Title: Library Wars
Manga Author: Kiiro Yumi
Original Story Author: Hiro Arikawa
Audience: T+ (Older Teen)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Political, SF (future)
Summary: “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!”
Rae’s Review: I have to start off by pointing out that this manga series is just one adaptation of the light novels by Hiro Arikawa that were so popular they spun off two different manga series (one shojo and one shonen), an anime and a slew of products. I have sampled all the various versions (informed opinions, yes?) so the following review is both of this particular shojo manga and the overall story concepts.
What can I say? The concept of librarians taking up arms to protect books gets me… right there. ❤ IRL, we only have our words (and some great laws like the First Amendment) to defend stories and experiences that should be available for all. In Library Wars, librarians go quite a bit further. They can join the Library Forces and be trained in all combat skills necessary to keep those “unsuitable” books in the hands of the public.
Equating literature/books with any other liberty that should be protected (and that the gov’t could decide at any time to try to revoke) is a topical and timely theme, considering the issues of censorship/book banning all over the world. Especially in Japan, where there have always been very specific rules governing printed materials, some even put in place by the U.S. government during post-WWII occupation (yikes!). Most have been lightened or eradicated (except for those that have been criminalized), but the history remains and the whole issue has obviously had quite an effect on the author.
On a visual note, I find the heroine’s differing appearance and pacing of the story between the versions to be veeerrryyy interesting (ie: frustrating). The shojo version is all cute body – blond hair – big eyes – lots of flowers on every page…oh-so-shojo-stereotypes. She’s still taller than Dojo (an *incredibly* important plot point and source of much humor in all versions, ’cause tall chicks are hilarious) but not usually noticeably so.
In the anime and shonen manga she is still attractive, but her looks are more standard and less important. All versions tell the same basic story, but the pacing and emphasis is completely different. The shojo slows everything down, lots of talking, less action with more internal dialogs, lots of panels of facial expressions. I don’t mean to harp (and am a confessed shojo basher, lol), but the shojo manga is the weakest version (imo, its sales number belie my critique, but it is the only one published in English in the U.S. so there). WHY?!? The Library owns the original work, but only in Japanese. You can find scanned versions of some chapters of the shonen manga online, but not all of them. The whole anime is available online, but it’s just not the same. I wish the publishing industry in Japan wasn’t quite so segmented and written for specific audiences! sigh.
All that said, I still think you should read this book! Just focus on the story and try to ignore the big glistening eyes of Iku and the slightly sillier treatment. This is a cautionary tale that will stay with any self-respecting bookworm for a long time. Plus, the romance is sweet and believable with the added benefit of their regard for each other growing from shared values and experiences, rather than the standard “love at first sight” trope. More of the “cruelest to the one you love” school, but I think it works very well here…they’ll figure it out, even if he’s always gonna be shorter than her. 😉
I’m going to leave y’all with the The Library Freedom Act (from the text) for inspiration:
- Libraries have the freedom to acquire their collections.
- Libraries have the freedom to circulate materials in their collections.
- Libraries guarantee the privacy of their patrons.
- Libraries oppose any type of censorship.
- When libraries are imperiled, librarians will join together to secure their freedom.
Official Anime Website (in Japanese): http://www.toshokan-sensou.com/
Wikipedia Says: Toshokan Senso…original light novels, et al.
Online Streaming o’ Anime: www.watchanimeon.com/anime/library-war/
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