Fumiya Tomozaki is gamer, a top player at fighting game Atafami, who consider life to be a kusoge. Without friend and socially secluded, what would happen when he meets the popular girl, his school, Aoi Hinami, who turned to be also a top player at his game?
Once again, on my quest to get reading materials for my trip in August, I picked this LN without prior knowledge. I hadn’t heard much about it. From the title I guessed it was about gaming. I was slightly correct. I didn’t expect I was going to read a Shogakukan Light Novel Award winner.
Came the day I finally decided to read during lunch break. I read a few pages, surprised that the translator decided to keep the honourifics. Tomozaki and Hinami met, and entered into a debate about real life tier list. The eloquence of these characters as their opinion clashed was incredible. Rather than teenager, the introspection and vision of their surrounding they had was far more mature than their age would let one imagine. Thus, I put down the ebook, needing something a bit more light as I was rather tired. I knew I needed to be in better condition to read a social commentary.
Tomozaki is a hardcore gamer at Atafami, aka Not Super Smash Bros Melee. He is rather intelligent and diligent, as long as he is interested in something. Sadly, he is also socially anxious. Lacking confidence in his look and conversational skill, he has no friends. Still, he is not depressed but rather accepting of his situation, as he gave up on improving his social standing. After all, life is a shit game in his own words, not worth playing, and he was born as a low tier character, a “loser”.
Enters Aoi Hinami, a social butterfly who is also a top player at Atafami and a tsundere. She is more or less good at everything and very popular. After an online match, they both meet offline. To meet a “loser” like Tomozaki was a shock to her, as she dislike his kind. It turns out that she herself underwent great changes to reach her popularity. Unlike him she thinks of life as a game, a great game, and convinces him to try to improve at it. She is seemingly friendly in public, but in private, mostly in front of Tomozaki, she has a sharp mouth and a refreshing arrogance that contrast well with her persona. Her public actions may in fact be manipulative. Still, she has a cute and soft side with genuine care, which is slowly unravelled through the volume, after their clashing meeting.
United just by a game and their vision of the world as a game, we have a strange yet incredible pair of character. Tomozaki is driven into earning real life “experience point” to upgrade his “stats” while understanding the “rules of the game”. Hinami helps him by giving advises and goals, like getting a girlfriend. But under the game coating, I believe these are real advises. I myself have followed one a few years ago, that is adjusting my posture for health reason. But it also grants one great satisfaction, a boost in confidence and more dignified air. So, this book has realism in its self help concept, keeping it grounded and interesting.
Gaming is not the main attraction of this LN. Still, I have to mention that it has better depiction of game than some other LN which entirely focused on games. If you know Super Smash Bros, Melee especially since it has wavedash, then the references are there for you. Some other game are barely hinted. I hope the future volumes will keep those aspects and not just dive into social life.
Narration is using the first person, from Tomozaki’s point of view. Conversations are the meat of this story. It’s full of heart to heart time, and it’s introspective, not only about the characters, but for the readers. They are deep dive of the different aspect of our social life. How we appear, how we speak, how we behave; Hinami offers a deconstruction of our social codes and construct in order to help Tomozaki. As a side effect, it seems unnatural for teenagers to speak about such topics, but it’s a tradeoff I’m more than willing to accept if we have this originality and depth.
The side characters are diverse and part of a through a web of relationship, and volume 1 seems to be just grazing their surface as it focused a lot on Tomozaki and Hinami, and a bit on Izumi. I expect they will be given more time to flesh out as it seem like we have just grazed the surface in this volume.
The illustrations kind of remind me of a visual novel, as the girls are looking at you. When they are not, it’s more of illustrating the mood with scenes of their life. Also, Tomozaki does indeed have the design of a bottom-tier character. I wonder if he will get upgraded.
Bottom-tier character Tomozaki was a surprise for me. Granted, had I been more informed, I would have had higher expectation, but it’s always better when something exceeds them. It’s a story which dwell in the different aspects of social life, yet lighten them with its gaming metaphor. I’m not a social butterfly either, so it’s relatable, even inspiring at time. I can definitely recommend it for the introverts, or those seeking slice of life, and perhaps romcom, who are wants something more than just entertainment. This one is mind stimulating.
So this is the kind of LN where we may end up with a pairing, so will Hinami and Tomozaki become a couple at the end?
It’s not far fetched. First of all, Atafami is their one common ground that they thrive for and both respect each other in that game. Moreover, Hinami also maintains a social mask, a persona, most of the time. It’s only with Tomozaki that she behaves like herself. Just having this weight off is a great plus for a romance between the two. Lastly, the development is akind to Pygmalion’s myth; by helping Tomozaki improve, she is actually turning him into someone she may like.
I heard that it had a manga adaptation, but I haven’t checked it.