Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Library Wars: Love & War
With Dojo down, Iku is on her own in getting defecting author Toma to a foreign embassy with the Media Betterment Committee on her heels. Off the grid and totally alone, can Iku pull this off with her unorthodox methods? And how is she going to handle the fact that she kissed Dojo and promised to fully confess her feelings when she got back?
As the fluffier, more romantic cousin of the Library War TV anime, Library Wars: Love & War has tried to balance the budding romance between protagonist Iku and her gruff commanding officer Dojo with the anti-censorship action of a military story. It hasn't always worked, but in its final volume, mangaka Kiiro Yumi manages to pull it off, leading to a satisfying conclusion with some nice bookending to the series' start.
In large part, Yumi manages this by keeping the “military action” and the “shoujo romance” sections completely separate. For some readers, the combination of those two disparate genres led to some difficulties suspending disbelief in earlier volumes, with the Library Forces coming off as one of the least professional military organizations in (relatively) serious fiction. The juxtaposition of classic shoujo romance (the manga ran in LaLa) and statements about government censorship and the militarization of libraries is an odd one, and the two did not always sit comfortably together in the same book. Now, however, with Dojo down for the count – he was shot in volume fourteen – Iku is on her own, trying to get censored author Toma to a foreign embassy so that he can defect to a country with stronger freedom of speech protections. This means that Iku can't be flustered over his proximity or worry about what he or Tezuka is thinking: this mission is all on her. We've known that she's actually quite good at her job despite rogue tendencies, so the issue isn't whether or not she has the skills she needs, but more whether she can do it with no backup. That's where the tension comes from for most of the volume, and it largely works, especially when Iku has to use her outside-the-box thinking in order to contact the base.
Most of the volume is taken up by this mission, which is good for Iku as a character. Freed of her social worries – for the most part; she's still fretting about Dojo's injury, as might be expected – she is able to act with less hesitation, allowing us to see her as the more competent character she has become over the course of the series. Her dedication to her task and her thought processes are both admirable and interesting, and show clear progress since we first met her joining the Library Forces so as to meet her “prince” from high school. Iku has done a lot of growing up, and now that she's forced to rely on no one but herself, we can finally truly see that. It forms an interesting contrast to her roommate Shibazaki and her relationship with Tezuka as well. Both Shibazaki and Tezuka have consistently been held up as the more mature and competent characters in the story, so to see Iku succeed in a way neither of them would have thought of helps her to stand out in a positive way. The fact that she is able to successfully resolve her romance while they are left in dithering high school land is also a nice contrast.
The romantic plotline is largely left for the final chapter of the series, the “reward,” so to speak, for Iku's courage. The resolution here is just as satisfying as the military plot, and Yumi knows how to milk the reward scene for all it's worth, remaining true to the characters while still giving readers what they've been waiting fifteen volumes for. It's gooey shoujo at its best leading into a satisfying series conclusion.
Yumi's artistic skills have steadily improved over the course of the series, as she herself notes in her commentary, and by this volume the panels read easily and she has a better sense of when to include complicated backgrounds and when to leave them out. A few pages still suffer from an overuse of screentone, but on the whole the book looks good. Viz's translation reads smoothly and manages to make the point about censorship without being too heavy handed, something which largely depends upon the vocabulary used. Translated a different way, this could have been much less subtle, which would not have worked as well.
Library Wars: Love & War's final volume brings nearly everything to a satisfactory conclusion. It finally finds a good balance between romance and action while showing us how Iku and Dojo have both changed as characters and giving us hope for the world of the story. This is definitely a series that got better as it went on, and the ending leaves us in a place where everything is looking up.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Satisfying conclusion, better balance between romance and action plotlines. Ending that is both happy and hopeful.
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