It’s Valentine’s Day and the Library Defense Force finds itself flooded with chocolates and romance! Iku schemes about the best way to get chocolates to Instructor Dojo without being too obvious about her feelings. Her roommate, Shibazaki, finds herself with an unwanted admirer for the holiday, one who reminds her of a troubled past. And the LDF must decide if they will protect a controversial magazine article that has clearly violated privacy laws.
This volume of Library Wars focuses more on developing character backgrounds than on issues of censorship or war. We learn about Shibazaki’s childhood and that, despite appearances, she’s exceedingly withdrawn and distrustful, even with Iku. While her beauty has attracted many admirers, it’s also caused others to become jealous and bitter. She’s reinvented herself in an effort to avoid confrontation, but has she sacrificed too much of her own personality? Her date on Valentine’s Day brings back a rush of memories and confusion.
There are a few plot lines in this volume, but they take a backseat to Shibazaki’s story. The team goes out for a celebratory meal and ends up helping an older boy find his missing brother, who aspires to be a library agent. Later there’s a trip to a hot springs, where the team accidentally captures a couple of bank robbers. We’re briefly introduced to Hikaru’s brother and Iku reflects on her own family history. Iku and Dojo continue to dance around their feelings for each other, but there’s a growing sense of trust between them.
Little focus is given to the issue of the controversial magazine. The article reveals personal information about a juvenile criminal, and as a librarian I was intrigued with the conflict the LDF faced. Should they censor the magazine because of the violation of privacy, or make the article available despite government restrictions? This volume had less to do with the fight against censorship than previous volumes, and felt a bit weaker for it. The characters are compelling and naturally we want to learn more about them, but the series’ hook is that these people are defending our right to read and freedom to access information. When that’s downplayed, there’s little to separate this from your average shojo.
Library Wars continues to mix comedy, action, and romance. If you like your romance on the awkward side, definitely pick up this series. Yumi excels at illustrating the love/hate relationships, complete with embarrassed hiding, ashamed glances, and slapstick. Her characters are distinctive and I thought the art for Shibazaki captured her conflicting feelings well.
Viz rates the series for Older Teens and readers can expect a certain level of violence from the battles fought by the LDF. Nothing truly gory happens, but expect gunfire and injuries. Dojo and Iku’s complicated relationship involves some physicality, from noogies to tests of strength, and it’s a little disturbing to see how often Iku depends on Dojo to rescue her from her own clumsiness. In this volume, the team does spend time relaxing in the hot springs. Dojo is nude when he stops a fleeing robber, though we only see him from the waist up. It’s implied that Iku, who pursues the robber into the men-only area of the hot springs, sees Dojo entirely naked. She makes a few comments regarding his “excellent body,” but all in all, there’s very little revealed to the readers.
Library Wars continues to be a fun series with an intriguing premise. The characters are developing and gaining depth. Readers who are following the censorship storyline may find this volume drags a bit, but others will enjoy the character backgrounds and an amusing diversion at the hot springs.