by Kiiro Yumi; adapted by Kinami Watabe
published by Viz; $9.99 US
This energetic adventure with a touch of romance has behind the action an anti-censorship message any manga reader can support. Library Wars is based on a novel series by Hiro Arikawa about a future Japan where the Media Betterment Act allows the national government to seize any books they deem offensive for any reason. They’re opposed by librarians, whose code speaks of freedom to acquire and read any book in privacy. They’re fighting for a citizen’s right to access media freely… only this time, the fight is literal.
Iku is in training to join the Library Forces. It’s kind of like the Book Lovers’ Army, with military ranks, procedure, and discipline. She’s doing well physically, but she struggles with the knowledge she needs to handle the full scope of her job. She’s got heart, though — and a touching backstory where she was inspired at a young age by a mistily remembered Forces member.
Her fellow soldiers include the girly Asako and their instructor Dojo, who is the early favorite to be the man who set her on this career path. The chapters are typical stories of learning to do one’s best, building teamwork, how to depend on others, how to do one’s job well and follow orders of legitimate authority… what sets them apart is the unique setting, one that made Iku’s struggles to be a good soldier entertaining to me.
She’s drawn cutely, but with an edge. It’s clear that Dojo likes her for her personality, which shows through in her movement. The action is clear and exciting, with settings ranging from library stacks to a wilderness training exercise. Iku doesn’t act much older than an overgrown schoolgirl, with concerns over what others think of her and learning to moderate her emotions and passion.
I’m eager to read more of Iku’s journey — I’m going to enjoy seeing her grow into her important role, defending the freedom to read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)