Review: Library War

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a huge fan of books. I’m a veritable bibliophile. So when I first heard about an anime about militant librarians protecting the freedom of expression from an oppressive government I just had to check it out.

The world of Library War is Japan in the year 2019. To combat growing government censorship of media and expression the libraries have militarized to protect the art and media of all Japan. The Media Betterment Act gave the government the authority to repress freedom of expression while the libraries act under the Freedom of Libraries Law.

In the year 1999 the Hino Library was attacked by a mob supporting the Media Betterment Committee and killed 12 people loyal to the ideals of the Freedom of Libraries Law. This act, known as the Hino Nightmare, was the impetus for the libraries to take up arms and defend themselves.

As a young girl Iku Kasahara was inspired to join the Library Defense Force when a book she loved was saved by one of their officers. But when she actually joins the LDF four years later she quickly finds herself in over her head. Over the course of the 12 episode series Kasahara comes into her own (with lots of help from her squad and roommates) and begins to develop a romantic relationship with her superior officer Atsushi Dojo. She also learns what it means to fight and possibly die for freedoms.

The anime also has much to say about freedom of expression in society and the generally apathetic attitude of the public towards these rights. More than once the LDF stands up for rights the general public no longer cares about or sees a use for. Often the LDF are even seen as the bad guys.

The animation lives up to everything you expect from Production I.G. It has well defined characters, smooth animation and well rendered environments. While you won’t find any stunning visuals in this near-future love and war story, it’s exceptional in its veracity and rejection of sensationalism and exaggeration common to many anime. The romance, action, and philosophizing are well balanced throughout the series and often compliment each other.

The plot and characters in Library War were based on a series of light novels (quick reading, illustrated books popular in Japan) published in Japan from February 2006 to November 2007 and written by Hiro Arikawa.

The Freedom of Libraries Law is actually based on a real historical document Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries which went into effect in Japan in 1954. Its main points are:

  1. Libraries have freedom in collecting their materials.

  2. Libraries secure the freedom of offering their materials.

  3. Libraries guarantee the privacy of users.

  4. Libraries oppose any type of censorship categorically.

When the freedom of libraries is imperiled, we librarians will work together and devote ourselves to secure the freedom.

This is quoted almost exactly in Library War‘s Freedom of Libraries Law.

Library War aired on Fuji TV in Japan from April through June of this year. There are currently four light novels and two manga published in Japan. There are currently no plans to bring the series to the West in any form. But if you do get the chance to see this anime and you haven even a passing interest in books or freedom of expression this series will not disappoint.