Jun 19, 2016
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.
What did you think of this review?