Thursday, December 12, 2013

Library Wars Review: The Love of Reading With Guns

Library Wars finally came out in LA thanks to efforts of the Japan Film Society's EigaFest. Only in it's third year would we receive a film set in a future Japan where censorship has become so powerful that a quasi-military force has the power to take away any materials they feel are unfit for the populace to view. This means all media including books, not my Garfield Sunday collection you monsters! Thank Heavens for Library Defense! Protect my cat that eats lasagna and hates Mondays!

The library visit was as exactly as I thought it would be and explained to friends who might have wanted to see it at EigaFest with me, but for various reasons couldn't attend including: office Chirstmas party, car broken, too far away, kids and worst voice-mail response I've heard. This was love story with a third act that would have a  big fight scene. I was on the money. Oh, it campy, the humor is silly and it has random high action scenes to enjoy where libraries are burned an shot at, still it doesn't break how long the film gets and why flashbacks are used so often.

Starring Nana Eikura as the brave naive new recruit Iku Kasahara to the Library Defense team and her slightly older love interest Junichi Okada who plays her squad leader, the tiny tough guy Atsushi Dojo. We see how Japan has been changed by the Media Betterment Act through Iku and her exploits as she becomes a member and fights for Library Defense to stop them. We have Chiaki Kuriyama (Battle Royale, Kill Bill) in a supporting role of Asako Shibasak, a friend and fellow recruit of Iku. They do girly friendship stuff together. Directed by Gantz's Shinsuke Sato who needs to remember what made Gantz so great and not to put in so many flashbacks.

We follow Iku as she searches for her "Prince" whose painfully obviously Dojo to everyone but her in the film by joining Library Defense, an organization set out to protect books so anyone can read them. We go with her on ups and downs of training both in the position of librarian, where we see what it's like to work at a future para-military library. We go through training and have cliche joke moments that bring Dojo and Iku closer together. A fight at the dojo with Dojo, how to handle a perp moment in the bathroom, tents in a thunderstorm. Ms. Eikura shows off being a cute tom-boy  reminiscent of countless Japanese animes, Patlabor right off the bat for me.

Junichi Okada (Dojo) Nana Eikura (Iku)
Through love and trainin, you get flashback after flashback in this film about Iku's first brush with the Betterment Squads as a high school student holding onto her book and not letting go as a Betterment officer tries to pry it from her. Her "Prince" rescues her and the books, but is always out of her view do to the light. This scene repeats itself far too much. Then there's the first incident of the film where a library is destroyed, this never ends being repeated. You don't have flashbacks in a film unless the reveal something we missed, I've been sitting watching it, I didn't forget what happened forty minutes ago.

There are three action sequences in the film. The first two are gun loving action. The first is in defense of Iku's own library. The second an all out war to protect an information museum that must be defended for a certain amount of time. The third is martial arts action search and rescue, all of them very akin to video game missions. Here director Shinsuke Sato shows his skills. The second battle at the museum has the enemy in huge numbers taking own the smaller force of the Library Defense with trenches. As a helicopter comes by moving the data load by load the Libray Defense is just defending the grounds as the Betterment Squads gain more and more ground.

Some odd rules of engagement, there's the no killing rule, just for Libarary Defense. In one of the hardest and unfair disadvantages Library Defense vows never to fire to kill. It's not all gun shots to the leg like Terminator 2, more of miss the the target, scare the enemy, that's pulled off with the amount of shedding used by the Betterment Squad. These action scenes breath the life in the film that should be intermixed more often. You have generals meeting and declaring war segments. Everything very proper on paper, bureaucratic war of what time battles will start.

The museum battle ends, but a new sinister plot leaves Iku and the Library defense leader in danger. Dojo has to come to the rescue for a much smaller, but all the more deadly fight.

You do have to love the charm of such a silly idea as wars being fought over books. That is why Japanese cinema remains so near and dear to my heart. I chuckled out loud at the mere sight of the open book patches so prominently shown on library officers' shoulders. Real librarians should get to carry the badges they do in this film . "This is the librarians, come out with your overdue Garfield Hates Monday collection." I read too much Garfield.

This jaunt into a near future where censorship takes control as a military force and a few good librarians fight it is a novelty. A novelty that could have been shorter, quicker, more to the point and had some sequences where more that two people who are librarians explain the books the enjoy. A major problem was none of the classics were mentioned. No one quotes any work? Library Wars is  bizarre romantic action film that could easily just stay in Japan.

Sound editing and special effects were discussed at the screening. Half the work was done here in LA, which apparently hasn't happend in a while for a Japanese film as was explained. They mentioned how the gun action was done by the US team as there's some sort of strange law where they can be fired in Japan?

*One scene made me laugh out loud as Iku on a keyboard was so loud it could be heard quite the distance from where Dojo was looking over her. If you do get a chance, you'll hear the loudest keyboard ever, even for a library.

* I know it was for dramatic effect that we could hear watches at they ticked closer to a predetermined battle time, but think how bad it would be to work in a library where keyboards and watches are as loud as people talking, Yeesh.

-Thanks EigaFest