Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online is a spinoff of Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online series, consisting of a series of light novels written by Keiichi Sigsawa and illustrated by Kouhaku Kuroboshi. There are also manga and anime adaptations, but the focus here will solely be on the first light novel: Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online, Vol. 1: Squad Jam.
On September 18, 2014, Dengeki Bunko announced that Keiichi Sigsawa (of Kino’s Journey fame) would be writing a light novel based on Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online light novel series. The first novel was published by ASCII Media Works under the Dengeki imprint on December 10, 2014.
Yen Press have licensed the series for English release.
The review for the anime adaptation can be found by clicking here.
Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online, Vol. 1: Squad Jam contains fourteen chapters.
Karen Kohiruimaki is a college student who stands at an imposing six feet. While her complex about her height makes it hard for her to make friends in the real world, the VRMMO Gun Gale Online changes everything. Now equipped with her ideal “mini” avatar and clad in a pink battle suit, Karen is ready to shoot up the world of GGO as Llenn! Before long, she meets beautiful Pitohui, and the two rare female players become fast friends. Little does Llenn know that this friendship is the key to her entry in the first-ever Squad Jam, a team-based battle royale that echoes the famous Bullet of Bullets tournament…
Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online, Vol. 1: Squad Jam serves as in introduction to the spinoff series, introducing the characters of Llenn, Pitohui and M before getting down to business with the Squad Jam event.
Llenn – known as Karen Kohiruimaki outside of GGO – is the central character of the series and as such all the events that take place revolve around her. That starts with her first few failed attempts to get into other VRMMO games, her discovery of GGO and finally the entirety of Squad Jam.
Being the central character, it is natural that she is the most developed. Llenn is driven by a height complex at first, but as she spends more time in GGO that gradually fades away.
Llenn is a fun character, though. Whilst she has a somewhat shaky start playing GGO, reading about her earning quite a reputation for herself as a player killer is quite satisfying. She is still relatively inexperienced when she actually stars Squad Jam as well, but she soon learns to put the diminutive frame and incredible agility to good use.
Llenn also happens to be fairly lucky, though it seems that writing lucky characters is quite difficult – various circumstances just happen that stop Llenn from meeting an untimely elimination from Squad Jam.
Whether the reader wants to interpret that as luck or just plot convenience is entirely up to them.
The author of this light novel, Keiichi Sigsawa, is a self-professed “gun maniac”, and it really shows in this light novel. Whenever a new gun appears, the plot grinds to a halt so the reader can be informed where it originated from, the ammunition it uses and lots of other specifications that are somewhat unnecessary.
It’s somewhat understandable for the central characters’ weaponry, but when you get that kind of thing for teams that are pretty much cannon fodder it becomes somewhat excessive.
I guess it does show that Sigsawa has done plenty of research into the firearms, but it’s more fun to read about them being used in actual combat rather than how they work.
Fortunately, the combat sequences are fun to read as well. The text manages to convey the thrill of the firefights that take place, and even then not all skirmishes involve guns. Battles are either ones that Llenn witnesses from a distance or is directly involved in, so you can read how Llenn reacts to these situations.
One pitfall that the anime adaptation had was that is offline parts (basically everything outside of GGO), so to speak, weren’t exactly the most compelling. Fortunately, it feels like anything that takes place offline within this first volume of the light novel is gotten through fairly quickly, without missing out on any important details.
However, much like the anime, it is when the characters are playing GGO that we get the best that this light novel has to offer.
Being a light novel, there are few illustrations scattered throughout the volume. They are fairly nice – notable ones include Llenn’s first meeting with Pitohui, and a couple of double page spreads during Squad Jam that focus on team SHINC. Kuroboshi’s art is good, even if he does admit to trying to avoid drawing guns by hiding them behind bodies wherever possible.
To wrap things up, Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online, Vol. 1: Squad Jam is a long title. In the afterword, Sigsawa offers a few alternatives: Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online, Vol. 1: Squad J, or SAOAGGO1SJ, or SwArOnAlGuGaOn1SqJa, or Squid Jam, or Keiichi Sigsawa’s Latest Hobby Project, or whatever you like.
Wait… I got a little sidetracked there by an amusing comment from the afterword. Right, now to really conclude this post, Squid Jam is a fun read. You don’t need any prior knowledge of Sword Art Online to jump straight into it, though there are a few little nods to it here and there. None of them are that important when it comes to the main plot, though.
May even be worth looking into if you don’t really think much of Sword Art Online itself – this is its own story. If reading isn’t quite your thing, you could always check out the anime – either way, this is a spinoff that is easy to recommend.