Anime, anime, why do you make me do this? First it was Parasyte and now this. But you know what, Parasyte handled its women better than Log Horizon which is saying something since the female characters in Parasyte might as well be made of cardboard with one notable exception. Where Parasyte’s problem seemed to be that its creator didn’t know how to write well-rounded female characters, Log Horizon comes across as being capable of presenting women in ways that are only offensive.
Originally, I wasn’t going to make this post because I couldn’t quite pinpoint what bothered me about Log Horizon’s women characters. I was going to mention it in one line or so in the review and leave it at that. But then I read Cain’s article on Log Horizon and SAO. He also mentions Log Horizon’s clumsy portrayal of its girls and some of his comments helped me organize my own thoughts on the matter. Thanks, Cain.
Keep in mind that this looks at only the first season of Log Horizon but what I saw in the first few episodes of season two didn’t change my mind either.
Also keep in mind that the following words are my opinion. This should be obvious enough but what I say is not the ultimate truth. It’s what I felt after watching this anime. There will be plenty of others who feel differently and they’re not any less right or wrong than I am.
There are a lot of girls in Log Horizon, some young, some not-so-young, some healers, some fighters, some princesses. Variety is not the problem. Quality is. In general, Log Horizon’s only remarkable characters are Shiroe and Crusty. Everyone else is pretty meh. But while the other male characters in Log Horizon aren’t the most dynamic people in anime history, they’re harmless, semi-interesting archetypes that play their roles well. Well, the girls are also semi-interesting archetypes that play their roles well but alas, their portrayal is not so harmless.
Before I consider them on an individual basis, let’s have a general look at how Log Horizon’s females act. They cry and worry until some guy (usually Shiroe) shows up to solve their problems or show then the way to lead a fulfilling life. Their thoughts more often than not revolve around one of the men – I’m not saying being interested, romantically or otherwise, in a person is bad but their thoughts and ensuing actions are usually hyperfocused on the object of said interest. There are no women in leadership roles except that one girl who shows up at the end and seems to be an antagonist but she’s got like five minutes of screentime.
And worse of all, every single one of them is either dull or annoying.
This is shaping up well already, isn’t it? Now let’s look at some of them individually.
Akatsuki is the female lead and a grad school student who looks like she’s twelve. She’s a capable Assassin-Tracker and it shows but her most defining trait is her loyalty to her ‘lord’, Shiroe. Every single time she’s in the limelight, her thoughts and actions are focused on Shiroe. It becomes obvious early on that she has a thing for him and that’s fine and dandy but it gets tiring fast when her entire character revolves around this one guy. After twenty-five episodes, I have no idea who Akatsuki is as a person. But I can tell you that she likes it when she’s close to Shiroe, when Shiroe pays attention to her, that she learned dancing to dance with Shiroe, that she gets jealous of other women close to Shiroe…and do you see a pattern here? Akatsuki is Shiroe’s ninja and that’s all she is. Season two separated the two and seemed to be developing her character as being no longer dependant on Shiroe but even then, it circled right back to the guy right before I gave up on the show.
I said there are no women in leadership roles in this anime but Marielle is technically the leader of the small guild Crescent Moon Alliance. She’s also utterly useless and wouldn’t get anything done without Shiroe or her accountant Henrietta. Sure, she’s got the ‘undying optimism that warms the hearts of all’ thing going for her but for all that the anime tried to hammer it into my head that she’s charismatic, all I ever saw was a whining mess who didn’t know the meaning of responsibility and was wholly preoccupied with having fun. No, there’s nothing wrong with the latter but when the setting is a game trap where the characters have no idea what’s going on, someone who whines – I’m not using that word without reason since that’s literally what she does, complete with rolling around on the floor – about beach trips and festivals is going to be nothing but grating. My least favorite arcs in the show were a result of Marielle’s direct involvement.
I don’t know who voiced this character and I’m not going to check because I don’t want to wish atrocities on some hapless voice actor who was just doing their job. Serara is the only Log Horizon character who was downright painful to watch. I have no words for how irritating she was. Worry not, I’ll tell you why. We first see her as this classic damsel-in-distress but this situation actually makes sense. That’s the only excuse I’m making for her because from that point on, what we see is her fawning over another player called Nyanta, fantasizing about being his wife and generally blushing/mooning in his direction. Oh and she heals others during some low-level raids but who cares about that? Did I mention that Nyanta is an anthropomorphic cat in the game while Serara looks like she’s ten? He may also be a decade or two older than Serara but that’s one can of worms I am not opening.
Verdict: Annoying x 100
Oh look, it’s that can of worms again. Minori is a middle schooler and part of a love triangle with Shiroe and Akatsuki, both of whom are graduate students. Yeah. And where Serara’s crush on Nyanta is kind of a distance thing, Minori opts for a much more hands on approach that at one point involves hand-feeding the guy. Yeahhh. I’ll just leave that here and move on to the other reasons why I dislike this girl. For starters, she’s pathetic from the get go. I think her situation as a child trapped in the game and then tricked by others is meant to elicit sympathy but her inner monologue which involves a lot of self-recrimination backed up with absolutely no attempt to help herself paints a painfully unremarkable picture. But it’s all fine because Shiroe rescues her in a very convoluted manner and now she can devote her thoughts to her hero-worship slash crush on the guy! No, that’s not an improvement. I dislike love triangles in general but this one is way more irritating than usual.
I actually like Lenessia in a way. A princess who is very much not suited to being a princess, Lenessia was one of Log Horizon’s more interesting characters. She showed a desire to be more than what her station dictated and succeeded in this, pushing past her greatest enemies – her own laziness and cowardice – to do what she believed was right. In that respect, she is admirable. As a character, she’s admirable. The way the story handles her is far less so. To put it bluntly, she’s used by others throughout the show. She goes from becoming a pointless princess to a figurehead princess. Even though it’s her own decisions and heartfelt honesty that opens up a new path for her, both of those is taken advantage of by others, namely Shiroe. It doesn’t help that her later appearances seems to bring her back to square one. So in the end, while Lenessia is a genuinely interesting, she has very little agency within the story itself.
Verdict: Had potential
These aren’t the only women in Log Horizon of course, just the ones that stood out to me. And as you can see, my impression of them is less than favorable. Even some of the other notable female characters suffer Lenessia’s fate where their more compelling traits are undermined by something else.
There are stories that won’t have characters of one particular gender. A male sports anime/club won’t have many female characters just like a female sports/club anime won’t have many male characters. That happens and it’s fine. But that’s not the case here. There are plenty of women in Log Horizon but they’re portrayed in less than flattering ways. It’s impossible to ignore that and this nagged at me during the course of the season and also afterwards. Maybe season two rectifies some of these issues but I can’t comment on what I haven’t seen.