Reinforcing Failure: Military Mistakes in Library Wars

LW intro

This series of articles is intended to focus on mistakes in anime that feature the military in a major way. The last couple were an enjoyable skewering of Attack on Titan, this time I’m turning my sights on Library Wars. And for the first time, I feel just the tiniest bit bad about what I’m doing.

Begin the lesson...

Begin the lesson…

Let’s start with some background. Library Wars is set in a fictional version of modern-day Japan. After the start of a new era of the Japanese calendar, the “Media Enhancement Committee” is set up to do a bit of good old-fashioned book burning of works deemed against the public interest. People who believe in the freedom of access to information get bent out of shape about this, and (assisted by the passage of another piece of legislation) form the “Library Defence Force” to resist these attacks. The main characters are members of the LDF and the action of the show takes place in this context.

As before, I don’t want to spend too much time talking about this as an anime. The art is adequate although the animation gets a little jerky at times; the sound is fine; the setting veers from plausible to implausible and then dives wildly into the incoherent. If you’re willing to accept the setting then the plot is ok too, but that is admittedly a big if.
I do want to praise the characters, though. There are half a dozen or so main characters, and they mostly have something that makes them not only plausible but even likeable. Our two designated love interests aren’t the only ones who have time spent on characterization, which is pleasing and helps the show a lot. All in all, Library Wars is quite an enjoyable twelve episodes and never feels like its running out of material.

But as I said, the focus of these articles is the military mistakes in the show… and as I also said, I’m starting to feel bad about doing so in this case. It’s not that there aren’t any mistakes, because there are, but more because I want to say “It’s not their fault!”. I suppose that’s one of the best testaments I can give to the show, despite trying to be critical I wanted to find excuses for what I was seeing in the LDF. I’ll be interested to see what others think of what I noticed.

Once a librarian, always a librarian.

Once a librarian, always a librarian.

Strategy, Operations, & Tactics:
Starting at the top, there’s no obvious strategy in use by the LDF. Indeed I’m not even sure there could be, since the point of a strategy is to win a conflict and it’s not clear how that could be achieved! Their opponents are carrying out raids which are apparently entirely legal and enjoy a good deal of public support. While what the LDF does is also legal and also enjoys some public support, the only way to win the conflict is to change the legislation that authorises these raids. That is not a solution which is terribly susceptible to military pressure, which is made worse by the fact that the LDF can only operate on library property. They are essentially reduced to making the cost of the raids as high as possible for the Media Enhancement forces, and hoping that eventually that cost will prove too much. This is a strategy, and it can work, but it’s the sort of thing you only employ when there’s nothing else you can do: relying on someone getting sick of punching you and choosing to walk away isn’t much of a technique for winning fights. The LDF’s strategic situation is terrible, they don’t appear to have a plan for dealing with it, and it’s far from certain that there could be a plan. Not a good position to be in.

Operationally, the LDF is hamstrung by the strategic situation. They basically can’t initiate any action and have to wait for their opponents to attack, which is a severe handicap. On the other hand their opponents are similarly disadvantaged by their own Rules Of Engagement. All combat operations by either side have to take place on the grounds of libraries or museums. The Media Enhancement troops have the initiative, being able to choose when and where they will attack, but they have to give warning of this to the LDF which nullifies that advantage. As a result, once again it’s unclear if there even is an operational concept at work on either side. The only thing that occurs to me would tie in with the desperate strategy mentioned above – make each raid as costly and difficult as possible. Unfortunately that would require a good deal of work on the reconstruction of the libraries themselves to turn them into fortified structures, and would hamper their utility as libraries. All in all, the strategic and operational levels of this setting are a complete dog’s breakfast and I’m glad I don’t have to try to operate under those conditions.

Down at the tactical level, the picture is rather better. The LDF are able to employ field fortifications such as wire and sandbags, they appear to have an understanding of fire and movement, and they can use snipers to eliminate high-value targets. This is a case where the ridiculous rules of engagement work in the favour of the LDF – apparently the enemy have to use the normal entrances to the library property and can’t simply climb a fence, which means their avenues of attack are predictable and can be defended. Given this it isn’t too much of a surprise that the LDF win most of their engagements. So they have that going for them, which is nice.

LW training

Training & Support Services:
Training appears to be conducted at a few large LDF bases. We don’t see much of it apart from a bit of running, hiking, and martial arts, but we do know that there’s a substantial classroom component. All LDF members are librarians in addition to anything else they might do! The quality of the training seems reasonably high – LDF staff claim to be the best in the country at some things, and since they only have to engage in a fairly narrow range of operations they can afford to focus on them. My main criticism here is that the training seems to focus on individuals rather than squads or any higher level. Perhaps this doesn’t matter too much since even the elite Library Task Force only has 50 members in it, but it must make handling units in action difficult. It’s a good thing they don’t have to fight open-field battles of maneuver.

As you might expect of an organisation of librarians, they appear to have good intelligence support. One of the main characters works in this area, which provides some handy exposition at times. Since this necessarily ties in to the political scene it also causes some problems, however on balance the LDF is well-served by their intelligence arm. This is an asset their opponents don’t seem to share. Other supporting arms are very limited in scope. Presumably there’s a logistics service, and someone must look after the helicopters even though they don’t seem to have many. But there are no heavy weapons or combat engineers and no scope for them to be used even if there were, so once you get past the light-infantry forces and intelligence apparatus you’ve really seen most of it.

