Suddenly and mysteriously finding himself literally inside the MMORPG game Elder Tale with no explanations as to how, Shiroe reunites with his friends... list... and tries to find some answers. At first, he teams up with his old friend Naotsugu and the mysterious assassin Akatsuki, and together, they head out to explore this new world built on the foundation of a game they all thought they knew.
Log Horizon is actually the first show I ever watched that's built around the concept of being stuck inside a game, preferably an MMORPG. It's certainly not the first fantasy show I've watched, and also not one that's based on a certain game (which Log Horizon isn't), but I'm just throwing this out here anyway, mostly because at first, Log Horizon was inevitably compared to similar "stuck in the game" shows like dot Hack or Sword Art Online. I throw this out now, so that you won't wonder why I won't compare Log Horizon to either of them -- I simply have no basis for comparison outside of some minor information about either of the two.
This might also be why Log Horizon chooses to dispense with the "if you die in the game, you die for real" angle in the first episode; it simply isn't happening. Characters who fall in battle simply revive in a chapel, seemingly no worse for wear. In its place, we're pretty much served the mystery of how everyone ended up living inside a game, because nobody among the main characters know, and, naturally, panic and confusion spread among the captured players, each choosing to deal with that in their own way, whether that be flaunting guild influence or resorting to stalking and PKing.
In this world, Shiroe actually represents something of a rising trend in anime; the intelligent, resourceful male lead who doesn't just rush in without a second thought, expecting everything to just sort itself out if they just believe hard enough. Granted, I'm taking all the technobabble and "strategy" in this show with a pinch of salt, but he still gets the benefit of the doubt simply because he considers his options before doing things. Problems and its solutions aren't always a simple matter of just beating through them with whatever weapons he has at hand. The show reveals him to be a college graduate, which at least lends some credence to his level of intelligence... as presented by the series.
The idiot role is mostly filled by Naotsugu. Not as much because he's incapable -- he's a level 90 character, like many others among the main cast -- but because he tends to be the butt of most of the jokes. During much of the beginning, he's liable to say something perverted, which earns himself a knee or a foot to the face from Akatsuki, the third part of our main trio. Akatsuki is actually a bit of a curiosity, because the first time you see the character, you see a fairly tall male assassin character... that speaks with a female voice. Having played with their team before, she simply didn't really speak a whole lot, if at all, so when their residence in the game turns somewhat permanent, the first thing she does is to request an appearance-changing potion from Shiroe. Like Shiroe and Naotsugu, she's a level 90 character, meaning she's easily as capable as the others, but since her voice would have been an obvious giveaway, she never really joined any guilds or groups for long amounts of time. So let it be no slight on her capabilities as a player (or assassin, as the situation stands) when I say her female form is downright adorable. It's also relatively short, so of course they had to make a joke about how surprising it was when she revealed she was at least as old as Shiroe. She is one of the most prominent of the female characters, which does say a little about the female characters in this show; they tend to become victims, joke vessels or relegated to support role. It's a bit ironic, given that the main character in this show has chosen a gamer class that's solely a support class, yet still manages to steal the limelight more often than not, even in battle. Even as the most capable of the female characters, Akatsuki still swears allegiance to Shiroe, even if it's to repay him for giving her a very valuable item. She doesn't necessarily adapt a completely servile personality style, though, so take that as you will.
Curiously enough, Log Horizon also has one of the few cat GUYS I've seen in anime. Beast races are apparently not entirely uncommon in Eldar Tale, so Log Horizon gives us Nyanta, another old ally of Debauchery Tea Party and also stuck in the game with the rest of them. Funnily enough, he actually carries the most common hallmark of catgirl behavior -- working in the word "nya" into his conversations -- but that ended up being surprisingly easy to get used to. Nyanta is possibly one of the older players in Elder Tale -- and Log Horizon by extension -- and another members of the "intelligence and maturity over guts" lineup of appealing characters.
Perhaps not unwisely, the players in Akihabara -- seriously, that's the town in the game they appear in; a home base of sorts -- decide to settle in as soon as possible before any other actions can be taken, something that doesn't go entirely smoothly. Once past the prerequisite character introduction and world presentation episodes, the show immediately goes off on a rescue mission. Aside from the aforementioned potion, which is apparently a very rare items in Elder Tale, Shiro and Naotsugu seemingly owns a lot of rare items, presumably from the time the two spent in a kind of freelance group called "Debauchery Tea Party", an adventuring group with people who had no interest in creating a guild. But even beyond that, there's the minor problem of PKers, and the somewhat bigger problems of low-level characters being headhunted into guilds that end up taking advantage of them in downright slavery-like ways. As viewers, we also have to contend with a lot of tutorials in how the game of Elder Tale works, or just MMORPGs in general, and for people who already know most of this, it can get pretty aggravating after a while.
The show eventually moves on from that, thankfully, and it goes through quite a few plot arcs within its runtime of 25 episodes. In a sense, that is also Log Horizon's greatest weakness, because you never really get a good feel of what the show is about. You'd think it would be about what happened with Elder Tale and how so many people literally got stuck inside of it, unable to log out, but past the initial panic attack, people seem strangely unconcerned with it. In fact, just about everyone is a little bit too keen on becoming a permanent part of the new Elder Tale, even though nobody really knows what's going on back in the real world. Are their bodies still there? Will their continued presence in Elder Tale negatively affect said bodies? In short, what is going on? But while dying in the game doesn't seem to affect anyone in any significant way, it might have some other unfortunate side effects that will make themselves more apparent over time.
The other big mystery hanging over the whole gaming world of Log Horizon is its character cast, aka the NPCs. In the game before the apocalypse, most of them were of the simple "I like Swords" variety, but now that everyone is living inside Elder Tale, all the "people of the land" seems to have gotten a serious personality upgrade, to the point that they're almost completely indistinguishable from the heroes (aka "the adventurers".) One of the subplots actually revolve around said NPCs approaching the heroes with diplomatic (and some secretive) designs on their minds. Their new personality upgrade also comes with the added problem of their deaths being quite permanent, which also becomes somewhat of an issue later on.
Fragmented story progression aside, Log Horizon has this offbeat quality to it that I rather like. Even though it's heavily steeped in MMORPGisms, I can always get behind a good fantasy with various facets of its world building to its name, and despite the fact that the players in Elder Tale takes to the ultimate in virtual reality concerning RPGs -- which I'm sure a lot of gamers have had fantasies about -- it's both complex and compelling enough to remain interesting through its entire runtime. Some of the later plot lines kind of feels like they're being abandoned, but a second season was announced about the time the first finished, so it doesn't feel quite as much as a copout as it would have been, had this been the sole season available. As it is, I'm looking forward to the second season. There are still so many things here I want to know.
A bit fragmented, but still merely the first part of a work still in progress. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: PKing aside, which is made less severe than it sounds like since people revive, Log Horizon isn't above portraying a lot of less admirable traits, both on a gamer's level and more of an administrative role. Children/low level players are kept as slaves, to work away for the benefit of their captors, and some of the other player-run cities are a good deal more anarchic than Akihabara. And even though PKing is kept at a "annoying, but harmless" level, it's still an effective bullying tool for less admirable players.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Log Horizon © 2013 Satelight, Asahi Production.
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