Last week, I finished Library Wars, a manga series by Kiiro Yumi. This is only the second manga series I have ever finished (I’m still working my way through Ranma 1/2, which is a little longer, and I’ve read a handful of stand-alones in between). I found the series through another bookstagrammer’s (The Paige Turner) vlog. As a librarian, I was intrigued by the title, and I was super excited to read an action-packed adventure about my profession. We don’t get a lot of kick-ass representatives in our field–other than The Librarian(s), who are more like archaeologists than actually information professionals. I couldn’t wait to see how this plot portrayed us.
In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves–the Library Forces!
This book is the next chapter in the conversation started by Fahrenheit 451. The Library Forces are actively fighting against censorship and for the right to information–hell yeah! I think what I loved most about this series from the beginning was how accurately it approached librarians. Word for word, it represents a normal day in the information field!
Okay, okay, so maybe the National Guard-esque protection force is a bit of a stretch, but many libraries are in constant battles over banned and challenged books, as well as the rights of their patrons to information and to privacy. Taking it to the violent level is of course great for its entertainment value in these books, but perhaps some of the valiant action scenes from real-life are more imagined than acted out. (We’re still kick-ass, though. Jus’ sayin’.)
No, the more accurate representations of librarians come when Iku and her team have to help in the stacks. Yes, librarians do spend an inordinate amount of time finding books for patrons, and the system is a little bit like learning to read a map. Kasahara’s struggles were amusing, but I’ve had identical conversations with student workers that Dojo has with her on her abilities and efforts.
The relationship between Dojo and Kasahara is also handled well. I have to admit that the trope found in many mangas, in which the guy and girl like each other but won’t admit it, rubs me the wrong way. I’m not big on romance, and I don’t appreciate when coincidence pushes into the realm of impossibility in terms of almost-slips and missed opportunities. Yet this relationship was very tasteful. The author works to shape an infatuation that began before the two knew each other, but the interest was modified when each discovered the other’s personality. While I did grow sick of some of the situations concerning romance and attraction, the actual affection found between these two (and other couples in the series) was fairly tolerable.
This series was also a first for the author, and that comes through in the earlier books. It’s around the fourth or fifth volume that the plot really hits a stride, and you can begin to get to know everyone outside of the general story. At one point, I thought there were giant plot holes in between two of the volumes; then, I realized I had skipped a book! Whoops! At times, I do think the subtleties to some of the illustrations are difficult to follow, but the artwork is beautiful. In the animated form, I’m sure everything is communicated for successfully.
I highly recommend this story, particularly for those who are deeply invested in political issues surrounding privacy, censorship, and information ethics. It’s not really a bibliophile’s book–very little reading, if any, occurs in the entire series. However, if you find yourself appreciating your right to read and learn what you want, you will most likely appreciate this manga’s characters for the work they do to get that freedom for their world.
Again, give it a couple books to pick up before you give up on it. You won’t be disappointed.