Review

by Theron Martin,

Berserk of Gluttony

Light Novel Volume 1

Synopsis:
Berserk of Gluttony v1
In a world where stats and skills determine one's status and position, Fate Graphite has always known himself to be one of the losers. The seemingly-useless skill he was born with, Gluttony, leaves him eternally hungry, so he was kicked out of his home village after his father's death and wound up in the capital of the Kingdom of Seifert. For five years he scraped by as the stand-in gate guard for a trio of sibling holy knights, who abused and lorded their power over him mercilessly, until the night that he kills a bandit while assisting Lady Roxy, a friendly holy knight. Then he finally discovers what Gluttony really does: he gains the stats and skills of those he kills. A new skill he acquires from that leads to him to discovering the sentient sword Greed, and with Greed's help he gradually comes to understand Gluttony and the double-edged nature of its terrifying power. Meanwhile, he accepts a vastly better job as a servant to Lady Roxy, whom he has long idolized and who seems oddly interested in him, while also being wary of his original employers and what they might be scheming.
Review:

As I read more light novels, I feel that I am developing a good sense for which ones are promising candidates for potential anime adaptations. Based on that, I rate this one as “likely.” Its simple, relatively straightforward construction lends itself well to translating into anime form and it has the right mix of action, appealing characters, and supernatural elements necessary to win over new audiences in that format. That the opening novel also poses an intriguing variation on the “quickly grow to OP status in a game mechanics-ruled world” concept certainly does not hurt.

In some respects, the core concept resembles that of the recently-released Roll Over and Die: an individual in a game-like setting is born with a skill which, on the surface, seems not only useless but detrimental. That individual falls into a downtrodden state, but picks themselves up partly by discovering the particular circumstances which allow the skill to work as intended and partly by picking up a sword that would be classified as artifact-grade in most RPG settings but is not normally usable. In the case of the suspiciously-named Fate, that circumstance is killing someone. Then its overpowered nature becomes apparent: absorbing all of the stats of the victim, as well as all of the victim's skills that Fate does not already possess.

That skill might still be limited by the immense difference in power between the weaker and stronger beings in the setting, which necessitates painstaking effort over a long period of time to work one's way up to the bigger gains. That's no fun in a series like this, so Fate gets an additional cheat in the form of the sword Greed, which serves as coach, source of information, and a bad-ass weapon capable of cutting anything and, eventually, transforming into bow mode, though advancing the weapon and using its most potent tricks comes at a cost to the wielder – a cost that Gluttony can easily compensate for. Individually, Fate and Greed might be pretty strong; together they're a potentially-indomitable powerhouse. Greed gives the impression that he was slumming it in a junk weapons pile while waiting for someone like Fate to come along.

This might put Fate on the path to being a standard OP insert character-type hero if not for one huge drawback: Gluttony is an uncontrollable skill with no upper limit. Once it gets rolling, its appetite only increases, and denying that appetite for too long turns Fate into a nearly-mindless, red-eyed predator. (This is where the “berserk” in the title presumably comes into play.) In other words, it is more of a villain-type power, and Fate does eventually take on a masked, villain-type identity to conceal the nightly hunts he has to go on to sate Gluttony. On the plus side, this gives him the means to seek vengeance against one of the holy knights who abused him (and of course the guy was into some ugly hobbies besides that, just to make sure the reader has no sympathy for the guy), but that is more than balanced out by the problem it poses for him staying with Lady Roxy.

The developing relationship with Lady Roxy, a young holy knight from one of the kingdom's leading families, is, surprisingly, the other major factor which sells the first novel. Nothing about that situation stands out at first; Lady Roxy is the perfect beauty who stands in a position where Fate could never hope to stand by her as an equal. Fate further knows from a Telepathy skill he picks up that she is also as genuinely good and caring at heart as she acts, so he resolves to do everything he can to support her. Naturally he's also oblivious to the fact that she seems to favor him, and even being told by others that his presence seems to have a positive impact on her is not enough to shake him out of his inferiority-complex mindset on it. (In fairness, being fearful that his Gluttony could eventually put her in danger also plays into this.) However, an alternate-viewpoint short story at the end of the novel shows that Roxy has some specific and legitimate reasons for why she values Fate more than he realizes. That firms up that their relationship is one worth cheering for, even if it is still fraught with potential barrier. Not the least of those is a plot development at the end of the novel which potentially dooms her if Fate cannot find a way to stop it.

The story progression is a mostly standard one for a franchise-establishing volume: it lays out who the protagonist is, where he comes from, how his powers work, and what he cares about. There are some elements speaking to bigger intrigues (such as the corrupt nature of the holy knights in general), the potential threat of a dragon called Heavenly Calamity, and the one-off appearance of a strange warrior-girl who may know a lot more about what Fate is going through with Gluttony. Why Greed knows what it does, and how it came to be as a sword, are also potential teasers for a bigger story, but all of that will have to wait for future volumes. Writer Isshiki Ichika does mention in the Afterword that the first volume was written with the potential for a more expansive story in mind, and he certainly leaves enough hooks floating at the end.

Ichika has an easy, fast-paced writing style which mostly utilizes short chapters. (The 25 chapters and short story average only 13 pages in length.) He does not layer on the descriptiveness and detail and does not use meticulous descriptions of action scenes, but it is always enough to suit the purposes of the scene. This makes for a remarkably fast read that should be accessible to early-teens readers. Characterizations come through well enough (albeit always slanted through Fate's viewpoint) and Ichika does not overemphasize graphic content; some is definitely present, but the writing never glories in it. The main weakness in the writing is that the world set-up is so tightly-bound to game mechanics that some aspects of it seem unnatural and illogical, though the way information is spilled in one late interrogation scene also sounds both awkward and out of character for the situation.

Essentially, the story looks like it is boiling down to a protagonist who is forced to take on some evil airs due to the nature of his abilities and the idol he hopes to support despite that. For all of its stereotypical airs, it turns out to be a more involving story than initially expected, and I will likely be reading more.

Grade:
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+

+ Uncomplicated writing style makes for an easy read, Lady Roxy is an appealing love interest
Adherence to game-like structure sometimes feels unnatural and illogical in a world-building sense

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Production Info:
Story: Ichika Isshiki

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