Library Wars is a Japanese film based on a manga series by Hiro Arikawa. The film focuses on the conflict between the Japanese Library System’s credo of supporting protecting intellectual freedom and the government’s Media Betterment Act of 1989 that legalizes censorship.
The story opens in 2019 when the Betterment Squad, a band of armed men all dressed in black suits, open fire in a library killing all but one librarian. Next the Betterment Squad descends on a bookstore where they pull all the improper books off the shelves and out of the hands of customers. One high school student, Iku Kasahara, hides an adventure book behind her back and which the Betterment Police soon find. A tug of war between Iku and the book police ensues. When the Library Defense Squad, a department of the library system that’s armed and can shoot to warn, arrive one of its soldiers comes to the girl’s aid. He approves the book for library purchase. Immediately this soldier becomes the girls hero. Iku plans to follow in his footsteps.
Years later Iku joins the Library Defense Force. She’s an energetic, able, idealistic recruit who soon becomes the sole woman to make it into their elite force. Yet she does so despite Dojo, her drill sargent’s harsh treatment of her.
The film’s got an upbeat didactic tone, as many manga do. Itu is a typical genki (i.e. Energetic in a very Japanese way) woman. She’s easy to root for as she has the right mix of skill, idealism and flaws.
Though Dojo’s unfair to Itu, we forgive him because his tough treatment is a result of his idealism and eventual love for this rookie.
Library Wars is a fun film with a message. The message is put out there rather blatantly, but I found I could excuse that as I don’t often see intellectual freedom promoted to the culture at large. Like manga do, it makes an esoteric idea accessible and can promote discussion of big ideas like intellectual freedom amongst us ordinary folk. While the film should fall flat for its message, it doesn’t because you sense the characters do believe that intellectual freedom is worth dying for.
- Library Wars… oh, the places you’ll go (reel-librarians.com)
- Film’s website (toshokan-sensou movie)
- Library Wars (wikipedia)
- Japanese school board bans acclaimed anti-war manga (theguardian.com)
- This is Crazy! (dreamingliterature.wordpress.com)
- The Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom (newsletteronintellectualfreedom.wordpress.com)
- Japan Film Festival of San Francisco: Library Wars (teamyello.wordpress.com)