In an alternate history of Japan, the government has taken a stance against media, particularly books, which they deem to be against social order. The Media Betterment Committee, or the MBC, conduct raids on libraries and bookstores looking to remove sensitive material with the mandate of highly placed politicians. The only force willing to stand up to the MBC is the Library Defense Force (LDF), a trained group of librarians who defend the freedom of information and the grounds of centralized libraries which contain free and open material for the public. Amidst clashes between the two branches, the film follows Iku Kasagara (Nana Eikura), a reckless trainee newly assigned to the LDF under the strict supervision of commanding officer Dojo (Junichi Okada).
Shunsuke Sato directs this far-fetched action revision based on the light novel series by Hiro Arikawa. With its oddly placed seriousness on the job of bookkeeping, the film does take more than a little bit of suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to the generic and predictable interactions between characters.
Nana Eikura makes an impression with her cute and spunky portrayal of Kasahara, but her absentmindedness really makes her character feel out of place among the much better skilled forces around her. This isn’t an uncommon role in many films like this, but for this film she rarely shows real growth and she is relegated to typical ‘damsel in distress’ status. Okada’s Dojo makes a much better impression here and he reminds me quite a bit of Hiroyuki Sanada, especially with his mannerisms and well performed action scenes. The supporting cast does an alright job, though there is little in the way of meaty material for anyone to get into. Chiaki Kuriyama makes a welcome albeit minor appearance that re-teams her with director Sato again.
In terms of action, it is fairly spread out to the detriment of the somewhat bloated running time. Some very good hand to hand action is displayed, particularly a good exchange between Okada and a knife-wielding opponent. Unfortunately, these moments, while competently done, are few and far between. Gunplay is emphasized heavily and there is a decidedly intense feel to the pacing, but a frustrating tendency for lack of accuracy considering the amount of bullets flying around. We’re talking G.I. Joe cartoon and Stormtrooper levels of accuracy. When it does finally kick it into gear, in the final act, it excels, but makes it ever more evident of what flaws earlier in the picture.
With a unique enough premise, despite some the less than compelling character moments, Library Wars is a fair bit of disposable entertainment. Coming off as an actioney sort of Fahrenheit 457, it features some solid action, good production value, and a generally fast pace. While it could have benefited from a stronger arm in terms of violent tone, there’s enough here to keep those looking for a low investment action film of the modern Japanese system.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Read or Die, K-20, and/or the Returner