Title: Log Horizon
Genre: Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Summary: The story begins when 30,000 Japanese gamers are trapped in the fantasy online game world Elder Tale. What was once a sword-and-sorcery world is now the real world. The main lead Shiroe attempts to survive with his old friend Naotsugu and the beautiful assassin Akatsuki.
Review: I’m going to begin by saying that I did think of this as a Sword Art Online clone when I first started just to get that out of the way. I know what you are all thinking, “It’s nothing like Sword Art Online you’re dumb. Why do you even review anime?”. And yes I agree with you, I have learned the errors of my ways and I’m very glad that I ended up sticking this anime through. I felt like I would have lost out on a nice gem in the Fall season if I kept a closed mind and simply compared it to a somewhat similar anime. The biggest difference between the two is that Log Horizon decided to take another approach when it comes to being stuck in a virtual world. It went into far more depth about the actual world than the characters. That isn’t to say there was no character development, but the focus was definitely split.
I had very mixed feelings on the art style for Log Horizon. I was a little sad that they made it rather small re-using a lot of the same scenery. Now it did follow the story properly but I would have hoped that they expanded the world a little more than Akihabara. There were a few places that helped give a little more perspective like the League of Freedom Cities Eastal where much of the final half the season took place. They also moved to other cities, beaches, and even dungeons early in the anime to introduce the fact that Elder Tales was more than just a small sliver of land and was indeed the size of an entire country. Another point to be had was the character design. While the backgrounds were often very intricate and looked like a painting, the characters and creatures were nothing special and stuck out like a sore thumb. Looking back at the anime I was surprised by the amount of time they spent on the scenery, even going in detail with the marble flooring to give a very realistic look with randomized thin white cracks and shine. I liked how they did the overlay for the player HUD because it gave you a sense of connection between the players and the game. It was a subtle reminder that the characters weren’t meant to be living in Elder Tale, that they were stuck there for some unknown reason.
What truly makes Log Horizon stand out from other gaming anime was how the series decided to have the characters react to their new predicament. The start of the anime creates a mixture of emotions from horror to excitement. As the story progressed, however, it was less about how to get out of Elder Tales and more about how to adapt to living in it. This minor difference made Log Horizon a very unique and special anime. The first arc the series takes you through was about how to gain an unheard amount of money in a very short period of time, and it seemed like the first logical thing to do was farm any rare items and sell them; just as anyone would do in a real MMORPG. However, the anime surprised me by creating a very strong connection between the real world and the gaming world: food. It’s something that everyone needs but don’t really appreciate until it’s gone. In this case, the food was never really gone, but the enjoyment was. So instead of finding rare items or relying completely on things in the game world the main characters played on the desire everyone had for a tasty meal. It was from this moment I felt like the anime could really be something enjoyable. All 25 episodes were dedicated to subtle development between the players and the game. The concept of the People of the Land became a very big deal in the series for something that many people overlook in a normal MMO. It never crossed my mind that NPCs could turn out to become the center of drama and plot development for Log Horizon. The most important one of all being Lenessia Eruarte Cowen. I know some of you may be thinking of a certain other character, but let me explain myself. It all comes back to the original plot point of adapting to the world of Elder Tales. Lenessia played a crucial role of bridging the gap between the People of the Land and Adventurers (humans). She was not only the NPC with the most personality, but she also showed the most signs of development for an NPC. Every small plot point was meant to help the characters and viewers of Log Horizon to learn more about Elder Tale; it immersed you into a world in a new and refreshing way, more than any other anime has done in recent years.
Now I’ve only been talking about the good points about Log Horizon thus far. Although I found the anime very enjoyable, it was far from perfect. There were a lot of things that started to become repetitive and my attachment to the characters were loose. The anime had quite a bit of action, comedy, drama, and romance. However, the drama and romance felt half hearted and the comedy did become a bit stale after the first few episodes. The comedy actually had me laughing rather hard the first couple episodes because everything was new and innovative. Unfortunately characters like Akatsuki, Henrietta, Marielle, and Naotsugu all did the same joke over and over again. After the fiftieth time I just wanted them to get on with the plot rather than try and make me laugh. Comedy wasn’t the only thing that became stale. I couldn’t count the number of times Log Horizon played the glinting glasses bit. They really wanted to shove down the audiences’ throats that everyone with glasses had a dark side. At some point I began to wonder if it was the glasses that made them evil geniuses and if removed they would become all brawn and no brain like Naotsugu. My final bit of complaint had to do with the romance. The final few episodes of the anime were almost dedicated to giving the audience some fan fare with Minori and Akatsuki. The only problem was the fact that I didn’t really care if either of them ended up with Shiroe. Log Horizon didn’t do a great job when it came to creating a bond between the characters and audience despite emphasizing the fact that the Adventurers were meant to be real people. I feel like the main reason for this had to do with the lack of danger people felt. At no point in the series did I fear for the players’ lives or worry about their well being. This disconnect created a gap between reality and fiction that ultimately hurt the anime’s minor subplots.
I’m sure everyone knows what I’m going to mention when I bring up the OST: the opening. Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opening to Log Horizon was the most listened to opening of the Fall 2013 season. I mean it was just so gosh darn addicting. Admittedly it was a lot more hardcore than the actual anime but I still enjoyed it. There were a few other good BGMs like during the war between the Adventurers and goblins but overall the series didn’t have anything that stood out to me. In fact, the OST itself was rather difficult to grab a sample of so it seems like I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t that impressed.
Final statements: Other than minor issues I had with the character connection and comedy I have to say that Log Horizon was a real surprise. I’m happy that I ended up sticking with it because it did take a unique and entertaining path in terms of plot. I’d be more than happy to see a second season come out, but I really hope that they dive a little more into the characters and improve on the comedy. It is still considered a preferred watch so I do encourage everyone to at least check it out.