This is review number two hundred and seventy four. This anime is part of the Fall 2013 lineup. I think I’m halfway to completing the lineup and it’s just in time to see the haul for Spring 2014. I can’t wait to get out of this hell. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is Log Horizon better known as Sword Art Online 2.0. Nah, I’m kidding. SAO sucks. This one is better. It’s a twelve episode anime about people stuck in a game and they can’t log out. Trust me. It’s better than SAO. Let’s read on.
Thirty thousand Japanese players found themselves unable to log out in the Elder Tale game. They all heard to the newest expansion called the Novasphere and decided to give it a whirl. They soon discovered that they are stuck in the game. Our main character, Shiroe, found this a bit unsettling but he still decided to move forward. You can’t die in Elder Tale. You revive in a church. You also can’t log out. Everything available in the game is still possible so you can still level up and enhance your skills. Unable to do anything else, some people has resorted to harassing other players while others want to rule above others. Guilds soon established control over their town called Akihabara and people are forced to join strong guilds just to feel safe. Shiroe doesn’t like this disorganized state and just want people to have fun. He doesn’t want to but he is forced to act and try to rule over the game to establish the peace it used to have.
Taking the Pants Off
Basically, Log Horizon is everything Sword Art Online isn’t. When I saw the first episode, my first reaction was “it’s a SAO rip off” complete with the familiar premise of people being stuck in a game because they can’t log out. The big difference between the two is that Log Horizon is better in so many levels. I have a confession to make. I personally want to smack people who think Sword Art Online is an amazing anime. A-1 Pictures just really made a visually appealing anime that made the concept of RPG anime look cool. A-1 Pictures can do that in its sleep. Seeing how awesome the anime is visually, a bunch of people suddenly started claiming how wonderful the show is. It’s not. It was a bad adaptation of a light novel and every element of the show is horribly executed. When I saw Log Horizon, I immediately wanted to smack it for even attempting to do the same thing SAO did. There’s a good chance this show will fail considering how the previous one did so miserably. In the first episode though, the idea of people might die in this game was looming over people’s heads. A character died….and he respawned just like in the game. This was immediately interesting to me because if the point of this RPG anime isn’t to die then there is no motivation to log out. If there is no desperate clawing to log out then what exactly will this show be about? I think this is the beauty of Log Horizon. It feels familiar and it has an inviting premise but it is also pretty unpredictable. It looks directionless because you can’t die in the game and people aren’t desperate in leaving but it does other things that I personally didn’t think was even an option. The people stuck inside this game decided to live in it. This isn’t a game anymore. It’s now a place where they’ll create a society and decide to live the rest of their days in. It’s an iffy plot that feels hard to pull off but Log Horizon is unpredictable. It can surprise you in the simplest of ways.
The anime follows a guy named Shiroe. He is a really smart guy that analyzes all the components and plans everything in advance. He is joined by his old friend, Naotsugu, and a female assassin, Akatsuki. The first episode basically gave us the same thing Sword Art Online did. A bunch of people are stuck in the game, they are freaking out and there is a bit of depression when people realized they can’t leave. The show then threw a wrench at the whole thing when it was revealed that players who die in the game just revive in a church. Shiroe and his team just talk to various people in the game to try and get a better understanding of things. They also journey from place to place fighting monsters and other players as well. This anime is actually based on a novel so it plays out a bit tricky. Novel anime takes things slow. It has a precise pace that often affects the entire show. It would slow down during some parts to introduce the characters but it’ll make up for it later down the road. It also dumps a lot of information on viewers and asks them to just catch up. This improves the story a lot but it also requires a good amount of patience to pull it off. This was the case for this novel anime as well. The fact that it’s about an RPG game complicates things even more. In the first few episodes, it was just introducing the characters while it is slowly establishing the story. The small details of the game are explained and the basics are presented. Unlike the playing the game, being stuck in it is different. Fights are no longer command base. Players actually move their body and it just comes naturally. Skills are still a heavy aspect of the game. High leveled players can summon some strong skills that can easily defeat an enemy. There are also classes that players have like adventurer, mage, samurai and things like that. There are also NPC characters you can talk to that used to give you quests and rewards you when you complete them. Lastly, players also have a hometown base and Shiroe’s town is called Akihabara. In this town, you can buy food, stock up on things and even form Guilds in a guild hall. Strong guilds can go on raids and complete harder quests while some guilds focuses on other things like improving their craft skills or simply raising money. RPG is a diverse sh*t and this particular novel has actually captured the basics of it and incorporated it in the story. How it affects the overall story itself is still unclear though. The anime just wanted to present the entire scope of this complicated RPG as you watch Shiroe and his team beat up monsters, stop Player Killing (PK), and meet other characters as they handle the situation of being stuck in the game. It might seem overwhelming but, if you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game, then this is really just second nature to you. Also, the fact that it’s already leaps and bounds more interesting than Sword Art Online makes me want to keep watching it.
