Slum Online by Hiroshi Sakurazaka Light Novel Review

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There are no pictures in this light novel except the one on the cover. It’s only one volume and it’s not that long. Only 210 pages. The protagonist is an apathetic college freshman who gets addicted to an online fighting game but has to balance this with his relationship with his girlfriend. It reads like a short story. The characters are not that developed and the ideas of the protagonist which he relates to us in long monologues are not challenged because he rarely voices them to the few characters around him.

The story can be broken into two parts which are interspersed with each other: The parts in which our protagonist plays the video game and those in which he is in the real world. The video game feels a bit outdated because apparently, all the characters are blocky pixels but other than that it is well explored. The real world setting and the characters in it, on the other hand, are lacking. For example, it isn’t entirely clear why the protagonist’s girlfriend likes him. Most of the characterization she gets is that she is a very hardworking and organized cute girl. The only motivation she is shown to have to find a blue cat from some urban legend, they anti-climactically find it, but it was more of an excuse for the protagonist and her to buy ice cream or something. Then there is another character who also plays the video game, a woman in her early thirties who we never get to know much about and who feels totally unrealistic.

The premise of the story is interesting enough but the stakes are too low for me to care about, on the one hand I am not given enough of a reason to care about the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend and on the other it soon becomes obvious that the protagonist isn’t really addicted to the game itself but rather wants to defeat a specific player called ‘Ganker Jack’ to challenge himself. The premise was not what I expected and I was disappointed. What I wanted to see was someone who actually had a lot of negative consequences happening to him because of his video game habit trying to deal with it but instead what I got was a guy who was mostly doing fine both in real life and in the game, the worst thing that happened to him because of video games was missing a few lectures at his university and getting a lower grade at his assesment, even when he refused to go out with his girlfriend because of a tournament in the video game the girl didn’t dump him.

The final ‘bonus’ chapter is about the protagonist’s friend who had dropped out of the university in Tokyo because of his video game habit and now lived at home in Hokkaido(north of Japan where not many people live) with his parents and who also spent most of his time playing the same online game. Honestly, it would have been much more interesting if he was the protagonist.

I give this book a 2/10