Library Wars: Love and War: In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves–the Library Forces! (Viz)
Doesn’t that sound awesome? A tough heroine fighting the forces of censorship! It could still become awesome, but the first volume trades in some plot devices that put it at a distinct disadvantage, at least with me. Kasahara, a young trainee in the Library Forces, has decided to join that august body in part because one of its members “stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger.” That’s still not problematic, as there’s nothing wrong with pursuing a career because of the inspiration of someone you admire. Unfortunately, Kasahara refers to that mysterious figure as a “prince” and layers dippy, ill-conceived romantic notions on her otherwise totally admirable ambition.
I’ve got to tell you that this kind of thing – a person falling madly in love with someone they don’t know anything about based on a brief, largely forgotten encounter during their formative years – gets on my nerves. I can get over it, as I did with Kitchen Princess (Del Rey), but the first volume of Library Wars doesn’t fill me with confidence. Kasahara isn’t very bright, and she doesn’t work very hard at her training. I’m inclined to side with her bright, hard-working rival when he suggests that she doesn’t really deserve the preferential treatment and opportunities for advancement she receives. (She hasn’t even bothered to learn the shelving system!)
Maybe future volumes will focus less on dumb mooning and more on information specialists promoting the free exchange of information and ideas by any means necessary. I’ll give Library Wars another volume, but Kasahara needs to get her dopey act together. Good intentions only go so far.
(Library Wars: Love and War was based on a novel by Hiro Arikawa and adapted by Kiiro Yumi.)
Code:Breaker: Rei seems like an affable transfer student to everyone around him, but quirky high school beauty Sakura sees his true face as a terrifying vigilante—a “nonexistent” Code:Breaker who cannot be touched by the law. And since Sakura has just witnessed the effects of his deadly blue flame, she’s slated to be the next to burn! (Del Rey)
Doesn’t that sound just too generic for words? It’s not, largely because high school beauty Sakura is actually quirky, and she’s tougher and smarter than Kasahara by a wide margin. All of the boys in Sakura’s school view her as a delicate flower they’d love to protect, in spite of the fact that she’s better versed in the martial arts than all of them combined. She’s too busy thinking about things that matter to be offended by their condescending entreaties, which makes for some pretty funny moments.
One of the things that matter, at least in Sakura’s considered opinion, is an apparent mass murder that she witnesses while riding the bus home from school. She goes to investigate, but there’s no evidence. When a new boy, Rei, shows up in class, she recognizes him from the massacre and looks into the mystery, putting herself in danger in the process.
Sakura’s tough, principled approach to life pretty much carries the book. She never cringes, and she has a really firm grasp on right and wrong. Rei’s vigilantism offends her notions of order and justice, and I’m looking forward to seeing their philosophical back-and-forth. Code:Breaker could become as bland as its premise suggests, as much more promising manga has gone off the rails by the second volume, but I think I’ll enjoy this one as long as Sakura’s spine endures.
(Code:Breakers was written and illustrated by Akimine Kamijyo and debuts from Del Rey in late July. These remarks are based on a review copy.)