Desert Isle Keeper
Library Wars: Love & War, vols. 1-13
Library Wars: Love & War is, quite simply, about fighting against censorship and the banning of books. In this fictional near-future Japan, the Media Betterment Committee was formed about 30 years prior to protect the population from unsavory materials. Unfortunately, the MBC took things to a whole new level, where it is a common occurrence to raid libraries and bookstores to remove “questionable” material. And what is questionable? Well, in a word, everything. And now the Library forces fight back with the Library Freedom Act and the Library Defense Force.
Since she was a high school student, Iku Kasahara has dreamed of being part of the Library Defense Force – not a librarian, but a fighter in the battle for the freedom to read. The first woman to apply to the combat forces for the library, Iku is strong, fast, and has incredible endurance. She’s not the sharpest tack in the box, but she puts forth a lot of effort to learn her tasks and not rely too much on her teammates. Well that, and also to impress her instructor, Atsushi Dojo. Dojo alternately punishes and yells at her (think drill sergeant) and comforts her (with pats on the head – actually there are constant references to Iku being puppy-like, including her name: iku means “come” in Japanese). Along with Iku and Dojo, we get a fully-realized cast of characters: Tezuka, Iku’s teammate (who doesn’t think much of her, honestly), Iku’s roommate Shibazaki, who is positively brilliant at manipulation and tactics, and many other defense force members (including one who, in little side comics, is absolutely nuts over Iku but can never approach her.)
As for the art, it’s much more realistic than traditional shojo (for girls) manga. The girls still have overly large eyes, and we have more than our fair share of pretty boys (also called bishounen), but we also have people of a variety of shapes and sizes, and they are fairly realistic. We do have the normal Japanese characterization for hero and heroine (like the heroine being stupid but good-hearted, the hero being quiet and stoic, secretly helping the heroine more than others, etc), but it works. There are definitely some tricky things for the English-speaking reader, since the story relies heavily on modern Japanese culture, however it’s still fairly easy to follow. The series is just about to end in Japan, so we still have 2 more volumes to wait on English translations, but I’d say it’s definitely worth the wait.
Now a quick aside – for those that may not know, I am a librarian in real life. As such, I have very strong feelings about censorship, banning books, and intellectual freedom. This series definitely brings out the librarian in me, but I think it also would touch a chord with any reader. The ability to chose what you want to read is important to all of us (especially those in the romance world, since our choices are frequently looked down on.) While I don’t want to get particularly preachy about this, censorship and banning materials is definitely something that touches on what we read today, and fighting back against it, like Iku and the others, is important, which is part of why I enjoyed reading this. End sermon.
Anyways, while the first volume is a bit of a slow start, Library Wars is definitely worth the wait – as the fight for intellectual freedom grows, so does the relationship between Iku and Dojo. Plus, we get to see Iku mature into an adult, Tezuka open up to others, Shibazaki let down the wall she uses to protect herself, and basically see them all grow into a cohesive team. The romance is definitely part of it, but the story is about all their relationships, not just the romantic ones, and how their ideals bring them together. All I can say is read this. It’s great. The end.