By Blitz Kiva and Kuwashima Rein. Released in Japan as “VRMMO wo Kane no Chikara de Musou suru” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.
One benefit of reading light novels on my phone rather than in print is that there’s less tendency for me to look back at the color pages. These pages, seen in most light novels, are basically a preview of the book, showing various exciting scenes in color to whet the appetite. When done well, they do just that, and show off the drama, excitement, or humor within. Sometimes, though, they can actually be major spoilers, revealing the surprise climax before you’ve even started the book. Fortunately, by the time I got to said climax, I’d forgotten that I’d already read it in the color page the day before. Which is good, as the climax is brilliant, showing off the protagonist at their best, in a magnificent display of everything we love about her. Yes, that’s right, her. Ichiro may be the one Paying to Win, but in the end Iris gets the cover of this final volume, and rightly so.
This volume picks up right where the last one left off, and certainly has a nice little starting point: Ichiro is arrested. Of course he’s not guilty, but the problem is that announcing the guilty party would be problematic for many different reasons. As such, after posting bail, he and Airi (who has rushed to see him at the station due to, well, sheer outrage, I think) set about trying to figure out a way to fix this. It gradually becomes clear that there’s no quick and easy way to do that, and that it looks as if Ichiro is going to have to break his own “rules” he’s set for himself in order to do so. But fortunately, the people he has met in the game over the past few months are here to help him, as are a few of his friends outside the game. And there’s always Airi/Iris and her use of her sharp tongue, though for once it’s not the words that are as effective as simply, wonderful violence.
Not to spoil but there was a scene in this volume that had me cheering out loud. I’ve made no bones in prior reviews about how much I did NOT want to see Ichiro and Iris as a romantic pairing, and I got my wish. Rosemary, the AI from the prior volumes, is asking various “rivals” how they feel about Ichiro, and Iris comments that she sees him as “an enemy”, someone to show up and surpass. She also notes she’s not attracted to him. I love this because I feel Iris’ character is so much better when she has this goal in mind. She’s never been a tsundere, much as the narrative might have occasionally tries to shoehorn it in. She’s just determination in one small package. (Actually, there may be more rivals out to defeat Ichiro than there are rivals for his love – Megumi may have lucked out there.) Pay2Win ended up with precisely zero romantic pairings over the course of the book, and that was very refreshing, especially for this genre.
Aside form Iris’ violence at the finale, I must admit my favorite moment in the book was the use of a popular meme. It was first seen as part of a montage of players discussing Ichiro and how they felt about him, and was a very amusing gag – there’s always that one player who wants to speak in meme. Then it shows up again later, and I felt “Oh, no, he ruined it by trying to use it again. Minus five points.” But its use as the big villain reveal at the end of the book left me with my jaw dropped, as suddenly I went “Oh my goooooood, of COURSE.” Honestly, I’ve felt that way throughout the last couple volumes of this series. It started off unevenly, and got better as it went along. J-Novel Club has better written light novels, but there are few that have genuinely entertained me as much as Paying to Win in a VRMMO. Can we get that “Irish Sniper” web-only side-story as an extra?