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review 2019-09-29 06:38
Ao Oni: Vengeance by Kenji Kuroda, illustrated by Karin Suzuragi, translated by Alexander Keller-Nelson
Ao Oni: Vengeance - Kenji Kuroda,Karin Suzuragi,Alexander Keller-Nelson

This review assumes you've read the first book, Ao Oni. If you haven't, be aware that I include major spoilers for that book.

Ao Oni: Vengeance takes place only a week after the events of the first book. Shun is the only one who remembers what happened. He has completely stopped going to school, instead choosing to focus on the next version of his game while keeping an eye out for any signs that someone else has been snared by the Jailhouse. He asks Hiroshi to make sure no one else enters the house, but it's already too late: two of their classmates have gone inside and met horrible fates. Takuro, with Takeshi and Mika in tow, goes as well. Hiroshi finds the building's European architecture too interesting to resist (yes, really) and ends up trapped inside the building with all the others.

As in the various versions of the game, the overall setup feels familiar, but there are enough differences to keep it from feeling like a rehash of the first book. Shun and Anna are safe at Shun's home, desperately trying to help the group trapped in the Jailhouse using the knowledge Shun gained from his time there. Meanwhile, the situation in the Jailhouse initially plays out similar to the way it did in the first book, but quickly goes a different route.

Parts of this book were almost more gory than I could take. The very beginning was particularly awful, and I wasn't sure my stomach was going to be up to the task if the whole book turned out to be like that. It seemed like the Oni was more inclined to savor its kills this time around, although thankfully the gory bits weren't all as lovingly detailed as the book's first scene.

It may sound like I hated this, but I actually thought it was better than the first book, even if I wasn't fond of the increase in the level of gore. I had worried that this book would basically be the first book with slightly different deaths. Up to a certain point, I suppose it was: Takeshi was still a scared kid hiding in a closet, Mika was still too desperate to be loved and needed to see Takuro for who he really was, and Takuro still sucked. The overall level of tension was better than in the first book, however, and the parts of the house and story that no longer matched up with the first book's Jailhouse had me on the edge of my seat, wondering whether any of the characters would manage to make it out this time around.

I found that I liked Hiroshi a little more this time around. The bits from his POV helped, as did the fact that, this time around, he didn't spend a good chunk of the story staring at a fellow classmate's severed head like it was no big deal. I wasn't as thrilled about Kuroda's attempts to humanize Takuro, however. I don't care what Takuro's father was like, or what Takuro told himself about how he needed to approach life, or how he felt after he realized he'd betrayed maybe the only person in the world who actually cared about him. The fact of the matter was that he bullied a classmate to the point where the kid committed suicide and then, instead of feeling any sort of guilt or horror, proceeded to bully another classmate the same way. Takuro's sudden change of heart and ability to empathize with his victims was unconvincing.

The

"time travel + reality manipulation + ghostly vengeance"

(spoiler show)

explanation for the series' events was weird and messy, and I still don't understand why Shun, who knew his game was connected to the horrors at the Jailhouse and possibly even causing it all, created an updated version of his game. Hiroshi would have had a much easier time if Shun hadn't gone and changed things around. Even so, I enjoyed this entry in the series and plan on reading the next book. From the sounds of things, Takeshi might be its focus. Here's hoping at least one of the remaining books features Mika successfully cutting herself free from the emotional hold that Takuro has over her.

Extras:

An afterword written by the author, a character guide, textless color illustrations, one scene from the book included at the very beginning in manga form, and several illustrations throughout.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-09-02 02:02
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World (book) by Mamare Touno, illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara, translated by Taylor Engel
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World - Mamare Touno

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.

Extras:

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.)

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review 2017-08-17 00:00
Trapped in a Video Game: Book One
Trapped in a Video Game: Book One - Dustin Brady Review to come.
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