Library Wars 6

October 24, 2011

Kiiro Yumi – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Last time I read this, I was a little weary of how shallow the characters seemed, so I was happy to jump back in here to see if the situation had improved.

Perhaps it has only hit its shoujo manga groove, but I liked a lot more of what I saw here. There was a lot less overwrought censorship and sting operations, and a little more focus on the characters. Shibazaki gets a particularly big chunk of story time as the story follows her on a date with a nice young man, and we find out why this isn’t really something she’s interested in. Shibazaki, at least, is a very interesting character, and while it is fairly cliche that she would open up to Iku, the main character, and nobody else, I like her well enough to forgive the story this.

To be fair, most of what’s going on is fairly standard shoujo manga stuff. Iku agonizes over Valentine’s Day and whether or not to give Dojo, her boss, chocolates to mark the occasion. Shibazaki is, of course, on a date, and we also learn a little about her past. Iku is still obviously and obliviously infatuated with Dojo. And there’s even a little feel-good story at the end about being nice to your younger brother.

I found that the most unique thing about this series, the fact that Iku works on a squad that actively engages in combat to keep freedom of speech in the libraries, is also its biggest downfall. After reading this volume, I realized that the political elements felt a little forced in the other volumes, and that the plots came at the expense of the character development. This volume has a lot less of that, though that may be a minus if that was the part of the series you enjoyed. There is a plot point about the new president of the library and his stance on a very controversial magazine article, though. That was of some interest, and I liked that it was a smaller part of what was going on.

As sour as I was about the other two volumes, I did like it better here. Do I like it enough to keep going? Well… there are certainly better series out there, and as I said, the interesting premise is its biggest problem. But it’s a solid series for young readers, for sure, and certainly an interesting thing to check out of the library, at the very least.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Library Wars 3

January 7, 2011

Kiiro Yumi / Hiro Arikawa – Viz – 2010 – 6+ volumes

I don’t know. I really just can’t get into this series. The plot here is okay. It’s equal parts… well, love and war, as the title suggests. It shifts between business and pleasure for the characters pretty quickly, and we see a lot of Iku fighting with Dojo and the two of them growing closer in their own slow, aggravating way. It’s not my favorite type of relationship, since the “growing closer” usually comes in the aftermath of a misunderstanding, and I hate it when the main couple fight this much. It’s hard for me to root for anyone in that situation, especially since everyone keeps… well, disrespecting Iku. Nobody ever says anything nice to her. It’s not malicious, and she seems to take it in stride, but it’s hard to read when it seems like the main character can’t seem to do anything right and always yells at the love interest.

Last volume, it was hinted that Tezuka was also a possible love interest, but he’s put aside in this volume. It’s all about Dojo, and Tezuka hardly makes an appearance. It’s hard to tell these two apart, though, since they wear the same uniform, both yell at Iku a lot, and both have dark hair. One has smooth hair, one slightly spikier. Why Iku would prefer one over the other? A mystery. Both are occasionally nice to her. Except they do it in such a way as to make them look like a jerk, so Iku gets mad and yells, only realizing their kindness later.

Okay. I can’t get into this series because of the characters.

The plot is also a little hokey, but at least it’s fairly original. In the first half of the book, Iku and company help a pair of junior high students stand up to a committee that is looking to further censor books in schools. And after that, an information archive closes and there is an actual battle, with guns, between the library forces and the media committee that wishes to steal and censor the material that’s being transferred to the library.

That there are actual wars being fought in order to keep information free from censorship is a little heavy-handed, and the story doesn’t really handle it well. The other side of the fight is fairly faceless, and the committee that wants to censor the books in the schools is villainized to a ridiculous degree. The leader, after making a fuss when the children are allowed to voice their opinion, she tries to throw hot coffee on Iku. It’s pretty ridiculous.

It ends in an interesting place, though. Forced to sit the battle out, Iku is charged with guarding the head of the library. Both are kidnapped, and we are left wondering by who and how exactly Tezuka and Dojo will save them.

It’s just… pretty mediocre. That’s a shame, because it’s got a good premise, but it’s not handled very well, and I just can’t get into the characters. There’s definitely better shoujo out there, but this still might not be bad for a young teen (caveat: some violence), especially with such an original premise.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Library Wars 2

September 22, 2010

Kiiro Yumi – Viz – 2010 – 6+ volumes

What a fun concept! A shoujo manga about a kind of library army that fights the government and others to make sure that reading materials at the library aren’t censored. It gets bogged down in shoujo manga plot devices a little bit, but that doesn’t stop it from being a pretty cool little series.

I skipped the first volume, but the plot of the series isn’t hard to figure out, and the first chapter in the book re-introduces the storyline and all the characters. I have a hard time telling Dojo and Tezuka apart, since both are in Iku’s unit and are apparently love interests (?), but otherwise everything went very smoothly. I love it when series make it easy to step in from anywhere.

The story picks up in the middle of Iku’s training. Not long in, she experiences her first raid, and winds up having to protect books that are nearly censored from inside the library itself. Later, there are major PR issues surrounding a librarian who refuses to bend the patron privacy law concerning a murder suspect, and Iku has to keep her cool while the things she believes in are insulted. Among all this, one of the boys suddenly asks her out, and she seems to be falling for another.

One of the things that got on my nerves is that no matter what else is happening, someone is saying something bad about Iku. It’s always treated like a joke, and she seems to take all of it in stride, but it get old and repetitive very fast, and it’s frustrating when the flow of the story is constantly interrupted by these unfunny scenes. Similarly, it doesn’t seem to blend its shoujo and action elements all that well. The library parts and all the politics are pretty awesome, and I can see all of that going interesting places, but currently that aspect is taking a backseat to a frustratingly by-the-book shoujo love story that has nothing at all to do with it.

Iku’s a pretty average heroine. She’s clumsy, not good at a lot of things, gets wound up easily, and is great at what she does in a pinch. She’s flustered at the smallest hint of romantic attention, and seems oblivious to her own feelings. It looks like she also became a library agent to follow after a man who helped her when she was younger. I know Iku inside and out, because she’s been in a thousand manga before. It doesn’t seem like there’s much to characterize Iku in this series yet, other than the great scene where she suddenly turns into a good agent. The same goes for Dojo, who’s a pretty typical tease-y know-it-all guy who helps Iku out while possibly harboring a secret crush on her. Two other characters, Tezuka and Iku’s roommate, were more interesting than their stereotypes. The roommate doesn’t have much of an opportunity to shine, but this book focuses heavily on Tezuka, a boy who wants to be the perfect soldier but still has flaws. He seems to have a hard time expressing himself too, and appears to defer to superiors in all matters. It’s hard to like the other characters, since so much of their time is spent teasing Iku, but what I saw of Tezuka made me want to learn more about him in a serious context.

It is a very cool read though, and it gets major points for its concept. When the teasings gets too much, suddenly things pick up with a great action scene where Iku gets to be the hero, followed by a random love confession. The middle part was the most interesting, and the strength of that part will likely keep me coming back for more. It’s hard not to pick this up on concept alone, and it does have its weaknesses, but if the series manages to straighten all that out, it could turn into something spectacular.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.