My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Library Wars is the beginning of my tentative exploration into manga & I found this one while browsing through my library’s NoveList database. The premise: in the near future the Japanese national government has instituted the Media Betterment Act, a censorship program designed to remove all media considered offensive–particularly books. The local governments of each province set up & support the Library Defense Force–armed units that protect libraries & ensure their right to expand their collections while allowing access to information to the public. Readers follow Iku Kasahara as she trains to join the LDF, inspired by a mysterious officer who once defended her right to have a book that was deemed offensive.
This first volume totally charmed me. Kasahara is an easy character to like: she’s a tomboy who loves books & her personality is a familiar mix of persistence & youthful eagerness to do well. The story follows the recognizable beats of a YA story: the pretty self-assured friend, the contentious relationship with a superior that masks an attraction, the standoffish boy set up as competition & as a vulnerable acquaintance. Another reason I enjoyed LW so much is that one could imagine it existing in the same universe as something like Ray Bradbury’s “The Exiles”.
Since this is a YA story, I’m not sure how far the series will get into the gritty realities of this censorship war. (Just one panel mentions that homicides that take place in the course of fighting have been decriminalized; otherwise, not so much.) But so far, the writer suggest plenty of atmospheric details that will let readers’ imaginations play with the what-ifs. For now, this first volume mixes light-hearted moments with its dystopian vision. The last chapter where Kasahara struggles to learn the classification system is not unlike the movie Party Girl. Looking forward to the rest of the series!