Log Horizon: Game’s End, Part 1

By Mamare Touno and Kazuhiro Hara. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On.

After two reasonably stand-alone novels, Log Horizon now has the first of the ever popular ‘2-volume arc’ books, as seen in SAO, Accel World, and Index has a few soon as well. This does allow for a leisurely pace throughout the book, with only a token cliffhanger at the end. But that’s fine, as this book is doing what Log Horizon does best, which is to showly explain how its world works and how the mechanics of gaming fit into “real” battles. Of course, as Shiroe finds out towards the end of this book, things may not be as simple as all that, particularly when it comes to death in this world.


I’ve said earlier that these books get into game mechanics far too much, and I admit at times I was getting a little bored at all the exposition. At the same time, however, the mechanics are far more important here than they are in SAO, where Kirito may as well just be genuinely using his sword as a sword. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, something that takes our newbie heroes (the twins from last book, Serara, and two new kids) the entire volume to really understand. I suspect a few gamers may be a bit frustrated by the “gosh, we need teamwork” lesson being drilled in here, but it’s cute, and serves the purpose of the actual book, which is to develop these five kids into deeper characters, particularly Minori. And we even get a mini-cliffhanger of our own with them, as Rudy seems to have a secret he’s been keeping from everyone.

As for Shiroe and company, instead of dungeon crawling they’re worrying about diplomacy. The other big function of this book is to set up the “people of the land”, which is to say the NPCs – as genuine characters with hopes, dreams, and desires, rather than “I’d love it if you could get that cat out of the tree for me” quest points. They have a history, one that is long and rather dark, as Shiroe finds out. And they have goals that may not mesh well with the adventurers, who they seems to regard as dangerous unknowns. Luckily, we meet Reinesia, the princess of one of the main capitols, who would much rather just lie against a table and be moody all day. I can identify with that. Her interaction with Crusty, who reminds me a lot of Heathcliff from SAO only hopefully without the evil, is one of teh funniest parts of the entire book.

There are also a few suggested romances, though I’m not sure if any of them will actually come off. Isuzu searches her feelings and realizes she likes Rudy as a big dog sort of guy. Akatsuki searches her feelings and comes up empty, though the more experienced reader can tell she’s in love with Shiroe and as yet unaware of it. In any case, romance may take a back seat in the next book, as evil creatures from the black lagoon are coming out from the sea all over the continent. Well, they’re in a game world, you can’t just turn off the bad guys. Log Horizon remains a well thought out series with relatable characters (so many introverts!), and is easy to recommend.

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 5

By Kazumi Kamachi and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan as “To Aru Majutsu no Index” by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On.

After four novels that were basically one plotline, this fifth book gathers up three interlocking stories, one a novella and two short stories, all taking place on the last day before the school semester begins. Indeed, it’s a bit startling as you get into Index to see how fast everything is moving. The 4th book, and the Angel Fall arc, took place only a few days before this. These stories also share a certain theme, which I suspect was sort of shoehorned into the non-Accelerator ones to make it work better as a book, or people choosing to do the right thing rather than let someone else do it. It’s what makes a ‘superhero’, and given that Index is in many ways about a city filled with superheroes, it rings thematically true, though in some places more than others.


Introduced in this volume: Last Order, Kikyou Yoshikawa, Eztali (as Mitsuki Unabara). There’s no real equivalent to this in the Railgun timeline, mostly as Misaka features in two of these stories. It’s still right after the final battle in the SS anime.

There’s no getting around the fact that one of these stories is much, much better than the other two, so let’s deal with the other two perfunctorily here. The scenes with Mikoto, Touma and the fake Mitsuki look to have been editorially mandated owing to a certain Railgun’s overwhelming popularity, and if you like Mikoto being the tsunnest dere in the city, there’s plenty for you to like here. But it’s very slight, and fake Mitsuki (we don’t actually learn his real name here) seems to fall for Mikoto for no real reason other than to allow the story to vaguely tie into the novels’ theme. As for the final story with Touma, Index, and Ouma, it’s even slighter (the villain is even Touma with one letter removed, though I suspect the Japanese name is suitably different). It does allow Index fans (are there Index fans?) to brag that that she’s actually a smart cookie when not whining at Touma about food or his harem hero tendencies.

