Unlock City is a panic-horror light novel written by mothy, published by Ponycan Books and released on July 3rd, 2015. The artwork is by Oguchi.
The plot revolves around Takahagi Koudai and his sister Otoha, a young man working for a security company who likes to play video games in his off hours, and a young girl attending the local highschool. One day, Koudai receives a strange email signed by the initial "M" with no apparent address attached, hinting at something ominous to come on July 7th. Despite how unusual the message is, Koudai puts it out of his mind until a week later.
Sure enough, on the day of Tanabata, strange things begin to happen in the town of Tsuruki City, where the pair lives. An invisible wall that no one can pass through encompasses the entire city, all communications with the outside world are down including phones and emails, and suddenly all locks have become impossible to use, analog or digital. Tsuruki High has also been encompassed by an invisible wall—and one of the students has been found in the music room, torn to pieces.
Koudai must pursue the truth of why the city has fallen into chaos, following the strange emails he's received and the conspiracy they lead to. Otoha must contend with being trapped inside the highschool with an escaped bear on the loose and slowly unraveling classmates.
The novel's website is located here, with a link to its purchase on Amazon (note the novel is in Japanese). In addition, every purchase of the novel includes a PIN to download a (Japan exclusive) free new song called Unlock Black Box. mothy has since made a junior light novel series called the "Story of Evil" series which serves as a loose sequel set in the same universe as Unlock City.
Unlock City provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: Both a parental fear and an adult with kid siblings fear. Koudai hears that a girl was killed at the highschool, and is then told that it was Tsuruki Highwhere his sister is. To his relief, he soon learns it wasnt her. Of course, another chapter later he discovers from his father who's investigating on the matter that there is a bear locked in there with her .
- Bears Are Bad News: An enormous Asian black bear that escaped from the zoo stalks the characters in the highschool, and features prominently on the cover. In the end it appears to be responsible for the walls and the issue with the locks, although Otoha in a moment of panic thinks it might not have even been a bear at all.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The small stuffed rabbit Otoha made for Koudai when she was in elementary school.
- The black bear phone charm Mika has on her phone strap, for similar reasons.
- Closed Circle: Otoha is trapped in Tsuruki High with her classmates; on a larger level this applies to all of Tsuruki City, unable to pass the invisible wall.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover depicts Otoha cowering behind Koudai, despite the fact that the two dont actually come into contact over the course of the novel, as no one can get in or out of the highschool.
- In a scene earlier in the novel, Takatomi ribs on Mika as they drive in their patrol car, pointing out her black bear phone charm and asking if it's something she got from her boyfriend. Later it's revealed this is the personal item she put in Mekage Shrine's black box, and Koudai speculates it was given to her by Shinichi.
- On Atsuki's profile on the website, it mentions that, like Koudai, he also got into the security company more through his connections than merit. It's implied Evillious Net got the position for him as part of the game.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The strange events of the city begin to happen on the night of Tanabata (July 7th).
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All of the chapters in the book are called levels to keep in with the video game theme—Level 0 is the prologue, Level 7 is the epilogue, etc.
- It's Personal: Koudai's half-hearted assistance in Atsuki's investigation becomes this when he discovers the same invisible wall is keeping his little sister locked in the school with a murderous bear.
- Ludicrous Gibs: The state that Otoha finds Kanoe's body in during the start of Level 2.
- No Ontological Inertia: As soon as the bear is put down, the wall around the city goes away and the locks stop being broken.
- Sailor Fuku: Otoha and Mizuki are seen sporting them in the cast shot, having been attending school when the incident hit.
- Sequel Hook: In Level 7 it's stated that Evillious Net is going to play another one of their games again sometime in the future.
- The names of Evillious Net and the supposed leader, Allen, is a shout out to mothy's other, longstanding work, the Evillious Chronicles. It's complicated.
- The video game that Koudai is playing in the beginning of the book isn't named, but given its description is almost certainly a Resident Evil game (more specifically, the remake of the first one).
- Stealth Sequel: Revealed in master of the heavenly yard to be the universe created after the events of the Evillious Chronicles.
- This Is Reality: Comes up once or twice, particularly in Koudai's narrative as he's a fan of games and movies. Particularly ironic in that not only is this a book but Evillious Net has been structuring events to be just like a game.
- The Unreveal: When discussing the black box at Mekage Shrine (of particular interest to Evillious fans wondering if the story is related due to black boxes featuring there as well), Atsuki is about to explain how it got there when Koudai cuts him off, saying it's not relevant to the matter at hand.