Category Archives: Light Novels

Infinite Dendrogram’s Ray Starling is a Hero Among Heroes

For the people who are know me it will come as no surprise that I’m writing a piece on a VRMMO light novel. A fan of the fantasy genre and the Isekai and VRMMO stories that fill it (especially here in the west), I spend a lot of time reading stories about heroes and other worlds.

One of the series I’m fond of is Infinite Dendrogram, a light novel series being published in English by J-Novel Club. They’ve just started releasing the 9th volume (the latest in Japan) and the opening battle got me thinking about how great main character Ray Starling is.

If you’ve not read the series before then I highly encourage you to and you can find out more at J-Novel Club’s page here. I’m not reviewing the series so I don’t really want to stray from the meat of the article by getting into what the story is about right now.

Now over the course of nine books we’ve seen Ray tackle a number of awful and testing situations. He’s defeated powerful bosses and brought down plots to do harm to the kingdom he belongs to, but he’s never felt like a true hero in the way he does in this volume. Always the main character but never quite breaking out of that mould, I’ve been fond of Ray but now he’s won my respect. As an orphanage is about to be burnt to the ground, by an enemy who I won’t name, Ray bursts onto the scene dressed like a demon but with a heroic shine in his eyes. When they say looks can be deceiving they certainly had Ray in mind, that’s for sure…

The thing is, generally speaking characters do good things because they’re in the right place at the right time. Either that or they’re just OP enough where there is no real risk to their lives and thus are always willing to take up a challenge. In Ray’s case none of these are true – well, except that his life isn’t really at risk because Infinite Dendrogram is not a death game. Anyway, Ray races onto the scene with no real guarantee that he’ll make it through the fight alive. If he dies he’ll be given a death penalty and unable to log back in for a set amount of time, at which point there is no one to save the orphans. Knowing this he runs into danger to put everything on the line to accomplish his goal. It’s life or death but Ray will do his best and put up a fantastic fight for his beliefs. This all comes with a heroic speech about how standing still is the worst thing you can do, naturally.

Honestly reading this back makes Ray sound kind of insufferable, but he’s actually not. In fact I’d go so far as to say he’s one of the protagonists I like best in this particular genre and certainly from among the books J-Novel Club publish from it. He’s down to earth and modest while also being a little dense. Honestly author Sakon Kaido has done a great job crafting him into a really likeable hero, someone who isn’t OP or too unrealistic. Credit is also due to translator Andrew Hodgson, who does a great job at giving Ray a distinct and fitting ‘voice’. That goes double for this volume, which is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

In a genre filled to the brim with unlikable and or likeable but cookie-cutter protagonist, it’s just nice to have someone a bit different. Ray certainly shares similar traits to these other protagonists, but he’s also better than them. A hero to send shivers down your spine and truly make you believe in the concept. I never thought that I’d be this excited about a volume of Infinite Dendrogram, but there is something special about the way its written and how things are progressing. I’m not sure Ray is going to be overcome all the tests ahead of him, and frankly the series isn’t shy about meddling with some dark concepts so it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s made to suffer – but that’s again. A true hero will raise again and so Ray will too.

Ultimately I just wanted to gush about how much I’m enjoying this book already, but I’ve never really talked about Infinite Dendrogram before either, so this seemed like a good opportunity, I really hope that the forthcoming anime adaption of Infinite Dendrogram does the series justice so you can all join in with my love for it!

NISIOISIN Is At His Best When Writing Mysteries

So my first interaction with NISIOISIN’s writing, like many, was with his Monogatari series. I’m up to date with the English releases of Monogatari and after more than ten volumes, I’ve grown attached to the way in which NISIOSIN crafts his stories. So attached in fact, that I’ve sought out some of the author’s other works.

For AnimeUKNews a few months ago I got the chance to review Vertical’s first omnibus volume (volumes 1-3 of the Japanese release) of Katanagatari, which I found to be fairly similar to Monogatari in terms of how its written. Nothing really happens until the end and it’s very comedy driven. Ultimately I think I’d been hoping for something more, especially after reading the second season of Monogatari. 

The second season of Monogatari is special because almost every book is narrated by a different member of the cast. This works out well for NISIOISIN because it shows off his abilities as a writer at great length because every story is so different. Some characters are more serious than others, some are purely comedic and some treat their tales almost as mysteries. It showcases NISIOISIN’s ability to dip in and out of various styles and do them all justice and I guess that’s what I wanted to see more of and ultimately ended up seeking out.

While reviewing NISIOISIN’s other works I was vaguely aware of the fact he’d once written a Death Note novel – Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Case. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Death Note’s manga, but I have read it all and enjoyed it for what it was so I decided I’d give the novel a try. I bought it before Christmas and it sat in my pile of books for awhile, but this week I finally got around to giving it a read and I realised how much I like NISIOISIN’s writing all over again.

