Toshokan Sensou Review — B-

In the world of Toshokan Sensou (Library Wars), the national government has established a censorship law which the armed Media Cleansing Committee enforces by burning books. In response, the provincial governments have created the Library Force to protect books from censorship in libraries. Toshokan Sensou follows Kasahara as she joins the elite Library Task force.

The show is a mashup of Fahrenheit 451 (more on this later), a war show, and a corny romance. The romance wasn’t actually that bad, I’m just not really into that kind of thing (from the Tatami Galaxy: “There’s nothing more boring than a successful romance”). The military parts of the show were well done, with good action scenes.

The setup is certainly creative, but isn’t entirely believable. Japan has laws which allow open warfare between their own countrymen in open daylight. How could anyone possibly tolerate this? I mean, I think most people would prefer either censorship or no censorship to open warfare in the streets. There were a few other things that didn’t make much sense: for one, we had a pacifist who refused to resist the censors. Then when she is going to get fired from her job she picks up a pistol, shoots someone, and lights herself on fire with her own library. So much for pacifism. So the show requires some suspension of disbelief, but this isn’t too much of a problem.

Now for the Fahrenheit 451 comparison. This show includes references to Fahrenheit 451 as the “Book of Prophecy” which predicts book burning. But unfortunately, this show isn’t really much of a critique of censorship like Bradbury’s book. The reason the main character joins the Library Force is because her “Prince” was in the Library Force and protected her book. The commander founded the Library Force because his wife was killed by the censorship force. And most of the censorship forces are mercenaries (except for the one character with the cleansing committee who has a face, who has “personal connections” and also dislikes censorship). So the censorship forces are rather unambiguously evil. Also, in Fahrenheit 451, the government was more or less just expressing the will of an empty society in burning books: in Toshokan Sensou, most people either support the libraries or are indifferent. (Ok, they claim a majority of people support censorship at some point, but we never even meet any of these people, if they actually exist)  So there is a clear boogeyman in Toshokan Sensou, while for Bradbury the entire society was to blame.

One of the things that made Fahrenheit 451 great is how it showed the effects of censorship on a society and how devastating and hard escape from they are. But here censorship is more of an abstract thing which makes people get shot, or gets some little kids’ books taken away. For a show which is about the suppression of ideas, there are far too few ideas to go around.  Another problem is that the world is static: Montag and his world become more and more interesting as he uncovers more about it and learns to despise what he used to be. In Toshokan Sensou there is no growth. The world more or less is and remains the way it initially appeared.

Still, overall I greatly enjoyed this show— it’s completely unfair to compare it to one of Bradbury’s masterpieces. One of the more interesting aspects for me was seeing the cultural political differences. Americans tend to be less ambivalent about censorship than most of the world, for one thing, although we certainly have our fair share of censorship advocates. A lot of Western works focus on censorship as well, but the same can’t be said of anime. The ending of the show also felt extremely Japanese: after something that wasn’t really his fault, the commander of the Library Forces tragically steps down to “take responsibility”, as the rest of the forces honored him. This took most of an episode with much crying. I was kind of just rolling my eyes.

  • Plot / Script – 9  / 10 – Creative setting, interesting short stories
  • Characters – 8  / 10 – Distinctive and enjoyable, although small in number
  • Production – 8 / 10 – Consistent, nothing spectacular
  • Overall – B-

Recommendations – Planetes, Nodame Cantabile (for the romance), Book of Bantorra, Read or Die (for the books)

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