Have middle school kids ever dressed like they do on this cover?
Back in December, as I was impatiently awaiting a release date for Tearmoon Empire’s first volume, I decided to take the plunge and give Obsessions of an Otome Gamer a try. I was suffering from the tension between my new desire to give LNs a chance and the relative dearth of LNs available in English targeted at a female audience, but had heard good things about this series. But I was also skeptical, so when I liked the first volume, it came as a pleasant surprise.
Volume two starts off with Mashiro beginning middle school, still committed to the piano but feeling a bit guilty over her treatment of Sou at the end of the first volume. She’s also feeling more generally isolated, as Sou’s now in Germany, and she’s been avoiding Kou as well, all in a bid on her part to hopefully ward off any chance of getting a bad end in her otome world. Luckily, she’s still got Kon at her side, although it is Kon’s behavior which has Mashiro increasingly worried as time goes on. And while a revelation about Kon’s identity in her previous life seems sure to bring Mashiro some comfort, the former’s subsequent refusal to discuss things any further quickly dims that hope. Against this backdrop and despite some unease over the nature of her new world, Mashiro keeps striving hard to make her way toward her goal of becoming a professional musician. And it is to this end that she enters a piano contest which will ultimately determine whether she gets into the prestigious Seio Music Academy where Kon and Kou are already students.
If volume one was primarily about Mashiro having to get a grip and realize she needed to grow the hell up after coming dangerously close to frittering away a second chance at life, volume two, while not a complete departure, makes it much clearer that what may have seemed like a miracle for Mashiro may instead be something more fickle and cruel. Granted, it appears unlikely that Mashiro will be the one paying the heaviest toll for it, but with the preponderance of “if only I’d known then…”-type comments in the back half of the book, there’s a reckoning in the offing for sure.
The best part of this series remains Mashiro’s maturation and her hard work and patience in her pursuit of her craft. Far less enchanting are the moments instead spent either watching her interact with Kou or Sou, or those short spells from their standpoints, which I’ll admit I generally skimmed. Sou is largely absent physically from the text, which is a relief, as his tendency towards possessiveness and obsession, even as a pre-teen, has always made me uneasy, as has his tendency toward misogyny where any girls/women other than Mashiro or Kon are under consideration. Mashiro and Sou’s interactions are limited to letters and postcards here. Kou goes over a little easier, but even he gets in on the creepy behavior when he gets snippy and unpleasant because he thinks Mashiro is wearing a skirt that’s too short – nope, not cute at all, I don’t care that you’re only thirteen, fuck off! But if the lead’s romantic options seem a bit lacklustre, they shine in comparison to Kon’s route, the odious Tobi, chairman of Seio Music Academy, who smoothly ratchets from extremely questionable to totally gross, as one would expect of someone who we’re told will celebrate his thirty-first year on earth by opting to date a fifteen year old. As much as I appreciate that author Natsu is in full agreement with me that such a development is bad, it nevertheless isn’t fun to sit through Tobi’s unpleasant behavior.
Speaking of the romance angles, the book ends on a cliffhanger… because at this point the story will split depending on which romantic interest you prefer the heroine to get together with!
Cross Infinite World ran a poll last summer to determine which one they’ll translate and publish first, but they’re now nine months overdue on announcing the result, so who knows what’s happening next with the release. (If I’d had some more wherewithal, I would’ve thought to try asking them if we’d be hearing any news about what we’ll get next before writing this review. Ah well.) Both this and the first volume did get a print release last month, though, so maybe some news is in the offing. UPDATE ON APR 22: Cross Infinite World tweeted at me to let me know they did announce the poll winner last summer, its just been lost to the temperamental mists of social media – Sou got 70% of the vote (what?!?!), so that’ll be the next volume released.
Regardless of whether we get a subsequent volume in English sooner or later, I enjoyed this volume. Part of that is the introduction of Sou’s fiancee, a whirlwind of a girl who is much more fun to have around than Sou. There’s also the growing antagonism between Mashiro and Tobi; even as the former knows she should be wary of provoking the latter if she wants to go to Seio, she’s unable to not intervene when Tobi’s being creepy toward Kon. In a particularly gratifying bit, Mashiro gets one over on the man right after he thinks he’s managed to forcibly maneuver her into a tight spot, and one imagines this story aspect will only continue to grow in the future.
Charis Messier does the translation here, as was the case with the first volume, and delivers a good translation for what was probably often a bit tricky given the frequency of German and French phrases and words. From what little I could glean from a search engine gander, it doesn’t seem Messier knows either of those languages, so I can only imagine it was nightmarish to work out the correct rendering in the Roman alphabet of the French and German written in katakana. Major kudos there. (By the way, since I’ve mentioned the presence of German, I’ll note that some of the specific word choices by the author or her editor are a bit odd. While not, strictly speaking, incorrect, there are specific phrasing or word choices utilized which are rarely used in spoken standard German.* For example, one of the characters greets another with “Schönen Gruß”, which is relatively rare in verbal communications; its much more commonly a means of opening a letter or an email.)
Tangents aside… while the field of LNs in English for girls and women has been expanding nicely in the past six months, Obsessions of an Otome Gamer remains one of the better options out there. I’m not keen on the romance aspect, but I like Mashiro a lot and I’m curious regarding how things will play out when it comes to the mystery of Mashiro and Kon’s having reincarnated into the game world and what impact unraveling the underpinning mystery will have on their world and new lives, if any.
* Trying to avoid deep-diving here, but… there are a LOT of regional dialects of German, which is why I specified that it’s standard German. Some of those dialects are NOT mutually comprehensible with standard German (for example, translations of the word carrot – depending on region, it could be Karrotte, Möhre, or Wurzel). I actually wondered at first if Natsu was for some reason using vocabulary from a regional dialect instead of standard German, but having looked into it, that is not what is going on here – which, really, what was the likelihood of that in first place?