Warning: Here Be Spoilers
So Not Lives is surprisingly not available digitally. This means two things:
- I have to apologize off the bat for not coming with a handful of screenshots to show off
- It can only be acquired at a premium price of about $13 (and that if you want to read it, you’ll have to have it shipped to you or track it down – fortunately my Barnes and Noble had one copy available)
Meet Mikami Shigeru. A video game expert, Mikami spends his time making his own. He sells casual phone games in his spare time, takes requests, and impresses (most of) his classmates with his skills. He seems to have one real friend, Itsuki, and his interactions with her make it pretty clear he isn’t too well-versed in the dating world.
After dropping a bag of new games on the train, Mikami returns home to discover that somehow another disc has made its way into his “research” materials – an otherwise unmarked game called “Not Alive.” When he takes it out, however, it merges into his body and after a moment of confusion he finds himself in the game world, controlling a female avatar named Amamiya Kyouka.
The game’s administrator makes an entrance, and runs Mikami through the game tutorial. After learning how to work with Kyouka, the administrator enthusiastically tells Mikami he’s accepted into Not Alive, and Mikami then finds himself back in his room, anxious to play more. The next morning, he comes across Kyouka on the way to school, but learns very little, except for her instructions to do as she tells him to if he wants to win.
When Mikami receives a battle challenge from another player, he’s faced with the true reality of the game – when a player loses their versus match, the avatar is deleted. The player becomes the new avatar in their place and has to give away their game disc to avoid getting game over. Mikami’s disc came from Kyouka, who recently lost.
Before the volume ends we get an interesting peek at another aspect of the game. A unnamed young man runs into a few thugs while checking over forums discussing Not Alive and Mikami’s recent win. When they threaten him, he manages to use a game skill on them in real life, and continues on his way.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I searched out Not Alive. I have some very specific interests, and “the game becomes real life” is definitely one of them, with .hack// still being one of my favourites. So far, Not Lives is definitely hitting that sweet spot.
The art style is pretty good, and I like the character designs so far. This one is a little more fanservice-y, but nothing heart-stopping, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the game avatars in the next volume. Mikami asks a lot of questions about the game – who made it, and how much does it cost to escape? Kyouka tells him that she lost before she could find out. Nothing ends a first volume better than a good mystery, and I think it will be interesting to see where this one leads.
If you like the concepts behind Sword Art Online, .hack, Ready Player One, and other similar stories, I’d definitely recommend looking into Not Lives. The second volume is out on June 21st, and it’s one I’ll be picking up.