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Library Wars: Love and War Volume 1 – review and giveaway

I will start out by saying that I am an unabashed fan of the Library War franchise. What is there not to love about stories where librarians fight censorship with machine guns? In Japan there are the original Library War novels, the shoujo and seinen manga versions of the story, the anime, and random tchotkes. Shoujo Beat is bringing out the shoujo version of Library War and I hope it does well enough that we get some of the other types of merchandise released in the US.

In Japan the government has passed laws that have created rival military organizations. The Media Betterment Committee is tasked with control and censorship over all forms of media. The Library Defense Force fights for freedom of expression. Instead of battling censorship in the courtroom, fights over books involve plenty of guns. Going to library school is like going to boot camp. The heroine of Library Wars: Love and War is Iku Kasahara, a freakishly tall athletic girl who had a fateful encounter with a LDF officer when she was a child. He defended her right to read when a book she wanted was about to be confiscated and as a result she’s determined to join the defense force to become just like her ideal “prince”.

One of the things I like about Iku is that she has some of the traits traditionally assigned to male manga heroes. She’s a dumb jock who cares deeply about her job and tries to make up for her shortcomings by trying hard. Her companion in school is her roommate Asako Shibazaki who is enrolled in the more cerebral librarian track while Iku tries to master the physical capabilities necessary to become the first female member of the LDF. The only problem Iku has with her training is her drill instructor Atsushi Dojo. He seems to have singled her out for harsher treatment, or does he just have high expectations for her? He tends to get a strange expression on his face when Iku mentions her long-lost Prince and sometimes he seems strangely familiar to Iku. Iku is determined to antagonize Dojo whenever possible, as she drop kicks him in martial arts class only to find herself trapped in a sadistic headlock.

Iku struggles to attain her goal, foiling people who attempt to deface library property, mastering classification systems, and rappelling down a building. Her strength is her willpower. She loves reading and she’s passionate about defending books. As Iku is singled out to join the LDF she’s joined by another new recruit. Hikaru Tezuka is academically perfect and doesn’t understand why the other new rookie is an emotional mess whose main skills are height and being able to run really fast.

The art in Library Wars is serviceable generic shoujo. I don’t think I’d recognize the artist’s style if I were to read another one of her works, but I’m really reading Library Wars for the story and not the art. This manga gives me the warm fuzzies. Librarianship isn’t a very glamorous profession, and the media portrayals of librarianship don’t often extend beyond the image of a tired old spinster going “shush.” So seeing librarians dressed in uniforms and performing training exercises to become action heroes was enormously entertaining. Iku’s a somewhat familiar character type, but her tendency to never give up is admirable and inspires sympathy in the reader. Seeing her unconventional friendship develop with Dojo was fun. He clearly knows more about her than he’s letting on, and she’s gradually discovering that her merciless drill sergeant might have a soft side. This manga is a must read for anyone that loves books or libraries.

And because I love this manga so much I used some of my amazon referral money to buy an extra copy, and I’m going to give it away to share the Library Wars love. To enter, just leave a comment on this post mentioning what weapon you would use to fight censorship if you were a member of the Library Defense Force. I’ll randomly select a winner on June 10th. I think I would reclaim the metal rods inside library card catalogs and use them to poke the enemies of intellectual freedom full of holes.