Otaku Girl (Book Review): Where Memes and Literature Mix
Anyone Interested For Some Geeky WeirdLit?
Last year, I was lucky to stumble upon the book Escapist Dream by Louis Bulaong. It’s a story about this virtual reality world where people can visit and transform themselves into real comic book, anime, and video game characters. It’s basically this pop culture gamelit book for geeks which, as a fellow geek myself, instantly loved. While it’s gotten mixed reviews as expected from a book of its genre, it has gotten recognition for being the quintessential book for geeks.
So you could just imagine my surprise when a sequel entitled Otaku Girl came out. And boy was I really excited. And a lot of people did too. For a week after its release, it has become the best-selling non-Kindle Unlimited indie book on Amazon, selling over 1,000 copies in the first 24 hours.
The moment I finally bought and read the book, I was just blown away. I expected it to be geeky, but boy, it was one weird and humorous ride.
So what is this book that I've been raving about? Well, this novel is kind of identical to the first one. It's about this group of geeks inside a virtual reality world that allows them to use the powers and costumes of their favorite fictional character. But unlike the first one, this one has a darker tone. The first chapter literally starts with the world going crazy, trapping the geeks inside, and forcing them to fight against powerful artificial intelligences who ends up massacring them. The story stars the protagonist of the first book, the American geek, Charlie Anderson. But there’s also a new character, a Japanese otaku named Haru Kinomoto (also known as the “Great Idiot”).
Author Louis Bulaong did well in fixing the problems of the first book. The writing is much crisper now, gone are the overuse of conjunctions and commas, opting to use more modern ways of creating flow. The length of the book had been fixed as well. The first one was over 500+ pages long. This time it’s shorter, probably half of the length of the latter. I also like the leveling up system that was added to the world's mechanic; giving it a more LitRPG feel.
One of the best parts of the Escapist Dream series is the characters. And in this sequel, the author did well in making some of the funniest and most enjoyable ones I've met this year. There are some other old characters from the first book like Catherine, who is now wearing the armor of Andy, her dead boyfriend. But there are also new characters, like the FBI agent, Amp, who also got trapped inside the virtual reality world. Then there’s also Cal who is a literary geek that can warp reality by quoting sentences from literate. Yep… it’s that crazy. It’s more focused mostly on anime and the lives of Japanese otakus, specifically the main heroine, Haru Kinomoto aka GI.
But the craziest part is the antagonists. There are a lot of villains in this story – artificial intelligences who are inspired by internet memes. For example, there's one guy named the Harem King whose powers are that of a harem protagonist in anime. And then there's DudeAssassin who I swear is based around a certain infamous Twitch gamer. I love the usage of memes and pop culture here. It felt so close to home yet also very cringy and scary.
As I said, Louis Bulaong did well in improving his writing. Don't get me wrong, this book is still an indie book so it has its problems. Yet, the writing here feels smooth and the universe is fleshed out. Compare that to the convoluted young adult fiction that’s been released this year, and this one is a cut above the rest. Bulaong’s writing is like poetry; sentences have a rhythm and would sometimes even rhyme. There were times where I thought I was reading a narrative poem but it’s not. It’s prose… but rhymes.
Another noteworthy style that Louis Bulaong has is how he uses internet slang in rather artistic ways. He doesn’t take his writing seriously, using words that other authors would never try to use. He could use words like “chad”, “dab”, and “weeb” and make them sound amazing. Some people might find this usage of slang as weird and amateurish, but I find it amazing. There’s always something special about people like J.D. Salinger who uses everyday words, rather than deep English, to write.
Theme is the last thing that I would analyze in humorous stories, especially satires like this one. But there’s something about Otaku Girl that makes it noteworthy. Redemption and forgiveness are specifically highlighted upon. There are no perfect characters in this story, and almost all of them have done stupid decisions that cost them a lot.
Every decision has a consequence and some of the worst ones are bad enough to turn one into an outcast. This is evident when it comes to the main characters. Even the twists at the end are examples of it. Mistakes brew hatred, which then causes depression and anxiety. These themes hurt because they are present in the real world. A lot of people get cyberbullied or “twitter cancelled” because of some bad mistakes. Apologies are seldom enough to quell such harassment and bullying.
Although I love this story, I also don’t think it’s perfect. The overabundance of memes and pop culture could be too much for many people. It’s clearly a book for a specific type of people for a specific era. Some of the memes present are going to be forgotten about in the next decade. It’s surrealistic weirdlit at its finest.
However, as it stands, Otaku Girl is one of the best reflections of modern society that I've read this year. It is relatable, humorous, and sends a message to how we exist in the modern culture. I know I've become a bit too deep with this book, but overall, the humor and the story are amazing. If you're a hardcore geek, then I suggest you buy this book and have a great time laughing and crying.
I give this book a 5 out of 5 rating.