Saturday, August 4, 2012
Library Wars: Love & War vol. 1-5
One day while watching 'Imagine-Nation' on NHK World, I took notice of the movie they were talking about. That movie was 'Library War: The Wings of Revolution' and it is an adaptation of Hiro Arikawa's novel series. The premise sounded really interesting to me, so I decided to look into it further and I come to find that the only part of the franchise that is licensed in English is the manga adaptation by Kiiro Yumi. Well, it just so happens that manga is my favorite medium, so here I am, taking a look at 'Library Wars: Love & War'.
When Iku Kasahara was still in high school, the bookstore she was in was raided by the Media Betterment Committee, a government group with the mission of "protecting" society by censoring materials that they deemed "harmful" to the public. Though frightened by the MBC's strong-arming ways, Iku guarded her book passionately and was finally saved by her "Prince". This prince was none other than a member of the Library Task Force. A group put together by libraries and local governments, determined to protect books of all kinds by any means necessary. Moved by this mysterious prince that came to her aid, six years later, Iku herself has joined up with the Library Task force, putting her passion for books to good use and hoping to catch sight of the prince from her past.
I'm on the fence about Iku Kasahara as a main character. On one hand, she has a lot in common with some of the shonen main characters that I like. She's determined, ambitious, and a little dumb, but more realistic than those shonen heroes and not without her insecurities. But oddly enough, even with a mix of cool, shonen hero traits and realism, she doesn't do much for me as a lead character, and I can't quite place it. I can even relate to her passion for books and anti-censorship. That's a cause I could get behind in real life. I love books(especially manga), my library and I would never want anyone telling me what I can or cannot read. But despite sharing her viewpoints, thinking she has done some cool things like protecting books with her life, and generally finding her likeable, she just doesn't pull her weight as a lead character for me. I think that may have more to do with how she is used as a character than the character herself. In the five volumes I have read, the story has mostly been a series of dramatic situations with some comedy downtime in between, rather than a smooth, linear story. I just haven't been able to get immersed in the story, and in turn, I haven't been able to care about the characters much, no matter how likeable they are.
For a shojo manga, the art is surprisingly accessible and universal. With this art, it may not even be out of place in a shonen magazine. Characters, especially men, aren't abnormally tall and skinny and the closest typical shojo trait would be the slightly big eyes on the women. Though the character art style doesn't fully resemble the typical, full blown shojo style, the art structure gives it away. Paneling layout and effects used are common of popular, modern shojo manga. I quite like it and wouldn't mind seeing more manga with shojo writing sensibilities, but with a more accessible art style like this one. You can see the art for yourself in this free preview of chapter one on Viz Manga.
This manga tries to balance comedy, action and romance. Usually I like a story that juggles multiple aspects, but in this case, the story just feels unfocused, and without a focus, it doesn't get very far in five volumes as far as plot is concerned. The antagonist group is still a "faceless", generic government group and they hardly even feel threatening yet. There have only been two "major" situations with the antagonist Media Betterment Committee, and they were defused pretty quickly with no one important getting hurt. The action was welcome, but it was short lived and sub par. The romance plot line is basically stagnant. All we have gotten in that area so far is five volumes of boring and cliche romantic tension between Dojo and Kasahara. Actually, the most romantic development came from side character Sergeant Komaki and his childhood friend, Marie. But rather than be an important part of the main plot like Dojo and Kasahara's romance is suppose to be, Komaki's three chapter focus was more for his characterization, previously being just a walking, "friendly and fair guy" archetype. All we are really left with is some slap stick comedy that mostly involves Dojo yelling at Kasahara, which isn't enough to carry this series. So far it's been more of a sitcom than a compelling drama about the fight against censorship.
I really love the concept of libraries arming themselves to fight against censorship, but in five volumes, this series never really lived up to it's ambitious premise. As things stand, I doubt I'll check out future volumes of this manga, though it did leave me interested enough to want to check out the original novels, the anime or the movie(none of which seem to be licensed in English...). In my opinion, 'Library Wars: Love & War' has a very strong concept, but suffers from a less than stellar execution.