Library Wars: Love & War Vol. 1 (Manga)
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: June 2010
Price: $9.99
Creator(s): Story and Art by Kiiro Yumi; Original Concept by Hiro Arikawa
Format: 192 pgs.; B&W
ISBN: 978-1-4215-2488-6
Age Rating: Older Teens
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Set in the not-too-distant future, this is a strange and powerful story, based on a novel which will soon be available in the U.S.  Imagine Fahrenheit 451 as a shojo manga, and you wouldn’t be far off.  While aimed at teen girls, the story is not a fluffy romance story or wish-fulfillment tale.  Instead, it deals with a young woman who devotes herself to the most dangerous job of all… protecting the public’s right to read.

As a young girl, Iku Kasahara watched a library worker protect her favorite book, and doing the same thing became her dream.  Now that she’s grown, she’s training to be part of the Library Defense Force… literally an armed librarian, risking her life in defense of books.  Unlike Rex Libris, this is not an over-the-top joke.  It’s a serious story about censorship.

In the world of Library Wars, censors freely challenge the contents of books on store shelves, and can have them removed on flimsy pretexts.  Only libraries stand in defense of "objectionable" books.  Because the national government supports the censors and allows them to become bands of armed thugs, libraries learn to arm their own security forces, in defense of the written word, supported by the reading-friendly local governments.

The serious tone of the story is at odds with the light style of the artwork, but for the intended audience, it works very well.  The story quickly draws the reader into both the goals of the Library Defense Force and the very real dangers involved.  There is a lighter side to the story as well, a "romance" of sorts, but one which does not spoil the quality or tone of the story.

--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.