Log Horizon is a wonderful breath of fresh air to the Fantasy and Adventure genres, moving the focus away from combat and instead, choosing to highlight a realistic story (as realistic as a story about people trapped in a real-world version of a game can be anyway)
“Being strong on your own is meaningless. You always need others to utilize your own power. And you need a world where they can all be at their best.” –Shiroe
Before we dive in I want to say that it is all too tempting to make comparisons between this and Sword Art Online. However, while both take place in a realized MMORPG, the important similarities really end there. Given that, I will not be comparing the two animes in this review.
Log Horizon tells the story of a massive group of gamers playing the MMORPG “Elder Tale” who are transported to what appears to be an alternate reality that looks and acts like the game. You begin by following Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Akatsuki; three high level players as they attempt to understand what has happened to them and how to live in this new, yet all too familiar, environment.
From the basic look of the show you may be expecting an action-packed adventure filled with monster battles and suspense but if that’s what you’re looking for Log Horizon is not it. Don’t get me wrong, there is action and it is certainly an adventure, but Log Horizon shines in its subtle and surprisingly realistic story and its great characters. Most of the anime consists of the players trying to find a way to coexist in their new home and figuring out how the world works and how to work together. You have a group of gamers from all walks of life. What will they do all day? Who will lead and how will they maintain order, especially if dying is impossible? What about an economy? Also, in their new world all the NPCs are, for all intents and purposes, real, sentient people with their own lives. How do you coexist with them? Most of the story of Log Horizon’s first season consists of the main characters (and many others) trying to solve these questions and work through the inevitable conflicts (not everyone out there is nice) and dangers (there are still monsters in this world) that arise. Beyond that, we get to see new and true friendships being forged, characters evolving, and a new society being born.
Another highlight I would be remise for not mentioning is its comedy. Truly, this has been one of the funniest anime I have seen in a long time. It has a bit of everything from witty banter to classic anime-style slapstick. If you’re looking for a good laugh along with a good story you won’t be disappointed.
All that being said, Log Horizon is certainly not perfect. The anime may be too slow for certain audiences, I could personally have done with a bit more drama and not a whole lot gets resolved during the first season which just left me wanting more!
One of the anime’s strongest points is its diverse cast of characters, all fulfilling a unique and useful role in the show. I won’t talk about them all because there are just too many but I will highlight a few.
First and foremost we have the main protagonist, they call him “The Villain Behind Glasses”: Shiroe. In the “real” world he’s an engineering grad student, in the world of Elder Tales he’s a powerful yet humble enchanter known for his unbeatable strategies. Shiroe is probably the most compelling character in the show. While being extremely intelligent and powerful, he is quite humble and tends to prefer to stay out of the spotlight. He also has a soft spot for lower-level players. Another positive aspect of Shiroe is his willingness to play the bad guy (hence his nickname) when needed and little regard for what the general populace thinks of him. A fiercely loyal friend, he seems willing to do anything to aide someone in need.
Contrasting Shiroe is his good friend Naotsugu, the boisterous tank who provides much of the comedy of the show. He is as loud as Shiroe is quiet and though he acts goofy and dumb, he is shown to be a fairly insightful character. Finally there’s Akatsuki, the deadly assassin who originally played as a man though we find out in ep. 1 she’s actually a girl around Shiroe’s age (she appears much younger because of her petite size, something she is quite sensitive about). Akatsuki is in many ways your standard Kuudere, being cool and aloof and showing little emotion to most people. She provides another great bit of comedy, especially during scenes with her and Naotsugu. Unfortunately there are really too many characters to mention here, you’re just going to have to trust me that Log Horizon has a brilliant ensemble-type cast and is quite good at utilizing them. Many support characters are given nice backstories and are allowed to grow over the course of the season.
In general, I thought the pacing was good; you get a nice action scene here and there to spice things up between longer sessions of society building, politics and economic issues. As stated before, this is not an action anime so viewer be warned. There were perhaps a few sections here or there that could have moved along a bit quicker but all in all I didn’t find much fault with the pace of the show.
I found, for the most part, the quality of the voice acting to be quite high with maybe a few minor negatives. At first I wasn’t too keen on Mike Yager’s performance as Shiroe, but over time it grew on me. Andrew Love did a spectacular job as Naotsugu. I doubt the character would be half as hilarious with someone else doing the voice. Jad Saxton’s voice was well chosen for Akatsuki, a character who is generally serious but is easily flustered. Similar to her previous role of Koneko (Highschool DxD), her delivery of Akatsuki’s snarky comments is quite brilliant. Luci Christian gives us a typically top-notch performance of the innocent yet determined Minori and Jovan Jackson (a VA with few credits, this being his first main character) lends a great suaveness to Nyanta with his bass toned voice. The only performance I thought could’ve been better was Jay Hickman as Krusty. The voice often felt a bit one-dimensional at times and lacked some of the charisma that that character is clearly supposed to have.
I can’t find any real faults with the animation of Log Horizon, the quality is consistent throughout without any major flaws. I think they did a good job with the character designs and costumes. It’s not spectacular by any means but it’s more than adequate for an anime such as this I think.
In my opinion, Log Horizon is a wonderful breath of fresh air to the Fantasy and Adventure genres, moving the focus away from combat and instead, choosing to highlight a realistic story (as realistic as a story about people trapped in a real-world version of a game can be anyway) and a wide variety of interesting characters and relationships. Log Horizon is as much about community and society as it is about fantasy and adventure. Again, those looking for lots of action may want to look elsewhere but for those interested in something a little different with lots of well written dialogue, interesting characters, and an intriguing and surprisingly real story, I highly recommend you pick up Log Horizon.
If you like Log Horizon you may want to check out No Game No Life, Spice and Wolf, and Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren’t They?