On Gothloli Takkyuu

The cover.

Hi there. Remember the recent news about Aoyama Sagu, the author of Roukyuubu, coming up with a new work? You’d probably miss that news article if its title wasn’t as attention-drawing: Gothloli Takkyuu. Well, guess what? I could not stand idly when I heard of this new, promising meme novel, so I got my hands on it and finished it yesterday. So, gothlolis – every nerd’s favorite fashion trend, which only seems to grow in popularity, and table tennis. A curious combination, and the novel itself makes it even more ridiculous…

The airheaded ace of the high school’s pingpong club, Saiki Urara is missing. Or at least she was, until her clubmate Osamu accidentally sees her being driven out of her house by some dangerous-looking men. He manages to throw his smartphone inside their car unnoticed and tracks the vehicle down. His search leads him to a luxurious hotel where Urara and rich old bastard Sasajima explain the circumstances to him. Urara’s father, who taught her pingpong, is in huge debt. The girl agrees to take his commitment over and pay it off by… participating in an underground table tennis tournament, where she’ll have to wear a gothloli outfit and play high-stakes pingpong against other girls for the amusement of a filthy-rich and jaded audience. Here, one point is worth one million yen. About the events until this point, you can learn from the blurb on the back of the book’s cover. You’d probably say “why?” several times while reading it. And don’t worry, the protag does that too.

And so, it’s time for gothloli pingpong. Opponents you play are chosen for you by the computer. The girl’s opponent will be Yokogawa Azusa, a foul-mouthed rich girl. Urara wins the game, giving a display of impressive pingpong skills, but… turns out Sasajima “forgot” to tell her about a special rule. When it’s your turn to serve, you have the right to multiply the point’s worth, if you have the money to do it. Urara, not having a cent to her soul, wouldn’t be able to do it anyway. Urara wins the match, but steps into even bigger debt. You see, Yokogawa played Gothloli Pingpong the smart way: she won more money, but also lost on purpose to keep her rating low – the more games you win, the stronger opponents are chosen for you. That’s damn nifty. Not for Urara, however.

Osamu’s first visit to the underground ends on a bittersweet note, but the next day, he comes to the hotel again for clues on how to win, bets all his pocket money on the proposition that Yokogawa will score a perfect victory and wins a mountain of money, which he later gives to Urara. A huge chunk of her obligation gets paid off. Osamu and Urara are then told that the hotel still is junior league compared to a certain other venue where gothloli pingpong is played…

In “Yamikin Takkyuu”, the gothlolis wear special sensors which gather every possible bit of data, from heartrate to the player’s center of gravity. Each girl has a “coach” at her side – the data is sent to his computer so that the “assistant” can offer advice on how to play and how to bet. Of course, the money involved is several digits bigger than in the “junior league”. Before the event starts, Yokogawa reaches out to Osamu and Urara saying her rich “owner” built himself an arena identical to the one where this diabolical sport is played. Osamu, thinking this is a great opportunity to do some research, agrees to try it out.

Then, the day of the reckoning comes. The opponent will be… Yokogawa. The game starts fortunately for Urara, but her advantage seems to slowly shrink. Osamu will have to figure out what the problem is, fast, and do something about it. He succeeds, Yokogawa goes to “Hell”, Urara pays her debt off and even wins a mountain of extra money. “Clubmates” is what Osamu and Urara started out as, but the battles they survived together made them into something more. A happy ending, at a glance. But, Osamu is certain: this was a conspiracy, an organized and meticulously planned enterprise to destroy the girl’s life. If Osamu didn’t barely manage to foil Sasajima’s plans, they would both be in “Hell” now. Urara’s dad doesn’t come back. Osamu speculates he must have been indebted in multiple sources and Urara only got rid of one of them. The novel ends with a scene showing Urara losing in gothloli pingpong on purpose, to see what Hell is like… In the epilogue, Sasajima is drinking wine and thinking about Osamu, the boy who appeared out of nowhere to disturb the boredom of his wealthy life…

Ah, Gothloli Takkyuu. Storytelling-wise, it’s a closed, well-rounded story with a knack on making you interested in what happens next. And you do learn what happens quickly, since the novel reads very fast. So much so, I’d been getting through it at a pace I thought I can maintain only when reading in English or Polish. It’s written simple, with easily understandable Japanese and plenty of furigana for extra ease, which does not mean it’s a primitive “I’ve never written a novel before” kind of deal. I read one like that recently and I’m still feeling the effects of that adventure. Just by reading, you can tell this is a work by a Dengeki Prize winner. I haven’t read Roukyuubu v1, the novel which started Sagu-sensei’s career, but I remember seeing opinions of the “why did THIS win?” sort. I feel like I got a glimpse of the answer to that question. Is it similar to Roukyuubu in any way? Unlike Loli Basketball, the number of characters here is very limited and every one of them has a speech pattern you can instantly recognize them by, without being explicitly told who’s speaking. Apart from that… well, the protag isn’t very rich in personality, he has a little sister, and there are cute girls being cute. And sexy. Urara has trouble putting on the gothloli costume, so of course, Osamu needs to help her. Those sexy moments counterbalance the Kaiji-like gravitas and scenes of people ripping their hair out and screaming after losing. Or Osamu being aghast at sums, for which normal people would have to work for decades, changing hands in mere seconds. Zawa zawa. Thankfully (?), the porn and the despair are separated from each other clearly, they do not meet at any point. And, in case you’re a pingpong nerd and you’re wondering if the novel treats your favorite sport with seriousness, you won’t find anything interesting here. The author probably played table tennis once or twice in his life. You’re told the girl are good at pingpong and that’s it, really.

Gothloli Takkyuu is a solid piece of entertainment, and if you’re interested in that, then do give this volume a go. In the afterword, Sagu-sensei says he’d like to grow this story into a series, but that depends on how well this first volume sells. He asks readers to express their opinions on his work in any way they can, but if you ask me, Gothloli Takkyuu v2 will definitely happen, even without any extra calls to action. And I will definitely read it, making this the first LN series I follow as it’s coming out in Japanese. Oh, and he sincerely apologizes for the imouto having so little screen time, too…

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1 Response to On Gothloli Takkyuu

  1. Pingback: On Gothloli Takkyuu v2 | Bednorz: The Weeablog

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