Director: Shinji Ishihara, Series Composition: Toshizo Nemoto, Original Creator: Mamare Touno, Character Designer/Chief Animation Director: Mariko Ito, Art Director: Yuki Nomura, Story: Syouji Masuda
Voice Actors: Takuma Terashima (Shiroe), Tomoaki Maeno (Naotsugu), Emiri Kato (Akatsuki), Jouji Nakata (Nyanta), Minami Takahashi (Asuka), Nao Tamura (Minori)
The fantasy MMORPG Elder Tale is a hugely popular slice of entertainment but when 30,000 Japanese gamers and countless thousands around the world find themselves trapped in the fantasy world it becomes a very real slice of life complete with all of the dangers, mobs and grinding. Shiroe is one of the gamers trying to survive alongside his friend Naotsugu, a beautiful assassin named Akatsuki and Nyanta, a mysterious player who looks like a cat.
Log Horizon was one of the autumn season anime I was willing to give three episodes to impress me. I love JRPG’s and I had just completed Etrian Odyssey on the Nintendo DS so I was ready for an anime which used the genre to good effect but the overall experience was lacking for me.
Five episodes in and the best I could say was that I didn’t hate Log Horizon. The obvious thing is to point out how the concept of the show is similar to Sword Art Online with the idea of characters being trapped in an online MMORPG and engaging in a game of survival.
I watched Sword Art Online for a while before dropping it but Log Horizon seemed like a good bet because it differentiated itself and scored big points with me by being less ponderous and by being very JRPG literate and I wanted something that would remind me of Etrian Odyssey and the cast of kawaii characters I grew attached to over the course of many hours directing in that horrible labyrinth.
The proliferation of on-screen text and GUI’s is pretty accurate and, if we’re honest, easy to get right just as much as the absurdly innocuous enemies faced in these games – levelling up by beating rats and slimes etc.
Anybody who has played Etrian Odyssey will have tales of being murdered by a seemingly cute but incredibly violent and deadly pack of rabid squirrels or rolled over by a devilish-looking mole at the beginning of the game never mind towards the end when things start getting really tense and you break into a nervous sweat and start shaking as you’re chased down crystalline tunnels with some psychotic Succubus or the Teralich breathing down your neck.
What really hooked me about Log Horizon was its visual setting. The art animation and characters were simply great looking.
Character designer Mariko Ito and art director Yuki Nomura pretty much nail the visual aspect of the show perfectly. It’s very well animated and the setting is an evocative alternative fantasy world which would pass muster with the many RPGS.
Having come off the back of Etrian Odyssey I loved the monsters and some of the fights did look good unfortunately the writing was, for me at least, pretty dull.
The setting and characters were hurriedly introduced with little effort to build or shine a light on potential overarching narrative to keep me interested.
The characters didn’t make much of an impression beyond being archetypes. Shiroe is very intelligent, a great strategist and his brain is a weapon and he provides the info-dumps and explains plot points.
Akatsuki is deadly and CUTE and can be the waifu to draw the otaku audience in.
Naotsugu is a tank, a brawny ecchi character who provides the comedy.
Nothing offbeat or original to keep me watching, all totally familiar. Again, nothing wrong with that but it didn’t hold my interest especially as the adventures seemed so small-scale and lack any urgency.
Being stuck online in an MMO should be a earth-shattering thing but there was little mention of how or why people were trapped in the game and what happened to people’s physical bodies outside of it, how the authorities were dealing with the issue of people being stuck online. It turns out dying in game can lead to re-spawning so all of the tension dropped out of the show. At least Sword Art Online did tackle these ideas and the fact that people dying in game died in the real world. Furthermore there seemed like goals were established in the first episode while this Log Horizon meanders around.
Five episodes and the biggest problem the characters faced were player-killers who stalked lower level players and food which tasted really bland. A rescue mission was launched to save a moe maid girl who was being bullied by some overpowered character and that was it.
The world and the battles may have looked good but in the effort to show faithfulness to MMO’s the execution and the dialogue characters babbled made me feel like I was watching a “let’s play Etrian Odyssey video” on YouTube without amusing commentary or the tension of playing through the nightmarish levels.
Shiroe would calmly talk at his enemies and the audience as he narrated every encounter and battle explaining the moves and how tactics and classes, how buffs and debuffs, passive skills and all that technical stuff worked. If you’re playing a game, an interactive experience, then that stuff is fascinating and important because understanding that knowledge and using it is the difference between winning and losing but watching anime is a passive experience. Sure it may adds depth and for anyone interested in the mechanics of videogames and for those who totally unaware of how things operate it must be reassuring to hear long-winded explanations but it’s not the most exciting thing to watch or listen to as characters talked at each other. It didn’t add anything like a personality to the world or the characters.
At 25 episodes I’m totally open to the idea that this is world-building and things will improve later on and the anime’s potential has yet to be revealed but despite this promise I cannot justify spending 25 minutes a week watching this when I don’t feel a thing for what is going on unlike in Samurai Flamenco and Kyousogiga which always, always get a reaction from me. Yes the world was inventive, beautiful and engaging but the writing and characters weren’t. I have a lot of films, anime and doramas to watch so I dropped this in favour of those other titles.