The Simulacrum

by Egathentale

"He who fights with harem tropes should see to it that he himself does not become a harem protagonist. And if you gaze for long into a narrative, the narrative gazes also into you." --- Friedrich Nietzsche (probably?)

How would you react if one day you woke up inside an environment running on tropes and clich├ęs? For allegedly average high-schooler Leonard Dunning, this question became quite relevant when one day he woke up in a pristine city on a strange island in the middle of the Atlantic, without any memories, surrounded by classmates who are barely more than characterless placeholders, and with a classic indecisive harem protagonist and his impossibly beautiful love interests for friends.

That would be hard to deal with already, yet his investigation into the tropes governing the world, trying to avoid harem shenanigans, and his odd blend of outside-context knowledge, unique abilities, and a penchant for causing trouble wherever he goes ends up dragging him into the center of the action anyway.

Disclaimer: This is a tongue-in-cheek, slice of life romantic comedy, with occasional sprinkles of combat and mystery to spice things up. Please do not expect a straight up deconstruction beyond some in-universe meta-commentary by the characters.

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Author
Egathentale

Egathentale

Achievements
2nd Anniversary
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Fledgling Reviewer (I)
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Word Count (16)
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Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
Volume 1 Prologue ago
Chapter 1 ago
Chapter 2 ago
Chapter 3 ago
Chapter 4 ago
Chapter 5 ago
Chapter 6 ago
Chapter 7 ago
Chapter 8 ago
Chapter 9 ago
Chapter 10 ago
Chapter 11 ago
Chapter 12 ago
Chapter 13 ago
Interlude ago
Chapter 14 ago
Chapter 15 ago
Chapter 16 ago
Chapter 17 ago
Chapter 18 ago
Chapter 19 ago
Chapter 20 ago
Chapter 21 ago
Chapter 22 ago
Chapter 23 ago
Chapter 24 ago
Volume 1 Epilogue ago
Volume 1 Appendix: Research ago
Volume 2 Prologue ago
Chapter 25 ago
Chapter 26 ago
Super Important Announcement! (April Fools' Day chapter) ago
Chapter 27 ago
Chapter 28 ago
Chapter 29 ago
Chapter 30 ago
Chapter 31 ago
Volume 2 Extra: Crowey ago
Chapter 32 ago
Chapter 33 ago
Volume 2 Extra 2: Childhood Friends ago
Chapter 34 ago
Chapter 35 ago
Chapter 36 ago
Chapter 37 ago
Chapter 38 ago
Chapter 39 ago
Chapter 40 ago
Chapter 41 ago
Chapter 42 ago
Chapter 43 ago
Chapter 44 ago
Chapter 45 ago
Chapter 46 ago
Chapter 47 ago
Update ago
Chapter 48 ago
Chapter 49 ago
Announcement ago
Chapter 50 ago
Obvious April Fools Chapter ago
Chapter 51 ago
Chapter 52 ago
Chapter 53 ago
Volume 2 Extra 3: Contingency Plans ago
Chapter 54 ago
Chapter 55 ago
Chapter 56 ago
Chapter 57 ago
Chapter 58 ago
Chapter 59 ago
Chapter 60 ago
Chapter 61 ago
Chapter 62 ago
Chapter 63 ago
Volume 2 Extra 4: Gestures of Friendship ago
Volume 2 Extra 5: Knights of the Square Table ago
Chapter 64 ago
Volume 2 Epilogue ago
Volume 3 Prologue ago
Chapter 65 ago

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Doctor_C
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Good so far, but with some troubling flaws

As a quick summary: should you read this? Will you feel like it was a good and enjoyable use of your time with no regrets? Yes.

Will there be certain things about the story that bug or frustrate you? Probably.

Overall, this is one of the best stories on the site with great characteristics and tons of potential. The fact that so much of that potential lies untapped is the biggest drawback.

 

Although no specific spoilers exist in the upcoming review, if you want every aspect to remain a complete mystery to you, it may be best to not read the review and just take my word for it when I say: you should go ahead and read the story.

 

Story-

It's an amazing concept. As portrayed in the story summary, a side character in a high school harem comedy story "awakens," as it were, to the possible fictional nature of their universe. He sees things that don't quite add up: automaton-like background characters, things that seem newer and cleaner than they should reasonably be, etc. He sets out to solve the mystery of just what the heck is going on. It's eerie, it's mysterious, is has hints of eldritch weirdness, and it's intriguing to read about.

But have you ever read a story where the author starts off writing one thing, but then seems to just give up on it and go in an entirely different direction? That's what happens here.

The protagonist starts off as an outsider character looking in to someone else's story. He's Leo, the "goofy best friend" character in a harem comedy. But about halfway through the first volume, instead of being an observer to the harem story, secretly investigating while hiding the truth of his nature, he just straight-up takes over. Now he's the new harem protagonist of a magical action story. He has the cool super powers. He steals the girls. He steps in as a Fixer Sue to take care of all the traditional harem story conflicts before they start and basically tells everyone what to do. It's frustrating.

