This month we stay with manga and an entertaining series titled Library Wars. Story and Art by Kiiro Yumi, original concept by Hiro Arikawa. We have a couple of the print volumes at our branch in Hyde Park but I was able to find it online as well. Check it out here at Otakumash.com.
You can navigate backwards to the beginning but volume 2 was the earliest we had on shelf. The story focuses on the young staff and instructors at the Kanto Library and their developing battle with the federal Media Betterment Committee (MBC). This body is an overseeing censorship group that was recently formed in reaction to controversial publications in local presses and literature. Libraries have reacted by forming a Task Force to defend freedom of speech, the press, and to fight censorship. This elite unit actually trains in firearms, marksmanship and other tactical combat skills. In a library! The ironic contrast between these two subject areas made for a humorous and light hearted read. The series is actually published by Shojo Beat Manga. Most of you will know that the term “shojo” is used to describe manga or anime meant for young women. This genre tends to center on themes of romance and friendship but the inclusion of libraries and war caught my attention as a “shonen” action fan. I think it’s a real victory for diversity in manga and encourage both men and women otaku of all ages to check it out. It is a lot of fun.
One of the first panels helps outline the library principles at stake in the story and the great fight between freedom of speech and censorship. The artwork is bold and clean in a fine linear style. Technique is fairly modern and the figure shape, faces and costumes styles are up to date for a real world fiction.
The plot deepens when a bag of “offensive” books is found in a room after an administrator left moments before.
Action ensues early on when the heroine, corporal Iku Kasahara, is practicing on the gun range. Then on the same page, the story drops into friendly competition-chibi mode for a bit of comic relief and humor. The contrast of story elements and subject matter is really refreshing. Familiar visual effects and sound effects are used in this series and help the reader feel right at home.
And of course romantic effects like the classic “champagne bubbles” and “light flares” appear at appropriate times. Here is an example of light glistening off tears when Iku allows herself to cry on her favorite instructor-crush’s shoulder, Sergeant Atsushi Dojo. A tender moment of support and relief after Iku was hounded by the press.
So check out Library Wars. You’ll be surprised by the action and comedy in this “shojo” title. The creativity in manga and anime the past several years is really amazing. It’s not all just epic saga extension of massive story lines and character lists. Some titles are well put together, tightly knit and a lot of fun. There are a couple anime versions out there available at Kissanime. They are next on my list.
Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes toHoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.
Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.
*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.