Review of Log Horizon (Part One)

loghorizon

Gadzooks! The appearance of Log Horizon in UK stores has got my plagiarism senses buzzing… and who can blame me? This anime adaptation of the books written by Mamare Touno (a naughty author who was recently charged for dabbling in tax evasion) is set in a fantasy MMORPG where the players are trapped and unable to log out. Hmmm, that sounds awfully similar to the smash hit series Sword Art Online doesn’t it? I shouldn’t be surprised though, as anime history is rife with examples of popular shows serving as the inspiration for pretenders looking to emulate the original’s success. The resurgence of magical girl shows after Madoka Magica took Japan by storm is proof enough of that. The question is whether Log Horizon is a shameless rip off or a show worthy of your precious cartoon watching time. Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

The popular online role-playing game Elder Tales (not to be confused with the unpopular Elder Scrolls Online) has just released an expansion pack attracting thousands of players back to its servers. Virtual adventurers far and wide are keen to explore the new Novasphere Pioneer levels, but little do they know that the expansion’s new content could potentially keep them occupied for literally a lifetime. For some unexplained reason, the Elder Tale fanatics are teleported to a virtual reality recreation of the MMO and bestowed with both the look and powers of their in-game characters. Sounds like a larper’s dream come true, were it not for the fact that there is no way of exiting the game and returning home.

Log Horizon shares its name with the guild founded by a bespectacled chap named Shiroe. Back in Japan Shiroe is nothing more than a humble grad student, but in the online world of Elder Tales he’s a mighty spell caster who is renowned for his strategic mind. Shiroe forms the Log Horizon group to protect the vulnerable and establish order in the lawless virtual land he now finds himself in. Aiding the sorcerer in his endeavours are his travelling companions Naotsugu and Akatsuki. Naotsugu, a beefy knight clad in armour, is the muscle of the team and an unabashed womanizer whilst Akatsuki is a sneaky ninja who specializes in tracking. Despite being a lone wolf Akatsuki pledges her loyalty to Shiroe after he uses his magical gifts to switch her gender from male to female (via the consumption of a sex change potion.) Enchanted brews are quicker than hormone treatment and considerably less painful than going under the knife!

VERDICT

Having watched part one of Log Horizon (courtesy of MVM Entertainment’s DVD set, which contains the first thirteen episodes) I’m pleased to report that my concerns over the show’s originality have now dissipated. Although Log Horizon and Sword Art Online share a similar premise the way they go about telling their stories is very different. Out of the two SAO has the more straightforward plot – focusing on a couple that have to conquer a tower in order to escape their virtual confines. Log Horizon on the other hand is slower paced and boasts a larger ensemble cast. Thirteen episodes into the series and I’m still unsure where the script is heading. The story arcs contained in this inaugural collection are simply content with exploring how society acclimatizes to life in a fantasy world.

Slower paced doesn’t however mean that Log Horizon is dull (thankfully this MMO caper is no .hack clone.) The series may not be as action packed as SAO, but it still has it’s fair share of battles. Early on for example Shiroe’s party is forced to tangle with both hostile monsters and an unfriendly group of players. The later episodes are more dialogue heavy, with the narrative shifting towards politics between the adventurers and sentient NPCs, but I was never bored thanks to the amiable cast. As a Spice and Wolf fan I especially enjoyed the business centric arc were Shiroe begins to procure funds by opening up a medieval McDonalds. The show’s regular doses of comedy also help keep things from getting stale. The adorable Akatsuki is regularly in the thick of the laughs, be it in scenes were she smacks Naotsugu for being a perv or moments were admirers cannot resist giving her a hug.

My rating for part one of Log Horizon is four stars. It exceeded my expectations, so I am looking forward to watching the rest of season one. I’ll eventually get round to watching season two as well, although I hear that the quality dips from that point on due to an unwelcome change in studio.

8 thoughts on “Review of Log Horizon (Part One)

  1. RE: “players are trapped and unable to log out. Hmmm, that sounds awfully similar”
    You might say that the movie TRON was the first to do the “Help, I’m trapped in a computer” theme that started in the early 1980s.
    : )

  2. I have to agree that this show exceeded my expectations and was a lot of fun but the idea that it is ostensibly a retread of SAO I think will hurt it in the long run in the eyes of many fans..

  3. Absolutely Judge. Deen did a shody job of it. I just hope that if the series gets season 3, it either goes back to satelite or another studio (pref back to satelite). The show gets compared to SAO alot. SAO is more character driven (just Kirito and Asuna), whilst LH is more world / story driven. And it uses MMO terms more often than SAO.

  4. What I love about Log Horizon is that it departs from the traditional “we need to clear the game/return to the real world” theme and instead focuses on characters rebuilding their lives in this new fantastical world, dealing with politics, economy, and creating a new civilisation.

    I’m watching the 2nd season at the moment and it’s really good 🙂

  5. It indeed did exceed expectations. Like you I thought it was going to be another SAO, which would have been a shame. SAO was great for what it was but Log Horizon addresses everything that I wanted out of SAO. I’ve started to compare Log Horizon with The Wire in terms of depth of story because Log Horizon isn’t about completing a goal, it’s about the journey. It’s about the people. It’s more about abstract ideas and the expression of those ideas.

    Even with the second season faltering with the studio change it’s still a damn good story. It’s managed to make its way into my all time favorite list of anime.

    Also they’ve starting doing English releases of the light novels. Volume 1 is available and volume 2 the end of July.

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