The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Toshokan Sensou

Title: Toshokan Sensou aka Library War
Company: Production I.G.
Genre: Action/Drama/Comedy
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 10 Apr 2008 – 26 June 2008

Synopsis: The Japanese government had taken a giant step at regulating books, music, and other media that they believe undermine society. To enforce this, they’ve set up paramilitary units to seize offensive media, but the libraries fought back by forming their own military units to protect the freedom of expression. Kasahara Iku, a young woman, experiences the government’s coercive acts firsthand as a teenager and ends up joining the Library Task Force with the goal to fight the government’s Media Cleansing Committee.

The Highlights
Action: Fun to watch and can get intense at times.
Side characters: Do an excellent job of complementing the main leads.
Premise: The concept of armed, militant librarians is a nice change, silly though it may be.
Resolution: Feels inconclusive, but enjoyable nevertheless.
Music: Excellent orchestral fare.

The entire concept of militaristic librarians serving as the bastion for free expression is a rather difficult premise to swallow, but it works to grab one’s attention right off the bat just to see where Toshokan Sensou’s story will go. The series itself is a mishmash of various genres as it tries to combine action, comedy, and drama into 12 episodes, achieving rather mixed results in the process. While the execution of the main plot feels incomplete, the way it handles the characters and the romance becomes its selling points, making it surprisingly enjoyable in spite of its faults.

The problem that Toshokan Sensou has with its plot is that it’s simply far too large to fit within 12 episodes. This particular premise isn’t something you can hand wave by saying that the characters’ actions will contribute to making society better; what the viewer is looking for is a story that will rattle the pillars of society and bring about a revolution in the population’s mindset. But because the resolution doesn’t go far enough in this direction, the show feels inconclusive. There is a sense that there’s supposed to be a greater conflict, except it doesn’t materialize, which, while regrettable, is understandable given the number of episodes.

Furthermore, the small episode count constrains other aspects of the series. There is no bigger example of this than Tezuka Satoshi. Throughout the second half of the series, Satoshi becomes a major player as he works to undermine the Library Task Force, but then inexplicably aids them on one of their missions. While we do get a bit of background through his younger brother Hikaru, Satoshi continues to stand out as an enigma because the show does not give us a reading into his thoughts or his motivations beyond philosophical differences. His appearance poses a problem that never gets explored too deeply. As a result, the viewer will get the feeling that he was supposed to play a bigger role in the plot and the fact that he doesn’t means that his role falls short of what it could have been.

So, while the decision to skimp on exploring the antagonists’ motivation is unfortunate, the series makes up for that by doing an excellent job of sculpting the protagonists’ characters and personalities in such a way that it’s easy to grasp how they think and feel without being shallow. At first glance, the characters’ appearances look familiar: Dojo Atsushi, Kasahara Iku’s superior officer is the tough-minded, but caring higher-ranking officer with the militaristic demeanor and looks of Sagara Sousuke (Full Metal Panic (1,2)) while Kasahara Iku’s looks and childish side is reminiscent of Nodame (Nodame Cantabile). But the resemblances are superficial as the two become enjoyable characters in their own right, growing and maturing as the series progresses. Each episode strengthens the bonds between the two as they gain a better appreciation for their mission and for each other without having the characters drag their feet with the romance.

Toshokan Sensou’s plot falls short of an epic struggle and a concrete resolution, but to dismiss it based on these grounds is to miss out on the qualities that make this show enjoyable. For a series that had issues with wasted potential, this show succeeds admirably in being engrossing through the strength of the characters.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: zzeroparticle

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