By Chiyomaru Shikura and pako. Released in Japan by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Lensenmayer.
Of the three initial licenses by the fledgling J-Novel Club, this was the one that people had heard of. The creators are responsible for such titles as Chaos;Head, Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes, and other series with highly eccentric casts that abuse the common semicolon. Now we have Occultic;Nine, which is not connected to the other series that I know of (aside from the punctuation), but does have the advantage of an anime currently airing, as well as a visual novel coming next year. The plot of this book is not quite certain yet, except that it deals with a large group of people who are somehow interested or connected to the occult. The narrative viewpoint bounces back and forth between them (with one notable exception). And as a light novel, it’s not too bad.
Our hero, if such a word can be applied to an ensemble cast, is Yuta Gamon, a teen loser who spends most of his time running a blog devoted to mocking the occult with the help of his mysterious, airheaded, and large-breasted friend Ryoka, who is not quite Mayuri from Steins;Gate but seems to fulfill much the same function. (She is the only character without a narrative viewpoint, which unfortunately makes it look like she was added simply for people to talk about her boobs.) Yuta is teeth-gratingly irritating in a way that most people who have been teenagers will likely be very familiar with, but ultimately harmless, and also seems to be getting mysterious messages on his ham radio setup. As the book goes on, we also meet a girl who tells people’s fortunes, someone who curses people via black magic, an occult reporter, a seeming detective (though honestly he could easily be faking), etc. Interspersed randomly throughout this (very randomly – the author admits in the afterword he added it after the book had been written) are the actions of a vast conspiracy doing… something.
This is very much a Volume One, promising a lot of cool things but not really delivering until the last few pages, which are easily the best part of the book, as Yuta discovers a corpse and unfortunately makes himself the prime suspect. But for the most part it’s there to show us the world these characters live in and slowly start to bring them together. I understand the anime compressed this entire first novel into one episode, which doesn’t surprise me. The characters are interesting, though. I particularly liked Miyuu, who despite her fortune telling powers is easily the most normal character in the book, and her determination is admirable. The whole thing reminds me a lot of the Durarara!! series, where you get a bunch of things thrown at you that won’t make sense till about Books 3 or 4.
The book’s main flaw, of course, is that at times it’s a bit TOO disparate, and can read sort of like waiting 200 pages for anything to actually happen. But if you enjoy a book based around mood, with a bunch of eccentric, annoying, yet ultimately sympathetic characters and an ominous undertone (what’s with the bodies in the lake?), Occultic;Nine is a good read worth your time. Though it will put Gloomy Sunday in your head (I like to think they heard the Billie Holiday version).