An abandoned mansion known as the Jailhouse sits on the outskirts of town, named for the giant walls surrounding it, making it look like a prison. Many rumors surround the mysterious building, including those of monsters living inside, people who venture in and never return, and even ghosts. But such tales are surely fiction. Or are they?
Shun, a shy transfer student at the local middle school, is a lonely kid who spends his time making a freeware game. He ends up at the Jailhouse after being bullied by a popular and seemingly nice student named Takurou whose father owns the building. As he enters the mansion with Takurou, Shun is joined by his friends, the brainy Hiroshi and Anna, the kindhearted class president. Takurou's lackey, Takeshi, and Takurou's girlfriend Mika also accompany them. But once inside, they are unable to leave, and they come face to face with the blue monsters inhabiting the Jailhouse. But even stranger is the fact that their experiences in the mansion play out just like Shun's game. Armed with this knowledge, can they survive their ordeal, or will they end up with a "game over" in real life?
This is a review for the first volume of the Ao Oni light novel - a novelization of the popular horror video game. Although, I say it is popular, I have never actually played it myself, so the LN was my first experience with the franchise.
I was pleasantly surprised by it. The horror aspect didn't really feel that well-done to me, but horror in novels rarely work. I feel like horror has more impact when written in first person POV rather than third person. So, despite being a horror novel, I wouldn't say that the horror was its strong side. Its mystery was.
The mystery was well done and written in a way that made the reader engage in the puzzle solving. There were several twists, and although some of them were somewhat expected, they were still well thought out. The characters were all well written as well. They all felt unique on their own way. Though, the main character felt a bit like he wasn't even a part of the cast sometimes. Well, let's say it is a part of his personality.
The illustrations are all great. Every scene that is hard to imagine and needs an illustration has an illustration. There are over 30 illustrations in the book. Aside from the colour illustration in the beginning of the book, there is also a great mini-manga, which I have never seen in a light novel before.
The writing itself is pretty standard, and J-Novel Club has done a good job at translating it. The author mentions in the afterword that he added several characters to the original story. So even people who have played the video game can enjoy this novel.
Overall, I found it to be very enjoyable. I finished it in under 3 hours, so I think that tells a lot about how much I enjoyed it. It gets a 8.2/10 from me.