This week for Manga Monday, I take a look at two new manga series that involve books: Library Wars: Love & War and Kingyo Used Books.
Library Wars: Love & War (Volume 1)
Library Wars: Love & War is a shojo manga from Viz about a future world where books are censored by local government (thanks to a law that's passed called the Media Betterment Act) and seized from bookstores due to what they deem "content issues." Librarians have taken a stand and have formed the Library Forces in retaliation, and exercise the right to seize the books for themselves to be accessed by people legally in their libraries. The library forces are a rather militant group, trained in combat to fight (and die) for the cause. Kiiro Yumi's manga actually adapts this concept from a series of prose novels by Hiro Arikawa, giving it a shojo focus for this title. In this manga series, the main character is Iku, a girl who has grown up with the determination to defend these books because of a man who saved a book from seizure by the local government that was dear to her. So she strives to make her "prince" happy, although she has no idea who he is. Iku has quite a drive and means well, but makes a lot of mistakes during her training, although she does manage a couple of firsts for women in the service. While going through rigorous training in combat and learning the Japanese decimal system, Iku also tries to make friends with the people around her, particularly her superior officer, Dojo, whom she can't decide whether he's just mean to her or expects a lot out of her and wants to push her toward greatness. There's a lot of good material here with a great cast of characters, some sexism in the environment, and an interesting world where censorship really takes center stage. There have been a lot of seeds planted for stories to come, like how Iku has lied to her parents about her position and their disapproval of the type of work she has taken on, and I'm eager to see how several plot points, such as this one, turn out. I'm kind of surprised that this is the first time I've encountered a shojo manga that takes place in a military/law enforcement setting, as it's an atmosphere with a lot of potential for the genre. Library Wars: Love & War is able to take advantage of that to great results.
Kingyo Used Books (Volume 1) Seimu Yoshizaki
While Library Wars: Love & War shows the length that people will go to protect the books they love, Kingyo Used Books is really about the books themselves and what they can do for people. This is another book from Viz, but is part of their IKKI line, with art that's much more fluid, detailed and beautifully-rendered. Kingyo Used Books is basically a book of short stories about a store that sells (and buys) used manga, and the people that the store and its books touch. It's more of a quiet read, a welcome change from the zaniness of a shojo title like Library Wars: Love & War, focusing on how manga affects people, teaching them about themselves and other people, allowing them to take a step back to put things in perspective, and how it can simply make them happy. The first story in this volume is a perfect introduction to the series, focusing on a man who stops into the bookstore, talking about how he's outgrown manga and would like to sell his, and ending up returning with some old friends, all of whom have emotional reactions to the part that manga has played in their lives, both in the past and presently. And like some really great manga out there, Kingyo Used Books isn't afraid to let its readers do some of the work. It doesn't spell everything out, but rewards close readings and different interpretations of the emotional reactions of the characters involved, and what the experiences mean for the people. This is really a refreshing book with some really stellar art and pacing, and subtle depth.