Toshokan Sensou AKA Library Wars is a unique 12 episode political military action anime featuring some light comedy and romance. It’s definitely an anime unlike any other and the way it comes across, it’s not aimed at the usual younger (and male) demographic, but rather a wider audience. This might be one to watch if you don’t like anime. The fictional story has themes of censorship, liberation and even war.
From the get-go the animation quality was brilliant for a 2008 anime. I got it in full 1080p HD and it was worth it. The objects and characters are very well defined, though quality does start to drop at a certain distance. But not that much that it had a negative influence on the overall quality, at least for an anime made back then. The detail given is clearly visible in the intro/outro sequence, I could actually read the individual Japanese characters in the first shot of the intro for example.
I did mention that certain things were well defined, that because this anime has an almost cell-shaded look. There are dense black outlines and the colours are very blocky, with little variation. This simplicity to the palette works out at an advantage, the mellow look added to the quality. The character designs were nothing unique, but there was one small issue. The main character looked a bit too masculine at times, it may have just been the facial design but I was initially thinking that without a voice, I wouldn’t be able to figure out what gender they were. Other people have taken this small error a bit too seriously, but I got used to it. It didn’t bother me too much. Thinking about it, it kinda makes sense, since she’s a physically fit woman. There’s also good use of comedic facial animation and comic-book-style pop-outs for the funny bits too.
Being a noitamina anime, aimed at folks other than dumb, horny, adolescent boys, this doesn’t have anything in the way of fan-service/ecchi. There may be a shot or two or half-dressed women, but they are depicted sensibly and fully within context (getting changed after some work/training for example).
The intro and outro music was great. Even though it wasn’t exactly J-rock, leaning a bit towards J-pop, I still went and got the soundtrack albums. Just very good music, heck these sequences seemed to have the quality of a movie intro/outro. The music within the anime was also great, sound design was on point and tracks played at the opportune moments. I was absorbed in the anime too much for fine details, of course the good use of music helped the immersion.
This anime is only available in Japanese and the voice acting is of high quality, with appropriate voices. The main characters voice really matches her looks, she looks a bit like boy at times and her voice sounds like it could easily play the role of a teenage boy in some other anime. Turns out this voice is none other than Marina Inoue, in addition to voicing Iku Kasahara here, she’s voiced Armin Arlert in Attack on Titan, Eve Genoard in Baccano, Kana Minami in the Minami-Ke series (I knew I recognised this voice from somewhere!), Pheles in Shankugan no Shana II, Yoko Littner in Gurren Lagann and Alicia Melchiott in Valkyria Chronicles (both the game and anime). Atsushi Dojo is voiced by Tomoaki Maeno, who voiced Teshigawara in Another among other roles in anime I haven’t watched/don’t like. Asako Shibasaki is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, the voice of Masami Iwasawa in Angel Beats, Kanae Kudou in Da Capo SS, Sakura Suzuhara in the Evangelion remake and Kotoha Isone in Yozakura Quartet. Hikaru Tezuka is voiced by Tatsuhisa Suzuki, who voices Yuji Sakamoto in Baka to Test, Kazunari Takao in Kuroko no Basuke (his blooper scene was hilarious) and Eishiro Sugata in Sora no Otashimono. Mikihisa Komaki is voiced by Akira Ishida, the voice of Judeau in Berserk, Kaworu Nagisa in Evangelion, Ryuunosuke Uryuu in Fate Zero, Aru Akise in Mirai Nikki, Apos in Mnemosyne and Kally in Tower of Druaga (recently watched). Finally, Ryuusuke Genda is voiced by Kanji Suzumori, who hasn’t voiced many character in anime, even for a Japanese voice actor.
