Saturday, March 12, 2011

Library Wars: Love & War Volume 4

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.

We left off last time with a cliffhanger, as the government had outfoxed our heroes and set up a bluff so that they could kidnap the library director... and also Iku, who was assigned to guard him by Dojo, to keep her out of harm's way. Aheh. If only Dojo knew he was in a romance manga, he's know how much he was tempting fate by doing that. Iku, meanwhile, handles herself quite well, not only remembering her primary mission is to protect the Director (her hot-headedness is in control for once), but also managing to get a clue to the library forces when a hostage call is made by the enemy. It works particularly well as we know Iku can be a flake at times - so for a second there, we wonder if she just lost it. But no, as Shibazaki said, the simpleton was being smart, telling everyone where they were subtly. And what's more, the director shows once more that he's no slouch either, giving them another clue.

So now the forces come to the rescue, and for once everything goes completely smoothly. Again, you see that the training that Iku has been getting, aggravating as it's been to her, is working. She's cool in a crisis, and also quick to spot things, such as Dojo's hand at the window giving her a 3 count. Dojo, of course, is suffering beautifully, saying that it's no good to regret stupid decisions he made while still beating himself up over it. We get a short flashback to the start of the manga, where young Iku was rescued at the bookstore by an impulsive young library agent. This was, of course, Dojo, something that's been obvious since Chapter 1, but we finally see not only his face but the consequences that arose from that on his end - he was severely punished for abusing his authority, *and* had to suffer through Iku joining the forces because of what he did, but not recognizing him. Possibly if he got on top of a pedestal she might get it.

Nevertheless, after successfully rescuing Iku and the director, and managing to stop Iku being shot at the last minute, he at least knows he has to set right what he screwed up. His hug, and telling Iku that she did great and he's proud of her, is the big emotional high point of the manga. Sadly, the manga chapters were not laid out with volumes in mind, so we still have half a volume to go. What follows isn't bad, by any means, but it's sort of a letdown after the first half. Iku is given a party to celebrate her quick thinking and safe return, and we discover that she's a horrible lightweight when it comes to drinking. A more serious arc is next, with the long-awaited arrival of Iku's parents, who think she's simply a normal librarian and not part of the combat forces. There's some melancholy here, as Iku is clearly the product of a strict, somewhat repressive upbringing, and she's convinced that she can never be good enough for them. Meanwhile, her father at least seems to have figured out what she's hiding from them, but decides not to bring it up, implying there's repressed feelings on both sides. After the gripping action drama with big emotions, this small family section tones everything down, and lets us see a vulnerable Iku.

Volume 4 just hit the NYT bestseller list, so I'm apparently not the only one enjoying it. It has a strong heroine, the usual shoujo cliche romance, and a nice backstory of censorship fights that can either guide the plot or remain in the background however the writer sees fit. It's good, solid shoujo from your friends at Hakusensha and Viz.

2 comments:

  1. I need to pick this up! I'm so glad it hit the NYT bestseller list. I hope someone picks up the anime too.

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  2. The anime was kinda disappointing in ways of speeding the story up so much. But it was still good. The manga is by far awesomely amazing.

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