship of books. At the story's start, she's made it to the lower end of the totem pole, training to be a Defense Force member under the harsh but basically well-meaning Sergeant Dojo. Although she always falls asleep in her classes and can't seem to get her Dewey Decimal on, Kasahara manages to impress Dojo and the other higher-ups with her quick, impulsive thinking and great athletic skills. Dojo's bipolar criticism and support of Kasahara makes her wonder how her superior really feels about her. But meanwhile her rival student Tezuka, who by all accounts hates her guts, may also have a thing for her.
Library Wars is a very light-hearted series, so far. Kasahara is far from the most bad-ass female heroine in manga history, though I like her alright. Dojo is the brooding, bipolar love interest, and Tezuka is the... even more bipolar love interest?? Both of them are so hot-and-cold. Tezuka is also terrible to Kasahara most of the time, though, and I was definitely Team Dojo from the moment he was introduced. I really have no good reason why (*cough looks like the awesomely amazing Colonel Mustang cough*), but he is my favorite character so far (I've read two volumes).
There is also some non-romantic and non lighthearted comedy stuff going on, though not too much. The Library Forces, sponsored by local governments, are at war with the media censorship sponsored by the national government, and so there are some raid and battle-type scenes where Kasahara and the others must spring into action with their deadly weapons and whatnot. This looked very cool, especially with the backdrop of a public library. I absolutely disapprove of banning or censuring books in a big way (the only bad book is badly-written one, I think), so I loved the idea of the Library Forces protecting free speech and the freedom to read-- very cool premise! The art of Library Wars is a very highly rated so-so. It's by no means extremely unique or beautiful art, but the characters are easy to distinguish from one another and I generally enjoyed it. Some of the panels are maybe a little sparse. I would recommend this series to new manga readers or those who want to get into manga, since it is a straightforward series with good translation and a bookish theme which I think all bibliophiles would be drawn to.