Iku Kasahara is a 23 year-old Library Clerk First Class in the Kanjo Library Task force. She joined to protect books like the man who saved her when she was a high-school student, whom she regards as her prince. While she is capable physically (except with things like guns), having been on the track team back at high-school, she’s not the smartest grape of the bunch. She often sleeps through lectures and this contributes to her lack of knowledge and incompetence during her work as library staff. She is tall for a woman and dislikes how short her superior officer/instructor Dojo is. She is often scolded by him for her mistakes and ineptitude. She hasn’t told her parents where she works, since her mother especially wouldn’t approve of such a dangerous job. Her personality is energetic and she can be funny, she can be tough on the inside but is actually soft-hearted and sometimes cries. She reminds me of Kana from Minami-Ke (voiced by the same VA), but she isn’t as dumb.
Atsushi Dojo is a 27 year-old Librarian Second Class/Sergeant, a member of the Defence Force in the Kanto Library Task Force. He is a harsh instructor, especially towards Iku and seems to be easily angered. He’s often telling her off for her various mistakes. But he values his subordinates and mentions this in a variety of ways throughout the anime. He is of relatively short stature, most noticeable when he stands next to Iku. He seems to give Iku especially harsh treatment, but also is capable of being especially helpful to her, supporting her when she needs it. Komaki often refers to his past mentioning that he was much like Iku and the two are said to be similar to each other, despite Sgt. Dojo being very capable and responsible, unlike Iku. He's clueless about how Iku feels towards him and the same goes for her.
Asako Shibasaki is a 24 year old member of the administrative staff at the Kanto Library Task Force and specialises in intelligence/information gathering. She is Iku’s roommate and best friend in their living quarters at the Kanto Library Base. She is a beautiful and a girly-girl of a woman, much more so that Iku, since she does more girly things like facial therapy and such. She is also very sensible and calm, she never panics like Iku and knows her friend like a book. She is always on hand to help her out and give her advice, especially when concerning Dojo. She later develops a close bond with Hikaru Tezuka.
Hikaru Tezuka is a new recruit similar to Iku, a Library Clerk First Class in the Kanto Library Task Force. Unlike Iku, he is skilled and smart, he has no problems with training and is a good shot with guns too. However his one weakness is his fear of heights. He also has an older brother Satoshi, who is a manipulative individual with his Future of the Library Committee. He’s rather blunt and tends to state things the way they are, which isn’t always the best thing. He isn’t the best when it comes to people skills and is often given a nudge by Sgt. Dojo. Later on he becomes well acquainted with Asako.
Mikihisa Komaki is a 27 year old Librarian Second Class, also a member of the Defence Force within the Kanto Library Task Force. He is Sgt. Dojo’s best friend and drinking buddy, often hanging out in Dojo’s room with him during the off-hours of the evening. They joined at around a similar time and have been together throughout much of their career within the Force. Thus he knows about Dojo’s history, which he often divulges to Iku to try and make her feel better.
The year is 2019, the 31st year in the fictional Japanese Seika Era. The Seika period began with the declaration of the Media Betterment Act (MBA) law in Japan, which censors any media deemed harmful to the Japanese public and enforced by the Media Betterment Committee and their armed forces. Opposing this, with the intent to protect the freedom of speech are the Libraries and the Library Defence Force, which legally protect books under the Freedom of the Libraries Law. The two paramilitary forces are at conflict over books, one to destroy and burn and the other to save and protect. It’s a lukewarm war, with small scale battles waged over caches of books and information, with a surprisingly realistic number of casualties for a controlled modern day/near-future conflict.
The plot follows the main characters as members of the Kanto Library Defence Force as they live their lives and jobs at the main Kanto Library Base. These people are effectively librarians, but more badass and with military training, which they use to protect and secure books. The library has a budget is has for buying books and bringing them under its jurisdiction, thereby rendering them safe from the MBC.
Overall the plot has promise, it purveys a unique story with-in this pseudo-familiar setting. A few niggles, like how smartphones and tablets aren’t in much use in 2019. The technology looks like it’s from 10 years ago. Also, the libraries being… well libraries, means that MBA could potentially disguise themselves as civilians or recruit the help of supportive individuals to legitimately borrow books from the library to then destroy. This plothole isn’t addressed that well, are the censored books not available for loan for the library for security purposes? Even normal people who borrow them would be capable of being robbed of them, for the book to be subsequently destroyed and censored. And surely the government would step in and sort out these two conflicting laws by outright supporting one of these two factions and proclaiming the other illegal. Innocent civilians actually are capable of getting hurt in this war of freedom of speech vs censorship.
