A couple months back, Vic’s Lab offered me a free light novel to review…and I finally got around to it! If you aren’t aware, Vic’s Lab publishes English light novels, which is honestly awesome. I’d love to write on my own light novel one day! Out of their selection, I decided to read Restart ∞ Days by S0rahana. In this story, God creates an 8th day, where the dead reside. Living humans can travel to this world and participate in a tournament called the Imaginary War. The winner of these games will be able to bring back someone from the dead. Although it may be not obvious from my obsession with cute girls, I am actually very interested in horror and shows with dark themes. The premise of the book was very interesting to me, so it was my top pick.
Overall, the idea behind the story is really cool, but the book needs a lot of tweaking in my opinion.
The premise of the story is definitely the strongest aspect of this book. When someone wants to participate in the Imaginary War, they need to kill themselves (brutal, right?) and then they will be transported to “Fictional Reality,” the other world where the death games exist. This other world apparently looks like a giant chess board and has its own king. The concept is very anime-like; it reminded me of Black Butler or No Game No Life. In the Imaginary War, six people participate in the game – two from the past, two from the present, and two from the future – each with the desire to resurrect a loved one. Different games are chosen based on a lottery system, and whoever wins gets to bring someone back. In the story, we follow Yuzuru Kihara as he participates in these games.
This, again, is a really interesting concept, almost like Death Parade, except the opposite. One thing I liked was how the author used special characters whenever anything related the Imaginary War was mentioned. For example, when you bring someone back from the dead, you “[save]” them. I’m fascinated with grammar, so the use of symbols really intrigued me.
Characters and Plot Needs Fleshing Out
However… despite having such an interesting foundation, the story has major flaws. Restart Day’s plot focuses on Yuzura Kihara, who is trying to save a girl named Ichigo. Right away, we see that Yuzuru doesn’t really have a personality. In fact, he doesn’t really have any redeeming traits to make him a likeable character. In the beginning of the book, Yuzuru has lost his memories, so this is understandable. But even after he regains them, no real personality surfaces. What makes it worse is that none of the characters really have personalities or distinguishable traits. I got them mixed up a lot because I couldn’t keep track of who was who.
The readers are also never really given any background information. Why was he so desperate to save Ichigo? Were they in a relationship? Were they close friends? These questions are never fully answered, which not only makes the story confusing, it creates an emotional void. I would have been much more emotionally invested in the story if I knew more about Yuzuru and if I could feel the emotion behind his actions.
Without revealing any of this information, the story jumps right into the Imaginary War and its games. Yuzuru unknowingly enters the game and since he lost his memory (the reason why is explained later), he has no idea what is going on. In the first Imaginary War he participates in, we get to see one character, Minase Ishiki, try to save someone he cares about. This was my favorite part of the whole book. We get to see some of his backstory, we see his personality, and we see why he loves the other person so much. The chapter where he goes back in time to save someone reminded me a lot of Erased. This vital background information and emotion is what was missing from Yuzuru, the main character. It would have made the entire story much more compelling.
Confusing Rules and Story
After the first Imaginary War, Yuzuru participates in a second one. He regains his memory and decides he needs to save Ichigo’s sister. Apparently after the first war, reality shifted and now Yuzuru wanted to save someone else? This was very confusing. Actually, most of the book was confusing. The games had so many rules and loopholes- it was hard to keep track of all of them. Another thing that confused me was the dialogue. The author didn’t always indicate who was talking, so long conversations were hard to follow. There also much action between the dialogue. This would have made it easier to see character’s reactions and idiosyncrasies. It would have made some of Yuzuru’s response more understandable. It was hard to tell what he was thinking at times.
But wait… there’s more. In the second Imaginary War, they play a game called Virtual Paranoia. It’s almost like a video game: the competitors are spread out through a virtual city and need to hunt each other done until there is only one survivor. This took up a large portion of the book. So large, I felt like it could be its own anime series- or at least a whole season. Although the concept was interesting, this section was confusing because of its rules. Virtual Paranoia has a lot of technicalities and, honestly, I am TERRIBLE at technicalities. What made it worst was that the rules weren’t explained very well. The reader is just given a chart at the beginning of the chapter without much explanation. It would have been better to explain bits and pieces of the rules as the story played out, so the reader could understand what the characters are referring to as they play, like they do in Sword Art Online. For me personally, it was especially confusing since a lot of the technicalities were related to Chess, and I have no idea about Chess…
Oh, and you know what else was confusing? Sometimes the point of view would change between characters. Normally I like this technique in books, but I don’t think it really worked. Sometimes the character would only say a line or two and then it would jump into another character. It was easy to get the POVs mixed up. Also, other times the POV switch seemed unnecessary. We hardly know anything about some of the characters, so seeing things from their perspective didn’t add much to the story.
There’s Still Hope!
I know I just spent most of this blog post talking about the flaws, but I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t like the book. I still think it has a really cool concept. But to me, it seemed like this book was a draft- it feels almost like the author got all of his initial thoughts down on paper but wasn’t able to go back and add everything they wanted. But it’s a draft that could be potentially fleshed out and turned into a really good book. If more details and information were added to the characters, the world view itself, the Imaginary war, and the games, it would make the book much stronger. The book was only around 170 pages- that’s honestly really small and I understand how hard it must be to make a full-fledged story in that number of pages. The book should probably be twice as long, if not longer. On top of this, based on their name and writing style, S0rahana’s first language may not be English, which would make it even more difficult to fully explain everything (I’ve worked with many ELLs, so I understand!).
Here’s what I have to say to S0rahana: please don’t be discouraged by all of the things I pointed out. I am offering constructive criticism, not insulting your work. In all honesty, I think the idea behind your story is really, really cool, and the concept got my imagination reeling. Although you briefly mention the implications of the 8th day at the end of the book, I began thinking things like, “If the 8th day and the Imaginary War were to really happen, would society be thrown into chaos? How would it cope with all of the changes and alterations? Would morals change and would people be corrupted?” It takes a lot for my imagination to be sparked like this. And the fact I got so into my analysis shows that I can the book’s potential.
If you ever get the chance, please go back and flesh out your book. With tweaking, it could be really spellbinding.
If you would like to read Restart ∞ Days, you can view its page on the Vic’s Lab website.