Light Novel Review: Netgame Volume 1

Who Would Like this Series/Volume?


It’s about a bunch of self-proclaimed otakus who like to play a certain MMO the most. It’s not about fighting in-game but about the relationship between Hideki (protagonist) and Ako (main heroine). There’s a bunch of nerdy references to MMOs in general and comedy. If you’re allergic to dense protagonists, better avoid it.

For: If you wanna see a dense, open otaku protagonist getting closer to not be dense with a bunch of MMO references and okay-ish comedy on the side, this one’s for you.

Difficulty


Lots of slang, lots of MMO terms, lots of made-up terms, lots of MMO slang. There’s a bunch of things in here you’ll hardly find in a dictionary, so it’s browsing nikoniko and stuff if you don’t know certain words. The grammar itself is pretty damn basic, so I’m reluctant to give it a 7, but all the weird terms and slang will probably demand you to have a stronger grasp on Japanese than you’d need for Kou1 for instance, so I’m going for 7, anyway.

Difficulty 7/10

Translation Where?


Only the prologue’s been done by the past me and the guy who picked it up then seems dead and it reads pretty damn bumpy anyway. So you’ll have to look for a manga or be satisfied with the summary below.

Translation: Apart from a few fragments, no for the light novel.

Premise


Hideki plays an MMO character named Lucian. In his guild, there’s a female character named Nekohime who’s his personal angel and so he takes all his heart and confesses to her to please marry him (in-game). Turns out, however, that Nekohime’s an old fart who only plays a female character. Traumatized by this turn of actions, Hideki decides to never ever believe that there are girls playing online games. And he tells this exact story to Ako – another female character who confesses to him at a later point. She doesn’t care though and still wants him to marry her.

Contents


NOTE: These summaries can never give you an accurate impression on how the book reads or what the book is really like. It simply gives you the gist of the novel, but don’t judge the book by this alone. It can’t be helped that things read rushed and colorless in a summary. You can get an idea by reading the conclusion and, finally, by reading it yourself!

The Whole Damn Thing

Once in-game, I’m gonna stick with character genders for this summary. Else, it’d get annoying.

The story starts with Hideki, the protagonist, confessing to a girl in an MMO. However, it turns out the girl’s not a girl, but an old guy playing a cute cat girl character instead. He curses himself for being so naïve to confess to that guy and swears to never ever let this happen again. There are no girls in MMOs – or so he’s convinced now. Cut. He tells this exact story to a girl in the same MMO, but she just confessed to him. She wants him to marry her, to be exact. In-game, of course. He refuses. She refuses that he refuses. He gives up. Congratulations, newlyweds!

At a later point in time, Hideki’s sitting around in a school-wide assembly. He tells his friend that he’s got a wife. Of course, people aren’t taking him seriously. However, soon some of them start talking to him about some more or less otaku-ish stuff which he believes is the strong point of the otaku “character” he plays at school. People can come talk to him about otaku stuff and don’t need to fear to be refused or laughed at by him. The girls around them, however, are rather disgusted. A girl named Akane seems especially grossed out by the open otaku that is Hideki. After a short dispute, Hideki mentions that she’d be rather cute if she weren’t such a handful. His friend mentions that his seat neighbor confessed to her and got pulverized these days. Hideki mumbles to himself that it’d be fine if the tsundere would be dere sometimes, Akane turns around and threatens to kill him on the spot. He jerks a bit and bumps shoulders with a female classmate of his sitting besides him, she seems rather scared. This leads him to believe that she’s just that disgusted with him, which turns him crestfallen. And then, the student council president’s speech begins.

Back at home in his beloved MMO, his char “Lucian” (I know the book says “Rusian”, but we know the Japanese and their Engrish skills) is being hunted by quite a number of mobs. He’s already lost a bunch of HP since he’s not as concentrated at the moment. Reason being, the guild chat. His in-game wife, Ako, tells the other members, Shuu and Apricot, about how she confessed to Lucian and they’d gotten together – and how he turned her down before. They’re rather interested in that talk than helping Lucian out with the huge amount of mobs he’s pulled together for grinding. In the end, they get out alive thanks to guild master Apricot’s real money imba magic staff. Yay.