This anime is a bit directionless though. I’ll point that out now. It lacks a clear direction to where the story is headed. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it is unpredictable. Some people like me who have wasted his time on two hundred and fifty plus of anime has no idea what the show will do next and that fact excites me. It has a lot of things to do and you’re just anticipating which one it’ll do first. It’s bad though because novel anime generally has some lull moments. It’s not just slow parts of the story. There are basically nothing important going on except giving more information to build up the story. With no direction in the story, these lull moments can be unbearable at times. I’ll expand on that later on. For now, let’s talk about the story. This show is divided into a lot of plot points separated by two arcs. They’re not really arcs as more of “chapters” and since this is my review, I’ll now talk about the two chapters. The first chapter is really just about Shiroe and the situation inside the Elder Tale game but more focused on the situation of their homebase, Akihabara. Since teleport gates aren’t running, towns are left to fend for themselves and things proceed like in that Stanford Prison Experiment. Despite being adventurers, some harasses others and some tries to control others. They are all convinced that this is now their reality. Shiroe is known as a really reliable person because of how knowledgeable he is so small guild usually asks for his help from time to time. It’s a good excuse to beat monsters up and display is cool LVL 90 skills so he happily accepts them. He also has a moral code of helping people in need and that also drives him.
The first plot point of the first chapter involves Shiroe and his stance on the status quo of the game. This is more of an internal thing because Shiroe doesn’t join groups or guilds. He feels like he doesn’t deserve to be with others and he has since convinced himself that others are just after his tasty brain. Despite being with two familiar friends, he is still wary of being in a guild. He used to be in one called the Debauchery Tea Party. It’s a group of people that goes on raid quests and completes a lot of difficult ones. They aren’t a team and some belong in different guilds. They just have one thing in common and that’s the fact that they really just enjoy playing Elder Tale. They are so fierce that their group has since become legendary. It’s been disbanded for a long time now though and it’s been a long time since Shiroe played this game after being lured by the Novasphere expansion so it’s unclear if other members are stuck in the game as well. He was a great strategist for the Debauchery Tea Party but ever since it’s been disbanded, he is unsure what to do with his skills. He helps those in need but he is still uncertain what to do from this point on. As he slowly understands the state of the game though, it seems that Shiroe will have to step up and decided once and for all how players inside the game will live forward.
The second plot point is about rescuing this girl named Serara who is stuck in another homebase north of Akihabara. A Guild called the Crescent Moon Guild asked Shiroe to help them rescue a member of theirs stuck in the town. This particular town has become topsy turby where anarchy is unleashed. Players are being harassed by higher level players and some are being forced to join guilds only to be harassed some more. The unruly nature of this particular town also peaks into players killing other players. PKing is when players kill someone else so they can steal their stuff but it’s a result of being stuck in a game where you can’t die or log out. Serara has met the wrath of a guild leader in this town and this guy now wants her head. He’ll force her to join his guild and then he’s going to punish the girl. Shiroe and his team must journey far to reach this isolated town and they’ll have to face a lot of dangers while they’re at it. The things he’ll discover at this isolated town will help Shiroe with his indecisive mind right after he finds a way to stay alive with the entire town as his opponent.
