Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online: 4th Squad Jam: Finish

By Keiichi Sigsawa and Kouhaku Kuroboshi, based on the series created by Reki Kawahara. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Stephen Paul.

OK, this turned out better than I had expected. I probably should have trusted in the author more. Keiichi Sigsawa is a man who knows what his strengths are, and in the case of Gun Gale Online, that is “cool action sequences that you want to see filed”, not “Karen has to find a way to get out of a marriage she doesn’t want”. As such, the actual plotline that brought us to this epic 3-part story is dealt with perfunctorily in the final chapter, and if it has a bit of a “sad trombone” feel to it, that’s fine. What folks are really here about is the gunfights, though, and boy howdy do we get a lot of that here. Not only is this the third part of an epic gun battle, but the book is also one of the longest in the series. It’s giving you excellent value for money. As for who comes off looking cool? Honestly, pretty much everyone.

We pick up right where we left off, with the huge battle between SHINC and Llenn being interrupted by Fire’s minions, all of whom are there to make sure that Llenn loses. (Llenn, throughout this book, points out she is under no obligation to marry this guy even if he does beat her in the game. No one listens to her.) As SHINC begins to lose members one by one, LPFM gains two back, as Shirley and Clarence come riding to the rescue – literally. We then move onto a train, then across a frozen lake – which of course starts to crack – and even deal with DEATH FROM ABOVE before we get into the final battle, which takes place inaside a massive deserted shopping mall – and only pistols are allowed. Can LPFM and what remains of SHINC hold out against two teams of the enemy? And can Karen finally tell Fire she’s just not interested?

The worldbuilding in this little universe is really good. Even if it does mean that we sometimes get pages at a time going into the history of guns and rifles. We have a seriously broad definition of “pistol” once we hit the mall, and most of the enemy takes full advantage of that. I also really liked the concept of the robot horse, and how it relates to Shirley’s real-life skills. (Shirley in general is terrific in this book, getting actual character development, and a wonderful final scene which shows off that this is a GAME, and she’s not actually a revenge-filled sociopath. And I admit I did find the ending a bit amusing – Fire, having decided that Karen is the woman he wants to marry to the point of setting this all up so he can “defeat” her, is scared off because Llenn is simply too damn terrifying – and Karen says that Karen and Llenn are both “her”. Oh no, strong women, flee!

There is a Vol. 10 out in Japan, which we should get in the fall, but after that we’re caught up with Karen’s story. There *is* more Sword Art Online Alternative to license, though. (hint, hint) In any case, fans of action movies will love this.

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