Log Horizon Review
Log Horizon – Almost Like SAO With Half The Hate!
Ohhhhhhhh boy. This is a hard subject for me – for the past year or so, there’s been a horrendous trend amongst anime fans on the Internet of bandwagonning incredibly hard only to turn around and hate on the subject they once loved.
To begin with, there’s the issues that went down with Sword Art Online (though complaints ARE valid, namely the forced love triangles, forced romantic relationships, not calling it “sex” at all, and Kirito being a walking special snowflake), and now we’re already seeing the hate bandwagon for Edge La Ed…er, Kill La Kill. Let’s not even get started on the hate that accompanied Attack on Titan, after awhile~!
Unlike SAO though, I simply cannot fathom the mindless, red-roaring rage against KLK and AoT. BUT, to each their own.
With all that stated, I was almost against watching Log Horizon – worried that the bias of the Internet might skew how I view this show.
STILL, I did give in to the urge to watch it. I watched every episode they have on Crunchyroll right now – 24 in total
And Log Horizon, as a product, is both impressive yet neutral at the same time. Slightly warmer than lukewarm, even.
First and foremost, there are the inevitable comparisons to Sword Art Online (and the excellent .Hack before it). It’s an MMO environment where somehow players have been sucked into a fantasy game world that they must now contend with, as well as each other
As always in such a staple, there’s the Player-Killers, the selfish and greedy, and the strong bandit types that are oppressing the common players. There is “The Apocalypse,” the day when the players themselves are sucked into the world of the Elder Tales MMORPG (this is a mouse-and-keyboard type MMO), throwing the player characters into uncertainty and distrust. This is a lawless, savage world filled with monsters trying to kill them, and while the interface is similar, they must now learn how to live in the game; activating skills, ordering food – all from hologram-like windows that open before them. The messaging system is more like telepathy than anything. They must learn to get by while adjusting to this new world that is invariably out to kill them.
Where it’s unlike SAO is where one might find it interesting – there is no permadeath, and coin of the realm is insanely easy to acquire. Kill a couple of easy monsters and you’ve got money for food and a night at the inn. The food is tasteless, but filling, and the mélange of day-to-day business is adds to the stress of learning the rules of a new world as well as the fear of being preyed upon by stronger characters and guilds.
Instead, there is a new problem that arises where death is meaningless – kidnapping, holding someone against their will, slave labor. At one point there is a guild who pointedly recruits and enslaves low-level players to harvest their “Exp Pots” – items given to players under level 30 one a day that grant you buffs and experience, selling them to higher-level guilds who have turned a blind eye to the methods of how this guild has acquired them.
Enter the main protagonists, two of which were part of a legendary non-guild raid group known as “Debauchery Tea Party” – Naotsugu (a Guardian, the tank of the Elder Tales game) and Shiroe (an Enchanter, a buff/debuff specialist and magic-user), best known as the “Villain in Glasses” or “Shiroe the Strategist.” They are swiftly joined by an Assassin, Akatsuki, who had journeyed with Shiroe (with a male avatar nonetheless) before the Apocalypse, calling him “M’lord” and deferring to him under the excuse that she felt she owed him.
Naturally, it’s pretty freakin’ obvious from episode 1 that she’s in love with the guy.
With her penchant to knee/kick/punch Naotsugu in the face whenever he acts openly perverted, you now have the reoccurring character interaction. Either you’re into such things, or you are not – as a running gag it’s cute enough (she’ll hit him and THEN ask for permission from Shiroe to hit him), but that’s part of the overall problem with Log Horizon.
Y’see, there’s a lot of preconceived notions about the show that the content simply does not live up to. One could make an argument concerning how oblivious some of the other characters are compared to Shiroe, but that’s part of the problem really. His actions don’t live up to the hype (WARNING: SPOILERS AHOY!) – his plan to rescue the lower-leveled types was convoluted and overly complicated his plan to buy one of the most important buildings (thus granting him admin control over what’s allowed within the confines) was outright, almost furiously insipid due to the plot-related amnesia that ALL of the high-leveled, veteran players suddenly had concerning such a thing. Some of these people have played this game for anywhere from 5-8 years and they just happened to not remember that you could buy such buildings? Even the idea that NO ONE but Nyanto, a cat-humanoid swashbuckler/chef and also an ex-Debauchery Tea Party member, had ever tried making real-tasting food by having a high-level chef as their subclass?
Now, where it shines is where it does things differently than its predecessors. Where SAO was all about the flashy fighting action, Log Horizon is about the world itself, the world-building and how the people involved come to get along on this new world, its inhabitants. The single most impressive feature of Log Horizon are the NPC’s and how they begin to operate beyond their initial programming.
The interaction between the somewhat-chaotic Player Characters and the People of the Land (as they call the NPC’s) is incredibly interesting, especially as Shiroe established his own guild (the titular “Log Horizon,” with Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Nyanto and a few others in tow) and starts delving into forcing the other major guilds into an alliance and starts developing new technologies, spells, and pushing the boundaries of the world that they’re in.
Then they’re all reminded that they’re in an MMO as a massive Raid monster (which no one has kept in check – part of the Elder Tales story is that they must raid the goblins and keep their numbers down, else they crown one of their number King and start raiding the PC’s in turn) is now preparing to bear down on them and remind them that, oh yeah, you’re in an MMO.
AS an MMO, either you like the idea of Elder Tales or you don’t. The fighting system is standard, until the Special Snowflake Clause kicks in – as an assassin, Akatsuki has the ability to one shot chains of other players, and then there’s the incredibly overpowered tank ability Anchor Howl (snatches aggression and forces all enemies to focus on the tank lest they suffer a powerful counterattack) and the enchanter ability Thorn Bind Hostage (halts movement of a target and for every attack they suffer from the enchanter’s party member they lose 1000 HP). Despite how incredibly powerful these abilities are, there seems to be no other enchanters, tanks, OR damage dealers able to do anything similar.
Log Horizon is one of those titles that needs to simmer before it gets hot, starting as it does at a slow burn before eventually revealing more secrets. While that’s not a bad thing, it might not be your cup of tea either – this is very much an anime about atmosphere, about how players (and NPC’s even) work together either as small groups are much larger ones. This is very much about the (coughcoughCONVOLUTEDcoughcough) machinations of Shiroe and friends in harnessing and bringing together both the combat-based and merchant-based guilds, to create an alliance and simply give the people something to do. If you consider Log Horizon on its own merit, it’s at least worth your while to watch it past the first six episodes.
If you compare it to its predecessors, though, prepare to get yer bandwagon-jumpin’ boots on.
It’s gonna be a vicious ride.