Standard issue for the LDF is what looks like a mini-Uzi, with barrel extension and forward hand-grip. Which makes me wonder why they didn't just go for the full-size Uzi to start with.

Standard issue for the LDF is what looks like a mini-Uzi, with barrel extension and forward hand-grip. Which makes me wonder why they didn’t just go for the full-size Uzi to start with. Accuracy at any range must be terrible.

Once the shooting starts, standard equipment for an LDF soldier is body armour and helmet, a radio headset, and a machine-pistol. They train with assault rifles and we see sniper rifles used at times as well as pistols, but there don’t seem to be any heavier weapons available on either side. And a good thing too, there are several occasions in the show where an RPG or even a couple of hand grenades could make a big difference. I suppose the justification for this is that they don’t want to be wrecking the entire neighbourhood every time they have a firefight, but even in-context this seems pretty flimsy. Given their supposed expertise at fighting in close-quarters I’m surprised the LDF isn’t equipped better for this – shotguns and grenades spring to mind for the job – but I suppose machine-pistols and plenty of ammo will do.

LW summary

My military criticisms of the LDF can be reduced to two major issues, and I’ll deal with the second one first. Their training emphasises individual prowess and even in action there don’t seem to be any organisational levels between company command and the individual. This is a major problem for small-unit articulation, and I think practicing working as fire-teams would improve their performance at the tactical level noticeably.

Unfortunately this won’t matter much unless they can do something about the strategic and operational levels. There seems to be no plan at all for those issues, and given the generally awful situation I’m not sure they could come up with one better than what I suggested previously. But they need one, and badly, because otherwise they best they can hope for is an ongoing bloody stalemate. And that’s no fun to watch a show about.

Question of the post: What military issues can you identify in Library Wars? And what can the LDF do to give them a decent hope of victory?

About Dr. J.H. Watson

I’m a New Zealander, in my 30s, and until recently I lived in rural Japan. I have interests in history, pop culture, video games, and the clever use of language.
This entry was posted in Anime, Military and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Reinforcing Failure: Military Mistakes in Library Wars

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    I really want to watch this, but I held off for a while… and then completely forgot about it. Thanks for bringing it up again!

    I am curious, since this was a complaint of AoT, as well, if the individual training or squad training might have anything to do with the way Japan itself organizes (or doesn’t organize) its “army.” (In quotes, because their defense force hasn’t really been the same since WWII.) That, or maybe it’s purely a story/plot issue. Kenshin and most other samurai shows are very much the same (actually, I think Peacemaker Kurogane has a bit more focus on group action over individual, which makes for a very different story)… something to mull over, in any case. 🙂

    As far as your question for the post, I can’t really answer it, but as always, I love reading your analysis. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, interesting question. I’m not all that familiar with the Japanese military, but I’ve never heard anything to suggest their training is significantly different from the NATO nations they are allied with. A quick look at their organisation and equipment indicates they’re pretty similar, albeit with fewer long-range capabilities that might make it look like they’re not simply self-defence forces.

      What I think causes the emphasis on individualism in these shows is that the creators want to follow their lead characters. Its certainly possible to show people being badass in an environment with group tactics, but probably easier not to bother with the group and just focus on the individuals. I suspect most anime creators don’t have a lot of military experience either, which might contribute to it, but the real reason is probably story-related.
      As you will have gathered from these articles I think that’s mistaken, but most people don’t ask me before making their anime. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. fgfdfh says:

    Hey, this is very interesting. Maybe you should do some more anime, like the Gate anime that just finished airing. Or go sci fi with stuff like Gundam, maybe the 08th MS team or 0083? Those are ones attempting realism and main characters actually have proper millitary training. Most anime operate on Rule of Cool, so it’s not that interesting to pick apart. Or Legend of Galactic Heroes, that one has actual strategic planning, but it’s pretty long. There’s Flag, which I heard tried very hard at realism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you’re finding it interesting! I know most anime operate on Rule of Cool, but even so I think its worth looking at the implications of what they portray. I’m trying to focus on shows where military action plays a big part, and I have a few lined up to look at as time and opportunity permit. Gate is in there, as is Gundam Wing, but I’m pleased to have those other suggestions to add to the list. If you have any others to recommend, please feel free!


  3. Personally, I like the movie version, that I watch on kissasian streaming site, better. The movie version takes first 4 episode of the anime with some changes.

    You said, “there don’t seem to be any heavier weapons available on either side.”, that’s because in real life, Police and SDF cannot use any explosives and heavy weapons inside the country, except for some situation that do need one.

    As for the for the weapon on anime that you’re talking about, according to, that is the PM-9, a copy of the Mini Uzi manufactured under license by Minebea.


    • Interesting that the law you mention apparently wasn’t changed, given the situation, but I guess it does cut down on collateral damage a lot. Stray bullets by themselves could hurt a lot of people, so maybe they do something about that too.

      Good to know my eye for weapons is still accurate!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s