Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online: 5th Squad Jam: Continue

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.

This review spoils the climax of this volume, but only after the cover image, so FYI.

I have had my complaints about this series, too numerous to mention, but the one thing that has always been apparent and appreciated is how much fun Keiichi Sigsawa is clearly having writing it. Leaving aside his annoying author avatar (who comes up with a light novel title parody for the ages in the afterword), all of the gun battles and backstabs and double backstabs in this book make you smile and imagine the author typing away, pausing only to pump his fist and go “Yes!”. It oozes a sort of testosterone, which is interesting given that most of the main cast are all women. It also does not have to deal with any of SAO’s issues. No one is trapped in the game. Death is fake. There are no NPCs, and you don’t need to worry about sentience. It’s a giant sandbox to play in. That’s why everyone is here.

As you’d expect given that this is the middle volume of a Squad Jam, there’s no plot here to deal with except “watch Llenn try not to get shot”. She manages to defuse Fuka and the two of them reveal just what they’re carrying as their alternate, swap out weapon, which is genius and also relies on the two of them being besties. Pitohui gets to simply sit in a tree, shoot the occasional passing enemy, and amuse herself imagining Llenn panicking. M teams up with one of the Russian girls, Anna, in what ends up being a very nasty game of Wacky Races. Shirley is in in her element, sniping in the snow. And Clarence also hooks up with a Russian girl, though mostly their plot is “hide behind a rock”. Eventually, almost everyone meets up, but there’s a new problem: the final climax will take place in a castle, and to make everyone go inside it the ground starts to vanish!

Since the start of this series, the author has delighted in having the character want to do something and then finding ways for it not to happen. The obvious example is Llenn wanting to fight SHINC, something that she’s certainly done a few times, but never in the “fair fight, no weird tricks or rules” way that she desperately wants. (She needs to not do this in a Squad Jam, frankly.) But she’s not the only one with constantly frustrated goals, as we’ve watched Shirley desperately trying to get to the point of “snipe and kill Pitohui” and forever being frustrated, to the point where they’re mostly allies these days. And that’s what makes the end of this volume stunning, as for once one of our characters gets what they want and is satisfied. Imagine! And then there’s the capper, as I was wondering what the next volume would do without Pitohui in it, but it seems that the author has a way around that, so it should be fine.

These volumes tend to wildly swing between “excellent” and “deepl frustrating”, and this one is the former, which pleases me. The next volume wraps up the arc, and also catches up with Japan, as it only came out there three months ago. Mindless fun, in the good way.

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