They go into a café to distribute the loot. Lucian remembers how he had left the old guy cat girl’s guild, met Ako, a total newbie, and had decided to help her out. He had nothing else to do – no guild and stuff – anyway. After a bit of a weird lovey-dovey-ish whisper chat with Ako, everyone gets their loot. The death penalty (poor Lucian) seems to affect xp only, and today he died enough to practically gain no xp, so it’s only the gold for him. The guild leader then mentions that Ako and Lucian look really close these days. They almost want to call Lucian a riajuu, but he says he’s rather a netjuu. Anyway, Shuu states that she’s closer to being a riajuu anyway, since she’s been confessed to. Ako then snaps and tells her very calmly and politely to just go and die. Shuu tells her that she turned them down anyway. The topic shifts to Lucian having proposed to an old guy playing a cat-themed char, and they all laugh at him good. Hideki then basically tells himself that the gender shouldn’t matter as long as the char’s cute – he isn’t sure whether Ako’s a dude or not, after all. The guild master then suggests to do an offline meeting, probably to at least partially prove that they’re not scamming or anything. Everyone’s kinda reluctant, but the guild master claims that she knows that everyone’s 1) a high schooler and 2) very close to each other. She suggests to meet at a small station and everyone’s like, “Well, I don’t mind, it’s basically in the neighborhood but what about the others?” And then everyone’s like, “The heck?!” After the initial shock, the guild master tells them to leave preparations to her and the meeting’s set for Sunday.

Arriving at the rendezvous point way too early, Hideki’s hella nervous. While he sends out a mail to everyone telling them he’s there already and what he’s wearing for identification’s sake, he already pictures in his mind to hang out all day with smelly old men. But suddenly, a cute girl with shoulder-long, black hair tugs on him. It’s his waifu, Ako. She’s looks really anxious but soon lightens up after some boke/tsukkomi-ish exchange with Hideki, and grows anxious again when suddenly a moody twin-tail arrives. And to make matters worse, it’s Hideki’s classmate, Akane. An awkward conversation later, they decide to act like they’ve never met. However, their student council president turns up and brings her back. Long story short: Black-haired girl = Ako, twin-tail = Shuu, prez = guild master. Who saw that coming?! I did.

They go into a restaurant – or was it a café? – way beyond what a normal high school student could afford. There they warm up to each other by doing some self-introduction and then debate about their MMO. Before they know it, it’s evening and everyone has to go home. Akane gently reminds Hideki to not be overly friendly with her at school or she’ll beat him to a pulp. On that occasion, Ako displays some territorial behavior because Akane’s physically way too close to Hideki at this moment. After prez and Akane are on their way home, Ako and Hideki have a short exchange on how he really believed that she might as well be a guy, that he married her ’cause VL and RL are two separate things, and that he liked her the way she is without regard to what she is. Anyway, after those two parted too, Hideki goes home with a bad premonition for his future. And a protagonist’s premonition’s something to be taken to heart.

At school, Akane tries to greet Hideki normally and… fails. After one hell of an awkward situation and dispute later, Akane manages to get the attention of the whole class for her sudden offensive behavior towards Hideki who feels forced to bow and apologize to her. Anyway, Ako suddenly stands in the doorway looking for “Lucian”. Let’s try to put lengthy things short: Hideki, of course, doesn’t want to be called Lucian since they’re trying to keep all this stuff a secret from people at school, but Ako is oblivious to it, keeps calling him Lucian stubbornly, talks to him insistently, and finally describes their relationship as husband/wife. While the whole class is about to lose it, Akane stands up and tries to save the whole matter. Ako’s still acting out the airhead and is delighted to see “Shuu-chan”. Now Akane is about to lose it, but Ako simply throws out everything from her “ore-sama” char trait to “Schwein-san”. Akane’s desperate, grabs Ako and Hideki by their collars and drags them out of the classroom.

Hideki and Akane talk to Ako about it and seemingly it all origins from her not being able/not wanting to differentiate between VL and RL. However, they seem to be able to persuade her to at least stop doing the worst things like calling them by their char names. Akane also tells her to not talk to her about games at school, which sets Ako aback since she doesn’t know what to talk to her about, then. Lastly, Ako wants to meet up with Hideki at noon because she made a bento for him.