The second plot point is really just a way to introduce the rest of the characters. There are a lot of characters in this anime. There are more than ten of them and the show doesn’t rush into anything. Some plot points are mostly just about them. These characters are going to be introduced properly while Shiroe journey to his destination. There are moments where they’ll be focused solely as they talk to each other building a relationship and the audience slowly understands their personality. The reason for this is because they’ll have a bigger role to play towards the later part of the story. The directionless style of the story doesn’t hint into anything big though as you wonder how a girl with a subclass “maid” could possibly impact the story later on. As I said, novel anime is precise and everything is done for a good reason. The second plot point’s slow progression does give us one satisfying payoff. It culminates into one amazing team battle. It features a wonderful fight scene that I seriously enjoyed. It was like a combination of a shounen fight and an RPG battle. It paced really smartly that you’ll easily be caught up in it. Players fight real time as they hurt each other while the rest are on standby casting heal and magic attack to support other players. The fights are even more exciting though because of the skills each character uses. They’re familiar skills and seeing this complex fight flow smoothly is really something I can’t get enough of. It’s something Sword Art Online couldn’t do and Log Horizon is doing it with ease.
The third plot point is about another character important to the story. Awhile back, Shiroe used to help two children that happened to be twins. They were new to the game so he happily helped them out. They aren’t like the rest of the players only using him and he knew that these guys love playing the game because of how genuine they act. He saw them venture out of town once and didn’t say anything. Now they’re part of this guild where weak players are being forced into labor and strong players are treating them like slaves. It’s the kind of thing Shiroe was afraid of. He believes that everyone has the right to enjoy the game and he doesn’t approve of players taking advantage of others. He has since felt guilty that he let it happen. He blames himself for being indecisive and now players are going to suffer for it. He has allowed things like this to happen and Shiroe now takes it upon himself to fix things. He has decided to deal with all the problems himself. The uneasiness of the town, all the bullying, and the freedom to enjoy the game equally is something Shiroe is going to tackle. The former strategist of the legendary Debauchery Tea Party is now going to act and forever change the state of the game in a rather unremarkable way. Seriously, you won’t see it coming and it is f*cking awesome. Helping the twins and helping the town happens in one fell swoop.
That plan culminates into the fourth plot point. This is really the climax of the first chapter. After realizing the disorder of the other town and the uneasy situation unravelling in his own town, Shiroe decided to act. He was first unsure if he should join a guild because he used to be wary of people but the situation has changed. Shiroe has come up with a plan to change the state of Akihabara for the better and this involves calling a meeting with all the powerful guilds in Akihabara. He came up with an incredible plan to lure them in and then set another to ensure victory. I don’t want to spoil much but this is really the best part of the anime for me. He has called into attention the bad things happening into the town and asks the guilds for help. A lone guy has decided to call every powerful person in town into a meeting asking them to join his cause and you won’t believe how he pulled it off. The fourth plot point also established that this story is far bigger than you’d expect.
One thing you’ll notice is that the people behind locking players inside a game isn’t mentioned anywhere in the story. The characters also don’t feel betrayed by the game. Instead, they decided to live in it and create a society for themselves. They aren’t finding a way to escape and this RPG anime eventually wandered away from the fights and ended up in a sociopolitical story. As I said, this is the beauty of the directionless style of storytelling. Who’d expect Log Horizon was about a guy and his dream of creating a society? While the other important things like escaping the game and revealing the villains aren’t mentioned yet. The story is considerably big that I’m pretty sure it’ll be tackled eventually. One thing I find concerning though is the fact that the anime abandoned the RPG elements that make it unique and somehow build another thing out of it. Why toss it aside? Seeing awesome characters just grind their way into a dungeon is something I feel Log Horizon can do easily. Instead, as the story takes shape, we find Shiroe moving from a forest dungeon into an office talking with other characters of the game. It is a bit counter intuitive. It’s as if the show doesn’t want to be an RPG anime and plans to be more than that. It’s actually a brilliant thing but if you focus too much on the sociopolitical angle and just let characters talk then the anime will easily become boring. It’s something that happens in the second chapter of the show.
