- Genre : Isekai, action, adventure, comedy, fantasy, mmorpg
- Episodes: 25
- Studio: Satelight
If you’ve ever played a mmorpg (or even just an RPG), I bet you’ve imagined what it would be like to live in the game. It’s o.k, you can admit it. We all have! The thrill of wielding magic and conquering epic quests. The joy of adventuring in the wide-open world. The potential of treasure and power beyond your wildest dreams! But have you ever thought about what the day to day would actually be like? The paperwork and logistics of developing a working economy, the diplomacy of negotiating with the native people, the chore of finding places to live, clothes to wear, actual tasty food to eat? And what if it was still more or less a game? What if you were still immortal, had access to your GUI and levelled your skills, but you just couldn’t leave. What then? For the thousands of players suddenly stuck in Elder Tales, the answer to that question has now become very important!
I’m one of those people who really wants to love isekai. More specifically, mmorpg based isekai. My years of devoted raiding and grinding in such games make the virtual world welcoming and nostalgic to me. Anything that can bring my love of MMOs with my passion for anime together is bound to be a favourite …right? I quite liked the beginning of /hack.sign but lost interest at some point. I didn’t make it past episode 6 of SAO. No Game No Life isn’t exactly that type of isekai and neither is KonoSuba. I was beginning to give up hope.
Last year I saw The Recovery of an MMO Junkie which revived my interest in this very specific subgenre. Recovery isn’t an isekai but it had enough actual MMO gameplay woven through the story to give me a feel for it. This is when I heard about Log Horizon, I thought that maybe, my long quest for a mmorpg based isekai was finally over! Get it? Quest! Yeah… you get it.
I don’t really have that much to say about the production of Log Horizon. It’s mostly fine. Visuals are fairly standard but consistent in pretty much every respect. You figure that the setting would have allowed for elaborate costume designs or fantastic creatures, but things are kept pretty simple. Basically, nothing’s bad but it’s not remarkable in any way. The production is sort of a zero-sum. Neither a drawback nor a strength of the series.
However, there were two elements that I found noteworthy. The backgrounds, and panoramas of the show, especially I earlier episodes where the action is more outdoors, are quite beautiful. The overgrown fantasy version of Akihabara featured in the game is so well designed that even 25 episodes later, I was still impressed every time I saw it. It just captured the wonder of looking around and exploring gorgeous magical worlds in a mmo. Unfortunately, as the season wears on, a lot of episodes started to take place primarily indoors which was less impressive.
Moreover, the voice acting was consistently good across the board. Not flashy, the script doesn’t give the actors much reason for particularly poignant or emotional performances, but there was something very natural sounding about the entire cast. I found it soothing to listen to them.
But you know, I was never watching Log Horizon for the amazing visuals. It looks fine, better than a few shows I’ve seen but what I was really looking for was an isekai that would invoke all those nostalgic mmo memories without just turning into a straight fantasy anime (which is nice but different) or become so repetitive that it puts you to sleep. Some minor spoilers will follow.
And well, that’s exactly what I got. Maybe I’m deluding myself, but Log Horizon really gives the impression of having been written by a gamer. Someone who understands and even loves gaming mechanics but doesn’t need to beat us over the head with them either. Like someone that just looked up the gamerspeak and puts it everywhere to claim cred.
There are a few “quests” and the usual adventuring for leveling sort of thing but what really made Log Horizon stand apart from all the other shows I’ve seen in this vein is the attention given to social dynamics. The players are in a new world where ordinary constraints no longer exist. After the shock and novelty of the situation wears off, they suddenly find themselves unmotivated and aimless. Playing a game and living it are two very different things and this has never been addressed as lucidly and realistically in past anime (or any fiction really) that I’ve seen.
Additionally, the NPC’s now empowered with personalities and essentially life still exists in this world under the same rules that they would have otherwise. In other words, they age and die, unlike players which creates very unusual relations and power dynamics. These are also carefully set up and explained throughout the season. It’s an important facet of the story and a truly fascinating one. The moral implications are countless, and it leaves the viewers with a lot of interesting dilemmas which will make you view games in a different light.
There is an interesting plot point brought up in the latter half of the season. Players that are killed can be rezed by a healer or respawn at their city’s cathedral, with a loss of experience and gold. Pretty standard mechanics. It’s eventually discovered that respawning is actually accompanied by some very minor memory loss. Not enough for anyone to really notice but it does stack. The memories lost are always of the players “real lives”, the ones they had before getting trapped in the game.
This isn’t really explored further in the first season but my theory is that eventually, once a player has died so many times that they no longer have any memories of their lives before the game, they essentially become an NPC, and the rules of the virtual world start to apply to them. If I’m right, that further makes relationships between players and NPCs complex and delicate.
I don’t mean to make it sound like Log Horizon is a sociology class. It can be if you chose to look at it that way, but you can just as easily enjoy the fantasy adventuring and battle strategizing as a fun romp through a virtual world. There is something for everyone. A bit of action, a bit of comedy, some unexpectedly touching backstories for certain players, there’s even the foundation for some harem antics.
If like me, you were searching for an isekai that will make you relive your raiding glory days, I recommend giving Log Horizon a watch. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and I can’t wait to tell you all about the second season which I will start tonight!
Favorite character: Marie(lle) and Rundelhous. You may not know this, but I have a thing for blondes. Also, Marie is actually amazing, it’s players like her that made MMOs such a welcoming place for me.
What this anime taught me: Merchant guilds hold a lot more power than we give them credit for and I should have joined one at some point.
You know what rhymes with Friady? Vodka
Suggested drink: Lone Wolf
- Every time anyone says “pervert” – take a sip
- Every time anyone thinks Akatsuki is cute – take a sip
- you think she’s cute – raise your glass
- Every time anyone has shiny glasses – take a sip
- Every time anyone is eating – take a snack
- Every time anyone mentions “Debauchery Tea Party” – take a sip
- Every time Akatsuki says “Don’t call me shrimp”– take a sip
- Every time you recognize MMO terminology – take a sip
- if you are or were a raider – switch to energy drinks
- Every time anyone says “People of the land” – take a sip
- Every time anyone adjusts their glasses – get water
- if they don’t have glasses – giggle
- Every time Rudy sounds arrogant – stretch