Archive for the 'toshokan sensou' Category

Toshokan Sensou: Strength Admist Hardship: A Clash of Ideals?

I have got to have a badge like that. It’s just so…badass.

I have finished (finally!) the gun-totin’ librarian war opus heartfelt romantic wartime drama epic criticism of censorship I DON’T KNOW that is Toshokan Sensou. The conclusion was suitably packed with all the things I had enjoyed about the series (see struck-out comments above), and while I don’t think Toshokan Sensou will stand as a “classic” of censorship critiques a la Transfer K505 (you were one degree Kelvin off, Production I.G.! One degree!),. I do think it is far more enjoyable and honestly entertaining than my time spent reading Ray Bradbury’s seminal work on the subject and getting clubbed on the head with CENSORSHIP IS BAD morality (I had the same problem reading All Quiet on the Western Front; that book had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, which is exactly what it was going for, but by page 50 I was like “I get it, okay, you can stop now”), but I think that it’s more enjoyable because I have inverse taste. I’m supposed to be looking down on anime, pandering, escapist, filthy trash that it is, from the “lofty heights” of literature, foreign film, or, barring that, good ol’ homemade American comic books, but somehow, I don’t think it works that way. Which is pretty much exactly what Toshokan Sensou (or at least Iku’s brilliant speech in the middle of episode 12) was all about.

The most interesting part I found in the final sequence–at least from the standpoint of entering highly philosophical and possibly bullshitting mode–was the admission from the mysterious man from the Media Committee that the Media Com. doesn’t have an ideal like the Library Task Force does. The Media Com. fights, instead, for its own sense of pride, and because everyone there is there simply because of personal connections, and, at the end of the day, simply to earn a living wage and survive. The Library Force, on the other hand, has a sort of idealism about it–they’re not fighting because it’s the only way they can eke out an existence, they’re fighting because they believe they are right. I already addressed the problems with their ideals, which are best answered by Voltaire in his legendary quote “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death your right to say it!” (Candide, by the way, is awesome), but their ideals are extremely good ideals to have. What this means for the battle between censorship and freedom of expression, however, is that one side (the pro-expression, Library Force side) has a vision and a cause to fight for; more often than not, people arguing for censorship, or banning books, or burning books, seem to be doing it simply to protect their honor, or the honor of someone or something else.

It’s not always the case, and never across the board for people who call for censorship of material. But when things like, say, a few children’s librarians throwing a hissy fit over the use of the word “scrotum” on page 1 of The Higher Power of Lucky, it’s more like they’re offended that such a dirty and naughty word such as “scrotum” showed up in their Newbery-Award winning book, tainting what should have been a good book with its anatomical cooties (I read the book; I would have taken them more seriously if they had thrown a fit about Lucky dropping her pants and relieving herself in the middle of the Arizona desert, which was probably too far into the book for them to notice or even read, having thrown the book at the wall already). Of course, in that case, the “honor” they’re defending is more like another ideal, in this case what they think children’s literature should be–and the Library Force’s response to this would most likely be “do you really have the right to say what it should be?

And that, in a nutshell, is what Toshokan Sensou was all about–no one has the right to say what is “good” and “bad” literature, or art, or music, or TV, or anime (I’m pretty sure that line, and the subsequent montage of otaku-ish anime series in an otherwise un-otaku series, were thrown in there as otaku-bait, but it was glorious nonetheless to hear a librarian admit anime had value as expression), because there is no objective way to determine what is “good” or “bad”. I, for instance, wholly support the presence of a cute and possibly otaku-bait girl in a given anime series (so long as the series doesn’t rely overly much on the cute girl to carry the ratings, and is something I would like to see anyway); there are many out there (who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) who would argue quite the opposite: that cute and possibly otaku-bait girls are ruining anime as we know it. Neither side is right or wrong, but both sides (and all the ones in between) have the right to have entertainment that appeals to them, and I fervently hope they find it. I can’t deny them non-cute-girl-containing anime, any more than they can deny me cute-girl-containing anime.

