The first thing that got me about this one was the title. I mean, how awesome is the phrase "library wars"? Okay, I'm also a huge book nerd, so it wasn't difficult to get my attention with something that simple. Other readers would probably be drawn in by the adorable shojo-style cover and the shojo promises of romance and female-centric story lines with good-looking guys.
Library Wars has all of that, but includes something else — an odd twist on a dystopian (okay, maybe dystopia-light) world in the vein of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. In the future, the government passed The Media Betterment Act, which allowed for the government to create a special force to find and destroy objectionable material (in the government's opinion). However, there was a counter act passed that allowed for the libraries to protect and disseminate any books they wish, therefore not making them subject to the law, thus making the libraries a safe haven free of censorship. In order to combat the aggressive forces of censorship, the library created an elite defense force whose job it is to enforce the library law and protect books.
Iku Kasahara has wanted the join the force her entire life. Not just because she can protect books, but because of a chance meeting with the library defense forces as a child, where a mysterious (and of course attractive) gentlemen saved a collection of books from being confiscated. Finally old enough, Iku enlists in the library defense force and trains to become the best. Which, of course, is somewhat hampered by her instructor Master Dojo, who seems to have it out for her. In typical shojo-style it's implied that Iku may have a romantic relationship with Dojo or another force member, but she can't help thinking about the mysterious man who inspired her to join the force.
Basically, the easiest way to describe Library Wars is Fahrenheit 451 light (okay, very light) with shojo themes thrown in, but not so much so that the story becomes over saturated with cliche shojo plots that the ideas behind the story are forgotten. The most refreshing part of this manga was its unique approach to the genre and how it walks a thin line between dystopia and shojo. However, there are a few world items that don't exactly mesh together and make it feel like the unique dystopia rules aren't really infused with the world completely, which brings up several questions.
The artwork is average; typical shojo-style, but oddly with the guys not as bishi and the girls, particularly Iku, not as girly. I wouldn't say it's bad by any means, but it's not spectacular. At least the editing and panel logic makes sense, and readers can easily follow the action as it flows from panel to panel. Readers unfamiliar with manga should keep in mind that Library Wars reads right-to-left, Japanese style, in the order to keep the artwork truer to the original and not having to flip it for English-language audiences.
Despite a few flaws, Library Wars is an enjoyable manga that sets up the series for fun, light entertainment and possibly something more. It's great for shojo fans and book nerds.