The basic premise of the series: right after the release of a new expansion pack, all players currently logged on to the MMORPG game Elder Tales woke up to find themselves living in the bodies of their avatars, trapped in what appeared to be a blend of the Elder Tales world and the real world.
This first volume introduces Shiroe, an Enchanter who's an incredibly gifted strategist, Naotsugu, a Guardian with a bad habit of talking about panties, and Akatsuki, an Assassin who's really into roleplaying her character, right down to referring to Shiroe as her liege. The three of them figure out how to use their magical and fighting abilities, learn the rules of this new world, encounter player killers, and go on a quest to rescue a young girl named Serara from a town that has turned hellish ever since the Catastrophe that resulted in everybody getting trapped in the game.
I really wanted to like this book. I loved the anime so much that I ordered the first few volumes of the light novel series before I'd even finished it. Based on my feelings about this first volume, that was probably a mistake.
I still love the premise, and that Touno opted to focus on the nitty gritty details of rebuilding a functional society rather than on battles and action, although the series certainly still has some of that. And this book provided some interesting details that either weren't included in the anime or that I'd missed. For instance, I loved the class and subclass table. And the detail about abusive players using the game's "friend" function to aid their harassment of other players made me wince because it was such a perfect example of the ways people will take something that was intended to be a helpful feature and figure out how to use it to hurt others.
Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this, it was bogged down by its massive amount of detail and bad writing/translation. The writing problems ranged from unnecessarily obvious statements to just plain awkward phrasing. A couple examples:
"Online games are played over the Internet." (15)
They are indeed. I suspect that this painfully obvious statement was the result of some of the translation issues discussed in Clyde Mandelin's "Redundant Translations in Games & Anime."
Later on, Shiroe was referred to as the "Tea Party strategy counselor" (25). The Debauchery Tea Party used to be a well-known party filled with high-level players who took on difficult enemies. It would have been better, and less awkward-sounding, to refer to Shiroe as their strategist, rather than strategy counselor.
I could come up with other examples, but what it basically came down to was that I much preferred the anime's English subtitling to the book's English translation. Still, I soldiered on, hoping for some good additional content that didn't get included in the anime.
From what I could tell, the anime was actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the book. It inherited the book's pacing problems and initial lack of a decent story, but managed to improve upon the book by cutting down on its panty jokes and level of Elder Tales world details. Yes, the book somehow had even more panty jokes than the anime. And boob jokes, once Marielle was introduced.
I'll continue on, since I already own the next few books, but I doubt I'll end up reading the full series, especially since it looks like nearly all of the currently available light novel content has made it into the anime.
A couple color illustrations on a large folded sheet, several black-and-white illustrations throughout, character profile information (Shiroe, Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Marielle, Serara), tables listing many of the various Elder Tales main classes and subclasses, and a short afterword written by the author.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)