Toshokan Sensou: The First Line of Battle is the Circulation Desk

Pic unrelated to title, but the expression on Iku’s fact there perfectly represents the feeling I get on a day when work is getting slammed with patrons who all want to find that one special book that got stolen two years ago and, not finding it, pick another book with an embarassing cover (which is 90% of the books in the library) and take it to the circulation desk whereupon they discover that they have a $0.50 fine and begin to argue with the circ staff about how unfair it is that they should have to pay a 50 cent fine, to which the reply is “Well, you turned in a book five days late” which elicits a “No I didn’t, that was on time!” and proceeds to defend their precious 50 cents while the guy down the line with the $50 fine writes a check while smiling and telling us to buy some fun books with the money. I know you guys like the library and all, but really, you don’t have to all come in and do this at the same time.

Er, sorry. Work rant. This series might prompt more of them.

Anyway, now that there are subs, Toshokan Sensou is still glorious and still everything I had hoped it would be when I heard about it months ago. It’s actually better–I didn’t expect Iku at all, and neither did I expect her to channel Ai Tanabe at the same time that Doujou was channeling Hachimaki, which makes this a quite fun series to watch. The premise of setting libraries at war against an independent team of media censors has been described as ludicrous by some, but these people clearly do not understand the awesome inherent in sticking guns into the hands of librarians. The command to shush while in the library sticks a bit better when we’re pointing a gun at you and telling you to shush, rather than just giving you a stern look from beneath our collective beehive hair (note: I have never seen a librarian, or even a non-librarian, with beehive hair. We all look as awesome as Nancy Pearl with her push-button shushing action).

Coming from my librarian background, the best part of the two episodes I just watched was the bit in episode 2 where Iku is performing library duties with varying degrees of success. I felt sorry for her when she knocked over the book cart (that happens every once in a while, and it’s never pretty, especailly when the whole cart tumbles over and you’re staring at a pile of books that were once in perfect Dewey order and are now sorted according to entropy), but nevertheless admired her plucky tenacity to learning the ropes of the classification system. I couldn’t help but notice that the Kantou Library Group uses those nifty shelves-on-rails things that we’ve got at the local university–those things are handy but annoying when you’re trying to shift the collection across the border and have to put books on a cart, get out of the aisle, push the button, wait, and then unload and do it all over again.

And my Expert Library Worker Eye spotted horrible inefficiency in the shelving process–I mean, really, Iku just grabs a small bin of books and whisks off to the stacks to shelve them. I don’t know what kind of circ Kantou gets, but it’s a huge library and that seems like a horribly inefficient way to go about the tedious process of putting the books back on the shelf.

I get carried away talking about the process of working in a library, so here’s something of actual pertinence to the anime I’m supposed to be discussing: I’m quite liking the blend of seriousness and lightheartedness. As mentioned above, the setting could be construed as quite ludicrous, but the series doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’d be a silly premise if this was a gritty war drama with death and blood and guts and courage, but with the mood of the series the way it is, the silliness of the setting doesn’t really bother me at all, and in fact actually adds to the experience. And, honestly, it’s no more ridiculous than Read or Die’s setting, where the British Library actually has a huge network of secret agents who all have supernatural powers who protect great literature the world over. And Read or Die is considered a classic of anime in general, so I see no reason why we should criticize Toshokan Sensou just because it isn’t snappy mad cool like Read or Die was.

I also love how they have to announce to each other over the intercom that they’re opening hostilities, and that the Media Enforcement Corps actually give the libraries time to evacuate patrons who might be caught in the crossfire. Then again, I’m sure somewhere in a later episdoe there will be a patron death and Iku will go on a rampage or something fun like that. But we actually haven’t had a death in the series yet, and I don’t think we’re going to. It’s not a kill-people-off story, especially as the librarians are quite content to shoot to disarm and not to kill. I think that’s the best part of the series, for me–they may now be soldiers trained in the art of war, but they’re stil librarians at heart.

Now if only libraries in our world could field their own army, and we could launch attacks on book burnings and similar nasty things. The right to free speech and freedom of information should be enforced with military might, thank you very much.

4 Responses to “Toshokan Sensou: The First Line of Battle is the Circulation Desk”

  1. 1 issa-sa 30 April 2008 at 3:51 am

    Well, if the librarian gives it the thumbs up, it just proves the awesomeness that is Toshokan Sensou!!

  2. 2 The Animanachronism 30 April 2008 at 6:54 pm

    [T]he British Library actually has a huge network of secret agents who all have supernatural powers who protect great literature the world over.

    I’m sorry, you must have used the word ‘ridiculous’ by mistake. The world of Read or Die is Utopia.

    Anyway, this post was a great read, as I suspected a librarian’s-eye-view of this show might be.

  3. 3 OGT 30 April 2008 at 7:43 pm

    When did I say that having a ridiculous premise was a bad thing? All I was saying was that if you call Toshokan Sensou’s premise ridiculous, you have to call Read or Die’s premise ridiculous as well.

    Funny story about Read or Die, actually–the graduate assistant last year had to do a presentation once on rare books, and she barreled through the whole thing, and opened the floor to questions, of which the only one was “Have you seen Read or Die?”, to which her response was “YES!“, at which the entire class applauded again.

    This is why librarians are awesome.

  4. 4 Ryan A 1 May 2008 at 11:40 am

    omg its the Dewey decimal system D: yaay for librarians

    I’m still going with the premise as a delivery mechanism… characters characters characters. Though, I think it is a valid premise.

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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April 2008

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