Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Kiiro Yumi
Original Story: Hiro Arikawa
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now Available

Welcome to the future where you do not want to mess with these librarians.

Having witnessing the banning of books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” it felt as if the Media Betterment Committee had jumped out of the pages of Hiro Arikawa’s “Toshokan Senso” (Library Wars) and into real life so the series of light novels came at the right time. So imagine my delight to find that VIZ Media has brought us Volume 1 of Library Wars: Love & War.

If you’re not familiar with the books or the story, that’s Ok because mangaka Kiiro Yumi does a great job of introducing readers to the story that tips its hat to author Ray Bradbury. You see, in this future, the federal government has established the Media Betterment Committee (or MBC) to rid society of books deemed unsuitable for the public. They enforce the law by dropping in on bookstores in search of flagged books and authors and takes them away. Thankfully, an armed group protected by the Library Freedom Act has formed the Library Defense Force who can legally challenge the MBC.

The story focuses on one particular Library Defense Force cadet named Iku Kasahara who, when she was in High school, witnessed the Nazi-like forces of the MBC storm into a bookstore and snatch a fairy tale book she had been waiting months to read. From seemingly out of nowhere a young man not only keeps her from falling after being shoved but stands up against the MBC as a Sergeant for the Library Defense Force’s Kanto branch. It is that moment that not only made Iku want to join the Library Defense Force but to also find the mystery man who she saw has her “hero” and “prince.”

Life as a cadet is difficult but the tomboy in her drives Iku towards her goal to become a field agent and one day meet the hero who inspired her so one day she could be fighting against censorship alongside her mystery prince. Oh, but aside from the grueling training there’s Instructor Atsushi Dojo who she thinks is only picking on her and making her life as a trainee very miserable. Sure, he’s handsome but Iku finds the Sergeant-turned-instructor to be something of a short man with an even shorter fuse. During combat training, she is quick to get him angry and pays for it with a painful armlock.

Sergeant Dojo and fellow instructor Komaki see a lot of promise in the girl but she has a long way to go as we could see from one chapter where Iku gets to experience field work in a public library. Spotting a suspicious man head to the men’s room with a book, Iku follows and confronts the suspect only to leave her guard down and get Instructor Dojo hurt. When Dojo slaps her across the face, Iku spends the next days trying not to let the incident get to her but when she runs into Instructor Dojo in the lobby Iku lets her guard down and asks him why he gave her all the credit for catching the suspect in the men’s room. It is there that she finds some comfort in his friendly pat on the head.

History does tend to repeat itself and it does so again when Iku goes on a training assignment with Major Ryusuke Genda when Iku spots a few vans belonging to the MBC. What she encounters is a similar scene that mirrors her own past as Iku goes up against MBC officers searching for questionable books. Watching her take a stand makes the chapter a memorable one.

As her training is quickly coming to an end, we meet a young go-getter named Hikaru Tezuka who seems to despise from the very beginning and snubs our girl every chance he gets. Iku doesn’t warm up to him either, which is refreshingly understandable and she makes no real effort to befriend him like in other shoujo manga where the nice female lead tries to win over the class jerk. Both Iku and Tezuka do get a position in the Defense Force and Iku finds the actual job even more difficult than training.

It is in the library that Iku comes to see a different side of Sergeant Dojo who is a lot more accommodating and – even though he does get frustrated with her – helps her understand the clerical duties that even field officers must tend to when not confronting the MBC.

The series has plenty of lighthearted moments and some funny ones as well as Iku tries to keep up with the training and her job. It’s good to see a strong female lead make it in the predominantly male career track and even more so when she knows she’s not perfect but will do the job the best way she can until she does it right. As far as the romance side is concerned, it’s too early to tell how the Iku-Dojo relationship will go and, even though there are plenty of hints of Dojo liking his tall female subordinate, his frustration in her makes for some intriguing interactions between the two.

What is even more interesting, though, is the clashes between the MBC and the Library Defense Force that will most likely play a much bigger role in future volumes. It’s just too bad we don’t learn more about the MBC and the secondary characters – aside from Tezuka – aren’t given time in the spotlight to flesh them out a bit more.

Volume 1 of Library Wars: Love & War is an intriguing story that is actually even just as entertaining as the light novels and that’s a very good thing indeed. While it’s far from the perfect shoujo manga, there is a lot that shoujo fans will like and by the end of this volume you might even find yourself wanting to stick around for the next few volumes of this series. This one is well worth the read for sure.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A-
Having witnessed a Sergeant of the Library Defense Force stand up against the militant forces of the Media Betterment Committee, a young tomboy named Iku joins the fight to protect books from censorship in hopes of meeting her “hero” who inspired her. What Iku finds out that it isn’t easy being a female agent candidate and even more so with a handsome superior officer that’s always butting heads with her.

ART: B
While it doesn’t standout as anything truly amazing or original, Kiiro Yumi’s art is far from bad despite the characters don’t really stand out as well as they should. Still, there are some decent backgrounds and the action flows well enough.

OVERALL: A-
Shoujo fans will certainly get a kick out of this lighthearted and even entertaining series that doesn’t break any new ground but will keep you happily following the story down to the last page. Volume 1 of Library Wars has the right touch of comedic moments, intriguing futuristic setting and a promising tale worth more than just a peek.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

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