Library Wars: Love & War
図書館戦争 LOVE&WAR (Toshokan Sensou – Love & War)
YUMI Kiiro (story & art), ARIKAWA Hiro (original concept)
Shoujo – Action, comedy, drama, romance, war
15 Volumes (complete)
In the near future, libraries have decided to band together against government censorship. While the Media Betterment Committee seeks to ban all controversial material, the Library Forces defend the books, and thus the two often face off in potentially deadly clashes. For one new recruit, the training may be tough thanks to a strict drill instructor, but she’s going to join the Library Forces to meet her hero!
Note: for consistency’s sake, all characters will be referred to by their family name. Only a couple of relatives refer to any of the main characters by their personal names, and plus this is a military manga.
When does protecting the public good override free speech? It’s a question that many governments and its citizens have wrestled with for years. Because even though countries like the United States guarantee free speech, that speech is also limited. The most famous example is how you can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater.
Based on a series of light novels, Library Wars: Love & War takes place in the not-so-distant future when the Japanese government decided to be more aggressive about declaring media public nuisances. But the local libraries don’t believe in censorship, and they resist the government’s Media Betterment Committee (the MBC) that tries to confiscate and censor books. The two sides end up forming their own militaries, and any deaths that occur during scuffles between them are not criminal. The Library Forces are made up of three groups: the Librarians (the workers who help patrons and do administrative work), the Defense Force (the soldiers who fight), and the Task Force (an elite squad that tackles both types of responsibilities).
When the protagonist of Library Wars was in high school, a book she had been waiting for was finally released, but a squad from the MBC showed up and demanded the store hand over all the copies. While she tried to hide one, the MBC still found it and tried to confiscate it. Fortunately, a member of the Library Defense Forces showed up just in time and used his authority to gather all those books. Since then, Kasahara has dreamed of serving in the Library Forces and telling her “prince” how much of an impact he had on her life.
However, in the heat of the moment, she didn’t get his name and can’t remember what he looked like! What she does know is that her drill instructor (and later direct superior) Dojo is nothing like her prince. After all, he’s harsh to only her, and she doesn’t like short guys anyway! She doesn’t get why her roommate, the librarian Shibasaki, sees in him.
But while Dojo’s strictness irritates her, Kasahara knows he’s a good instructor who worries about his pupils. She sees more of his blunt, sometimes awkward kindness when she joins his squad on the Task Force. It’s a bit of a surprise she’s invited to join the Task Force considering a) she’s female, b) her brains are a bit lacking, and c) she’s physically fit but lacking in other skills like shooting. Fellow rookie Tezuka is the complete opposite, a by-the-books elite soldier. Rounding out Team Dojo is another instructor, the kind and observant Komaki, and the bear-like Genda is their direct superior. Shibasaki is not technically part of their team, but her information network combined with her shrewish personality makes her a powerful ally. Together, they serve in the Kanto branch of the Library Forces, home to the LDF’s commander, Inamine.
While Library Wars: Love & War does adapt all four of the light novels, I can’t judge on which is the better overall. There were times I wondered if text version handled things better, like the introduction of a key character for the last one-fourth of the series or the pressures of a military inquiry. Still, it’s awesome to have a manga that actually adapts the full source material instead of ending early. There are also quite a few side stories that I believe are manga-original. Some may be a little weak or unnecessary, but Library Wars feels natural as a manga, even if the pace picks up a bit in the last few volumes. But cutting some of the bonuses might have helped in my opinion.
Library Wars is a traditional shoujo in some areas and non-traditional in others. While other LaLa manga like Vampire Knight feature a heroine with a gun, the military-like setting is still very rare for in a romance story for girls. Because of the genre and demographic, of course the manga may not feature the violent battles and twisted political intrigue of shounen/seinen war-oriented manga. The library aspect may limit the battlefield, but it also makes the manga unique, like an alternate version of the novel Fahrenheit 451. It’s the kind of situation that will likely never happen, but the main theme of free speech vs censorship is going to resonate with readers. Plus, while Dojo does make comments like, “Don’t push yourself because you’re a girl!”, the manga does address some gender issues, most notably Kasahara’s mother who thinks her daughter should be more feminine.
On the other hand, Kasahara acts several years younger than her age. She has a strong sense of justice and is more physically fit than females her age, but she’s also emotional and not an academic. She also has issues with her parents. If Kasahara was transported to a high school classroom, she’d fit right in… despite being on the tall side.