But the main reason to read this, as you might guess from the cover, is the beginning of Accelerator’s journey from a mass-murdering villain to a broken anti-hero. He does a lot of soul searching here, and doesn’t like what he sees, but he can’t really see any way to redeem himself for what he’s done, and has no real reason to do so. Enter Last Order, who despite fandom’s best efforts (and the artist’s, let’s be frank) to sexualize her is pretty much written here as a “little sister” figure for Accelerator. She’s tied heavily into the Sisters project, and is able to offer him as much forgiveness as she can given the circumstances, and show off that he was not being as sociopathic as he thought. In the end, he does manage to save the girl and save the day, though it gets him shot in the head for his troubles, thus solving the other problem with Accelerator, which is that he was simply far too powerful for this series. We haven’t seen the last of him, though.

The translation continues to have the usual strengths and weaknesses, but I really have to highlight two issues. First off, Last Order’s speech quirks are very hard to translate into English at all. I don’t mind the ‘like’ inserted into her words, as it’s a casualness the other Misakas (and Mikoto herself) don’t have that works well with Last Order. But the doubling of the ‘says Misaka’ makes it look more like someone accidentally screwed up the find-and-replace rather than a genuine adaptation choice. Secondly, did Touma really say the word ‘Japanimation’? In 2015?

The three stories in this novel are of variable quality, but the Accelerator one is excellent, and it’s also the longest, so it’s definitely worth reading the book for.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Vol. 1

By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan as “Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun” by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the online magazine Gangan Online. Released in North America by Yen Press.

As my regular readers are aware, I’ve been excited for this title for a long time. I’ve been a fan of Tsubaki ever since The Magic Touch (in fact, I am the only fan of The Magic Touch), and I’ve also loved her other ongoing series right now, Oresama Teacher. Those, however, are normal shoujo series, albeit with a lot of humor in them. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is a 4-koma gag series. As such, we do not need to worry quite as much about depth of characterization, advancing the plot, and romantic resolution. We just have to worry about 1) Build to a gag, and 2) Have a character react to the gag. This series succeeds admirably at both, but especially the second.


The setup is fairly simple, and ripe for amusing situations. Sakura has fallen for the tall, handsome, stoic Nozaki, and confesses to him in a roundabout way, trying not to use the words “I love you”. Unfortunately, Nozaki is as dense as lead when it comes to matters of the heart, so interprets this as a desire to work with him on the shoujo manga he draws for a monthly magazine under a pseudonym. Luckily for him, Sakura is quite good at art. And Sakura is okay with this if it means she can spend more time with him. Over the course of this volume, though, the cast broadens to include a wide variety of eccentrics, and we also discover that Nozaki’s manga, while popular still has its problems. As such, many of the final panels are Sakura giving a comeback to the ridiculous situation, in typical Japanese tsukkomi style.

Not that Sakura is always the straight man. As with Tsubaki’s other current series, the characters have the ability to alternate between boke and tsukkomi as the situation requires, and so if Sakura is off in Nozaki-kun fantasy land, it will be Mikoshiba or Seo who will boggle at her antics. And Nozaki-kun may be stoic, but this doesn’t mean he’s without emotions, as we see whenever he’s reminded of his prior editor. The 4-koma format serves this series perfectly, as the gags all land dependably right where they should, and have just the right amount of impact. There are no drawn out scenes where half the 4-komas are setup to a final gag – there is humor every 3rd and 4th panel throughout.

Indeed, there’s even humor on the front and back covers, and in extra stories at the back, which might be why the translation notes are awkwardly placed midway through. For those worried, by the way, the presence of the -kun in the title should tell you that this translation is allowed to be a bit more Japanese than other comparable series, and thus “in my heart I call him Mikorin” is present and correct. There are a few adaptations of super obscure things, like the concept of ‘KY’, but honestly, ‘oblivious’ is a pretty accurate translation of that. Fans of the Nozaki-kun anime will definitely enjoy reading the series in its original form, and if you simply like to laugh, this is a great series for it.

Also, there are tanukis.