Obsessions of an Otome Gamer: Elementary School Years

By Natsu and Shoyu. Released in Japan as “Ongaku de Otome wa Sukuenai” by the author on the Syosetu website. Released in North America digitally by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Charis Messier.

I’d never really read a Cross Infinite World novel before now. They specialize in both novels geared towards young women and also going directly through the author, i.e. most of the books published were published on the Syosetsu original fiction website, or various equivalents, rather than going through a publisher. (That said, the author has had published work as well.) But nothing had really caught my attention until the announcement of this series. I love visual novel-style storytelling, and I love classical music, so I was delighted to see the two combined. As I started to read the book, I was expecting things to be very light and fluffy, with the occasional warped sense of humor. I was surprised at several plot and character choices the book made, though. I was even more surprised by a plot twist that I will do my best not to spoil (yes, really) about one-third in. And I was not surprised but a bit taken aback by the length. This book is HUGE.

One thing that surprised me was the decision to have the entire book take place when our reincarnated heroine, Mashiro, is between the ages of seven and twelve, something that I blame on the light and hard to read font on the front cover, which meant I missed the subtitle. She’s the reincarnation of Rika, a young woman who was obsessed with an insanely difficult otome game called Hear My Heart, where you not only had to make the right romantic choices with regards to the two guys (one outgoing and arrogant, one sullen and introverted), but you also had to compose music – and if the music wasn’t good enough, you failed. That’s a high bar to clear. She then sees a poster advertising a remake of the game… and falls into an open manhole and dies. (This would be the warped sense of humor I mentioned above.) As Mashiro, she recalls her previous life when she’s seven years old and just your average elementary school girl who folds origami of Angkor Wat in her spare time. Now she’s in the game world, and has met Kou and Sou, the two heroes, as young boys. But is the game world what she really wants from life?

While Mashiro is eighteen years old in her head (at times – it’s lampshaded that this isn’t consistent, and is actually an important plot point), she and the two boys are young kids, and despite the occasional schoolkid flirtation, the book maintains those boundaries. Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t get a heartfelt confession or two, but you may relax and not have to worry about kiddie makeouts. There’s also a heavy emphasis on classical music and piano, as Mashiro burns with a sudden desire to learn the piano, at first because she wants to meet the guy she liked from the game, but her love rapidly becomes genuine and all-consuming. The book helpfully tells us the names of the pieces she’s working on, and you could make an excellent Spotify playlist if you liked. Mashiro is a prodigy, though she may not be aware of it. And there’s also that spoiler, which revolves around her best friend Kon, who is Kou’s sister – and also reincarnated into this world from a previous one. Mashiro only has memories of the first version of the game. Kon played the remake, but not all of it. Is she really what she seems? And can Mashiro really avoid being a heroine?

The writing and plotting can get immensely wordy at times – I understand this was actually edited down from the original text, but it’s still super long, about twice the size of your average light novel. That said, I never found myself counting pages till it was over. Mashiro is a fun heroine, savvy when needed, clueless also when needed. There’s also a surprisingly deep look at how reincarnation into another world would work when you retain some of your own memories. The book ends with Mashiro graduating and moving on to Middle School, which I imagine will take up Book 2 of the series. If you’re looking for a nice romantic book with hidden depths, or love shoujo and visual novels, this is a fantastic read.

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