Library Wars Vol. #03 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Make love not war? Make that a love of words and puppy dog eyes mixed with helicopter drops.
Story/Art: Kiiro Yumi
Original Story: Hiro Arikawa
Translation/Adaptation: Kinami Watabe
What They Say
Iku is witness to a disturbance during a Board of Education speech on protecting children from the danger of books. The perpetrators are two young boys protesting the banning of their favorite books. But while Iku wants to reach out to the next generation of book lovers, Dojo insists that they can't play favorites. Will Dojo's prickly insistence on sticking to the rules ruin their budding friendship?
Library Wars follows the format of the rest of Viz’s Shojo Beat line, with very standard paper and no color pages. The printing quality is good with a clean reproduction of the art. The cover features Iku and Sgt. Dojo, which has Iku clutching a book with an impish grin with a portrait of Dojo behind her. The pattern on the red background that Viz has been using for the covers appropriately mimics a leather binding. The small image on the back cover also features Iku and Dojo in a more intimate pose than their actual relationship would suggest.
The artwork is pretty standard shoujo, but you can tell the artist is better at figure drawing than weapons. There’s no obsessive level of detail on the guns that you would find in a seinen title like Black Lagoon. (Although I didn’t notice any glaring gunplay errors in this volume, as compared with volume two.) All of the panels flow well and the story is easy to follow with consistent artwork throughout.
The translation is solid with no noticeable errors, and it reads smoothly. There is a short page with translation notes at the back of the book.
With the passing of the Youth Healthy-Development Ordinance in Tokyo recently, it appears to be the perfect time to talk about a series about fighting against censorship. Library Wars takes the battle from the assembly into the streets and wages its war not with political discourse but with riffles.
The leading story for this volume focuses on the youth, the timing of which is a nice coincidence on Viz’s part. The PTA is determined to crack down on material which contains violence, to make sure the students aren’t exposed to it and can’t access it. Complaints of this sort are familiar to Americans, we’ve had our share of real life incidents that mimic this storyline. However, we have no heavily armed task force guarding over our libraries.
The heroine, Iku, apprehends two students who decide to crash the protest rally. Iku, Dojo, and the others in the Library Forces have the kids apologize and they set out to fight their battle with words. In the end, the kids get to keep reading their books after the overzealous PTA leader looses her cool.
The story takes a more serious turn when a museum closes and a private collection of material is scheduled to be relocated to the library. The government forces want the collection of inflammatory records destroyed, and plan a military action to recover them during the move. Iku is about to see her first real firefight when Dojo puts her on bodyguard duty and away from the front lines, letting his feelings for her cloud his judgement.
While the story wants the reader to take it seriously in it’s theme of freedom of speech and anti-censorship, their view of combat is often glossed over. Granted, trying to apply real world military order to a fictional para-military group of armed librarians is asking for a lot. This book asks you to suspend your belief at all times, yet take the conflict seriously. Even if the conflict often plays out like a G.I. Joe episode where no one is seriously injured except in flashback.
Iku and Dojo’s relationship keeps progressing, with Iku still not realizing that the man she adores from her past and Sgt. Dojo are one in the same. Dojo is keenly aware of the duality of the situation, but he’s not the same hotheaded young soldier he once was. Thankfully, Iku is improving as a soldier and as a character. By the end of this volume she’s behaving more sensibly, even if she still hasn’t told her parents the truth about her job yet.
The main storyline ends at a cliffhanger short of the end of this volume. It’s followed by two short, fluffy side stories about Iku and Dojo. A page of translation notes round out the volume.
Library Wars sometimes asks to be taken seriously when it comes to matters of free speech, but this adaptation of the story isn’t hiding it’s agenda. It’s clear purpose is to highlight Iku’s budding relationship with her commanding officer. This is aimed at teenage girls, after all. If you can overlook the goofy and romanticized urban warfare, and Iku’s bumbling ways, the charming art and unique setting makes for a cute read. Oh, and there is the occasional valid point they make, buried in here somewhere, that free speech is worth fighting for.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translation Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left