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Review: Library Wars: Love & War, vol. 1-4

In the future, the Japanese government passes strict laws regulating the content of books. These laws allow them to collect any books deemed unsuitable. In response, librarians form their own military groups to fight back and protect citizens’ right to read. Iku Kasahara is the first woman to join the Library Defense Force, something she’s dreamed about since her favorite book was rescued by them when she was a little girl. But training is harder than she expected, especially with her superior officer, Instructor Dojo, seems to have it in for her.

Library Wars: Love & War, vol. 1-4
Manga Creator: Kiiro Yumi; Original story by Hiro Arikawa.
Age Rating: OT/Older Teen/16+
VIZ, $9.99/each
Vol. 1: June 2010, ISBN 978-1-4215-3488-6, 200 pages
Vol. 2: September 2010, ISBN 978-1-4215-3489-3, 192 pages
Vol. 3: December 2010, ISBN 978-1-4215-3490-9, 200 pages
Vol. 1: March 2011, ISBN 978-1-4215-3489-9, 200 pages

Yumi’s manga is based on a light novel series by Arikawa. As a librarian and a military brat, I couldn’t resist writing about a story where librarians are in paramilitary groups and fighting censorship! Shojo readers will find a lot of familiar elements here. Iku is the bumbling main character who tries to do her best but doesn’t know her own strength, as seen so often in both shojo and shonen manga (think Naruto). She’s a good bit taller than Dojo, so some of their interactions reminded me of the series Love*Com (also from VIZ). Dojo looks and acts like a blend of Roy Mustang and Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist (VIZ) and the military elements might remind a few readers of that series, though Library Wars does not have anywhere near the depth of FMA. And, finally, Iku is always motivated by the memory of a mysterious–but handsome and gallant, she’s sure–rescuer from her childhood, an element that put me in mind of Kitchen Princess (Del Rey Manga).

But these familiar elements aren’t really a handicap. Rather they make Library Wars seem like a new friend who fits in really well with the old ones. The characters are likeable, even the grumpy ones, who readers just know will be redeemed by the end of the series. The story is light and fun and the romance promises to be touching, though the main participants’ cluelessness about it can be frustrating. Yumi’s art is up to the job, matching the writing in cuteness, while still making the characters look close to their ages. There are bits of action, which Yumi handles clearly and competently, but overall the focus is on the characters, so it’s good that she is able to make them distinct.

At times the military elements seem a little forced, especially in the beginning when the creators don’t seem to know how to match up the rank structures with the different characters. But as the series progresses, readers will get caught up in the passion and respect that Iku and her fellow officers have for books, reading, libraries, and those who love all three. Librarians, who rarely get such an exciting portrayal in popular culture, will appreciate the commitment to duty shown by this fictional staff. The desire to “fight the system” will speak to political minded teens and the discussions about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of books, especially when they are for children, will spark discussion. (For a discussion already in progress on that topic, see my opinion post “‘T’ is for Teenagers, Not Kids” and the comments following it.)

Overall this is a fun read and one that fans of shojo-style romances will enjoy, especially if they also have a deep and abiding love for libraries and books.

(NOTE: Parts of this review were previously posted at an old blog of mine, Fujoshi Librarian.)

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © VIZ.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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