Greetings there children. Gather around the electronic campfire in front of your faces, for I have a story to tell you. It was at the beginning of the fall 2013 anime season, and I wasn’t expecting to follow any of the shows that came from it. I was bogged down from school work, accumulated by watching too much other anime, so I decided to take a break from the entire season as a whole. That would have been the case, if it weren’t for my good friend Victor (not his real name).
Upon visiting my friend’s house, he came to the door essentially frothing at the mouth. After determining he didn’t have rabies I entered the door and asked him what was the matter. He spoke with the growled voice of a starving house-cat: “you gotta check out this anime, it’s utter shit!” It was at that point I noticed the trickle of blood that appeared to be coming from the back of his pants. It seemed quite obvious; something had made him quite butt-hurt.
Sitting myself down at his TV, not knowing what horrors he might expose me to, on came the first episode of the new anime Log Horizon. To be fair, it was hard to fully take it in the episode while my friend was shaking the television in convulsive rage. In the end though, I didn’t share his anger at the episode; in fact I really wanted to watch some more. I’m not sure what got me into it. Was it the opening, which was both captivating and really well done? Maybe I’m just a sucker for loli’s (probably not though). Point aside, I watched all of Log Horizon and now I’m going tell you if you should as well.
When it comes to Log Horizon’s initial premise, all you need to know is that it shares Sword Art Online’s plot. People are stuck in a video game. They can’t leave. It’s not cool. Or at least, that’s what you would think. While comparison to Sword Art Online is inevitable (and I will state if I think it’s a rip-off or not by the end of this review), I must first tell of the many subtle differences. In Log Horizon, no one seems to go crazy at the fact they are stuck in a game. I distinctly remember one man in the first episode who acted like all his marbles had been taken away, but other than that everyone was calm and collected. Another difference is that dying in the game doesn’t mean you die in real life. You simply respawn. But the one huge difference within the Log Horizon universe is that the game they are trapped in existed as a normal computer game before people got stuck in it. As a result, many characters in the show are max level.
Ok, I know what you are thinking. Sword Art Online had a lot of bad things going for it, but Log Horizon seems to have gotten rid of everything that was good about Sword Art. When first watching this show I completely agreed with you. To add insult to injury they kept the one thing that Sword Art Online had way too much of: lolis. Yep, you witness an otherwise normal character “transform” by some “transformation potion” into her true form, which happens to be a moe-eyed, cutesie-pie, 4-foot-1 girl who refers to the main character as “My lord”.
Usually I don’t do plot synopsis, normally I would just tell you the beginning of this show is garbage. But just restating the first, say, 5 events of the first episode, I think you already get the idea. But don’t be so fast to cast your judgment like my friend Victor (definitely not his real name). The one thing that you must go into Log Horizon knowing is that it operates in the reverse order of Sword Art Online. Log Horizon has a very poor and convoluted start where causation and explanation feel non-existent, but it develops into a rather captivating and enjoyable anime.
You see, Log Horizon utilizes the “being trapped in a videogame” idea not as the focus of the plot, but as a vehicle to explore different aspects of videogames and life. In reality Log Horizon is less about survival, more about diplomacy; less about escaping a game, more about making a functioning society within one. In this sense it’s like a slice of life in a video game, with some action, some strategy, some romance, some friendship and most definitely some fun. It touches on how to create law and order in the world of an MMORPG. It explores how people can exploit others for power in a virtual world. It shows what it’s like to have a serious conversation with an NPC when your user name is xxxSmok3w33d4lyph420xxx. In the end, while it wasn’t what I came in expecting, it came as a breath of fresh air and a very original take on both the MMORPG premise and the slice of life genre.
Another well done aspect of the show is the main character not being some angsty high school kid who is OP in every sense of the word. Log Horizon’s lead is an introverted strategist who utilizes intelligence and planning to the fullest effect. In this sense, the show has a very Death Note or Code Geass vibe with its main lead. He is one of the key solidifying aspects of the show and makes up for many of the secondary characters being very bone dry when it comes to fleshing out. Overall Log Horizon has a mix of many characters, equal parts mediocre and positive.
Log Horizon does suffer though, from its very bad habit of taking a dump on the audience… … … let me clarify. The plot utilizes information dumps to explain certain aspects of the universe. Simply put, they are bad. I remember one specific dump Log Horizon took on the audience during episode 14. What was so special about this dump was that the dump itself wasn’t in the episode per say, the episode was the dump. You see, I’m not completely averse to having a show take a dump on me (especially when that show’s called “log” horizon). I can accept a dump or two. But Log Horizon’s incessant defecation of huge sums of information onto the audience is simply disgusting.
Getting away from poop humor brings me to the big question: is Log Horizon a Sword Art Online rip-off? Hopefully you can tell already from reading this review, that it most definitely is not. Log Horizon is different in its tone, different in its emphasis, different even in the way players look at being trapped in an MMORPG. As a result, the criticism the show receives from people, including my friend Victor (probably not his real name), I consider baseless.
But one criticism holds true, Log Horizon has a terrible start. It feels so convoluted and forced that it’s downright laughable. The show wants to use being trapped in an MMO as a vehicle for telling a story about people living in an MMO, but doesn’t feel it need to explain its setup. In this sense the criticisms of the masses, including my friend Victor (maybe not his real name), are undeniably true.
But to wrap things up, what is the overall rating of Log Horizon? You see, I have a strict belief that you should only judge a show as a whole; a show can have a good season or a bad season, but one should rate a show on its whole and complete merit. So the fact that Log Horizon has a new season coming out this upcoming fall makes this difficult for me. As a result I can tell you this much:
Log Horizon is based off an ongoing light novel series currently made up of 7 novels. Considering the series so far has covered about 1 novel’s worth of content we can expect a lot more Log Horizon in the future. So the question is: should you jump on the ship now before it sets sail? That is, should you start Log Horizon now before it becomes an over 100 episode long series; so that way if it gets big and everyone starts raving about it you won’t be the one sitting at the sidelines wishing you had watched it when it was small?
I find this question hard to answer. In the end I have to say if the premise of the show appeals to you then now’s the time to hop on board. Ya, I know, it’s far from eloquent or insightful. You didn’t need some debt-ridden university student to tell you to watch shows that they think you’ll like. So here is the verdict for season 1 only.
Log Horizon is an initially nonsensical yet overall enjoyable series that, while having many poor aspects, has more good to present the viewer than bad. For having a positive balance and making for an enjoyable use of my time I determine Log Horizon to be worthy of an ABOVE AVERAGE… out of 10. It is a show that has at least one standout quality to make it worth your time. With that, I bid you adieu.
P.S. don’t worry; next review will NOT be another above average out of 10.