Final thoughts on Toshokan Sensou: even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting going in, it still pretty much lived up to the only expectation I really held for it: “pure awesome”. Toshokan Sensou was all those crossed out genres/topics/themes/whatever that I crossed out at the beginning of the post–it handled all of them equally well, and while none really took center stage and stole the limelight, I’d much rather a series that had a bit of something for everyone to enjoy than a one-sided series that was just miltiary drama or just romantic drama or just deep thoughts on censorship. The end result for all three is weakened by the lack of focus, but I have respect for Arikawa Hiro (and the adaption staff at Production I.G.) now, since she balanced all three and didn’t let one drop in favor of the other. The end result is something that can attract a wide audience, and hopefully ones who came for one element will get enjoyment out of another.

That, and I now want my own Kanto Library Task Force uniform to wear to work. It’ll make me look like a security guard, yes, but it would be the best thing ever. Maybe I could add epaulettes…

Toshokan Sensou: The Thorny Problem of Censorship

Yes, I know I haven’t been watching Toshokan Sensou as I should have been (I blame slowness on the part of subbers, and then a general unwillingness to trust Ocha! after watching an early episode subbed by them; thankfully, they seem to have improved to acceptable levels, so I should finish this up soon; Iku-plosions will be scattered but intense, light drizzles of Klan Klan relieving pressure in between bouts)

I just watched 7 and 8 (the arc dealing with Tezuka’s rather sinster brother, if you needed a quick refresher), but what jumped out at me wasn’t necessarily the actual storyline (which had me suitably worried for Iku under interrogation and really mad at aforementioned sinister brother so I was quite entertained on that front) but, rather, the whole underpinnings that kind of ran underneath the arc, fundamental to Toshokan Sensou’s general theme: censorship, and the fight against it.

Very early on in 7, Iku gets upset at Sunagawa for writing scathing reviews of a book–not just any book, mind, but her favorite book, which means that she’s a bit zealous about it and will brook no insult. She, of course, berates him in person for this, telling him how he shouldn’t post such negative reviews of books, because what if a fan of the book saw the review and got upset? “They didn’t have to read it,” claims Sunagawa, “and it’s the kind of thing the public wants, anyway. Besides, even library staff have the right to express their opinions however they wish.”

“Holy crap,” I thought at that moment, “that’s a horribly complicated issue you just brought up!” And it is–the right to free speech, commonly interpreted, states that you have the right to say whatever the hell you feel like saying, and that it is up to the people receiving the speech to accept, discard, or ignore it at their leisure. Of course, Iku brings up my very own caveat to that very principle–what if you trash something (be it a book, a movie, a song, an ethnicity, a sociopolitical entity) and then someone who happens to like (or be) that thing reads or hears it? Does your right to say whatever the hell you feel like saying still stand when you start getting antsy and offending other people?

Well, no; you do have the right to say whatever you feel like saying, but common sense and good manners dictates that you at least consider what you’re saying and whether or not you’re offending people by saying it. I’m pretty sure that no matter how carefully you phrase something, it’s virtually impossible to be completely inoffensive to all 6 billion people on the planet. When dealing with this issue, I’ve always found it useful to remember the axiom that “your right to swing your fist at me ends at my face.” Of course, if your intent is to hit my face (or offend me), then go right ahead, neither I nor no one else can stop you; but be prepared for the consequences, whatever they may be.

Iku takes no sass from anyone, which is an admirable and respectable (if sometimes problematic) goal in life.

