Sometimes I get the feeling that people can pluck thoughts out of mind. This occurs most often when reading XKCD but this time I get the distinct feeling that the people behind Library War probed my mind to see what type of series I would like to watch. It’s like they knew I read Fahrenheit 451 in school and developed a hatred of censorship and book burning. Or since elementary school, I ‘ve enjoyed going to the library and on the day of my 18th birthday, I went to the library to get an adult card so they couldn’t hassle me anymore for trying to take out SF on a juvenile card. Or that I’d inherently find the idea of a band of “Heroes of Justice” defending books and the library as one of the most awesome sounding plots possible.
Final Series Score: 11/12 11.5/12 Near Perfect
Pros: High production values, characters were lovable and fun to watch even if they weren’t original, the anti-censorship message was nicely woven into the show without the show feeling like it was preaching, chibi-characters are always comedic gold
Cons: The idea of allowing two competing government-sanctioned forces to have battles in urban environments is absurd and might make enjoyment of the series impossible for some, 12 episodes is just too short for this series
Awards that this blog has given to the show
- #5 in Top 5 for Spring Season 2008
- Best Couple for Spring Season 2008
Brand loyalty prevented me from finishing this series earlier so don’t equate the lateness of this series review as a comment on the quality of the show.
This show takes place in an alternative Japan that had a law passed in 1989 to censor books that were potentially harmful to the people. Shortly after that, another law was passed that allowed the library to defend itself from the agents of censorship. In the following decades the conflict between the two escalated to full-on urban warfare. The armed wing of the libraries are known as the Library Force and it’s the group that our main character, Iku Kasahara, wants to join.
She isn’t a person that one would look at and think that she loved books enough to join the Library Force – she was an athlete in high school and did very poorly in her studies. Her life was forever changed, as the saying goes, when she happened to get caught in a raid by the censorship thugs while in a bookstore. She was saved from trouble and able to buy the book she wanted because a “Prince” of the Library Force had showed up and declared the books of the bookstore where now under the jurisdiction of the library (a somewhat rash and expensive course of action). From that day Kasahara wanted to do nothing else but join the Library Force. She accomplishes her goal, even becoming the first female in the elite squad of the Library Force, and starts going on missions to defend books from the censorship thugs.
The biggest obstacle in liking this series, I believe, is it’s implausible setup but since I’m very good at justifying things to myself I thought up 3 reasons why I won’t let the setup bother me and also why it’s not that implausible.
The first is that how many anime shows are plausible in the first place? Sure, I can think of shows like SF shows like Planetes that are seem plausible and shows like Bamboo Blade or Azumanga Daioh that are entirely realistic, but they are definitely in the minority. For every one plausible there’s at least two that aren’t so I shouldn’t unfairly single one series out as being implausible.
The second is that laws have a habit of expanding far past what was originally intended and without regard to actual circumstances. For instance, look at airport security since 9/11. The main problem was how to make sure terrorists don’t use airplanes as bombs again. My solution was to build cockpit doors that couldn’t be broken into and keep the door closed at all times, no matter what. Problem solved. So why is there all this invasive searching, fingerprinting of incoming foreign citizens, and treating people like sub-humans? It seems like almost everyone just accepts this now without a second thought. So is it that implausible to think two laws passed by the Japanese government would slowly mutate society into the situation of the show and no one really questions it?
The third is the fighting on the show can be seen as just poetic license by the creator to make physical the verbal and intellectual fighting that both sides of the censorship debate carry out. I’m reminded of the scene in Field of Dreams where there’s an impassioned debate at a school board meeting about removing a book from the school library. All it needed was some guns and it would have fit within this show.
Past that, it’s really hard for me to knock the show for anything substantial. However, I will mention here that I remember reading a review that mentioned that the anime stripped a bunch of stuff out from the source material. Since I’m not familiar with the source material – this did not impede my liking of the anime and only makes me want to read the light novels this was based on.
One of this show’s strongpoints is it’s characters. Not to say that they’re unique – they fit into well-known character types, but there is a warmth to them that overcomes this. So even though the main character, Kasahara, is a “hot-headed idiot” type character, you can’t help but root for her as she tries to make her way as a member of the Library Force. And her relationship with her sempai, Dojo, is nearly identical as that of Tenabe’s in Planetes but it doesn’t matter and your really happy when they finally get together.
Another strength of this show related to the characters was the people where depicted realistically. We see people protesting the libraries for trying to stop the censoring of books, as if this censoring will make society better. Also, we see the pettiness people can display when at one of the branch libraries the administrative group continually bullied the library force group. And we even watch as one of the side characters that was introduced as being a perfect recruit for the Library Force isn’t perfect after all because he has a weakness in his inability to connect with little children.
Other things to like about this show include a good performance by Kasahara’s seiyuu – Marina Inoue – who did Yoko’s voice in Gurren Lagann and Kana in Minami-ke.(Speaking of which, I’m really excited to hear that Minami-ke is getting a third season – it’s one of the best comedy shows ever.) The animation was very good and the use of chibi-characters is always a plus. Also, both the opening and closing were above average.
My favorite part of the show was in episode 9 when the new members had to take an exam that included a practical task. For this year, they had to interest a group of small kids and then read to them from a book. Kasahara, normally horrible with tests, creates this hands-on activity that uses leaves and nuts from various trees around the library to interest the kids and she ends up getting the highest score on that part of the test. What I think I loved the most about this scene was that it showed how cool the library could be. And a close second was watching someone who normally has trouble with tests excel at it.
I would have really liked to give this show a perfect score but in the end I couldn’t say it’s perfect when it’s premise was so far from being perfect. However, the show was a very fun anime that I enjoyed watching and hope it’s anti-censorship message gets people to think a bit.