In 2019, the freedom of speech and writing is severly suppressed by the "Media Improvement Law" and its executive "Media Improvement Committee". As the sole organization that can resist their censorship, libraries take arms to protect their books.
I wasn't aware that the Toshokan Sensou light novels existed until quite some time after I was introduced to the 12 episode anime adaptation, and let me tell you, there's great value in reading the original source material. At least, this was my personal experience with reading the light novels. It was a new and intuitive insight into the premise of Toshokan Sensou, its characters, and the main conflict that waged between the Library Defense Force and the Media Betterment Committee that the anime didn't provide in nearly as much depth.
This usually happens with anime adaptations; sometimes it's necessary for time or money constraints,
or some of the extra little details that the author adds initially in the source material wouldn't quite fit in the context of the visual product that is watched and listened to rather than solely read.
The four Toshokan Sensou light novels are written in, for the most part, straightforward prose; for certain scenes, the prose ranges from very technical (and at times, admittedly it was a bit boring and intimidating, but I quickly got drawn into it) when describing the complexities and nuances of the political and social conflict between the LDF and the MBC, to lighthearted and witty, and to perceptive when the author keenly observes and explains the psychological interactions and nuances between the characters. The author's ability to adapt to the different scenes is quite impressive. The story manages to retain its humorous, serious, and tense moments when needed. At times, however, the mood could tend to abruptly switch - if, let's say, a serious conversation was suddenly intercepted by a lighthearted joke and a comically funny scene - and although it was relatively rare, it made me as a reader wonder what genre the light novels were aiming to be. This decision to combine many genres (comedy, action, romance, etc.) was obviously deliberate and a bit reminiscent of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which almost gratuitously juxtaposes the very horrific and dark themes in the show with occasional humor. It isn't necessarily bad to intentionally intervene very different genres with one another; it just has to be executed successfully. For the most part, Toshokan Sensou succeeds at this, but there were a few times where I wondered which genre it was intended to be.
Other than that, though, I personally have very few gripes with the light novels, or rather the gripes I do have are very minor for the most part. It didn't really ruin the story for me in the long run.
Definitely one of my favorite aspects of the novels were the author's very detailed accounts of the MBC and the LDF, their tumultuous history, and the inner workings of the government infrastructure that initially allowed the MBC to form as a federal organization and censor the media, specifically books and writing. The author also makes it clear that the LDF isn't as 'good' as the protagonist, Iku Kasahara, perceives it to be. Before Iku works at the LDF, she has a scintillating perception of the LDF's workers to be 'champions of justice' that protect books and fight against the MBC's overbearing and often unjustified censorship. I think it was very in-depth and perceptive to explain the full scope, or at least a very broad scope, of the main conflicts in the story, not only between the MBC and the LDF, but also between the characters.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was how pivotal each member of the main cast was to the premise of the story, but also to each other. Individually, they have their own conflicts within themselves and with others, and are at least touched upon separately at least once, and this allowed for profound character development to occur. At the beginning of the series, for example, Iku (the protagonist) was very indignant, dense, and reckless yet also naive and caring, and she constantly clashed with her instructor and squad leader, Dojo (in the English translation of the novels that I found online, his name was spelled as 'Doujou', but in the anime adaptation, his name was spelled as 'Dojo' in the subtitles). As Iku very gradually grows and matures throughout the four novels, she still retains her innate faults, but over time she learns to act rationally rather than impulsively and emotionally, gains a better understanding of knowing when to stop stubbornly insisting, and becomes slightly less dense of people and situations. There is a realistic balance in her character here; fundamentally, she is unchangeable, but she learns how to, in a way, use her faults to her advantage and learn from her mistakes. There is development that occurs in the rest of the main cast, but Iku's is obviously the most notable because she's the protagonist, and this review would become longer than it already will inevitably be if I covered all of that. I guess I could also add that each character felt like a real, tangible person with contradictory traits, faults, core beliefs, and merits. Each character seemed to adhere to a certain personality type on the surface, but it was ultimately revealed that there was much more to them than what met the eye, which is a very human phenomenon.