Meanwhile, all I could think about is all of the interesting mystery bits that were never adequately examined, like "Where do the background people go at night?" or "Did those people even exist before they became necessary to the narrative? I bet they didn't," or "What's the deal with those side characters there? What makes them special? Hmmm..." That's what I wanted to read about, not fighting magical monsters and stuff.

It's still a decent story, but it's not the story I was sold.

 

Character-

Some of the story's strongest points, and also the weakest. The focal girls are well-developed and extremely likable. One or more will probably become your favorite character in the story. The less-focal ones are...okay? But considering they get comparatively little attention, they don't make a very strong impression yet. Everyone seems well-written and consistent at any rate.

The big problems come in with the male characters.

The "in-universe" harem protagonist doesn't seem the least bit protagonist-ey. Even considering that harem protagonists usually are boring, milquetoast, unremarkable, average-Joe types with weak personalities, they still usually do protagonist things. They get into crazy shenanigans, or at least minor, every-day shenanigans. Basically, even if they're not particularly interesting, at least interesting stuff happens to them. But here, the interesting stuff is actively prevented as part of the narrative, and as a result he's essentially relegated to a non-character. The contrast between what we're told he is versus how he's portrayed in the actual story creates a definite sense of discord, and not in a good way. This fact becomes especially glaring when you consider the most important part of the whole book:

Leo. He's basically Poochie.

I'm not even exaggerating. At one point, we learn that Harem Protagonist and one of the girls were off on a date-like-excursion, but they just spent the whole time going "Hey, where's Poochie, I mean, Leo?"

In the beginning, he seems like a great character. A fish-out-of-water who's struggling to deal with a very bizarre situation as best he can. His story is fresh and interesting. But as things progress, especially when it kinda switches from an eerie mystery to a magical action tale, Leo becomes the focus of the story, and not just to readers, but in-universe. Leo knows all and sees all. Leo tells everyone what to do and they just cheerfully go along with it. He says he wants to avoid "romance drama" but then becomes a harem protagonist himself. He was portrayed as a character that had escaped the confines of narrative tropes but then actively engages in every single one of them. He seems like a huge hypocrite and a douchebag, basically. Quick tip, if you want everyone to instantly hate a character, just make them give paper thin justifications for why they refuse to adequately return the heartfelt affections of a much more likable character.

Does Leo ruin the story? No, not really. But is he the worst part of it? Absolutely. Can he be fixed? Also absolutely. A fish-out-of-water who's in over his head, trying to solve an eerie mystery is a good character. A smug douchebag who exerts his authority over the rest of the universe to bend the plot to his whims is a bad character. If he were a lot less of the second and a lot more of the first, we'd have a top-5 book here.

 

Style-

It gets the job done. It's descriptive where it needs to be and keeps the pace. It is primarily a first-person story, though. This has the very unfortunate effect of exacerbating the issues with the protagonist. Nothing makes you think "pushy and obnoxious" like listening to someone talk about themselves constantly.

 

Grammar-

It seems well done. No glaring mistakes. But there is one thing here that I noticed and absolutely couldn't ignore.

For some reason, the characters don't seem to use contractions where they should. They'll say "do not" or "cannot" in the middle of a quickly spoken, casual sentence where you'd expect "don't" or "can't." It's small but remarkably jarring.

 

In conclusion-

You should read this story. You'll enjoy it. But I can't rightly give it full marks considering the weaknesses that I just couldn't overlook. This review covers Volume 1. Here's hoping Volume 2 will change things up a bit.

catalinnr
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Best story in a long time

In short? This story is great.

Why? From the start we are introduced of a mystery that is slowly being unraveled by the MC. Where is he? How did he get here? Why is the world so strange? Who is he? 

The start might be slow for some people, but it needs to be like this since we are seeing through the eyes of the MC. He needs to assemble this puzzle all by himself and all we are doing is watching, unable to help.

Style, plot, grammar, characters, it has it all. But let me tell you about the characters. Even if at first they might seem like tropes with generic actions, it doesn't feel even a bit jarring reading about their interactions with the MC. No battles, no bs powers, no antagonist (not in the generic boss sense), only a relatable protagonist that is acting like a real human. 

The story keeps you engaged and waiting for the next piece of the puzzle to be revealed without spoonfeeding you the solution from the start.

Rokson
Overall

Great writing! just not my cup of tea

Great story and excellent writing, especially the characters banter towards eachother. But i find the story kinda boring and repetative, altough very unique story and just becuse i dont like it does not mean you wont (it definietly deserves the stars i gave it)

kreshlord
Overall

what can i say except it's great? of all the stories on this site there is no doubt that this one is in top 20, depending on preferences top 5. I'm not gonna go into all the details as to why i think so as there are already many great reviews written by greater minds than mine to read should you wish to do so.

namesarehard
Overall

The earlier chapters of this novel are amazing. It lived up to everything the summary promised and for that it quickly became my favorite series on this website. However, as other revierwers have pointed out, the parts of this story that led to me falling in love with this novel were pushed to the wayside for the parts that I have no interest in. I still give it 4 stars though because I think the authors has created a great story that a lot of people will enjoy even if it no longer caters to my interest. 