And, then, of course, the opposite situation is dealt with later in the episode. Shibasaki is given the chance to cover-up a huge scandal in the library wherein someone is illegally burning books, and she has no idea how to react to it, and hypothetically confesses to Iku about it. Iku, of course, the ALA poster child that she is (I want to see one of those READ posters with her on it so bad, but it will never happen), tells her that the crime shouldn’t be covered up, because it’d just make things even worse when the truth surfaced. It seems somewhat hypocritical at first glance (“Don’t diss my favorite book! Stop being a jerk!” –> “Oh you can’t censor information at all! Truth is truth!”) but with just a little bit of thought in the manner, it’s still consistent with the general philosophy Iku embraces wholeheartedly–information is free, but there are ethics to be followed, and morality to be considered. In the first case, Iku simply wants Sunagawa to show more restraint, morality, and ethics in his opinions; it may be what the public wants to read, but is it really proper to say it in such a fashion? In the second, the issue is dealing with the coverup of a crime of unknown heinousness, and her answer is simple, direct, and (with consideration to pauses for dramatic effect) instantaneous: it’s a crime, and even if it’s going to be damaging to people (or even, as Iku finds out somewhat indirectly, to yourself), you can’t censor it. That is pure ethics right there–even if you want to keep it a secret, even if it’s someone you cared about, it is information, and it has a right to be disseminated to the public at large, for their consideration.

This whole topic is a huge, horrible nightmare of a mess, and even though I agree with the ethics posted above, even I can’t follow them 100% of the time–if emotions are raging and flying or my brain isn’t paying attention to what it’s saying (or if I make a conscious, knowing decision to violate the ethics to make a stand), I do slip up; we all do. But I do find it a good guideline to keep in mind when dealing with people in general, and especially in public forums.

And, anyway, if I really wanted to, I could place a pillow over my mouth and scream that the pope is a homosexual hermaphrodite, and no one would ever know but me. That’s also a valid way to deal with stress and things you dislike, since we all have things we hide under the surface in order to maintain harmony with fellow humans that we wouldn’t dare tell anyone else. But maybe that’s what LiveJournal is for these days!

Toshokan Sensou: The Only Thing Missing Is a Card Catalog

I love you even when you’re mad, Iku, although I’m sure Doujou loves you more (and, if not yet, soon).

I still don’t care how little sense this series makes. It’s totally awesaome. The best part about episode 4 was the part where, in order to get around the problem of not beling allowed to fire weapons off library property unless given special dispensation to (which brings up the interesting dynamic of the librarians being the defenders in this war, rather than the offense–more later) simply by declaring the building where Iku and the librarian administrator were held the newest branch of the Kanto library. Of course, that was made even better because they managed to storm the entire place without firing a shot, but, hey, we always need more libraries around.

I also highly enjoyed the “discussion” (more like reminder) of the basic prinicples of library operation: do not restrict access to information. Of course, in a real library, this is a somewhat thorny problem, as things become somewhat complicated when you start mixing the public in. Pulbic libraries and major academic libraries that let patrons in from outisde the university, which is most of them; I think I’ve only been to one private library in my life, a horse-focused one in Keeneland (yes, I live in Kentucky; no, we aren’t all hicks, and no, I will not send you moonshine), so it’s probably less of a concern there. Still, in public settings (I work at two of them, so I’ve seen this process twice) there are sensitive issues such as whether or not people should access things such as pornography at a library. The government-run public library has a strict computer user policy where you can theoretically be ejected/banned from the library for accessing such material, although in practicality this almost never happens. The worst most people get is all the librarians sharing a hearty laugh in the back room about it. At the other library, though, it’s not forbidden so much as, if another patron/staff member raises a complaint about what someone is looking at on a computer, security steps in and tells them to find a new computer (and there’s like 50 quintillion of the things in the building).