Akane and Hideki decide to ask the prez for help, she tells them to meet her at noon at a specific room within the club building. During their discussion, Akane also calls Hideki a name which describes a person that hooks up with female newbie players in hope to score. Let’s call them white knights from here on, since I don’t know a more suitable, English term. They stand in front of a club named “Modern Electronic Communication Games Club”. The prez arrives with the key and tells them they’ll start the netgame club from today on. Its reason to exist being to help Ako realize the difference between RL and VL. In there, they find four cutting-edge PCs (SSD, dual gfx card, i7, blabla) connected to the interwebz. Akane tries to bail out to not endanger herself being revealed as a member of something like a netgame club, but compared to her jungle PC at home, it’s just too temptating. By the way, what happened to the bento?

Before their first “club activity” they sort out Ako’s equip, which is focused on being… cute. Throwing all the low gear aside and putting some fire resi on her for the vulcano map they’re going to go to, the session finally starts. The prez also gets banned from using pay2win thingies and Shuu gets a cutsie (panda outfit + green onion) equip put on while she’s AFK, and it turns out to be even stronger than what she had, since the green onion was one of prez’ pay2win thingies. That’s pretty much it. On their way home, Hideki gets to know that Ako’s parents are pretty much always away, so there’s no one waiting for her at home. Sad face.

New club activities! Today, they decide to swap chars for a bit. And suddenly, rare drop. Erryone wants to use it and so they rock-paper-scissor it out. Later, the servers suddenly go down. Lost as to what to do next, they decide to look into another MMO, and as chance would have it, an MMO from overseas has its open beta today! Yay! After pursuing Akane, who wanted to just stick with LA (their usual one) and browse the web for a bit, they start their “log-in game”. It basically consists of trying to get as far as possible – not in the sense of playing, but simply trying to get into the game, which keeps freezing and disconnecting due to the amount of players trying to do the same.

There are some more scenes of Ako being cute and Hideki telling himself he’s not a faggot white knight trying to pull a fast one on her and keeps his dense act up. Mkay. While Akane doubts the meaning of the whole club as the border between RL and VL rather blurs fruther than solidifies, prez tells the others that they’ve got a problem: they have no advisor. And they need one before the next staff meeting or r.i.p. club.

On their way home, Hideki and Ako lament over the soon-to-come abolishment of their only recently founded club. Though while Ako grieves their decline in quality time, Hideki’s rather missing the high-end rigs. Ako demands of Hideki to be more dere to her and, at a whim, he tells her that if he wasn’t himself, he would’ve been dere with her since forever, as she’s cute, they’re alike, and it’s fun to be with her. She slightly snaps and frolics over him being finally dere; and so she, errr, first starts smelling him and then licks his neck. They then break out into some who-likes-whom-more quarrel and… that’s it.

Next morning, after Ako and Hideki acted out some lovey-dovey, make-believe couple play, Hideki’s teacher, Saitou-sensei, enters. She tells Ako to go back to her own class as homeroom’s about to start. Before she does start her own homeroom, she asks Hideki whether he’s good friends with Ako. He nods and then it dawns on him to ask her to be their advisor. However, even though she once was interested in MMOs herself, she tells Hideki to rather quit that stuff as it’s dangerous for young people and she wouldn’t want to support a club doing that at school even.

In the evening, after Lucian’s gone on some solo grinding to relax, he meets Nekohime (the old fart he confessed to in the prologue) in the city by chance. He decides to ask for his advice regarding Ako. It basically amounts to stick to making the line between RL and VL clearer to her. And that’s what Hideki tries next morning. He tells Ako to keep her distance as they might be married in-game but not in real life. She simply stares at him and then asks him whom he met. Caught red-handed, Hideki tries to weasel himself out of the matter and in the end the school chime saves him. Later, he contacts Nekohime in-game again and after the consultation, Lucian runs into Ako, who had stalked him. She, of course, would love to have a talk with Nekohime, but Lucian tells her he’d get real angry if she does something bad to Nekohime. So Ako refrains and walks off to somewhere.

