Anime Spotlight: Log Horizon

Log Horizon is an anime based on a novel series by Mamare Touno. The anime is produced by Satelight, and is directed by Shinji Ishihara. The 25-episode series aired on Japanese television from October 5, 2013-March 22, 2014.

As of this writing, Sentai Filmworks holds the North American distribution license for Log Horizon.

Log Horizon tells the tale of what happens when players of an MMORPG game mysteriously find themselves actually inside the game. The game in question is called Elder Tale, and the mysterious event takes place when its 12th expansion, “Novasphere Pioneers,” is added.

The main character is Shiroe, who the audience follows from the time he discovers that he’s in the game. During the first episode, Shiroe meets with four other players from the game: Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Marielle, and Henrietta. Marielle and Henrietta are both members of the Crescent Moon Alliance.

Shiroe and the others end up being asked by the Crescent Moon Alliance for help. A girl named Serara was sent to Susukino on the Day of the Apocalypse and hasn’t returned; they have heard that she was attacked by a Player Killer but was saved by a good player and is now protected by this good player. When they rescue Serara, Shiroe discovers the good player is Nyanta, an old friend of Shiroe’s.

The adventurers start learning how to make the food in the world actually have flavor; they also begin interacting with the non-player characters (known in the game as “People of the Land”) and realize that the People of the Land have interesting backstories that were never revealed while they played the game.

Shiroe and his friends learn about the trouble that’s been brewing in Akihabara, the town they have been staying at. The various guilds have fallen into ranks, with bigger guilds determining the town’s feel and rules, as well as priority for the market and hunting grounds. A guild called Hamelin has been gathering new players, claiming they want to help them; instead, they take the new players’ EXP pots, items that slightly increase attack power and health regeneration and double the experience earned from combat. Hamelin is taking the EXP pots and selling them to the Black Sword Knights, a guild that’s trying to get to a level of 91, since the expansion upped the experience level cap from 90 to 100.

It turns out that two middle school kids that Shiroe had been mentoring before they ended up in the game were recruited by Hamelin, and Shiroe comes up with a plan to help the new players escape from the guild. The first step of his plan is to open a refreshment stand to sell the food with flavor that they have developed; the stand becomes an instant success. The next step involves convincing the other guilds to help provide money for the mission to rescue the adventurers from Hamelin, and holding a conference with several guilds. The end result sees the Round Table Conference being established in Akihabara and the rescue of the new players from Hamelin. Shiroe also forms his own guild called Log Horizon.

Once Shiroe’s guild is formed, the players discover other ways they can set the rules for Akihabara that weren’t already established in the game, and they gain the notice of the nobility of the People of the Land. The rest of the series focuses on training newer players, representatives of the Round Table being invited to a conference of the lords of the people of the land, and the things the adventurers end up doing to try to protect not only Akihabara, but the People of the Land as well.

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on Log Horizon after watching the first episode; not only was the pacing a little on the slow side, but there wasn’t much in that episode to make the series stand out from other series with a similar premise; however, I was willing to give the second episode a chance. Now that I’ve made it through the whole series, I can look back now and be proud of myself for not giving up on Log Horizon after one episode.

As the series progressed, it started delving into aspects of being trapped in a game that other similar series rarely seem to touch on. These things included the Player Killers and the questions their existence created for the main characters, the food not having any taste until the players figure out how to expand beyond using the main game controls to create food, coming up with their own alliance and rules to govern an area in the game, coming up with technology that doesn’t already exist in the game, and having in-depth interactions with the non-player characters.

Another thing that stands out to me is the fact that many of the characters don’t simply fall into the usual stereotypes associated with fantasy MMORPG games. In addition, I also appreciated that Log Horizon has several strong female characters. The females aren’t simply there to provide sex appeal of eye candy; they are just as complicated and developed as the male characters.

It was announced at the end of Episode 25 that a new season of Log Horizon would begin in Fall 2014, which made me very happy. The end of Episode 25 establishes a strong foundation for the second season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series will continue. I hope the second season of Log Horizon is just as good as the first season was!

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