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Monday, September 2, 2013

Manga Review: Library Wars GN 10

Library Wars volume 10
Authors: Kiiro Yumi, Hiro Arikawa
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
200 pages
The Media Betterment Committee has censored an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Iku’s hometown! Iku’s top-ranked Library Forces team must train the local troops to defend the freedom of speech using any means necessary…but the librarians there resent her position and aren’t shy about making their feelings known. Soon Iku’s parents catch wind of her secret life as a member of the Library Forces, with disastrous results! (Source: Shojo Beat)
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the Library Wars manga so far.
In the last volume, we saw the Media Betterment Committee lose their mind over an article that dared to use the word 'barber' - and that a citizens' group sued them for their censorship efforts. The battle against silencing speech has only started, though, as another fight starts as another ends, all in the conflict between MBC and the Library Forces. And as the Library Forces get heated in Ibaraki, poor Iku can't help but get heated over Dojo and the possibility of her parents finding out what she really does every day. What's a girl in uniform to do?

So an art exhibition facing censorship by the MBC brings Iku back to her hometown of Ibaraki - you know, the place where no one can ever know that Iku is on the front lines of the Library Forces, risking her life on a regular basis for the love of information? As if they couldn't make a tense situation any more tense.
And then, on top of waiting for a raid from MBC, Iku has to deal with bullying from female librarians in Ibaraki who resent her presence and the fact that she's a woman in combat. Iku ends up drawing inspiration from an unlikely source: Shibazaki, her room mate who is also interested in Dojo. Iku finds herself growing jealous of Shibazaki's connection with Dojo, even as she uses some of Shiba's abilities to protect herself and her new friends.
This volume is like one long series of trials, physical and mental, for Iku. As the only female Task Force member at the Kanto base, Iku is a role model for many young women also part of the Library Forces. However, that also makes her the target of harassment and constant criticism, from people who don't think a woman can handle being in combat as well as people who are just plain jealous of Iku's success. Never mind that Iku has worked so hard to get where she is - all they see is a pretty girl in a high ranking position, and emotions override common sense.
But damn, Iku is so strong. And this volume does just a great job of showing Iku's strength as well as her vulnerability. It also shows how Iku can pretty much make friends with anybody, as well as that her feelings are just as genuine as anyone else's. She is pretty much my current favorite shojo heroine right now, and all I want for her is happiness and flowers and all that beautiful stuff. And Dojo! GIVE HER DOJO.
This is also a good volume to show the divide between librarians and Library Task Force members and how the hierarchy in the library is much more stratified than previously thought. Also, Dojo is a stubborn blockhead and really needs his eyes opened to how Iku feels, especially since she's not being subtle about it. And Agohige is still painfully awkward around the girls he likes ("are you pissing blood?"), geez. That's no way to make Iku like you, son!
Also, the art in this book was spot on. I love how Kiiro Yumi uses paneling to express deeper emotions, and there was a lot of that to go around, especially for Iku. I've also noticed that she does a great job giving us a bird's eye view of a scene when she pulls back from the moment, like when Iku and Dojo are on the bus or at the laundromat together. And look at the cover! It makes all the Iku/Dojo fan feelings go flutter like wild.
(I'd also love a wallpaper-sized version of the back cover image for my computer; Shojo Jump, could you provide? I really wish manga companies would make hi-res versions of cover images/color splash art available on their site for personal usage, even if it had a watermark. So much lovely art, so little ways to access them digitally!)

It is pretty obvious that the next volume of Library Wars is going to be the hard one for everyone involved. It is going to open with the Ibaraki Exhibition, where the MBC is scheduled to perform a raid, and all Task Force Members are ready to defend the art with their lives. Volume ten was a lot of drama and emotionally build-up to an eventual war, seeing how all the Forces members are dealing with the oncoming raid. I can only hope that the raid won't be tidily wrapped up in one chapter and will be expanded over the next book - and have lots of Task Force action and Dojo/Iku action specifically, of course. Don't let me down, Yumi!