The plot feels kinda intermittent, a different situation occurring every episode or two. For the most part it isn’t predictable, though one major point of the backstory becomes obvious to the viewer, despite not being revealed in early episodes. The overall plot doesn’t seem to be there, sure there’s the big struggle for freedom of speech, but this is just a small window into that. Were this a longer anime, then there could have been more story. It feels almost like a slice of life. Some of the characters go through some difficult situations, which made me feel empathic towards them.
Of course, this anime has some obvious political themes embedded within. Not only is there the censorship vs freedom of speech debate, but also the way in which people go about doing thing, whether that involves violence or non-violence. It seems to try and want to get a message across that the brash, brutish aggressive way of doing things is not beneficial, that rather people should seek a passive approach and do things like ‘write stern letter of complaint.’ Being an anime, it can get away with these things working, but in real life, when it comes down to the moment, the peaceful way of thinking might not yield results. There’s also the aspect of various groups within both within and outside of the government and the media siding with certain parties and, particularly the media, twisting the truth for their own biases. If you’re an intellectual person or an adult in the midst of current events, this might be an interesting story to immerse yourself into.
Once again Toshokan Sensou is a unique anime unlike any other, mostly due to the story and setting. While it isn’t aimed towards young boys, I think this anime has something to offer to most people, thus I recommend it to everyone to watch. Except those who want a traditional complete story, this isn’t exactly that, leaning towards the slice of life, even though some situations may take a couple of episodes like the last one. If you’re an adult or intellectual person, this may be of great interest to you also, due to the important subjects this touches upon. I personally enjoyed it a bit, though I almost felt like the romance was shoehorned in, it was too similar that of a shonen anime, mostly non-existent and one-sided with no conclusion. Thankfully it takes a backseat, so it shouldn’t affect enjoyment of this too much.
Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 Nothing offensive, but some heavy themes (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 (higher is better)
I give this anime a 5.5 out of 10, but I did still like it. I felt it had some common problems that short animes have, mainly being lack of time to fully develop a story from start to finish. Also, I don't like how bulky the characters were. I don't mean they were fat, I mean their clothes were just bulky and made them look very rectangle and as if they had a bunch of layers on. However, it wasn't a waste of time.
STORY: I used to avoid short animes because often times they either aren't able to devlop well in such a short time or they are short because no one actually finished them (which should be a sin and against the law if you ask me; at least kill off all the characters or something.) For Toshokan Sensou, I'm not sure it was exactly either. The story had an ending, so it wasn't that there was no end. Yet I feel like the ending shouldn't have been the ending. It felt like the story had just begun and was still on it's way up the big hill (aka hadn't hit the big turning point yet, on it's way to the climax, still at the beginning, etc). I don't know if the writers planned for a second season or not, but the way the ending was done, I doubt they did. Obviously the fact that I didn't want it to be over yet means it is a decent anime in my book. I just feel very iffy about the whole thing which is probably why I gave it half the total possible points. Anyway, it reminded me of the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. There is very little of burning books in Toshokan Sensou and people are still allowed to read, but the similarity is that the right to read is being taken away, books, documents, and art are being destroyed, and there is a force that is trying to keep people from accessing these things. Also, as someone who has spent many hours of my life with my nose in a book, both stories sound like a nightmare to me. They are a nightmare. And yet, they aren't that unbelievable and they aren't that far from reality. Anyway this isn't a compare and contrast essay for school here so moving on. Point is, it's a good story, it just feels like there was so much for it to continue on with.
