Rummanah Aasi
  With the title called Library Wars and me being a librarian, how could I not pick up this manga? I never read anything that focused on libraries or librarianship specifically before. In most cases, the library and/or librarian are mentioned in a background in books. With the exception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the library isn't an integral part of the story (another reason besides Giles of why I love this show). I didn't know until after finishing the first volume that the manga series is actually based on a Japanese novel series of the same name by Hiro Arikawa. It is also an anime series that can be found online.

Description: In the not too distant future of Japan, the explosion of information and misinformation came to a breaking point. The government monitors and controls information, suppressing anything they find "inappropriate". In order to protect the citizens rights to read and access information, an agency called the Library Forces is created. Iku Kasahara has always dreamed of becoming a member of the Library Defense Force, but now that she is a recruit, things are not working out like she thought they would. Is she Library Defense Force material?

Review: I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of this manga. As a librarian, I'm constantly battling the notions of censorship in one form or the other and walking on that thin, slippery slope of censorship or selection when I purchase books for the library. That being said, I'm right on board with the Library Defense Force. After finishing the first volume of this manga series, I was left feeling a bit disappointed.
  Library Wars is the outcome if Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 was turned into a romance. While the manga maintains the dark atmosphere of citizens being monitored by the government and book raids suddenly taking place in bookstores and libraries that limit the rights of citizens to gain access to materials, it focuses more on the romance angle. In high school, Iku Kasahara witnessed an Libray Defense agent stop a government raid on a bookstore she frequently visited. She was inspired by the agent's passion for protecting her rights that she vowed to join the organization. The first volume focuses on Iku's adjustments of being a new recruit and going through training.
  The artwork of the characters look and move naturally. Unlike some manga that I've read, the characters are are distinctive and expressive. Scenes are nicely detailed, giving you just the right amount of information to give you a sense of what is going on. The layout panels are not overcrowded either. The action is well paced and the story is very easy to follow. The writing is pretty good. The manga's premise and characters are intriguing.
 So after all this said, what is my problem with the first volume of Library Wars? My biggest issue is how the female characters are treated in this manga. Iku is a spunky, tall, athletic, and smart woman. She is the first woman to apply for a combat Defense Force position and not the traditional Librarian post. Her post and her frustrations reminded me a lot of Demi Moore's Private Jane. Iku is given rigorous exercises, but she succeeds at each of them. At one point, her superior slaps her across the face for making a mistake. The superior justifies his action by saying he would hit anyone, but that's not the most disturbing part. What I found incredibly disturbing is how that same officer suddenly turns kind, encouraging, and perhaps a potential love interest for our plucky heroine. Furthermore, I was shocked to see how the supporting characters interpret this action as flirting. I couldn't swallow the superior's duality and thus lowered my rating from a 4 to a 3. I really hope he is not the potential love interest, however, I'm not holding my breath as this type of dominant male lead often becomes the hero. I'm going to pick up the second volume of this manga only to see what happens next. There are many unanswered questions left and I would like to know more about the manga's world.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence and mature themes in the book. Recommended for high school and up. 

If you like this book try: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury or Library Wars Volume 2 by Kiiro Yumi & Hiro Arikawa
4 Responses
  1. Hmm...things sounds like an interesting manga, if flawed. Do you think this is a book for teens or more for adults?

  2. Alison: I can really see it go either way. I think teens would be more drawn to the romance/mystery storyline while adults would most likely drift towards the world building and themes of censorship.

  3. Kids in my high school library are ga-ga for this series. Guess I'd better read the first one, huh? I just ordered books 3 and 4.

  4. Anne: Give it a shot. Despite that big flaw that I found in the book, it was a pretty decent read. Besides, I'd love to your thoughts on it too!

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