Not Lives, Vol. 1

By Wataru Karasuma. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Once you see something make it big, be it here or in Japan, you’re going to see variations on the same basic theme in the hopes that a company can get some of that sweet profit. Be it vampires, zombies, Alices, or whatever, the media are ready to give you something that’s essentially the same with a few palette swaps. Even better is if you can mash more than one genre together – you get the chance to try to court multiple markets. Enter Not Lives, whose cover screams out that its’ a date sim, complete with an actual dialogue box, but it also ends up being ‘person ends up in a game world’ as well as the ever popular ‘survival game’ genre. The result isn’t terrible, but it feels like a title where stuff is thrown at the wall to see what sticks.


Oddly, despite being the most obvious thanks to the cover, the datesim/high school romance part is the least developed of the bunch. Our hero, for a change, is rather extroverted and talkative, and also has a genius for making and marketing games of any kind, but is somewhat useless about matters of the heart – not realizing that his long-suffering childhood friend is in love with him, for instance. One day he accidentally gets a copy of a mysterious game called Not Lives, and when he tries to play it it loads itself into his chest rather than the CD drive, downloading him into a VR game where he’s playing a young woman. The catch being that the young woman actually exists, and is rather frustrated with this newbie losing in his very first game.

So far so cute, but the survival game aspect takes precedence as the series goes on, and we discovers the players are trapped in a rather nasty way. First time losers become ‘avatars’, i.e. somewhat less than human, and are forced to recruit other players. If the avatar then loses again… they’re ‘deleted’, which seems to involve severed body parts. Needless to say, things get a bit cutthroat, especially since it becomes apparent that some of the players/avatars can use game powers in the REAL world to, say, throw a bunch of thugs in front of a truck and kill them all. Our hero may be a genius gamer, but will he be able to level up and beat this game where the rules are still a bit vague? Especially once his avatar ends up transferring to his class, thus neatly taking us back to the datesim in the very end.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with this – there’s some fanservice, but honestly I was expecting worse, and the avatar, Kyouko, manages to be emotionally repressed without being a stoic robot. That said, nothing in it screamed that I absolutely had to get the next volume. It plays to folks who like “trapped in a game” (me), “survival game” (not me), and “dateim romance” (it depends). My main concern is the 2nd, as I worry that, like almost all survival game titles, we’ll be introduced to likeable, sympathetic people who will then meet horrible ends. Childhood friend, I’m very worried for your future…

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