Hell Mode ~ The Hardcore Gamer Dominates in Another World with Garbage Balancing, Vol. 1

By Hamuo and Mo. Released in Japan as “Hell Mode – Yarikomi Suki no Gamer wa Hai Settei no Isekai de Musō Suru” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Taishi.

So, contrary to what everyone thinks, I don’t read everything. There are many light novels I have dropped, and even more I never started. Including this one, which came out over a year ago. The title made me suspect that it was one of those books filled with stats and OP kids who only think in terms of leveling. (Which, to be fair, it absolutely is.) So I gave it a pass. Then I was at Anime NYC recently and the folks at J-Novel Club asked if I could possibly give this one another try. It’s gotten popular enough that they’re releasing a print version of it. That said, its volumes are chunky, tending to run 350-400 pages, and frankly my backlog is already pretty huge. So I decided to read about 15 pages of it per day in among my other reads. So, having finished the first book, how is it? It’s… OK. Decent.

The ‘hardcore gamer’ of the title has gotten tired of games getting easier and easier with tons of free toys to play with to keep folks from bailing. He misses the days when it took almost a year just to gain one level on your game. Then one day he downloads a game that offers easy mode, normal mode, extra mode… and Hell Mode. Naturally, he chooses the last one, and decides to be a summoner. The next thing he knows he’s being born in another world as Allen, a young child of a serf. We don’t even know how he died in Japan, and it’s not important. What *is* important is that he quickly realizes that he’s in the world of the game he chose… and he’s really made it ridiculously hard for him to do anything. And… honestly, he’s pretty OK with this. Actually, he takes everything really well.

So, first of all, if anyone notes the cute girl on the cover with Allen and expects this to be a two-person sort of book, it’s not. Krena is strong, and has mad sword skills, but the mere fact that she and Allen are so young means they can’t hang out together all the time, and she’s mostly a minor supporting character. Honestly, this book is almost just Allen by himself, though his father and Krena’s father also play a large role. Once you get past the endless stat chatter, level chatter, and the many attempts to figure out how the game actually works (he’s living it, so doesn’t have the manual, though his grimoire sometimes helps), this is not that bad. Allen is very likeable, and his goal, raising the status of his family so they’re no longer serfs, is a good one. That said, there’s another major problem with this book, which is that it seems to be a prologue: Allen is essentially moved to a new location at the end of this, and the second book promises to be very different (and also has a different girl on the cover).

So while this was not entirely my genre, I can see why it would have fans. I will try a second volume to see if it gets better… but I’m still only gonna read it 15 pages at a time.

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