I happened upon this series while perusing the shelves at Barnes and Noble one day. Simply seeing the words library and war thrust together into a single title was enough to catch my attention. While uncertain as to whether or not I felt committed enough to buy it, after paging through the first volume, I just couldn’t get the story out of my head. Fast forward a few months later, when my own library began partaking in the miraculous interlibrary loan system, you’ve got one manga-happy girl on your hands.
So. Library Wars.
Twenty years before our story begins, a government entity known as the Media Betterment Committee has taken to restricting public access to free media. This includes any potentially offensive or questionable reading material, which the MBC will stop at nothing to attain. Being government establishments themselves, libraries are protected under the Library Freedom Act, making them sworn enemies of the MBC. An impulsive and violent organization, the MBC often shows blatant disregard for the law, and has been known to cause situations wrought with fear and tragedy.
Fast forward to the very near future, and readers are introduced to Ika Kasahara. A current trainee with the Library Forces, Ika is an adept soldier whose participation in the Library Forces is largely due to an encounter with a member of the LF during her youth. In the midst of training that will transform her from idealist college graduate into a capable defender of books and against wide scale censorship, Ika endures her rigorous training with both a charming sense of naivete, and a ferocious need to defend people’s rights to information and imagination via literature.
Living in a world that would have Ray Bradbury engaging in a well deserved I-told-ya-so dance, the story is lightened up by the emergence of Ika’s aloof nature, as well as a handful of characters significant enough that my mind has officially dubbed them the gang. Then there’s Ika’s boss, Atsushi Dojo. Seemingly a hardass with a penchant for insulting her every chance he gets, the reality of the situation is that he probably sees her potential as an agent better than anyone else. His knack for resorting to schoolboy antics in her presence makes their interactions very entertaining, to say the least.
All in all, Library Wars is proving to be a worthy investment of my time. A quick read, the series has the potential to offer both substance and a bit of happy frivolity as it provides readers a political message with substance, while lightening the mood with a flirtatious setup between characters. Seriously, the scenario between Ika and Dojo is far less of a Will they? Won’t they? and much more about when they will confess their love. Not gonna lie. My sentimental fool is lying in wait in the corner, just waiting to cue it all up to Berlin’s Take My Breath Away.
Ah, but I digress.
If action oriented shojo manga is your thing, Library Wars just might be able to sate your palate. While I wouldn’t quite call this groundbreaking work, there is still plenty of good to be had. On top of having an interesting premise, the story has managed to leave questions on politics and ethics within my head. It also has me rooting for its likable characters whose feasible balance between their strengths and weaknesses is to be appreciated.
Not to mention, living in a world with such a touchy political climate as we do, something like Library Wars is bound to be a timeless concept for readers to come.