Ask certain people and they’ll tell you that war is a necessary element of existence. Laurell K. Hamilton in her novel Incubus Dreams writes: “They say there is no light without dark, no good without evil, no male without female, no right without wrong. That nothing can exist if it’s direct opposite does not also exist“. This, in and of itself, is an interesting theory, but when used in reference to war as a whole, well…it just becomes even more intriguing.
Let’s say that, for the sake of this review, war is indeed a necessity. That maybe without it, the world could truly never be at peace; the direct opposite. Than what is worth fighting for? Some fight for love, others fight for what they believe is justice. Countries battle over land, oil, religious beliefs, and everything in between, but has a modern war ever been fought over…books?
Library Wars: The Last Mission is the second in two films based on the Light Novels of the same name. These Light Novels, caused by overwhelming popularity, have been adapted into every possible medium of Japanese Pop Culture. From a Manga series to a line of feature films, you can’t turn a corner without seeing something related to Library Wars. At last year’s Japan Film Festival we at SnapThirty were given the opportunity to see the first live-action Library Wars movie and now, a year later, we’ve once again been given the chance to experience another of these odd yet interesting films.
The near future in Japan, in the age officially known as ‘Change for the Better’.
It is a time in which the expression of thought is censored, and the media is tightly controlled. Bearing up under a harsh regimen of instruction under the terrifying Atsushi Dojo, Iku Kasahara is now a full-fledged member of the Library Defense ‘Task Force’, and divides her time between hard physical training and regular library work. Dojo and the rest of the Task Force are ordered to guard a public exhibition featuring ‘The Handbook of Library Law’, a book widely seen as the symbol of freedom, of which there is only one existing copy. The assignment seems easy enough, but this is in fact a trap designed to wipe out and thus disband the Task Force and restore a twisted society to the correct moral path.
Can Dojo and his unit defend both an invaluable book and themselves? The members of the Task Force must put their lives on the line in the greatest battle they have ever faced: The Last Mission. – Japan Film Festival
Like any good sequel, The Last Mission takes place not too long after the events of the first movie and features most, if not all, of the main character cast that appeared in the original have returned for this one which is fantastic because, in all honesty, I felt as though they were one of the only redeeming features. In regards to overall story, The Last Mission is just about as silly as the first film, in fact…it may even be a little sillier, but director Shinsuke Sato managed to pull off the unconventionality of a war being fought over a single book by layering the story with twists, turns, and a great deal of action.
The Last Mission played host to a hell of a lot of combat. By the half-way point, the film switched gears and decided to rely on the impact of an actual war instead of gruelling dialogue pieces that, in the first film, seemed to have gone almost nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, the film was still fairly dialogue-heavy, but the words spoken were all essential to the moving forward of the storyline, which naturally filtered into all-out war.
A lot of the story’s success, I feel, was thanks to the masterful actors and actresses who clearly brought their very best to each and every individual role. With a storyline as seemingly nonsensical as this one, it takes a great cast to make it seem as though what the characters are doing is of utmost importance…and that’s exactly what they did. It also helps that they showed clear growth, not only their characters but they themselves as performers in those roles.
Despite the fact that I enjoyed the film’s heavy level of combat, because that’s simply what I like in films of any kind, I couldn’t help but find most, if not all, of it to be somewhat…rigid. Because of my decent grasp on reality, I understand that possibly-fatal conflicts taking place in urban environments like a modern library need to be approached with a certain high degree of strategy. When two armies are going head-to-head in tight spaces, certain measures need to be put in place for the soldiers to be able to defend themselves, but a battle fought behind layers of riot shields isn’t one that is cinematic enough to grip an audience.
Most of the battle’s that took place in the last half of Library Wars: The Last Mission felt as though they would go on forever with each side slowly inching towards each other until they both got the chance to open fire. After doing so, both sides would then back off to a safe distance and begin to repeat the process time after time. It was only by the very end of the movie that we, the audience, got to see some actual heart-pounding action, and despite the fact that it took the form of a single fist fight between one of the main characters and an onslaught of enemy troopers, it was good enough to imprint into my memory, hopefully not leaving it for a while to come.
The Last Mission continued the legacy of it’s predecessor and featured a brilliant series of story environments that, even though all showed either the inside or outside of two different libraries, were good enough to keep me in awe from the very first minute to the very last. With a simple shift in lighting, the once-peaceful environment of the library becomes the graves of many librarians who put their lives on the line for the sake of book preservation. The chiaroscuro of literal light against dark is wonderfully striking, and works well in the favour of the film as a whole.
The film featured a strangely varied soundtrack that seemed to play jump-rope with the musical spectrum. At times a beautifully-composed orchestral piece will set the tone for a heartfelt interaction between two hopeful lovers, and at other times a frantic shredding of an electric guitar will set the tone for a climactic addition to the repetitive nature of the film’s combat. Regardless of what track was playing or what genre it fit into, it made for an interesting addition to each and every scene and helped keep my attention during the slower story segments.
Library Wars: The Last Mission was a film I thought I’d absolutely hate, seeing as I wasn’t too big a fan of it’s predecessor in the series and this time around I’d have to watch it without the experience-enhancing presence of a good friend who can make jokes alongside side you in regards to how simply ridiculous it all is, much like my experience of the first film. As it turns out, this time around, I didn’t need any of that, because The Last Mission was a genuinely good movie that, although having it’s ups and downs, is one that I’d absolutely enjoy watching a second time through.
What helped me enjoy this film so much is that I went into it with quite low expectations. Instead of being disappointed, I was instead delighted by what it was that I had just experienced, but it wasn’t just good because of that, The Last Mission was an enjoyable movie thanks to it’s own merit. It’s a film that gave the audience everything they were longing for; development, action, and the blooming of a romance that has been foreshadowed since the very first scene of the first film. The Last Mission hit all the marks and left no stone unturned when it came to story plot points.
Yes, I did complain about the somewhat meandering nature of the film’s combat, but for the sake of overall enjoyment I was able to look past that and instead focus on what the film did right. The only thing it took away from the film is a perfect score which is, in all honesty, inconsequential if what you’re looking for is simply a worthwhile film to sink two hours into, and let me tell you…it’s well worth it!
The Library Wars: The Last Mission is now showing as part of the Japanese Film Festival. Click Here for more information regarding screenings and locations.