CHARACTERS: Like short stories, steryotypical characters are useful because most people already know what that character is like. It means less time is needed to explain and develop the character leaving more time for the story to evolve. I'm not sure I would call the characters in this steryotypical though. I'm not sure I would say they are not either. While I felt the characters developing throughout the episodes, I still felt very little connection with them. I didn't dislike them though. The main character Kasahara (excuse any mispellings) is stuborn, naive, determined, and strong. She is the first female to be in the task force which protects the library, documents, and art, but she clearly is the weakest in many aspects of the job. She grows throughout the story, but I feel it would have been better if the series continues because she was still developing. As for the other characters, we never learned a whole lot about them except her instructor Dojo. Odd name huh? Mostly, we know that he used to be a lot like Kasahara.
ANIMATION: I am not a fan of this style of animation, whatever it's called. It's not as bad in this as some animes I know, but it really bothers me. The characters look square or rectangular. They are bulky. Their clothes look like they must be super thick, although in this anime, it almost looks normal sometimes. I can barely tell the main character is even a girl. I'm not saying all anime girls should be thin and tall with long legs and big boobs and wear girly clothes and have long hair. Most of that wouldn't fit this character or the story, but people shouldn't just be a bunch of a bulky rctangles. Okay, it's not quite that bad in this anime, but it sometimes is. They just don't look right. It always takes away from the story for me a bit. Also, the quality of the animation looked older than the show actually is. That may just have been the video player I was watching it on, or rather videoplayers, but for something from 2008, it looked older. Of course part of that could have just been the way it was drawn too. The first episode seemed to be worse than some of the others too, no matter what videoplayer I used and it seemed to be a bit glitchy (the best word I can think of right now) which I wouldn't mention except it was the same no matter what player I used.
SOUND: I never know what to put for this part really. I say it was decent. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't exceptional either.
OVERALL: It's certainly not going on my favorite anime's list. Even if there were more episodes, I doubt it could get on the bottom of that list. I'd say it lands more on the "decent enough, not great, but not a waste of time" list. I doubt it will give you any major laughs or make you cry. It probably won't be a thrill to watch, but it's worth watching if you just need something to pass the time. It's still a better love story than twilight though. But isn't everything?
Animated by Studio I.G. which means it’s going to have amazing science fiction overtones… What the heck, it doesn’t? And it’s a romantic comedy to boot??? Man, these guys are out of their league for trying to pull something good out of this. And the show is directed by the guy who did Prince of Tennis! Ok, I guess the premise is over the top here as well (Books are serious bizness!) but it seems like we are heading for the rule of cool and not because the story seems interesting. And I mean it does sound interesting; 90% of the people who decided to watch the show was because of the description.
“Many books are banned and libraries now have armies in order to protect them.”
Don’t you just want to find out what this is all about? Doesn’t it sound familiar to Fahrenheit 451? Isn’t it relevant to the recent Act Japan voted in order to censor several works of fiction? Isn’t this a social-political heavy story around law-given liberties?
And the answer is no, it isn’t; it is just an excuse to place the main characters in a situation where they need to team together for the same goal. The whole premise is handled very lightly, it is hardly exploited beyond the obvious, and it is usually thrown aside for comedy and romance. In effect, it is just a lure to watch a romance with a pretext. And before you think of anything else YES IT WORKS! Romances work fine as long as they have something other than high schools (gah, how I hate those) and the characters have some sort of goal or objective that keeps them together (other than being forced to go to the same school every day that is and study hard to pass in the same college). So there you go, this time it is in libraries, and they are armed and trained to defend the bookshelves from opposing oppressors of free thought or something.
As I said, it is just a cool premise; nothing too violent or important ever happens and it is mostly stereotypical comedy and romance. Which is just fine if you realize the target audience is GIRLS and not BOYS despite being tagged with a seinen demographic. And thus you get some clutz girl who pretends to be dynamic but keeps being in need for some hunk to save here from pretty much everything in a most non-violent and romantic way. I mean, ok, there is action too, but it is cartoony and aimed at destroying books and not at killing or injuring people. For the same reason, you must love books or be a strong supporter of liberties, or even the premise won’t work and the whole thing will backfire as being completely stupid. A WAR FOR BOOKS? And since it never tries to be serious or delves deep into politics and morals, it is nothing more that a generic excuse for the story to exist and to lure in the bookworm audience. It worked for Inkheart, so why not here as well?