The second chapter has Akihabara establishing itself as a city where players are free to do anything besides beating monsters up. As another nod to the smart directionless storytelling of the show, the second chapter introduces the NPC characters. These are villagers in a town that usually has just certain dialogue when you talk to them. Every RPG game has one. When the players have gained their freedom, the NPC notices it. Actually, they’re called “People of the Land” in the game and they’re actual people living in the game. The consider players as savages that used to be satisfied just taking quests from them. The people of the land are actually a complex bunch of people. They have ruling officials governing them and these people has taken interest in Shiroe and the other people taking care of Akihabara. Shiroe has once stated that the people of the land might declare war on the players but it’s completely up to them. To open diplomatic relations, Shiroe and his group are asked to attend a gathering held at one of the NPCs kingdom. Shiroe obliged only to gain information from them but the people of the land are shady political people. Shiroe is on his guard to make sure he isn’t caught up in the politics.
Oh boy, this is a fairly big chapter with a lot of things going on. One thing is certain though, the RPG fighting is reduced and a lot more talking and establishing relationship is highlighted. This is a fairly slow part of the anime and this is also where a novel anime can really test you. Despite being halfway through the anime, the anime is still introducing more characters. I don’t mind it if we get to see that as long as a player rip apart a cow or something but the second half just have them talking. They just talk and talk and talk. Throughout the entire second chapter, there are only two episodes fighting so think about that. That’s ten episodes of dialogue and setting up the story despite the fact that you’ve already endured too many of that in the first chapter. It’s a new story so the show kind of started on a new slate. The directionless style damages the show here. Various episodes are about two characters building a relationship and some of them are so goddamn boring I couldn’t finish the show. I’m at a point where I no longer care for new characters. I want to see more fighting now because the first chapter owe us that much. When the NPCs are introduced, I thought the show might enter an actual war between the players and the NPCs. Shiroe opted for a diplomatic discussion that feels like a smart route while you’re feeling out the rest of the story but it’s really boring to the point where you just want something exciting to happen. You want some pay off for sitting through dialogue after dialogue and the directionless style hints at nothing coming your way. It’s painful.
The first plot point of the second chapter is about the relationship of the NPCs and the players. As Shiroe stated, neither has an idea what the other is capable of. We are treated to a lot of conversations regarding how to proceed with the other group. It’s a smart political aspect that you’d never expect an RPG game would have. We also get an idea at how the people of the land operate. Their power is based on ranks and people at the top uses underhanded means to get things done. It’s the shady kind of political dirty tactics that I personally enjoy watching because you’ll wonder how Shiroe would enter the mix. He has since gained a reputation among the other players as “the Villain in Glasses” and now you’re eager to see how he’ll come up with a plan to deal with the people of the land. Of course, you’ll also see a lot of dialogue between the NPCs as they find a way to deal with the players. The people of the land rule with politics but the players move on a much different style so they’ll be coming up of a plan as well to use the players power’s to their advantage.
The second plot point is about a training camp held by a few of the leaders of Akihabara. It’s a way to teach low level players how to play the game properly. This plot point mostly follows the adventure of the recently saved twins, Minori and Tohya, as they work in a group with other newbies. Much like the first plot point, this is also pretty damn slow. It actually starts with the leaders planning the training camp all the way to Minori and Tohya joining other newbies. The progression is slow and it made me feel a bit impatient that I am being subjected to such boring trifle when I wanted to see Shiroe fight or come up with another brilliant plan to turn things into his favor. Instead, you’re seeing the newbies fight in a dungeon as they try to finish the task set upon them. This plot point also focuses on a lot of characters. The first one is Minori, who looks up to Shiroe and takes all of the dude’s advice and incorporates them into her own plans. She has a brilliant mind but she is pretty weak willed. Shiroe is regarded as a man who is always three steps ahead of others making him a fierce person. It was mentioned that Minori actually has the same kind of potential and the seeds are being planted in this plot point. Can she overcome her weakness to come out on top and one day be as good as Shiroe? It’s going to take time though and this training camp is a perfect place to start honing her skills.
Aside from her, we are also introduced to Isuzu and Rundelhaus Code. Isuzu is a bard and a member of Minori’s team. She isn’t really sure how her bard skills can help her team. She has great supportive skills but she doesn’t know her team long enough to decide how to help them. She has a connection with Rundelhaus Code, a cocky sorcerer that believes he is better than everyone in his group. He easily gets under people’s skin because of the things he carelessly says but he has strong determination that others can respect. Isuzu and Rundel have a good relationship because Isuzu sees Rundel’s bragging as nothing more than a fluffy dog wagging his tail. It’s a pretty funny set up. Rundel has a secret though. Elder Tale has certain rules and regulations that players follow. Apparently, Rundel is breaking one of them and he is risking his life by breaking it. How he handles this secret starts by trusting the rest of his training camp buddies.
