Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Library Wars: Love & War Volume 3

By Kiiro Yumi, based on the novel by Hiro Arikawa. Released in Japan as "Toshokan Sensou: Love & War" by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

How ironic that today is the day that I review the new volume of Library Wars, considering that today is also when Japan passed their Youth Ordinance Bill. It's all very well trying to protect books from being destroyed by the government, but clearly the government knows the key is to ensure that controversial books never get commissioned in the first place, or that those already out don't get a reprint. I wonder if anyone in the government reads Library Wars, and is quietly talking with the editors of LaLa about 'ending it soon', given its anti-censorship stance?

Meanwhile, back in the actual manga itself, we see that Dojo is having a very hard time of it. It's hard enough that the new girl in his troop is turning out to be exactly like he was a few years earlier (something lampshaded constantly), but even worse, he's starting to fall for her. This is rough considering that she goes on about how her prince protected her from the evil government forces when she was younger, and the fact that this was Dojo doesn't really seem to matter as she's not aware of that. So what's a guy to do? Well, he *is* in a manga. That's right, it's time to overcompensate by being a complete jerk to her. And as we know, there's no job worth doing that isn't worth overdoing, so he goes above and beyond the call. To the point where his fellow officers immediately call him on it.

None of this matters to Iku, who merely notes that Dojo is more friustrating than ever, and spends much of the volume having her emotions battered back and forth. It's not helping that an article on the library forces came out with her picture, meaning her parents may see that she's not a quiet little librarian after all. Then the worst news - Dojo assigns her to guard duty rather than having her fight with the rest of the troops to retrieve a bequest of documents left to the library by a museum. He doesn't think she's good enough.

Now, Library Wars, even if it weren't based on an already-extant series of novels, is not the most surprising manga in the world. We know, of course, that Dojo assigns her away from combat in order to protect her, as is immediately noted by both Komaki, who bluntly tells Dojo if he keeps being influenced by his feelings for Iku he should transfer her to another unit, and by Shibasaki, who points out to the hard-of-head Iku why Dojo might be doing this. None of that matters, of course, as the cliffhanger shows that the government had a backup plan, and have kidnapped the director of the library... along with Iku, who was guarding him. Whoops. Nice one, Dojo.

The manga does a good job of balancing light and dark moments. I particularly liked the brief shot of Iku learning how to push the director around in a wheelchair, using poor Shibasaki as a guinea pig. This is contrasted with the director's memories of years ago, where we see government forces shoot his wife dead right in front of him, then shoot him (this led to the loss of his leg). The battle for the bequested materials is likewise very serious, with Dojo running into crossfire to rescue a soldier who'd been shot in the leg. Of course, this is still a shoujo romance - it's noted that had Iku been there, she would have been faster in combat, as well as lighter to pick up should she have been injured.

The contrast between thrilling drama and shoujo comedy can be frustrating at times, particularly when you'd like Dojo and Iku to stop butting heads and get back to protecting books. But there's still a lot of drama here to love, and what with it ending on a cliffhanger the wait for the next volume will be even longer.

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