By Mishima Yomu and Monda. Released in Japan as “Otomege Sekai wa Mobu ni Kibishii Sekai Desu” by GC Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Alyssa Orton-Niioka. Adapted by Chris Wolfgang.
I had a short period where I was caught up on light novels, so had a poll to see which series I’d never started I should give a chance. I picked three series that I never started because I thought they sounded dull… and this one, which I never started as I’d heard things about it. Naturally, you can guess what won the poll. The series has quite a few fans, and it has an anime just starting this spring. That said, having read the first volume, while I understand why it’s popular, I don’t regret my decision not to read it. Despite its title, this “game” our hero is trapped in is nothing like the otome games available to play in Japan and elsewhere – as the author freely admits in the Afterword. And that’s important, because this is not simply “gender-flipped villainess story” – this story HAS a villainess filling the otome game function. What this is is a more common light novel trope… a revenge fantasy.
I used the word “hero” earlier, but that was a mistake, frankly. Our protagonist is a young man, already kicked out of his family home for supposedly being gay (he was caught with his sister’s BL doujinshi that she planted), forced by his abusive sister to play to 100% an otome game that relies on battle mechanics so she can’t get all the pretty CG she wants just by using a walkthrough. He’s so tired after finishing this that he falls down his staircase and dies. Take a wild guess where he ends up. Now he’s in the otome game he hated playing, and what’s worse, it’s a game where the women have all the power and the men are second-class citizens. He’s determined to escape the fate of a 3rd son in a minor noble family – married off to an old widow and sent off to die in military battle – and he’s also determined to avoid the actual plot of the game, which takes place at the local Academy For Rich Jerks. He succeeds in one of these things.
The author says his goal was to write an otome-game style webnovel only for guys, and I suppose he’s succeeded in that regard… except for the fact that this otome game bears no resemblance to the real thing. And I don’t think it’s enough that its own cast thinks the same thing, wondering “why do we have this world where women have all the power?”. That said, the main reason I want to stop reading the books is Leon. To quote the New Yorker cartoon meme, Christ, what an asshole. He hates the game, he hates the girl who’s taken over the game away from the original protagonist and won over all the love interests (and there are hints that she and Leon are closer than they appear), and he really hates the love interests, causing the last half of the book to basically be a tournament game where he beats the shit out of them one by one. In a giant robot. Because it’s for guys, right?
The writing is actually decent enough if you like what the author is offering you. The two love interests are likeable, and I suspect will be very amenable to sharing Leon, because this also sounds like that kind of series. The translation is actually quite good. I can see why people enjoy it. That said: I do not want to spent another minute in this asshole’s head.