The third plot point is about this player named Crusty, one of the high ranking guild leaders, having a lovely relationship with the a princess of the NPCs named Lenessia Cowen. I honestly have no idea why the anime took out slashing monsters to things like this but, for what it’s worth, it is a pretty cute side story. While the people of the land and the players are feeling each other out, Crusty boldly took a first move and befriended the princess of the kingdom. She is obviously a bit wary at first but Crusty is a scheming individual. He seems to know what the princess is thinking and he can predict every action she might take which fascinates the princess. The main focus of this plot point though is the fact that the princess detests the political douchebaggery of the NPC as they try to take advantage of the players. She actually envies the other side as they live about freely completely unchained by responsibilities of any kind. She actually she wishes she can be like them and Crusty is always the supportive guy behind her. Her wish might come true though when trouble brewed and the NPCs and the players are faced with the same problem.
The second chapter ultimately culminates into the fourth plot point. It features demi-humans. There is apparently a quest that has a time limit. When it expires, hell will be unleashed. Hell in this sense is ten thousand goblins taking up arms and raiding villages and killing people. The people of the land are being slaughtered by goblins and they don’t have enough power to face them. Quests have stopped a long time ago so this wrinkle has been kept unresolved until it bursts into this mess. The players are now given a decision to help the NPCs and save their ass or just go kill and complete the quest. For diplomatic reasons, a more intelligent decision is required. The NPCs are still busy to ask for the players help though and others are forced to take action. All the plot points meet into this one. The newbies in their training camp, the diplomats talking with the NPCs, the princess unable to break from her duties and an adventurer with a secret all has a climactic moment in the last plot point. The dangers the goblins are causing are too high for anyone to sit still so delicacy is eventually thrown out the window.
Goddamn, this is a long review and it’s not yet finished. The show also touches upon a lot of things to set up the third chapter. Apparently, there are different kinds of magic and the most powerful one is a world class magic that can affect the rules of the Elder Tale game. Such magic was only used three times in the course of the game. The first one gave birth to demi-humans such as goblins. The second was the summoning of the players who are immortal warriors that was created to kill the demi-humans. The third happened when the Novasphere expansion trapped players inside the game and made them unable to log out. This was just briefly mentioned in the anime and I’m pretty sure it’ll be presented in the third chapter. Along with that are the ruling players of the other hometowns. Akihabara is just one of them and they’re all cut out because of the teleport gate being out of power. While Shiroe was tampering with a world class magic of his own, someone in the west is doing the same. Another player is also attempting to create a world class magic but they are more shady that Shiroe. They seem to have formulated a plan with the NPCs to do something drastic and evil. The plan will be revealed in the third chapter. This particular chapter is not in the anime. It’ll be in another season set to come out in Fall 2014. All of the boring things established in the first and second chapter seem to build up in another chapter. I really just wish we get more fights because this anime owes us a full scale war that it keeps hinting at.
Characters are all one dimensional. You might think that they have a wonderful personality but they’re really just bound by their role. Shiroe is a smart calculating character with some human compassion to present from time to time. He isn’t as engaging as you’d expect but you will learn to appreciate his role in the show. That’s basically all you get from the characters. I do applaud the show for managing to handle so many characters. Even though some are shoved to the sidelines, they still have enough presence to standout. Sadly, not enough to truly make them memorable but it’s still a damn good effort for such a large scale story. I look back at how horrible Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon was handled and I have to admire how precise Log Horizon is. Like the story though, some characters really take time to develop. I bet by the time the third chapter is revealed, certain characters will stand out because of how wonderfully established they are in this show. From Shiroe’s teammates to the Guild members to the NPC officials, I can’t wait how big of a role these characters will have.