Well, it’s still an almost standard shoujo fare if you check out all the important characters. The dynamic female protagonist who is otherwise frail and in constant need of her super handsome commander… and some others. Yup, it is basically a two-character show with the rest flavouring it with silly action and goofy comedy. It works to place everything in a context (other that goddamn schools) and to have a theme while everything unfolds predictably but also nicely and end rather satisfactory after 12 episodes. It is still very basic as a whole, and all secondary characters are left undeveloped and always easily acknowledged as either good (supporters of books) or bad (Nazi-wannabies and trashers of the former). It would be really cool to see some reasoning behind the baddies and some actual political implications but NAH nothing of the sort happens.
I leave for last the production values which are nothing much in terms of background details or cinematics. To the most part everything looks ok and the crossfire scenes lack tragedy or excitement for being light and bloodless. There are also no exceptional music pieces or memorable voice action, and the comedy is almost ever-present to make things appear even more simplistic with deformity and cartoony violence.
So as a whole it is not a great show but if you get past the stupid logic of WAR FOR BOOKS then you get a nice time waster. But nothing more. I prefer my wars with blood spilling, lives lost, and people screaming.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 2/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 0/4
Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed.
In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it.
So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be.
ART: It's fine. Nothing special about it but it gets the job done. I basically think of anything good to say about it nor can I say anything bad.
SOUND: Same with the art. I can say the same here as I did for the art.
CHARACTERS: Main character is Kasahara. When, in highschool, she was almost stopped from buying a book she really wanted she was saved by someone from the library. She then vowed to join their forces and look for her knight in shining armour.
Dojo is a long time librarian member and trainer of the special forces. Seeing the potential in Kasahara he pushes her harder than anyone else. This creates some tension between them at times as she feels that he has it out for her.
STORY: To protect the Japanese society the Media Betterman Act was created. This allowed the Media Betterman Committee to censor any form of media in Japan. Agents of the MBC go where they want and confiscate anything that they deem dangerous. This is basically everything that they can get their hands on. Of course not everyone agrees with the MBA and local governments created anti-MBA defense force. These Library forces fight the MBA wherever they can. The story itself picks up 31 years after the implementation of the MBA and follows Kasahara as she joins the Library forces. Her wish is to find the man who saved her years before and to help others like she was helped herself.
RANT: For once this section will be very short as there wasn't much wrong here. Only issue would be how bland it was.If you take out the entire MBC and Library issue then you would be left with a romantic actioncomedy story. Unfortunately this is all pretty bland and forgettable. Most interesting part of the story would be the MBA and the impact it has on society but this is hardly shown in the anime. In fact it would appear that for the most part live continues on normally for the majority of the population.</section><section class="userContent">Fighting between the Library and MBC is bound by rules and active combat is only allowed on Library or MBC property. This will have both sides fighting pitched battles with liberal use of sub-machine guns while civilians simply walk past minding their own business.</section><section class="userContent">Both sides also try their best to keep fatalities to a minimum. How they plan to do this while hosing the opposing force with automatic fire is beyond me but whatever.</section>
There are some animes where you feel like the runtime was way too short. Library Wars is one of those, and its not just for the viewer's pleasure that this anime needs more episodes. The 12 episodes were insufficient in really developing the characters and showing the awesome storyline that this anime had going for it. As a result, the start of the anime was too rushed and it felt like viewers were thrown right into the heat of things without much prologue. It also diminished any opportunity to feel for the characters because viewers have yet to warm up to them.
That being said, this is a splendid anime that tackles future governmental reign and possible societal clashes that can happen. It is a wonderful story that adds romance, comedy at the right parts to this military centric show.
The characters all had their own personality and it really (kind of) depicted how military life is like to a little extent (minus the love life and overly friendly superior). Definitely a recommended show to watch for any form of genre lovers.