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December 22, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Library Wars vol. 3

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Library Wars: Love & War
Author: Kiiro Yumi, original concept by Hiro Arikawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 3 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha in Japan, December 7, 2010 from Viz Media
Genre: Romance, comedy, drama

I think the best and simplest explanation of this one comes off the back cover: “In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable [the Media Betterment Committee]. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves – the Library Forces!” Twenty years ago, a military group backing the Media Betterment laws attacked a library, killing twelve people. This even was known as The Hino Nightmare. As a result of this incident, the Library Freedom Act was created, giving libraries the right to acquire, circulate, and protect their collections. The libraries then formed their own military group, the Library Forces. Iku Kasahara joined the Library Forces after a mysterious man rescued a book she wanted to buy that was targeted for censorship. This man became her “prince,” and inspired her to want to fight for freedom of information. Though she has not met him again, she greatly admires this mystery man and holds him in her heart. Though generally ignorant of their cause, and regularly a bumbling and troublesome addition to the team, Iku’s incredible speed, stamina, and reflexes get her promoted to the elite combat forces, where she works under the strict Sergeant Atsushi Dojo. Iku’s passion for their cause often overcomes her ignorance, but it sometimes gets her into trouble. Dojo, despite how hard he pushes Iku and his frequent criticism, often jumps to her defense, but Iku only sees him as someone who can’t inspire others and just stands by, bound by the rules and afraid to work around them.

In volume 3, Iku’s opinion of Dojo slowly begins to change. While at a protest forum, Iku stands up for a couple of kids who are trying to stop the censorship of books at their school library. When the leader of the opposition tries to attack Iku, Dojo steps in and calms things down, defending Iku’s actions and protecting her. When a reporter tries to highlight Iku as the first female member of the elite force, Dojo quickly jumps in to protect Iku’s identity (she doesn’t want her parents to know the dangerous job she’s in). Iku begins to notice Dojo’s concern for her, and tries to find a way to show her appreciation. After a few disastrous efforts (making him lunch, repairing his clothes, shining his shoes), Iku is at a loss. But when she takes down a pickpocket at Dojo’s command, she realizes that all she has to do is make him proud. Which is why, when a big, important mission comes up, she’s extremely upset when Dojo takes her off the defense team and assigns her as a bodyguard to General Kazuichi Inamine during a funeral that will take place simultaneously with the operation. Iku feels she’s being denied a chance to prove herself, and initially resents the assignment, until she realizes Dojo is only protecting her once again and vows to do her best with the assignment she was given. At the Museum of Information History, everyone expects a full scale attack by the MBC because of the amount of articles on the MBC that reside there. The Library Forces plan to transport the documents to their library when the museum closes, the same day of the funeral for the man who owned it. Led by Major Genda and Sergeant Dojo, the operation goes smoothly, until word arrives that General Inamine and Iku have been kidnapped! The volume wraps up with two bonus stories, one where Instructor Komaki delights in watching Iku and Dojo fighting throughout the day, and another where Iku follows Dojo as he shops in a girly store for cute toys.

Library Wars is cute and works great as a romantic comedy. It’s statement as an anti-censorship piece is a little more rocky. Not only does it feel secondary to character relationships (it should be on more equal footing), it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I could be confused because I haven’t read the first two volumes, so I’ll give the series a chance on that account. But from the standpoint of the third volume alone, things aren’t very clear. It’s nice to have an easy to read manga that discusses the issue of censorship. In Library Wars, a government entity wants to “protect the children” by limiting the material they can be exposed to, and also protect themselves, by hiding away or destroying documents about the government. There are a lot of laws laid out that allow the federal government to forcefully acquire materials, but that also allow libraries to forcefully protect them. This is where I’m confused. Why is the government bothering to allow an opposition force of this nature? It’s very atypical of that sort of controlling governmental society. I think, though I’m not positive, that the federal and local governments are essentially battling each other over the libraries and their collections. Which is almost a sort of civil war. The story doesn’t reflect that. It’s all very civil and regulated. The MBC is certainly colored as the “bad guy,” because their use of force can be careless and deadly, while the Library Forces seek only to protect what they believe in, and do their best not to cause fatalities. What surprises me is that the MBC doesn’t take stronger, more direct action against the Library Forces. The incident twenty years ago, and now the kidnapping of General Inamine are the only evidence of such action I’ve seen so far. Yet both sides have people running around with sniper rifles, an array of automatic weapons, machine guns, pistols, explosives, riot gear, aircraft (like the helicopters the Library Forces use to transport the museum material)…. There’s clear danger and risk of death, but the tone of the story is rather light most of the time. I think I’d like to see some more of this one, to see where it goes; I don’t feel I can write it off, yet.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_Kris

Review copy provided by Viz Media.

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3 Comments



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by billy dunleavy. billy dunleavy said: RT @girlg33k_Kris: New #manga review Library Wars vol 3 from @Viz_Media http://comicattack.net/2010/12/bbllibrarywars3/ […]


  2. Jade

    I really really liked this series initially, but more and more I’m starting to see the romantic comedy aspects sabotaging the strength and independence of Iku that I fell in love with in the first volume. She joined the force because she was inspired by some mystery figure ala Utena which I didn’t mind because the mystery figure was kind of a gender neutral representation of being an awesome Library Force member, but adding a face and rom/com stuff robs Iku of any personal motivation beyond hormones. Now that she’s specifically trying to improve just to make Dojo happy, that’s really…it sounds silly, but that’s really heart-breaking. I don’t think I can pick up this series any more and I loved it so much.

    To be fair to the conflict, it really seems more like a cold war building of tensions between the local and national governments with the libraries and censorship being the hottest point of contention. I’m not sure how dramatically interesting it is, but it’s plausible the whole series could go without a shooting war breaking out.

    Something tells me the original books focused more on the politics and action without much of any of the romance. I’d like to see them released over here.



  3. […] [Volume 3 review.] […]



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