Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Review: Love & War 1 (Library Wars) by Kiiro Yumi

What's it about? manga; libraries; censorship; military training; crushes

Summary? In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves---the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare.

Why did I read it/Where did I get it? That pesky (*grin*) coworker recommended it, as it's militant librarians protecting books from militant censors. As I'm a librarian and there's a bit of love crushin' going on in the story as well...clearly, I was meant to read this. (Checked out from Glendale Public Library)

What I thought...
First off, I ended up adoring this book - I immediately put volumes 2-5 on hold, and am very annoyed that they have not magically appeared on my desk instantaneously. I can't believe other library users dare to have known about this delightful series before me. I feel cheated. ; )

That said, I wasn't crazy about this at first. I was a bit confused, and not just because I had to read this from right to left, as traditional Japanese comics are read. While I have had a bit of experience with this, it's not exactly easy for me. The other reason I was a bit lost: this story is set in a dystopian Japan, where the passing of the Media Betterment Act enables the Media Betterment Committee censors to ban and confiscate 'offensive' media. In response, the Library Defense Forces were created and are the only obstacle between the Committee and the people's free access to books and information. As deaths resulting from the Committe/Defense Forces wars have been decriminalized, working for the Forces is incredibly dangerous...and, in Iku Kasahara's eyes, incredibly heroic.

In her teens, Kasahara's 'offensive' book purchase was protected by a Library Defense Force agent, and his actions inspired her to join the Defense Force. However, it's very hard work - the job she wants requires that she not only train to be an elite soldier, but also to complete extensive training as a librarian. Exhausted and frustrated by a hard-nosed (and cute-as-can-be) instructor, Kasahara's finding it difficult to keep herself motivated.

This is that bizarre mix of serious and cutesty-sweet that I've only experienced in shojo manga, and is evident in the cover illustration, in which a female soldier (Kasahara) is smiling and cradling a rifle. Okaaaaay.... Kasahara goes on a wilderness survival training exercise - serious - and when they stop for the night, abruptly falls asleep on her instructor's shoulder. When another instructor approaches, Kasahara's instructor shoves her off his shoulder in a pratfall manner - weird, yet adorable.  Kasahara's that awkward yet very physically capable female character, and her mean instructor (or is he?) clearly is fascinated by her, yet determined to ignore that fascination. I ate it up. 

I also am enjoying the artist/writer's asides - for those of you more familiar with manga and/or shojo, is this author aside normal? I seem to remember it in others... And I really like it. : )


YA Reading Challenge: 8

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