It started while I was wondering whether there’s any anime about the library when I found an overlooked anime titled Library War as one of the recommendations. Library War is adapted from the novel with the same name written by Hiro Arikawa. The backstory starts with the history of Seika Era, when censorship policies were authorized in the name of protecting the society from the bad influence of media. The government created the Media Enhancement Law Commission that has the authority to censor any book and artifact considered not decent for society and use military authority against anyone who oppose their deliberation.
On the other hand, to protect the freedom to acquire their media, the library also made a military force called the Library Defense Force. The main character, Iku Kasahara is a member of the Task Force, a special unit of the Library Defense Force.
Censorship and Human Rights
This anime serves as a representation of reality that goes straight into social criticism of human rights. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 19, it states “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers” (United Nations, 2015).
The main issue in the series is the excessive censorship by the Media Enhancement Law Commission and the efforts of the Libary Defence Force to protect the censored items. The anime also mentioned bibliocide in the Hino Nightmare incident. However, censorship has a major role in history as a cause of book destruction. Fernando Baez (2004) said in the preface of his book A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq, that book destruction is not just about annihilating a creation, but also to erase memory (damnatio memoriae).
In Library War, the Media Enhancement Law Commission commits bibliocide in order to censor. This can be categorized as fundamentalist bibliocide, meaning that the book is not seen as an object but as thought itself. The biblioclasts are frightened by the contents and don’t want other people to read it (Umberto Eco, 2001). Biblioclasts are described as totalitarian, having their eternal law based on apocalyptic myths and dogma (Baez, 2004).
Unfortunately, there’s no further background information in the plot that tells about the stakeholders of Media Enhancement Law Commission, focusing only on the national government and the head of the Library Defense Force. But it can be said that the censorship law in Library War‘s setting is made by people who have the characteristics of biblioclasts because the main purpose of its censorship authority is to keep morality, which is one of the fundamental aspects of humanity. Media Enhancement Law Commission has a military authority that makes it totalitarian, and committing massive censorship to prevent the negative effects of media makes it dogmatic. There are plenty of other solutions to solve the issue of media effects, such as better education and information literacy skills.
Censorship restricts freedom of opinion and expression. Furthermore, censorship itself restricts not only the creation, but also the creator and the publisher. One of the notable early example of restricting thought in the recorded human history is the execution of Socrates for the crime of “corrupting the youth.” In the TV series, Library War doesn’t actually mention anything about writers or creators, as censorship is only done on bookstores and libraries. Such act of censorship is faulty, of course, since just destroying the book does not destroy the thought in the mind of the creator. But in the film sequel, the story centers on the task of protecting a writer named Touma Kurato following a terrorist attack that was inspired from Kurato’s work when the Commission’s authority is expanded to censor authors too. Kurato did not commit anything harmful way himself, but he was held accountable for other people’s harmful way of receiving his writing. As Heinrich Heine (1821) said, “wherever they burn books, in the end, burn human beings.”
Politics and Library
If we refer to history, libraries usedvto be owned only by aristocrats or intellectuals. That’s because books were hard to produce before the printing press was created and those books were gathered by political authorities. There was a growing understanding among politicians that libraries were not just collections of books for lending, but important centers of the social and economic life of the community (Feather, 2003). Well, histories are written by the winners and anyone who controls information is the winner. The different perspectives of journalists in Library War can be a good example. In the series, there is an episode where a TV news programme takes side with the Media Enhancement Law Commission, while in the film, there are journalists on the Library Defense Force side. Both struggle and compete to control the perception of society. The library is a democratic space for the freedom of getting well-informed.
The political process is always present in debates on library policy, rules of library use, and even in collection development decisions and challenges. Librarians are politically enmeshed in the larger national and international issues of war, peace, social justice, and the vital role of good government in human affairs (Berry, 2014). This situation also exists both in the TV series and the film. Librarians in Library War take active role in upon the rule of preserving their collection, even taking part in trial and align themselves with the minister of another country.
The concept of militarizing the library is a particularly stunning element in this anime, because libraries in real life are always among the victims of war, not the participants. But I do remember an article that discusses one way a library served its patron during the World War was having the librarians delivered books by horse to the patron’s home miles away from the library, and they were armed if only to protect themselves. Most of them were women (I’d love to discuss about feminism in the library, but that could take up an article of its own). But most of the side characters in the anime are women.
To be continued on page 2