Grim_Reaper
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

A Very Interesting Story

Reviewed at: Chapter 26

The story is a very comedic story and it surprised me with stuff especially the Magic parts and the story follows the path of what seems to be a NPC gaining intelligence and figuring out that the world is actually...*Btw I'm not saying what the world actually is go read it yourself* this is my warning sign for those who avoid Harems like a plague ... HE  has TWO Girlfriends  and I want to say more but that would be a spoiler for more plots and secrets.

overrclocked
Overall

Was a great start, then the MC became everything he hated.

Reviewed at: Chapter 20

The story was an interesting sci-fi mystery about a fish out of water MC who was trying to figure out what makes the world he is thrust into tick. Then he becomes a douchbag harem protagonist with a weak personality. Just garbage after that. 

 

Then again, take this with a grain of salt since I stopped reading after chapter 20.

Zutyro
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

First chapter sets a very good tone, which is a shame because the rest of the story so far completely deviates from it. When I read it, I expected something completely different from what we have. I wanted more existential horror the first chapter brought but alas. I do enjoy the story, I very much do, but it's something I wouldn't really read if it wasn't for the first chapter.

Most of the story is slice of life with some action springled on top of it. It's extremely meta, which is nice, but the whole "narrative influnce" is starting to make me very angry. I sure hope that the calm before the storm ends soon.

It feels that author tried to write something unique, which the first few chapters really are, but transitioned to actually writing a story he was writing around. I wanted the protagonist to be an observer, trying to find problems in the world and exploiting them to unravel the truth, which he did for a while, but then completely ignored the glitched wall and I don't really buy that it was his "phasing".

When it comes to the "story" of the story, I quite like the romantic aspect of it. I like Elly very much. On the other hand I like Judy less with every chapter, because her bouts with Leo feel very unnatural now, with how frequent they are. I hate when Leo does it all the same. When it comes to Leo's relationship, I applaud author for writing something so controversial, but it's gonna be really hard to make it work in a way that won't make readers annoyed. I don't really like the fantasy aspect as it is now, but I think that's on purpose.

In short, I came for existential horror but stayed for slice of life romance.

I am looking forward to every new chapter, which are very long compared to most of the books on this site.

I know how author is feeling, so I feel kind of bad for writing this now, but this is something I wanted to write for some time. Please know that I don't dislike this story, on the other hand I like it very very much, but I wanted you to know that the story feels very derailed from it's original premise given to us by the first chapter.

CiaphasAbel
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Better than the sum of its parts

If you only look at the surface tropes and elements, this story should be a mess. The characters are literal clichés and tropes, the world is intentionally bland, the protagonist is yet another amnesiac who adopts way too fast to his circumstances, and as for the actual plot, it is only hinted at through slow slice-of-life scenes for the most part, and then it even does a huge genre-shift in the middle of the first volume that recontextualizes everything we have read so far. 

However, the thing that somehow manages to take all of those elements and blend them together into an immensely entertaining and creative work of fiction, is the actual writing. More accurately, it is the character writing, which makes every chapter so much fun to read. The author somehow manages to take character archetypes, and make them feel like actual, three dimensional people through their interactions and banter. Most of the time I didn't even mind the slow pace, as I simply enjoyed the various characters bounce off the protagonist, each other, and even change in the process. 

I had fairly low expectations at first, but I was hooked very early, and now the author even has his hook in my wallet. I really hope he will reach his next Patreon goal and we could have weekly updates soon. 

CatchTheStars
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

I'm actually surprised to find something as well written as Andur's work in this website, I recommend it!

Pro
- MC isn't dumb, he knows how to use his head and feels actually mature and calm, not like some hot blooded caricature, or even worse, some kind of pervert/evil dude.

- Characters are all interesting and cute, even past their supposed archetype, and I really appreciate how mc "tames" them, actually making them change for the better from what was a simple "tsundere", "childhood friend", etc, to something more complex, while still being very much endearing. I like when there is an actual character development and this is on point on that!

Also, kudos for not making useless forced drama around harem, making it quite natural overall, more realistic than many harems I've seen around.

Another good thing is that the mc seems like a secondary character, perfect for manipulating around and being some kind of third party for what's going on.

- The world is really mysterious, you want to know more about what's going on.

Con
- MC reaction in the beginning, not trying to understand the world by reading a wiki about where he is, the story of the world, etc, is weird.

- A tad too much humorous remarks in the internal mc dialogues in the first chapters... fortunately it got better later.

- It lacks characters outside of the main ones, mainly due to the setting. Still, it feels dry to not have more "tertiary" active characters around.

Spoiler: Spoiler