Obsessions of an Otome Gamer Vol. 1

otome_gamer

Light Novels, eh?

Light Novels… Light Novels never change. Or, it turns out, they do – or, maybe more accurately, they can. The truth is that I have tended to think of myself as not liking LNs. With a few exceptions here and there (Book Girl, Kieli), my attempts at reading LNs over the years have been fairly unsuccessful, for the very simple reason that, well, most of the time the style of prose is too simplistic for my tastes. And when I say “over the years”, I really mean it – I still have a copy of Clamp School Paranormal Investigators Vol. 1 gathering dust somewhere. So even as I’ve been happy for English language fans that LNs have finally managed to be financially viable in places like North America, I haven’t myself benefited much from that. But, in the past year I’ve by happenstance ended up giving LNs another chance after years of completely avoiding them, as a purchasing mistake landed me with the first volume of the My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom?! LN rather than the manga I thought I was buying. But, this is all to say – if you pretty much love LNs writ large, my own reviews of them probably won’t be helpful to you.

Which brings me to… Cross Infinite World’s release of Obsessions of an Otome Gamer Vol. 1, which I picked up when Kobo’s recommendation system suggested it, as I was suffering from angst over Tearmoon Empire’s release schedule. (I like that J-Novel Club’s found sustained success through it’s serialization release model, but it turns out I don’t dig serialization when I’m REALLY enjoying a book.) It concerns a young woman of eighteen who plummets down an uncovered sewer to her death after being distracted by an advertisement for a remake of an infamously difficult, music-themed otome game that said heroine had become obsessed with. Luckily (or, maybe not), she gets reincarnated into the video game world as a girl named Mashiro, who gets to enjoy a fairly average childhood life up until she suddenly recalls her past life partway through elementary school. And starts fixating once again on the boy she’d gone for in the game… until his harsh behavior makes her realize she’s being a stalker. It is then that Mashiro begins to fully learn from her failures in her previous life to, well, do much with it. And she starts to take becoming a pianist seriously, not as a means by which she can get the boy. She also meets someone else who has reincarnated into the game, and who clues her into the fact that she’s actually in the remake version of the game.

From here, it’s a whole lot of scenes which revolve around music – performances, lessons, practice, discussions of how pieces can be played or what people’s different interpretations are. Mashiro, the two love interests Sou and Kou, and fellow reincarnate Kon, are all very serious about their pursuit of music. Speaking of Sou and Kou, we get a fair bit of Mashiro interacting with them, but I found these moments far less engaging than everything else, perhaps ironically given that “otome game” is right there in the title! The narrative is at it’s best when its focused on Mashiro and on her determination to make something of herself, in part because there’s a much more distinct sense than is often the case with reincarnation titles that she feels sorrowful over how things ended up for her. It also helps that unlike a lot of “girl ends up in otome game” stories, and despite her occasional insistence to the contrary, Mashiro¬†isn’t stupid.

This volume covers a fair bit of ground, as it follows the characters from the age of seven to the age of twelve. I was a bit skeptical about spending that much time with such young kids; quite frankly, I was concerned it wouldn’t very interesting to watch wee prodigies textually whack keyboards. My concerns turned out to be unfounded; following Mashiro over such a chunk of time allowed her a good deal of growth (admittedly partly because she hadn’t matured much in her previous life). It does mean, though, that we have some really ridiculous moments involving impossibly suave nine year olds, something that is never truly ameliorated by Mashiro lampshading it. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did induce a number of eyerolls.

One thing I haven’t mentioned and which I should – underneath the seemingly straightforward presentation of its well-worn plot, there’s a darker current that becomes more apparent as the book goes on. Kon, for one, definitely knows more about what’s going on than she’s willing to share, and she’s grimly determined to follow a romance side route which she doesn’t herself seem happy about – and which will involve her becoming involved with a thirty-one year old while she’s only fifteen. And when Mashiro seems to recognize a name she’s never heard before, her past memories suddenly vanish almost completely.¬†Someone is almost certainly pulling the strings somehow, although it remains to be seen why that is the case.

As is surely clear by now, I enjoyed Obsessions of an Otome Gamer Vol. 1 quite a bit, to my pleasant relief. Even going into reading it, I wasn’t sure it was a good pick for myself, as the plot didn’t seem terribly interesting to me – and, while I’m curious about what’s really going on behind the scenes, I still don’t find the plot by itself terribly intriguing, but instead have become invested in Mashiro’s further development as a musician and as a person growing toward adulthood. But this is only possible at all because the prose is pretty solid, and I specifically mention that that’s the case given that that is usually what holds LNs back for me, even when their premises are entirely within my area of interests. This is what skilled translation work looks like, and it is all the more noticeable as a subset of anglophone LN readers continue to loudly insist that only prose that could be mistaken for Engrish.com content is accurate translation work. Translator Charis Messier did a great job here.

Ultimately, a good read and, importantly, a good option if one’s seeking a LN aimed at a female audience. There’s definitely been an uptick in the availability of these sorts of LNs in the past couple of years, but the options have been fairly limited, particularly when compared with what’s available of male power fantasy tales. The only reason that I haven’t already picked up the second volume is that I’m trying to prevent myself from reading the series too quickly.

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2 Responses to Obsessions of an Otome Gamer Vol. 1

  1. Pingback: The Misfortune-Devouring Witch is Actually a Vampire?! LN Review | GAR GAR Stegosaurus

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