All the fun of an MMO… now in manga form!
Writer/Artist: Tatsuya Hamazaki and Rei Idumi
Translation: Ben Dunn
What They Say
Welcome to The World, the most advanced online game ever created. In The World you can be anyone you want to be, act out your adventure fantasies and through teamwork and determination, you can even become a hero. Fourteen-year-old twins Shugo and Rena just won a contest that lets them play as legendary .hackers avatars Kite and Black Rose, and now they're ready to take on anything - or so they think...
Contains all three volumes in an omnibus format.
The front cover of this book is the one part of the packaging that seems to fall a little short. While it does give us a nice image of Shugo and Rina, too much of the space is not utilized, showing only a repeating hexagonal pattern. It just isn’t as gripping as it could be. The back cover contains some logos and a synopsis, as well as a cute little image involving several of the main characters and an open DVD case. The pages contained within have an adequately solid feel to them, which is good. Upon opening the book, you’re treated to a number of color pages, including not only the original covers but several other bonus pages as well. A number of short four panel gag comics are included within the book, as well as two full bonus chapters that flesh out some of the less focal characters from the main story.
The translation in this book is a bit of a mixed bag. The sound effects in the story are left entirely untranslated, which is frustrating to see. On the other hand, a number of Japanese cultural terms and terms related to the videogame are explained in footnotes, which is very helpful. Honorifics are retained, but so are a number of common Japanese terms that could easily be translated, such as “Onii-chan” or “Kawaii.” This isn’t a big problem for those who know a little Japanese, as only very basic terms are used, but it’s rather unnecessary and could easily cause trouble for casual readers. At the very least, footnotes could have been provided, or at the very least some sort of appendix in the back of the book.
The artwork is decent, but not really exceptional. The characters are distinguishable from one another and have a few interesting designs amongst them. Backgrounds are rare, but fairly interesting.
Shugo thought he was done with video games. However, he finds out he was wrong when his twin sister, Rena, wins a contest for the character models of Kite and Black Rose, the legendary dot hackers, in the popular online RPG “The World.” Rena coerces Shugo into playing the game with her, and the two set out to begin the grind from low level “noobs” to experienced players. Things don’t quite go as planned, though, and a powerful monster mysteriously appears in the low level starter area and slays Shugo. Instead of dying as he should, though, Shugo is revived by the mysterious girl Aura and given the legendary Twilight Bracelet (in addition to his first kiss.) With the help of his new bracelet’s “data drain” and the “Rare Treasure Hunter” Mireille, the monster is defeated. Mireille, excited by Shugo and Rena’s rare character models, invites the twins to join her party. The rest of the first volume is spent in random themed “events” which introduce us to Ouga, who plays a busty werewolf who wants to be as
strong as possible, and Hotaru, who is visiting the Japanese servers from America and has a great compassion for animals and carries around a baby grunty (an animal in the game, similar to a pig or a hippo) who join the twins’ group. We are also shown the mysterious, eccentric administrator Balmung, and the overly narcissistic Komiyan III, who turns out to be Shugo and Rena’s classmate in real life.
In the second volume, we are introduced to Zeffie, a “Vagrant AI” who claims that Aura is her mother. She’s very clingy to Shugo and not too fond of the rest of the team. Eventually, the group decides that they need to help Zeffie find her mother, so they set off in search of clues. After a good bit of searching and a few discoveries, the group is arrested for Shugo’s previous “hacking” of Komiyan’s character model and possession of an illegal item (the bracelet) by the overly strict Cobalt Knight squad. Ouga, Hotaru, and Mireille are set free, but Zeffie and Shugo and Rena’s character models are going to be deleted.
In the start of the third volume, Zeffie helps the twins escape prison. Meanwhile, Balmung leaves his post as administrator and begins to gather his forces, the legendary dot hackers, to help Shugo and Rena. A large clash occurs with the Cobalt Knights in the “Net Slums” as Rena and Shugo, with the help of a variety of allies, rush to return Zeffie to Aura. Upon finally reaching her, Zeffie is returned and Shugo learns a little about himself and the nature of The World. We’re treated to a fairly open ending, which may annoy some, but all the loose ends tie up nicely and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction.
In the bonus chapters, Mireille meets with a hacker and teaches him the fun of playing the game the right way and earning things instead of simply cheating. Then, we get a nice little story from Balmung’s underling Reki that fleshes him out nicely to round out the novel.
All in all, this book makes for a fairly nice mix, combining both comedy and touching moments with even a little bit of intrigue. While I did get the distinct feeling that you might get a little more out of the book if you’ve played the games, you can certainly understand and appreciate what’s going on without that knowledge. It’s a fun little read and you do get quite a bit of content for the $20 price tag. The characters hold up well and play off each other nicely, and you can easily forget that what you’re reading is supposed to be an online game, only to have the game make a quick little joke about it. If you pick this book up you’ll likely be drawn into The World, and have a good time in the process.