More relevant to Toshokan Sensou is the rather strange fact that, as mentioned above, the libraries are on the defensive against censors, rather than on the offensive. Perhaps it’s just that we’re all a bunch of pacifists, but it’s interesting from the social commentary position that libraries have to defend freedom of speech and expression from a public (or, in this case, a government-sponsored organization) that strives to censor information. I’m not entirely sure about how one can be on the offensive about freedom of speech, but,.as a librarian, it’s always struck me as strange that people would want to abridge freedom of speech. This is a crazy complicated issue, as the ALA likes to speak out against things such as book burnings, which, if you look at them funnily enough, become a matter of free speech, in that their burning of the book is their way of saying that they abhor this book. More straightforward is the banning of books, which is clearly a violation of freedom of speech. I’m still vastly amused over the hubbub when a few rogue librarians threw a hissy fit over The Higher Power of Lucky after it won a Newbery because the word “scrotum” was on the first page (the scrotum in question was attached to a dog, but this didn’t stop them), and banned the book from their library, declaring it unfit for children. Freedom of speech is awesome and I would totally join an army to protect it, especially if we got to recite these lines here as our own personal Articles of War.

Oh, and just for fun:

What the hell kind of classification system are they using? Maybe I’m just too unfamiliar with the general operating mechanics of the Nippon Decimal Classification, but this doesn’t make any sense at all. First, why are there no decimal numbers and Cutter numbers and, second, why aren’t the call numbers (if one can call such abominations “call numbers”) in numerical order? Do your library research, Production I.G. (Or maybe I just don’t know how things are done in libraries in Japan, as I know I’ve seen that style of call number label in anime before, but it doesn’t seem to be any use to anyone at all)

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.

Toshokan Sensou [RAW]: I Wish to Wear Military Uniforms in the Library

Yes, it’s another raw review. This is how desperate I am.

The first episode of Toshokan Sensou/Library War was, in a word, amazing. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, given my background (I work at a library doing basic but vital gruntwork and love every second of it and plan on being an actual, bona-fide librarian when I Grow Up, a time which is terrifyingly closer every day) but it was everything I hoped it to be. I knew going into it that the tone would be light, given the fact that Arikawa Hiro’s original light novel was a satire, but I didn’t know whether it’d be a satire that took itself seriously, yet was ludicrous, or a satire that took itself lightly, yet was serious. From the first episode, it’s clearly the latter, and it was so well done on the first part that I really no longer care if it does a good job on the second front, although, given the popularity, it probably does.

The reason for this is, of course, the fact that Kasahara Iku is a hardcore contender for Cutest Anime Librarian Ever, although I don’t quite know if she counts as a librarian. The only other major contenders I can think of are Kokoro from Kokoro Library, Yomiko Readman from Read or Die, Schieska from Fullmetal Alchemist, and Nodoka from Negima!. Needless to say, this is a terrifyingly potent list, and with Iku joining the ranks the world of anime librarians are about to be upended. Inoue Marina plays Iku perfectly, although that may be just because I like her voice in general. Iku is positively adorable and cements the pre-airing buzz I had for this series into a solid block of pure awesome.

The other reason I like it so much is the fact that it manages to pull off the tricky job of being seriocomic well. Episode 1 is highly amusing, and the parts where they weren’t being silly didn’t get in the way of the parts where they were hamming it up. It makes for an extremely leveled viewing experience, and I’m certain they’ve got the comic side of things down pat. The serio part will requuire subtitles and more episodes to properly judge, but I’ve got a lot of faith in Production I.G.’s effort despite the somewhat questionable track record of the director and the almost nonexistent track record of the writer (Hamana Takayuki and Konuta Takeshi, respectively).

Whether or not the series succeeds at the satire element or not, I’m pretty sure this will be a fun series to watch. The very concept amuses me greatly (librarians…with GUNS! and TASK FORCES!) so I don’t see how this will fail to be, at the worst, highly enjoyable light entiertainment. And, hey, if the satire element is good, that’s just better for me. I’m all about free speech and no censorship, so a success in the satire department will be extra grand. For all I know, the people at Production I.G. did demographic research and produced this series especially for me. But that’s a lie, because they probably have no idea who I am. But it feels that way.


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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March 2023