Anime: Log Horizon (Season One)
Original Run: Oct 5, 2013 to Mar 22, 2014
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
The popular MMORPG game Elder Tale’s latest update somehow transports thirty-thousand Japanese players into the game’s version of Japan, Yamato. They are unable to log out and are forced to cope with their impromptu imprisonment inside the game. Shiroe, a socially awkward college student and a veteran player, immediately sets out to learn the parameters of his new existence.
Log Horizon follows Shiroe as he attempts to figure out how to live in this lawless new world that is at once both familiar and strange. He acquires his own band of loyal companions as he sets about trying to establish some sort of order in the new world before it’s too late.
The best way to describe Log Horizon would be as disappointing. It’s not because I had any lofty expectations going in though. Sure, I wanted it to be good but I typically want all anime I watch to be good. And for the first half of this anime, it seemed like it would be better than good. But the latter half steadily went downhill while also exacerbating existing problems to make the whole into what I labeled it as – a disappointment.
Like I said, it starts out good. There are all these players trapped in a game where they have nothing to do and no way to escape. They can’t die, the food has no flavor and they have no system to ground them. This already sets an interesting premise to build a story upon and Log Horizon does succeed in this respect. The world of Elder Tale is continuously fleshed out in new and interesting ways which serve to establish the rules in the game world without dumping it on us all at once. There’s still a fair bit of talking involved but it’s not overwhelming. The activities directly related to figuring out the game world also form Log Horizon’s most entertaining arcs. From politics to raids to cooking, there are a lot of elements that are amusing as well as informative.
But the first season is split into game mechanics and slice-of-life bits, and while the former is excellent entertainment, the latter is dull enough to leech the life out of the entire story. It’s not just my distaste for slice-of-life talking here since engaging personalities can make that kind of thing work very well. But Log Horizon doesn’t have many engaging personalities out of its main cast of veteran players and the slice-of-life parts focus on thinly characterized younger ones so the end result is absolute boredom. To make matters worse, this part is what dominates towards the end of the season, culminating in a love triangle of all things. What started out as a genuinely interesting anime ends on a thoroughly bland note.
Another thing of note is that Log Horizon employs a lot of telling over showing. This doesn’t really adversely affect the world-building but it is used as a lazy method of characterization. The main victim is the protagonist Shiroe. We learn more about him from the gushing of other characters than we do from his own actions, and in some cases, the two are completely contradictory. Shiroe himself is charming enough but the show tries to build him into this epic figure and fails rather miserably.
In short, Log Horizon is one of those shows that have a lot of good things going for it but is ultimately betrayed by its own clumsy storytelling. I finished season one with only a little pain but less than ten episodes into season two was all I could stomach.
There are a large number of characters in Log Horizon and naturally, the majority of them aren’t more than pretty faces and forgotten names. But for the most part, the show splits its attention between veteran players including Shiroe and a group of younger players. As I’ve already stated, the parts including the veterans are interesting while those that focus on the younger ones don’t measure up. This is because Shiroe and the rest are involved with matters that will define their very existence in the new Elder Tale. They form a government body, make laws, establish order and go on diplomatic missions. There’s scant action but when those moments are there, it’s fun. Meanwhile, the younger and newer players are only just figuring out their own limits and forming their own bonds. It’s necessary for them to do but not that great to watch. It doesn’t help that the experienced players have more dynamic personalities.
Shiroe, a grad student with a head for strategy, is the main character. The story goes out of its way to show us how amazing he is but is only half-successful in the process. Shiroe’s main advantage is that he’s very intelligent and a famed strategist even within the game. He’s not a frontline fighter but rather the man manipulating from the shadows. And all of his triumphs in the story are also the nature of calculation and manipulation. It serves to establish him as an interesting character who can be quite cunning while remaining oblivious about his own darker leanings. The problem is that the story tries to ram Shiroe’s awesomeness down our throats with multiple characters just standing around talking about how awesome he is. Instead, they could have continued to show us that.
Shiroe’s companions include his old friends from the game, Naotsugu and Nyanta, as well as a former associate turned guildmate, Akatsuki. Naotsugu is an out and proud pervert who takes the time to randomly insert panties and breasts into every conversation. When he’s not the victim of these pitiful attempts at humor, he’s portrayed as a pleasant, supportive guy. Nyanta is a self-proclaimed gentlecat who takes purring very seriously, can cook like a champ and has no personality outside of being the nice, wise older guy. Akatsuki, on the other hand, has a personality but it revolves around Shiroe. She revolves around Shiroe. We never really learn much about her other than that she really likes Shiroe.
Other notable characters includes Crusty, leader of a combat guild who looks gentle and acts the part but also displays an unnerving amount of bloodlust in battle. He seems smart enough to give Shiroe a run for his money and is quite charismatic in general. Then there’s Lenessia, a princess among the people populating the game. She’s a quirky girl who’s fed up with the demands of her noble status and would rather just laze around. She also has a strong moral center and a (mostly hidden) spine of steel to go with it, effectively making her one of the more complex characters in the show. Unfortunately, she’s not explored much after her initial arc.
There are others but none are worth mentioning, not even the antagonists who range from being too pathetic to be effective to having too little presence to warrant much thought.
Art and Music:
Log Horizon’s art is good in that it’s passable without being remarkable. The character deigns, monster designs and backgrounds show enough variety to establish a unique visual impression. The animation during the fight sequences involves a lot of the typical slashing and flashy lights, each of which is handled competently. But all in all, Log Horizon is not memorable on a visual level.
There is only one OP, database by MAN WITH A MISSION and it’s certainly catchy. It is a nice piece that mixes Japanese and English and I rarely felt the need to skip it. The ending theme, Your song* by Yun*chi, on the other hand, is mediocre at best.
Don’t go into this expecting much. It may seem good at the beginning but that’s not going to last.