Satelight is the last studio I would’ve think of when you mention an RPG anime with a layered story such as this one. Satelight is a mediocre studio. They excel in mecha designs and stuff like that but they don’t really know how to do things smartly. I can’t believe it’s the same studio that gave us SymphoGear and AKB0048. Those two shows have some enjoyable elements but they don’t offer much entertainment. I guess the novel is really smart but Satelight was able to adapt it in such a meticulous way that I’m surprised it was better than anything they release so far. Oh my god, this is a pleasant surprise. They now have a duty to make sure season two is the payoff the first season left out. I’ve never heard of Shinji Ishihira. Apparently, he directed Fairy Tale so that’s a great accomplishment. I guess I should thank him for wonderfully adapting such a complex novel with the way Log Horizon is presented. I can’t wait for Fall 2014. I just hope it’s not as long as Fall 2013 because I could barely finish this one.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty decent. It lacks the flashy appeal you’d expect from RPG characters but there are still enough details to make them look like decent RPG characters. I think it’s mostly Satelight’s bland color palette that damaged the potential of the characters. If this was A-1 Pictures then the characters would be ten times more flashy and I guess that’s an edge SAO have of Log Horizon. There is a nice range in the characters body designs though and I particularly like that. There are small characters and tall ones, there are fat ones and slim ones and there are big breasted ones while others are flat. It’s a shame because there are some crazy potential untapped in the designs. There are also different creatures like cat humans and elves and I think there are some birds and it gives you an idea how diverse the designs are. I also love the outfits because it compliments a character’s personality. Some fierce characters have awesome armor on covering their entire body. Most kind characters have simpler clothes on that makes them look unthreatening but RPG appropriate as well. Shiroe’s design is decent. I love the large cape covering his boy and the staff that he carries. A few more small designs and I think the characters could’ve given us more beyond what the story dictates.
Animation is pretty decent. Fight scenes are nicely paced and there are enough effects to make them stand out. From busting out skills to summoning magic, there is some decent animation to really engage the audience. This is also the reason why most dialogue scenes suck ass because you’re drawn into the fights and you aren’t getting enough of it. It is missing some more details as well though to truly elevate the fights. Some buildings being destroyed or the earth cracking would’ve made the fights more awesome. I also would’ve loved to see cut scenes for every summon to capture the RPG appeal more but that’s just me. There is some CG in the show but it’s stiff. I guess Satelight can’t make good CG unless its mecha and it’s clearly a fact in this show. The way they presented the CG sahagins was a bit weak and it was lacking cinematography when the show entered full scale war. It had all the components except some good visuals to back it up.
The anime’s OP is “database feat. TAKUMA (10 Feet)” by MAN WITH A MISSION. It’s a pretty cool song. It has some English lyrics that make the song flashy and the rap lyrics are pretty great. I love the verse but I think the chorus is a bit stupid albeit catchy. The singer has some awesome voice so I wouldn’t mind listening to the whole song. The OP sequence pretty much gave us a summary of the anime but the scenes won’t make any sense until it actually happens and I love that aspect of the sequence. It also introduces all the characters in a pretty flashy sequence as well. The anime’s ED is “Your song*” by Yun*chi. This is a fluffy love song with some pretty incredible rhythm to it accompanied by the singer’s amazing voice. It’s a song about falling in love with someone and it’s really great because of how the singer sung it. The ED sequence features Akatsuki, the female assassin, strolling through a rainy Akihabara just looking cute and such. It then shifts into a scene where she and Shiroe stand side by side in a field hinting at a romance between the two. It never materializes in the show but I think it’ll play a huge part in the next chapters.
7/10 “It’s dialogue heavy and it resists every opportunity to give us an amazing anime experience.”
It might seem like a low score but I think the show could’ve done more. All it needed was a good balance between the dialogue and the fights. It captured a world SAO wasn’t able to present so it’s disappointing that it didn’t feature it as much. If you’ve seen SAO then you should be pleasantly surprised with this one. If you like fantasy anime then you’ll enjoy this show. If you’re a fan of slow build ups and satisfying climaxes then you’ll love this show as well. The characters are engaging and the story is interesting. Basically, this show is like planting a flower. You watch it sprout as you water it and see every leaf branch out until it blooms into a beautiful plant. It’s a slow process but you know it’s worth it.