*Raises hand* Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am a Log Horizon addict.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is just another anime, like I did. In fact, I looked at the synopsis and said “Whatever, this looks like another Sword Art Online. Should I even bother?”
But I was wrong. So wrong. Let me explain:
Log Horizon has a premise that has become somewhat popular (or at least, not uncommon) in anime recently: people from one world get stuck in another world. In this case, a virtual world, a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, for the uninitiated. Like World of Warcraft. Also, a guy once tried to pick me up by saying “So, I hear you play MMOs”, which is a bad pickup line. Never say that to a girl. Or anyone ever, actually. But I digress.) After watching the first episode, I concluded “yeah, this isn’t going to be like Sword Art Online” and haven’t given the comparison any thought since.
The story in Log Horizon revolves around a young man named Shiroe, who was a college grad student back in the real world, before he got stuck in the game Elder Tales with many others who logged on for a new expansion release in the game. Shiroe is a powerful Enchanter-class Mage who is well-known among many of the regular players, although he tended to be very selective about his company (or just play solo), so he has a bit of a reputation to deal with. Shiroe, accompanied by a few friends including a diminutive Assassin, a cat-person, and his good friend Naotsugu the Warrior, bumble through the world of Elder Tales as it becomes their everyday life.
What makes this show so interesting though, is the route that the plot takes. It asks and answers lots of big, interesting sociological questions (all kinds of questions, really) and also addresses them in a way that is totally relevant to gaming. For example, what happens to the NPCs? (NPC = Non-Player Character, like townspeople or quest-givers in games.) In Elder Tale, they become known as the People of the Land, and they have some different characteristics than the “Adventurers” who are stuck in the game, which leads to some political and personal tension. And while the game will “police” players who try to kill other players in “safe” areas like towns, what happens in forests or non-town areas? Should there be laws and order outside of the rules that the game mandates, and what should they be? Who will make the rules and enforce them, and how far should they extend? How can people improve their quality of life in the game? What’s going on with the guilds, now that they don’t have a constant stream of new recruits? And why does the food taste so bad?!
Another thing that is so fun about this series is the way everything is done. Shiroe is an extremely shrewd guy (known as the “Villain in Glasses” by many in the series) and has a reputation for manipulation and deception. He’s able to easily determine people’s agendas and use that against them to turn the tables in his favor. Yet, he’s not perfect. He can’t always correctly predict the outcome of a negotiation, and sometimes there are surprise circumstances that throw a wrench in his perfectly laid plans. It’s exciting and entertaining to watch and see if things will go as planned or if they just turn into a big mess, and whether or not he can still succeed and how.
Log Horizon also explains the way that the game is played and some of the terms used in a simple and eloquent way so that anyone can understand what is going on, even someone who doesn’t play video games. As a gamer myself, I personally got a big kick out of watching how Log Horizon explained gaming logistics in a descriptive and illustrative way. It’s kind of fun to think that people watching the show will come out of it knowing some core concepts of MMOs!
For all the great things about Log Horizon, it does have a few faults. The art quality isn’t great, and the character designs are so vanilla. It was off-putting at first to me, but I find the plot enriching enough that I ended up not minding it. Season 2 has also seen a marked improvement in the amount of effort put into making the scenery and surroundings more detailed, and new characters have somewhat more interesting designs. Something that also bugs me is that there is zero mention of any type of logistics about how people are trapped in this virtual world. Most animes would address this in some way, but Log Horizon chooses not to even go near the subject, which is interesting. I guess I’d rather have this than some flimsy scientific theory I could poke holes in, though.
For my final note, I will say that I am really enjoying season 2, probably as much as I enjoyed season 1. Season 2 really builds on the foundation created in the first season and adds to it. New complications in the world, in relationships, new exploration and alliances. There’s never a dull moment with this show!
Log Horizon Season 1 is available subbed for streaming on Crunchyroll, and Season 2 is currently airing and can be found on Crunchyroll and Hulu.