Japanese Title: Log Horizon
Related: Log Horizon 2nd Season
Similar: Sword Art Online
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 25 episodes
- The politics are interesting.
- Easy to enjoy.
- Main party chemistry.
- So much explaining!
- Bland action.
- The kid side characters.
After the colossal dump that was Sword Art Online, I sought an anime that would fulfil the potential of the ‘players stuck in an MMO’ concept. Enter Log Horizon, a highly rated MMO anime. Having completed it, I am convinced its high rating stems largely from the fact that it isn’t as awful as SAO. Now, Log Horizon isn’t bad – it’s decent – but the relief at it not being awful was palpable in the praise I had heard.
Log Horizon opens with hundreds of thousands of players worldwide trapped in the MMO Elder Tale. To these players, the game becomes the real world. We focus on veteran players Shiroe the enchanter and leader, Naotsugu the guardian and self-proclaimed ‘Warrior of Panties,’ Akatsuki the assassin and forced Loli, and eventually Nyanta the swashbuckler cat and chef. They seek a purpose in their new reality.
Although we repeatedly hear of an entire world in this MMO, the story only takes place in a small section of Japan – a missed opportunity to have an expansive world. I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time with Log Horizon if it weren’t for these characters; they aren’t particularly deep or complex, but they are fun to hang around thanks to their natural banter and camaraderie. They aren’t obnoxious or a bloody harem.
Log Horizon’s flaws hit hard and fast. The first few episodes (and regularly beyond), are mired in exposition dumps of no consequence and explanations on how every little thing works in Elder Tale. You have not experienced a swamp of explanations until you watch Log Horizon. A dozen times per fight, the action pauses for Shiroe (usually) to read the ability tooltips.
“Those vines you see tying the opponent to the ground, they restrict player movement!” Oh really? I thought it made players fly. “The big guy with the shield and all that armour is called a ‘Tank,’ okay?” I never would have guessed.
Even someone who has never played an RPG before wouldn’t need the terminology this dumbed down. For a group of top-level players, they speak like noobs.
This swamp results in dull episodes – first third of the season, really. The writers couldn’t stay away from the swamp for long, mind you, as they bring it back several times, just to make the action as bland as possible. Looking past the poor execution of world building, however, and it feels more than an MMO than SAO did. The characters also don’t hack for convenience.
Log Horizon’s differentiating world rules are interesting, most notably, exploration of the game’s mechanics and the surrounding politics. For example, anyone can make food, but it’s flavourless; however, a high-level chef can unlock the recipes and techniques to cook tasty food, which brings pleasure even in the game. It introduces the practice of spending money for pleasure – remember, if one can’t die (no perma-death), the motivation to fight for survival diminishes. Now, players have something to do, build an economy. It sounds meaningless, but it’s actually quite clever, rather than basing every motivation around combat.
Conflict flows from two areas: combat and politics. The combat conflict is generic. Shiroe’s group regularly fights player killers and bullies – rather dull. The politics, on the other hand, bring Log Horizon’s most engaging plot lines. This is a world with no laws or game masters to regulate play, so anything goes as long as it doesn’t break the source code. Of course, this leads to an unfocused, mess of a society, something Shiroe seeks to remedy. Problem is, how do you convince selfish players to care about society? I won’t give the solution away, but it is Log Horizon’s best plotline. The exploration of NPC rights is also fascinating (they always forget the NPCs in anime).
One baffling sub-plot involves the low-level players, the kids. We meet then trapped in a terrible guild that extorts Yakuza “protection fees” in the form of exp-boosting items given to newbies. Shiroe must rescue them, which is interesting if a little illogical. That’s fine, but why keep them around? After the rescue (no surprise), they share near equal time with the main characters. Why? They have nothing to contribute to the plot or the world building. Their episodes are little more than pep talks – so many pep talks! I don’t know if the writer ever played an MMO, but noobs don’t act like that. Perhaps he should have listened in a novice guild’s TeamSpeak (hilarious activity, by the way).
Overall, Log Horizon is an enjoyable anime, an easy experience not requiring much thought. The MMO anime genre still has a long way to go, much of the potential buried under laziness. Hopefully, a talented writer will elevate it to max level someday.
Art – Medium
Log Horizon has a standard art style – these MMO anime look lazily alike. Many still shots, not the most detailed, and ability effects leave more to be desired.
Sound – High
The acting is good, though not particularly interesting outside the political dialogue. The localisers did a great job, substituting Asian MMO terms for phrases familiar to the West. Some good music, particularly OP and ED.
Story – Medium
Hundreds of thousands of players become trapped in an MMO. Log Horizon follows an elite group and their attempts to find purpose in their new lives. Run of the mill MMO anime – better than Sword Art Online.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Try it. Log Horizon is one of the better MMO anime (not saying much) and a good place to start if interested in the genre. Those seeking a great MMO anime must wait longer.
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