For general information on this series: Ao Oni entry
This review is for the fourth volume of Ao Oni by Kenji Kuroda (with art by Karin Suzuragi). It is based on the Japanese indie game by noprops. This ebook was released by J-Novel Club in November 2018. All five volumes of this “Ao Oni” series have been released in English.
At the end of volume 3, I couldn’t help but wonder where in the world the story could possibly go next. As it turned out, the story went in a direction that made perfect sense, but also felt less dramatic than I was hoping for. But that said, the way things play out was still interesting, and it was nice to get more “screen time” for this light novel adaptation’s original characters: Shun (the “Ao Oni” game creator in-universe), Anna (the girl who can see spirits), and Naoki (the ghost who wants revenge on Takuro, Mika, Takeshi, and to some degree all his other classmates).
Anna in particular gets a lot of focus in this one, which is perhaps ironic given what happened to her in the previous volume. Her viewpoint in volume 4 is a fascinating one though, and is the sort of thing you can only get in a horror story. The “Grudge” of this volume’s title can refer to Naoki’s of course, but it can also refer to Anna’s. Things finally come to a head in that regard, and some long-awaited confrontations ultimately ensue at the “Jailhouse” mansion.
As hoped, some more questions are answered in this volume. We get to learn more about the origin of the ao oni monsters, and the nature of spirits is likewise made more apparent. New revelations are doled out at a steady pace, and tension ramps up during critical scenes appropriately. I especially liked what this volume did with Naoki, more firmly establishing him as the central villain for the series. He is a cleverly modern take on the vengeful ghost, and even gets a moment reminiscent of the classic 1998 Ring film.
Ao Oni: Grudge ends with a cliffhanger, and though it didn’t blow me away as much as the one for Mutation, it still left me anxious to find out what happens next. The fifth volume will supposedly conclude this series, and from what I can tell it should be able to pull off a satisfying ending. Hiroshi, Takuro, Mika, Takeshi, Anna, and Shun have each had a clear and engaging character arc, and there aren’t too many plot points that are left to follow up on. I look forward to getting the final truths behind the ao oni, the mansion, the game, and how they are all connected.
Cho’s Rating: Recommended
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