As part of my series of short posts connecting important achievements in women’s history with anime, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about firsts. We all know certain historic firsts, like the recent historic political campaigns of 2008, which saw the first African-American candidate pitted against the first serious female candidate. Or Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor. Or Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
These are just a few American examples, but every day women are making history by being first. The reason we celebrate these women, aside from the fact that they are awesome, is that being first is always hardest. Breaking the barrier by being first is a major accomplishment, and breaks down stereotypes about what women can or should do. When it becomes commonplace for women to do something, men (and women) stop fretting about whether or not they should.
So in that pioneering spirit, I thought I’d highlight two women from the anime/light novel/manga series Toshokan Sensou, or Library Wars. Iku Kasahara is the first female member of the Library Defense Force’s special forces unit, the Library Task Force. Her roommate and friend, Asako Shibasaki, is also a member of the Library Defense Force and is determined to become the first female head of the organization.
Despite flaws in both characters, they are both admirable for being first or aspiring to be first. Kasahara faces many obstacles in being the first female Task Force member, mostly in that she constantly has to prove that she is able to do her job. She also faces backlash from the female members of the Library team in Ibaraki, who constantly harass the female members of the Defense Force. Shibasaki is ambitious and intelligent, but only confides in a few people that she intends to become the first female commander of the Library troops. She is embarrassed when the current commander finds out about her dream, but encouraged when he supports her.
It might be a little hard to read, but I think that Dojo’s quote in this scene sums up why it is important for women to become not only first, but second, third and so on. He says, “Seeing you every day makes me forget that people like that exist.” Basically, since he’s become accustomed to having Kasahara around, he doesn’t think of her as special or first or different. He just thinks of her as Kasahara, his friend and subordinate. After the first woman to do something or be something comes around, the rest can just be themselves instead of “first.”