It appears like Ako’s missing from school next morning. Saitou-sensei asks Hideki whether he knows something, but he doesn’t. When the guild logs into the game during club activities, Ako’s already online. They ask her where she’s been and she says she was busy since she also planned another offline meeting. And apparently with a guy, Lucian’s pretty offended by that and tells her to give up on that. However, Ako replies that RL and VL are different and why he thinks he’s got the right to do this. It nags on him that his own logic now works against him, he snaps, and tells her to just do whatever she wants.

When Hideki finally gets up the next day and logs into the game as habit demands, Shuu and Apricot are already waiting for him. They want him to go after her since she’ll meet that guy within the next couple of minutes in front of the station nearby. After a lot of blabla about whether he even has the right to and a bunch of denials that he apparently likes Ako in reality too, it suddenly dawns on Lucian that Ako’s his waifu, she’s going to meet some MMO guy, hence it’s all VL. Genius. He then proceeds to the station.

Arriving there, he sees Ako coming out of the station. She’s then going to someone who looks like a business guy. He rushes up to her, makes a scene, spouts a buncha nonsense, and after all the rage realizes that it’s not a guy, but a woman. And Saitou-sensei to top it off. Ako tells him that Saitou-sensei is apparently Nekohime and that she was the cause of his trauma. And then… she draws a cutter and wants to stab her. Hideki stops her from doing so and as she drops the cutter, it turns out it was only made of aluminium foil to begin with. They decide to change places to a café close by. In there, they analyze Ako and Hideki’s relationship a bit and blabla other stuff too, which leads to Saitou-sensei telling Ako that she’s overdoing her affection and pushes Hideki away with that or something like that, and that she should take it more easy. Suddenly, prez and Akane turn up too, they’d been lurking nearby all the time and saw it all. And prez even recorded the scene in front of the station. Of course she uses it to coerce Saitou-sensei into becoming their advisor.

The volume closes with the whole guild being in the club room and Ako telling Hideki that her parents are coming home – and she wants him to meet them ’cause marriage.

Conclusion


Volume 1 Cover

Now that’s nostalgic. It’s one of those series I tried to translate because the premise seemed interesting, soon realized it’s over my head, and now I can just read through it and even be glad to not have translated it as it’s not really worth it. Ha.

First of all, I don’t know how you feel about it after having read it or having read the summary, but in my opinion every single twist was foreseeable. So the tension in the story shows the author’s goodwill, but it’s not enough. At the same time, the protagonist’s an idiot. He basically realizes he loves Ako and even his surroundings do, but he sticks to his questionable logic like a retard. Basically, the character development’s stuck on him being stupid while he believes that Ako’s the one who has to change.

The other “heroines” can’t really gain color. They seem utterly unimportant in the face of Ako and really feel just like background actors. Furthermore, the MMO aspect of the series isn’t well-implemented. It might as well not be there at all. It feels forced in that regard, “I have to put some MMO stuff in here! Nowadays, that’s all the rage!”

Another weird point is how the author seems to love to simply leave things out. What happened to the bento Ako made? Was it good? Who got the super-duper equip? Why the hell doesn’t Hideki ask Saitou-sensei about the character stuff? I don’t get it.

One of its biggest sale points are probably the illustrations – or rather, the illustrator. I was told that guy’s drawn a bunch of H stuff before doing this, so people know him from… a cousin of a friend’s mum, I guess? The illustrations look pretty good in my opinion, but at the same time really seem like something you’d find in some doujinshi. And why does he color textile in a way that makes it look as shiny as plastic?

Anyway, back to the story. Would I read volume 2? The “side heroines” are rather unappealing and lack really interesting sides. The protagonist is dense and I feel like I’m reading towards him stopping to be dense. The MMO part feels random. The comedy’s okay but nothing big. And that’s about all the series has so far. But then there’s Ako. Her obsessive love and naivety feels refreshing at least and slaps at least a bit of color over this monochrome self-discovery/-denial story. I’d probably try volume 2 at some point to see whether she can hold up the series or not. At least the most interesting character gets the most screentime, too. So it’s a 6 very close to a 5 for now. For Ako’s sake. And I’ve no idea why the ratings on Amazon Japan are so high.

Rating 5/10

 

10.26.2015: Downrated from 6 to 5 since it falls way behind “Shomin Sample” and “Shurabara!” in terms of appeal and a 5 (read: okay-ish) fits it better.

 

CDJapan | Amazon | BOOKWALKER

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