Saturday, August 31, 2019

REVIEW: Log Horizon: Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Log Horizon is a fantasy series. It's 50 episodes long and licensed by Sentai Filmworks.


Shiroe and a bunch of other Elder Tales players logged on in order to experience the release of the game's newest expansion pack. However, something strange happened, and now everyone is trapped in the bodies of their game avatars, in a world that is a weird blend of the real world and the Elder Tales world. Everyone has to relearn how things work - for example, no one can die (you just wake up in the Cathedral of the last town you visited or at the nearest dungeon respawn point), the gates used in the game to quickly travel between towns don't work for some reason, and even the most delicious-looking meal tastes like soggy plain crackers, while all drinks taste like water.

Shiroe is an Elder Scrolls player whose avatar is a half-Alv Enchanter. Although his level is high, his class means that he can't win battles on his own - he works best in parties, providing support, coming up with battle strategies, and monitoring the flow of the battle as a whole. It isn't long before he teams up with two friends of his from the game: Naotsugu, a Guardian, and Akatsuki, an Assassin. Together, they attempt to figure this new world out, try to figure out what caused the Catastrophe in the first place and whether there's a way to undo it, and do what they can to create a functional, livable, and possibly even enjoyable new society.

This definitely isn't a perfect series: it's bloated in places, the pacing is sometimes terrible, the number of female characters falling for Shiroe (who remained oblivious) became really annoying, and the series as a whole was too ambitious for its own good, trying to include too much detail and too many characters. But I enjoyed it anyway.

Although the level of detail was a bit much at times, I loved how much thought was put into all levels of this series, from the Elder Tales game everyone remember playing to the different ways in which societal rules had been broken and needed to put rebuilt. Okay, so no one could truly die and food and shelter were relatively easy to come by, but that left people with no real goals to work towards. Also, the available food was depressing. Shiroe quickly realized that folks were going to need a reason to keep on going, as well as activities to keep them busy so that they didn't engage in player killing (killing other players for their loot) and other destructive activities.

Newbie players were at a huge disadvantage - if someone didn't look out for them and help them learn to fight and level up, they were at the mercy of higher level players. Also, players who'd used avatars that were vastly different from their real selves in some way - taller, or shorter, or a different sex - suddenly had to adjust to having a vastly different body. Honestly, considering how often real-life gamers tend to use avatars that don't resemble themselves, this should have been a bigger issue. Log Horizon really only touched on it twice, once with Akatsuki, who had Shiroe give her a rare potion so that she could play as the girl she actually was rather than as the male avatar she'd preferred when she was a gamer, and once with a character introduced late in the series, who very clearly enjoyed suddenly being cute and female and showed no desire to be changed back.

While there were certainly multiple battles (including some prolonged boss battles), the show spent much more time focusing on the practical aspects of creating a functional new society that happened to have slightly different rules than everyone was used to. This resulted in some really great moments. I loved the work that went into the creation of the Round Table Alliance, as well as the revelation of Shiroe's plans to put Adventurers and the People of the Land (originally NPCs, although they're now clearly people in their own right) on a more equal footing.

And speaking of the People of the Land, I really liked that the series delved into cross-cultural issues between them and the Adventurers. My favorite pair was Krusty (an Adventurer) and Reyneshia (one of the People of the Land, a noblewoman)...which, since they were split up for a good chunk of Season 2, was one of the reasons the second season occasionally frustrated me.

The show had so many characters, so much detail, and so many ongoing story threads that, after a while, it couldn't just focus on Shiroe and the characters nearby him anymore. Season 2 spent a lot of time looking in on various different groups of characters: a group of newbies sent off to train and get supplies for things that all higher level players should have, a group of players on the Chinese server, the Plant Hwyaden guild, and more. Anytime I got particularly interested in a storyline or character, it felt like the series spent ages on something else, and some storylines and characters didn't get the attention they deserved.

All of the love triangle/harem stuff bugged me, too. For someone who was so introverted, Shiroe did an amazing job of accidentally attracting a bunch of women (and one 14-year-old girl). I loathed the rivalry that developed between Akatsuki and Minori as they both vied for Shiroe's affections (not that he ever seemed to realize what was at the root of their strange behavior), and I groaned when it was revealed that Henrietta, too, had secret feelings for him.

I initially disliked that the series seemed to completely ignore the issue of people's lives back in the real world, and all the people the Catastrophe was keeping them from. Sure, lots of the Elder Tales players probably had things and people in their lives that they were happy to leave behind, but there were plenty of people who should have been pining for their friends and family members. Where were those people? Thankfully, Season 2 dealt with that a bit more, even going so far as a to include a few real-world flashbacks (using a different, more realistically proportioned art style) that fleshed out some characters' backstories. Man, I really felt for the one player who was separated from his fiancee (or was it his young wife? it's been a while...).

All in all, this is an excellent series that could have benefited from being a bit more focused. Also, it needed at least one or two more seasons - the ending of Season 2 including some huge new revelations, and the only thing viewers can do to find out what happens next is read the books. Although, from what I can tell, the anime adapted nearly all of the books currently available. Maybe if more get published, the anime will continue? From my understanding, the author of the series, Mamare Touno, got in trouble for tax evasion a few years ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if he put his writing on hold for a while.


It's a Sentai Filmworks release, so of course there isn't much, just clean opening and closing animations.

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