The Simulacrum

by Egathentale

Original ONGOING Comedy Fantasy Romance Magic Male Lead Slice of Life Supernatural Urban Fantasy

"Um... Hello, I guess? Is this where I'm supposed to explain what's going on? Well, I would love if someone explained things to me for a change, but whatever, I will give it a try.

So, my name is Leonard Dunning, pleased to make your acquaintance. According to my ID, I'm a fairly average high-schooler, living alone while my parents are somewhere 'overseas', wherever that may be. I'm tall, pretty fit, living in an impeccably clean house, and I attend a scenic high school full of friends, romance and coming-of-age hi-jinks. Sounds neat on paper, right? Too bad I have absolutely no memory of any of this. One day I simply woke up in this weirdly pristine world with a splitting headache and a nasty case of retrograde amnesia that left me a blank slate unable to recognize even my face in the mirror. Worse yet, apparently this whole place is running on fairly clich├ęd writing conventions and stereotypes, complete with obvious background characters and dense harem protagonists!

So, what would your average guy do in this kind of situation? I have no clue, but as for me, I decided to roll up my sleeves, grab a notepad, observe this weird world and work out what makes it tick. If you are curious about how deep this rabbit hole goes (and trust me, we will need spelunking equipment), you are more than welcome to come along for the ride."

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Egathentale

Egathentale

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Doctor_C
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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.

Kaleb Bjorkman
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A beautiful rejuvenation of common tropes & genera

I honestly can say this is the best book I've encountered on RR. The only thing I have to say is that the characters are all cliches. This is intentional, and it's a plot point, and the characters incorporate the cliche while still being 3-dimensional characters, so it honestly is a wonderful part of the story. Even the Kuudere character, a trope I've never seen done well before, is a beautifully crafted character, with strong reasoning and backstory for her... personality trait? disability? ...so yeah. I love this novel. Please keep writing it with the same amazing quality it has had so far. Also, I love the chapter lengths, which are significantly longer than most RR stories. The long format makes it a satisfying read anytime a chapter is posted. (Written at chapter 16/ Page 582)

catalinnr
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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.

acausal
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I don't know exactly what I expected...

...but this is way better than whatever it was. I don't leave many reviews but this is both hilarious and engaging. 

Anrov
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From the first few chapters i have read. I can only say that I love it! This is a masterpiece, and i can only recommend it!

Hyperion915
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im not usually one for these sorts of stories, i prefer more action-packed tales (as might be inferred from the fact that i frequent this site in particular), but goddamn bro, this is some quality shit. characters are (ironically) very fleshed out and i actually believe everything, despite/because of the context it was presented in. cool fucking idea, and a really fun slice of life

CleanMyJawls
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Great metafiction, great story

Not bad at all. I was looking for metafiction and came here on a recommendation and this is not only a great metafiction novel, but a great novel in general with great characters comedy and even some decent romance, something I am usually allergic to. 

In short I recommend this to everyone looking for a good read not just metafiction-fans.

dragonseal
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just get past the first few chapters

if considering reading this, I reccomend toughing it through the first few chapters which are slightly hard to get hooked into. Howeaver this is only till the ball gets rolling and it becomes a great story full of self aware characters and an interesting meta.

TheGreatOne
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This Is A Masterpiece

I am astonished at just how much meticulous work and thought was put into weaving together this wonderful world, story, and characters. This is a top quality story that blew my expectations out of the water and some more. I binged this really hard until I caught up and am looking forward for more!

Filipzajac
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Read it and fall in love with Judy

If you are there then you have two choices, either read it and have the best time of your life or dont read it and know that you lost this occasion to read something great. 

In conclusion read it and discover how great can a harem comedy be