Ultimately, I am really quite fond of these novels - I thoroughly enjoyed them, I loved the characters and their relationships and felt inspired and sometimes frustrated by them, and I was both intellectually and emotionally appealed to. It was a very intriguing insight into a radical but possible future in regards to censorship. At least on a small scale, I would say that the novels can serve as commentary on censorship, the media, and the profound effect that books, movies, music, and other forms of media have on society and individuals.
The overall framework of this novel is a love comedy and it has some military gun action spices and lots of political claims for the freedom of speech and writing.
The balance of the comedy and serious part is maintained well throughout the pages. Especially the straight forward and passionate character of Kasahara Iku makes the serious plot mild and funny.
The background setting where two public organizations keep on fighting with guns in the middle of the city sounds too eccentric, but I feel the plot close to real because the topics of discussions of this novel are taken from the up-to-date controversy. In
the chapter 2, for example, the influence of the "inappropriate" books on the juvenile crimes is discussed.
This novel warns us that the censorship derived from "good intentions" is right next to us and it will be impossible to escape from it once it is established.
Compared to the last volume, the story is more intense and thrilling. The author tackled the problem of the discrimination against the handicapped. It's quite a delicate issue but he didn't show even a slight hesitation. He denounced the "Politically Correct" activists that they care about only the use of words itself and never pay attention to how the handicapped people actually feel about it. I'm deeply impressed by his opinion and braveness.
The situation of the censorship warfare is getting complicated. It is shown that the library organization is not monolithic and there are political tactics going on behind the curtain. There is no gun actions in this volume, but the strifes among the Task Forces, Media Improvement Committee and the secret association "Future Project" are sophisticated and exciting.
As for the love comedy, the story of Komaki and Marie is so sweet and touching. I sympathized with the contrast between the feelings of men and women in love.
I think the real Library War has started from this volume. I'm satisfied with the deep emotinal descriptions of characters and the complex political background.
It started with a blushing sweet love comedy and ended with a fierce gun battle. I couldn't stop reading until the end. In this volume, it is shown that Kasahara and Tezuka are getting matured. The chage of the relationship between Tezuka and Shibasaki was surprising and interesting.
The description of the battle in the Ibaraki modern art exhibition appeared a bit one-sided. I couldn't fully understand why Media Improvement Forces did such a reckless assault. Whole series lacked Media Improvement Committee side opinion. The author said he intentionally omitted it.
The political group "The Principle of Nonresistance" clearly refers to the recent activities of the extreme left-wing parties in Japan: the local ordinance of "The Unarmed and Nonresistant District". They claim that if Japan is invaded, they will refuse to let the Japan Self Defence Forces go in the district and surrender to the invading country. Those crazy pacifists believe it is the best way to avoid the bloodshed. It's an insane idea but there are quite a few people support this in Japan. I'm frightened at the terrible situation of the Ibaraki Libraries trampled by the Media Improvement Forces. It is a predicted future of Japan.
Like other volumes, "Toshokan Kiki" has all kinds of excitements: Intelligence operations, gun battles, funny comedy, and sweet romance. I'm sure you cannot help moving on to the next final volume "Toshokan Kakumei".
This is the final volume of the "Toshokan Sensou" series, and the BEST volume of all. The Library forces did their best to guard Touma, the novel writer, but they encountered a betrayal after betrayal and a crisis after crisis. Simultaneously with such thrilling operations, romances of Doujyou & Kasahara and Tezuka & Shibasaki have proceeded to the final stage. No other phrase fits to this story better than "Love & War", the subtitle of the Toshokan Sensou manga.
It's a good simulation of what will happen after a terrorist attack. The anger of the public can lead to anywhere because "to prevent the next terrorist attack" is gonna be a magic phrase for justifying any law. But we must keep it in mind that if we get flurried by the terrorist attack and change the principle of our society, that means we give in to terrorists.
The final battle (or rather kind of a car race) was exciting, funny and romantic. Kasahara did what a main character was supposed to do and made the desperate situation into a dramatic slapstick. It was a great entertainment and the marvelous grand finale of the "Toshokan Sensou" series.