Speaking of high school, it’s a little weird that she doesn’t remember anything about her prince. Short-term memory loss right after or during a traumatic incident is fairly common. But it wasn’t like it happened when she was very young, and she did talk to him after she had time to collect herself after the MBC left. Whatever. While the manga doesn’t explicitly reveal him in the first couple of volumes, Kasahara’s prince’s identity is not a huge leap in logic based on the clues given. Still, even if you disregard that, I wish we could have seen Kasahara as a little more mature — after all, she’s signed up to potentially lay down her life in a job that’s described as more dangerous than being a police officer or soldier. Being nice enough to not poke fun of others’ weaknesses is good, but she also needs to be level-headed and capable enough to fire a gun. But I can’t put all the blame on her since Dojo is also hot-blooded and very much a tsundere. So it’s also easy to forget he’s also about 25 years old and not 15.
So a large part of the story — unsurprisingly — is about Kasahara and Dojo’s relationship. There’s little doubt from the onset that they’re going to end up together despite the bickering. Having the heroine be taller though is a visual combination you don’t often see in manga, so that adds some special charm to Library Wars.
Otherwise, the war and military aspects include storylines involving traitors, young children feeling frustrated, hostages, and sympathizers to the opposing cause. Somewhat surprisingly, the conflict hasn’t been going on for as long as you might think: barely a generation, as this series is set in about the 2040s. A lot happened in the 20-30 years, from the Media Betterment Act passed to the official decriminalization of death in the midst of combat. While the main characters are all dedicated to their jobs, not everyone working for the library has a strong belief in the organization’s goals. Even those who are opposed to censorship aren’t heroes, allying with the media to present themselves in a better light and taking up weapons in the first place. There are only a few direct conflicts in the manga, and Kasahara’s first real experience with the harshness of war doesn’t happen until the series has already reached double digits. Most of the time, the Task Force is working around the library and interacting with supporters or detractors of the library. Either way, romance is always at the front and never far behind from the action.
The manga also has a few other couples prominently featured in the story. Some are more subtle, others show more progress than Kasahara/Dojo do. Readers won’t nearly be as vested in them, but they won’t dislike the characters either. Shibazaki in particular is a standout for being the cool, analytical, seemingly flirtatious librarian who doesn’t need a weapon to frighten her enemies. I wish we could have learned more about her family like we did with Kasahara and Tezuka. I also liked Inamine, who is confined to a wheelchair after a certain major event in library history. I also ragged a bit on Kasahara (and Dojo too to an extent), but their progress as a couple and as individuals is very evident in the last few volumes. It shouldn’t be too surprising since the series takes place over the course of several years, but Library Wars: Love & War has a satisfying conclusion on both the love and war fronts.
This series was Yumi’s first serial. Fortunately, her drawings are good right from the get-go. It’s a bit generic though; there’s not much here that makes her art stand out from the crowd. I do think it is leaps ahead of what I’ve seen of the anime. But it’s more important that the art isn’t lopsided or misshapen, especially when items like guns and riot gear are prominently featured. Dojo and Tezuka are the two most significant male characters in the story, and since they both tend to have the same scowling look (not to mention they’re usually in uniform), this is not a manga for those who just want a lot of fanservice. And while it is set in the near-future, most of the tech does not match the time period. Most of the phones are flip/slide phones and not smartphones, the TVs hardly look 4k compatible let alone whatever high def will be around in 20+ years, and cars still require a driver. It’s possible that the tension in the country led to slow adaptation of new tech in Japan, but I doubt that. After all, while the LDF isn’t an official military, they’d still probably leap on new stuff. Obviously, some graphic violence is shown, but sexual content is limited to a voyeur touching a woman.
No honorifics are used. Most volumes include some translation notes. This series doesn’t have a lot of cultural aspects that need explaining, so they’re usually pretty short. They do drop off late in the series.
The two leads of Library Wars: Love & War are often immature, which is a distraction in a series like this that involves a military setting. However, despite it taking place in an alternate reality, the excuses and defenses for and against censorship hit close to manga readers’ hearts. If you want a manga romance with a little more meat to the story than the typical high school stuff, consider Library Wars.
The anime adaptation, under the title Library War, is available to stream on Crunchyroll. Discotek Media released the series on home video. As of this writing, neither the original light novels nor the sequel manga have been licensed.