Another Note takes place before Death Note itself, although it does assume you’ve read Death Note and know what happens to L. As the full title of the book suggests, it’s a murder mystery story and as readers familiar with my work probably know – I love mystery novels. After all, my favourite book this year so far is Eiji Mikage’s Masquerade and the Nameless Women. 

Anyway, what I found from reading Another Note is that NISIOISIN tells a mighty fine mystery. Unlike in Monogatari and Katanagatari, the story of Another Note was always moving and making progress. Most crucially for me, I never worked out the twists and turns until I was meant to. The book is very well written and it was satisfying to figure out the answers just as the protagonist did. The book leads you in the right direction and gives you just enough to reach a conclusion before the main character does, leaving the smugness of being right and cheering when you realise you solved the problem in a similar way to the protagonist (as all too often I reach the answer in a roundabout way and get disappointed by the actual route to solving a puzzle).

I’m really glad I gave Another Note a chance, but it does frustrate me how little of NISIOISIN’s work can be read in English. I’m not necessarily talking about the popular series like Monogatari and Zaregoto, but all the one offs. Surely among them there are more gems like Another Note that would keep me turning the pages and refusing to put it down. Some of the Monogatari books share in this quality, but I’d love to see NISIOISIN unchained from the mountain of franchises and instead write some more one-off mystery novels. He has a talent for it. In fact not just mystery novels, I’d love him to take on a variety of different genres that perhaps aren’t fantasy or driven by comedy. I guess some of this probably already exists in Japan, to which I can only hope that the English publishers license more of his work to bring over. At least until my ability to read Japanese has improved to the point where I can work around the problem.

Anyway this has been a long post to say that Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Case is a great read and if you like NISIOSIN’s work (and Death Note) it’s definitely worth a look to see how good his writing is when he’s not busily talking about panties through Araragi-kun.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 3 – Light Novel Review

Is it Wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon volume 3The more I read Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? the more I truly come to appreciate the series despite the somewhat awful choice of title. Author Fujino Omori comments that the third volume of the series finishes off what he regards as the first part of the series’ story, and with that in mind I think it probably is the most fitting end you’re going to get for this section of our tale. Continue reading

The Devil is a Part-Timer! Volume 1 – Light Novel Review

The Devil is a Part-Timer Volume 1

The Devil Is a Part-Timer is yet another example of a series where I experienced the anime first and then have read the light novel. This is of course due to the light novel scene outside of Japan not really existing until well after the original anime was a thing, but nevertheless we have it now! The Devil Is a Part-Timer is probably also yet another example of a series I like quite a bit more in its original form rather than as an anime.

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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 2 – Light Novel Review

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 2

When I reviewed the first volume of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? I found myself very taken with main character Bell and the world in which he lives. Considering how much I enjoyed the first volume in the series I went into the second with hopes of something which could perhaps double my love for the series, I mean surely with world building and such out the way the story would draw me in all the more. Well, the second volume kind of lived up to my hopes but it also has its own problems.

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Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 1 – Light Novel Review

It’s not hard to stumble across Sword Art Online when talking about recent anime hits. Based on a series of successful light novels, the anime told the story of thousands of people trapped within a video game. What the anime didn’t do however is tell this tale from the first floor of Aincrad up, although the original light novels didn’t either so it can hardly be faulted. That said, one of the more interesting aspects of Sword Art Online has always been the world of Aincrad and thus the Progressive series of novels are here to answer a lot of our questions and tell a brand new tale.

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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 1 – Light Novel Review

Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon, volume 1

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is an interestingly named light novel that Yen Press have just started releasing under their Yen ON imprint. It would be fair to say that going into the series I really wasn’t expecting a great deal, more than anything I wanted to give the series a chance before the anime is aired later this year. However what I found from reading the novel left me pleasantly surprised and now somehow I’m eagerly awaiting more of this story.

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Yen Press to publish Log Horizon, The Devil Is A Part-Timer, and No Game, No Life light novels

yenpress

One of our favourite manga and light novel publishers, Yen Press, has today announced that they will be publishing the original light novels for Log Horizon, The Devil Is a Part-Timer and No Game, No Life in 2015.

All three series have become big names in and outside of Japan. All have received anime adaptations with Log Horizon being given a second season in October.

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Sword Art Online volume 1: Aincrad – Light novel review

Sword Art Online light novel 1

Sword Art Online has without a doubt become a huge series outside of Japan thanks to A-1 Pictures producing an anime last summer. Thanks to the massive interest in the series Yen Press have licensed the original light novels for release outside of Japan. I’ve picked up the first volume to review and see how much the source differs from the anime!

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