By Yuu Tanaka and Nardack. Released in Japan as “Deokure Tamer no Sono Higurashi” by GC Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by A.M. Cola.
At one point in this book, the game is doing a huge mock battle with a massive bird enemy, featuring lots of derring-do and feats of strength, and Yuto manages to win the day by a combination of (accidental) self-sacrifice and being very clever, and he and his tamed monsters look very good doing it. At other points in the book, Yuto discovers rice and also gets a penguin as a tamed monster. It’s not a surprise to readers of this book that the latter two events get a far bigger reaction from other players than the first one. This is a series that revels in its little moments, to the point where the epilogue blatantly has the game devs talking about how their new competitor, about to be released, is deliberately designed to be as different from Law of Justice Online as possible. Yes, Yuto is very cool at times, much as he doesn’t think so. But more importantly, he can cook and has cute pets. Priorities.
The book starts with Yuto completing his underwater expedition with the three other girls in his temporary party, and arriving at a swampy paddy… which, much to his delight, contains an ingredient called “Paddy”, which can be used to make rice! Rice has been one of the foodstuffs that no one has been able to come across in the game, so this discovery is huge! It also leads to more of Yuto’s wacky cooking experiments. After this, we get another event, as Yuto and several others are sent to defend a small fortress that is being beset by birds, Hitchcock-style. Yuto spends most of this time finding bird-repelling things and being baffled that everyone is treating him as the leader of the group. He even manages to do some actual fighting, though it does, of course, kill him. And then there’s his new, tamed monster… a penguin!
It has been both amusing and a bit annoying seeing the evolving relationship between Yuto and Alyssa, his main contact with the information group Quick-Eared Cats. At the start of the series, she was mildly shocked at all the stuff that he’s brought to her and claimed was nothing. But by now his very appearance in their home base causes her to get ulcers and have panic attacks. I kind of wish they stayed closer, but I get it. Yuto’s number one character trait is being oblivious to his own greatness, and that means he has no idea that the things he’s bringing to her are worth a fortune – which means they’ll make the money back eventually, but it puts the Cats in an awkward position of being deep in debt right after every visit of his. As for the penguin, it’s basically written in to be a joke about the Tomihiko Morimi book Penguin Highway, but it also looks like it will be one of the stronger characters in future volumes.
Somehow I’m guessing the new game coming out to challenge LJO is going to struggle. Why shoot other players to death when you can watch a beat, a mole, and a penguin frolic around?