By Hirukuma and Namako. Released in Japan as “Murazukuri Game no NPC ga Namami no Ningen to Shika Omoe Nai” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns. Adapted by Aysha U. Farah.
I imagine that a dream that a lot of mystery writers have is to be able to write a book that’s all mystery and no solution, where you can just coast on being cool and baffling the reader. For the first two volumes of The NPCs in This Village Sim Game Must Be Real!, that’s pretty much where we’ve been with each book giving us a few hints here and there but making up for it with exciting battle scenes, heartwarming character development, and awesome lizards. Unfortunately, we only get two of the three in this third volume, as the rest of Yoshio’s family and his childhood friend-turned-wannabe-girlfriend are shuffled to the side so that he and Carol can figure out what the heck is going on. The result is… I dunno, it’s explained well enough, I just really didn’t like it. Then again, I’m not sure, with this kind of setup, there was an answer that I *would* like.
After surviving the attack from his co-worker and Player Two, Yoshio now has to deal with the fact that Carol has, through the power of the Gods, managed to mail herself to him. Fortunately, his family is away the next few days, and Seika is giving him at least a bit of the benefit of the doubt. That said, he not only needs to get her back into the “game”, but also figure out what’s going on. This is not helped by other people continuing to attack him, as a hit has been put out: attack Yoshio and get the Book of the Gods and Carol, and get a big reward. So he’s got to try not to get killed, protect Carol, and find the creators of the game, who are in a small town in Hokkaido. When he finally gets there, the answer is not what he expected. More importantly, though, can he get Carol back to her game world? Did anyone else survive that last monster rush? And can Yoshio protect them himself?
I don’t want to get too deep into the mystery reveals that we get here, but I think the main issue is that I find it a bit tonally jarring with the rest of the series. It feels as if the author decided to take some characters from another series they’re working on and have them make an appearance as the cause of everything we’ve seen. Which is fine, and I’m sure that series has lots of yuri antics from what we see here, but it feels like it has nothing whatsoever to do with Yoshio and his struggles. His journey has been so personal in the first two books that it doesn’t work when he’s meant to sit there and passively hear what’s going on from a third party. I admit I was amused, though, when Yoshio has to explain that no, he actually does NOT want to stay in the other world with cool powers, he just wants to go home and confess to his long-suffering sweetheart. (We don’t get to see that either, also to my irritation.)
The author hints that if this is popular enough there might be more, but there’s no more of the webnovel it was based on, and I suspect this is it. It’s a bit of a misstep, in my opinion, but those who enjoyed the first two should still read it.