By Keiichi Sigsawa and Kouhaku Kuroboshi, based on the series created by Reki Kawahara. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Stephen Paul.
Gotta admit, this book was an absolute treat for me. After so many volumes of everyone having to fight each other, It really is fantastic seeing all the main characters team up, NOT fight each other, and work towards a united goal. There’s still lots of enemies to defeat, of course, and trust me when I say Shirley is still looking for any opportunity she can to snipe Pitohui, but for the most part this is the most relaxed and fun a SAO Alternative volume has ever been. There’s even a cute dog! That said, while I was very happy, it’s worth noting that this book is about a cast of young women who really, really, REALLY like to shoot at each other. They’re not SAO survivors, there’s no worry of real death, they just like the adrenaline rush, it excites them. As such, the ending of this book should have really been obvious. And yes, it also revolves around the cute dog.
After wrapping up Karen’s karaoke party of sad, with Elza telling everyone her life story (all lies, M gives us her true life story, though she tells him that may ALSO be lies), We hear about a new team event involving “five ordeals”. This will finally allow Llenn’s group to team up with SHINC (it’s made clear that Llenn really does regard the 4th squad jam as achieving her fight with them, despite the interruptions) as well as perpetual hangers-ons Clarence and Shirley. The ordeals themselves are introduces to us by a cute talking NPC dog (a Schipperke), who tells them it’s basically five tasks, all with different rules, different areas, and ascending levels of difficulty. Can they battle zombies, fight robots, ascend snow-buried buildings, and take on CYBER-DRAGONS?
So I feel it’s OK to mention this, as the website Does the Dog Die? is literally namechecked in the book: the dog doesn’t die. This is despite the entire final chapter revolving around the dog dying – it’s a very self-aware book, and allows us to actually get some depth to Miyu, who is allowed to be more than just the wacky comic relief here (though she’s that too, no worries). As for the rest, it’s what you expect from this series: the fights are awesome, the banter is fun, there’s a few betrayals, and the author cannot stop dragging his self-insert around like a corpse. It’s also fun seeing Llenn finally come to terms with the fact that just because she is a cute pink tyke doesn’t mean that she’s not just as scary or even scarier than Pitohui is. Seeing her wonder “wait, is this why everyone is wary of me?” may be the best joke in the book. And again, the entire relationship between Fukaziroh and the NPC dog was fantastic and even heartwarming, which is not really a beat this series is good at.
I suspect we get a Squad Jam next, but for a change of pace this was excellent. Enjoy our heroes working together in peace… even if they don’t want to really.