Talk about a pleasant surprise. Log Horizon was an anime I had brushed off as another Sword Art Online clone (or .hack if you’re old enough to know that). A friend jokingly called it Loli Horizon, yet still recommended then anime to me. I downloaded the entirety of season 1 last summer but didn’t touch it for a while. It wasn’t until a seven hour bus ride back home for the holidays when I finished Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei and had nothing to watch that on a whim I started Log Horizon. Five out twenty-five episodes in, I was hooked. Easily the best action anime I’ve seen yet, Log Horizon is a brilliant anime with a varied and fully fleshed out cast of characters that I absolutely fell in love with.
Similar to Sword Art Online, Log Horizon‘s world is based off an MMORPG. Fortunately, that is where the similarities stop. Rather than the adventurers of the MMORPG Elder Tales being trapped in the virtual world, the virtual world replaces reality. Therefore, it is more correct to state Log Horizon is a fantasy adventure with MMORPG roots. By destroying modern society and replacing it with Elder Tales, the series throws every adventure into an anarchist society where no rules apply. The result is a depressed population with no hope and no motivation. Unlike Sword Art Online, there is no end goal, no last boss, and no escape. Luckily, death is not permanent in the world of Elder Tale; adventurers simply respawn in town when killed.
The insignificance of death creates with an anarchist society which plagues adventurers, causing players to band together to protect themselves or assault others. Cities plunge into chaos as bandit adventurers plunder other adventurers and NPCs, also called People of the Land, who originally inhabit the world of Elder Tales.
Adventurers call this catastrophe “the Apocalypse.” And an apocalypse it is. This bleak MMORPG world serves as a perfect backdrop for the many battles in Log Horizon. Whether it is game-based visceral combat between players and monsters, political disputes between different groups, or intellectual clash between strategists, the action is as exciting as it is diverse.
Log Horizon is typical of the types of anime I personally enjoy in that there is a central and powerful protagonist. The hero in question here is Shiroe. Unlike Kirito from Sword Art Online and Shiba from Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, Shiroe is not the strongest fighter. In fact, his MMORPG class, the enchanter, falls under the “support” category; he himself is weak but can strengthen his allies or weaken his foes. Shiroe’s true weapon, however, is his mind. He is cunning, intelligent, and analytic. He is not a “fighter.” He is a “strategist.” Specifically, he was the strategist for the legendary “Debauchary Tea Party,” a group of characters who defeated legendary raid dungeons despite not being allied in a guild. When I mentioned in my Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei review that I wanted to Shiba to be a strategist, Shiroe is perfectly who I had in mind.
Yet Shiroe is also the most human protagonist I’ve seen in a while. He rarely recognizes his merits. One may say he is humble. Another may say he is self-deprecating. He does what he believes is right, even if he is relegated to becoming a “villain.” The “villain in glasses” is what people call a man who puts his friends and allies before all else. At first a lone wolf, Shiroe realizes the importance of friends and soon comes to trust them as much as they trust in him. And trust in him they do. My only gripe about the cast of Log Horizon is they relegate all “thinking duty” to Shiroe, as if he is the only one with a brain. Though it is true he has the best brain of the bunch, they could definitely stand to do some problem solving on their own.
What I love about Log Horizon is just how varied the cast is. They mostly fall into common character stereotypes, but their personalities are executed and mesh well. Sure Naotsugu is a perverted idiot, but we love him because he’s got an Akatsuki to punch or kick him every time.
I won’t detail every character in this review, but watching these characters grow individually and as a group is a treat to watch. My personal favorites have to be the gentleman Nyanta (aka Catomine. If you are Fate/Stay Night fan, you will understand why), Minori, and Henrietta.
The cast is split up near the middle into two groups; the newcomers and the veterans. The first group consists of the lower level kids who learn to fight from instructors such as Naotsugu and Nyanta. Scenes with them are usually high action. On the other hand, the veterans fight a more political battle against other adventurers and more importantly the People of the Land. These former mindless NPC turn out to have their own personalities, being essentially the original inhabitants of the world of Elder Tale. These battles of politics are perfect battlegrounds for our strategist protagonist.
With excellent characters, interesting plot, and great pacing, season one of Log Horizon is a great new favorite for which I’m dying to see the next season. The action is fast. The light-hearted moments are pleasantly calm. The drama is intense.
Don’t think Log Horizon is a Sword Art Online clone. It’s on a completely different boat and deserves the attention of any fan of the fantasy genre. So stop comparing the two. One’s a fantasy adventure while the other is a game-based drama. I am so hyped for Log Horizon 2. I hope it continues being awesome. Too bad it’s airing right now, so I can’t watch all of it in one go. Until then, I guess I’ll go finish Sword Art Online II. Or go play Dragon Nest. I’m no Shiroe. Swordsman all day every day. Though I might go Paladin and tank like Naotsugu.
On a side note, the opening is surprisingly catchy. It really grew on me.