For general information on this series: Paying to Win in a VRMMO entry
This review is for the first volume of Paying to Win in a VRMMO by Blitz Kiva. The English edition was released digitally by J-Novel Club in February 2017. The second volume is currently being released in English in weekly prepub installments. The series has six volumes out in Japan.
One’s first instinct may be to ask “Why so many light novels set in VR?” — but for official English translations at least, there technically aren’t so many. I imagine there will be plenty more stories in the years to come that deal with virtual reality though, thanks to the improvements steadily being made with real-life technology. It is probably going to remain a hot topic both in Japan and abroad.
The premise for this story is evident in the title itself. Our protagonist, Ichiro Tsuwabuki, is an extraordinarily wealthy genius–and when asked by his cousin to help her find a friend of hers in a virtual reality game, he decides he might as well dominate the virtual world with his near-limitless funds while he’s at it. Though I’m not that into video games (and have never played an MMO), I still found the concept behind Paying to Win entertaining. The rich noble typically holds an antagonistic role in stories, so following Ichiro’s unnaturally speedy rise to power via constant spending makes for an amusing change of pace.
In a way the story isn’t really about him though. The actual character arc is devoted to the friend Ichiro and his cousin are searching for: someone playing as Kirihito, a blatant expy of the protagonist from some popular light novel. The presence of many Kirihitos in the VR game make for many of the story’s funnier moments, but this particular Kirihito ends up as a kind of rival for Ichiro. I’d actually say this volume felt more like a shounen sports manga than a fantasy adventure.
Overall I felt the tone of Paying to Win was about halfway between Sword Art Online and a full-blown parody like Sword Art Online: The Abridged Series. It pokes fun at some of the tropes of VR and MMOs, but it’s still trying to take the characters and their battles seriously. I personally wanted more of the laughs, as I just can’t get myself to care for all the intricacies of MMO gameplay.
The characters meanwhile are a bit of a mixed bag to me. I feel there could have been something more from each of them… Ichiro showed a strong display of wealth, but I would have liked to have seen more of his craftiness, for example. Kirihito meanwhile has a serviceable backstory, but the author also goes to bizarre lengths to keep the player’s gender a secret, which felt both awkward and needless since the story didn’t go anywhere with it. The remaining characters meanwhile are all rather mellow–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I expected much more colorful personalities from a comedy-driven story.
In the end, I’ll recommend this to anyone looking for a new spin on the VRMMO setup. Sword Art Online fans at least should get a kick out of it, I think?
Cho’s Rating: Maybe Recommended