Log Horizon is an anime that heavily focuses on plot that leads into an overarching and intriguing story. On first viewing it can be dismissed as just another virtual world anime. But this is not the case, as the world and characters have a rich backstory that will leave the viewer wanting to know more every episode. One of the highlights and the backbone of Log Horizon is how it effortlessly weaves in multiple storylines. It manages to give the viewers an enormous amount of information without leaving them overwhelmed. Log Horizon is set in the video game called Elder Tale. It is a classic fantasy MMORPG that has all the conventions, like raiding, that come with that type of game.
Elder Tale was originally a video game that was played on the computer, until mysteriously many players who were logged in were transported in-game. This meant that their real life bodies were transferred to the game and were essentially trapped in the virtual world. The day this happened to them is referred to as the Apocalypse. After some time, the players begin settling into the game and carving out a place for themselves in the world. The players find themselves in this familiar, but new world and learn a lot in the process.
Gameplay & Mechanics
The game is a level based game, starting from level 1 all the way up to 90. An interesting fact commented on in the first episode was that there was an expansion pack recently released. This increased the level cap all the way up to 100. The feat of attaining that level has not yet been seen. Naturally, the higher the level, the stronger the player. Two major facets of the game are combat and crafting. These areas can be leveled up through training the intended skills. Each player has their main class which serves them in combat. They also have a sub-class that can be used for a variety of situations.
There are many activities that players can be involved in. Crafters can make clothing, building materials, weapons, and so on, while there is also a need for cooks and roles for other types of tasks to be completed. Anything that could be done and needs to be accomplished in the real world can be done in the game world. This means that there is always a job or role for a player to fulfill. As the game has switched from being a computer game to a real virtual simulation, there have been new changes to the gameplay.
In-game death is another interesting concept in Elder Tale. When a player dies they are revived at the cathedral, a respawn area for characters. Enemies that can be killed also respawn after dying. The Non Player Characters (NPC's) of the world can die and will not be revived. They are called the People of the Land, but more on them later.
Players advance their levels through gaining experience points. This usually means repeating similar activities over and over again, also known as "grinding". Players wishing to better themselves in combat will fight enemy monsters who are called "demi-humans." Crafters learn how to make new items and keep practicing to make even greater ones. Again, this is all similar to how a real life MMORPG would be played. What makes it interesting is the change that happens because of the players being in-game.
Combat becomes more fluid as the players have to control their motions with their own bodies. It becomes more than just pressing and putting together the next string of spells or abilities. Crafters learn that they can make and create things without being bound to a recipe or crafting book. This allows for the creation of new inventions and technologies. One major point of contention in the beginning of this anime was the taste of food. Something that looked completely appetizing and delicious turned out to taste like stale crackers. As mentioned in Log Horizon's character analysis, Nyanta was one of the first to learn how to make food that tasted like it looked. This moment served to be a crucial point in learning more about the world they now inhabit. The divide between what is real and virtual is quickly fading as the players find this world as their new reality.
Elder Tale is a vast place as it seeks to emulate the real world. The game is based off of something called the Gaia Project, which is a half scaled model of the actual Earth. This means that places in game are based off of the geography of the land. The entire world map is a scaled down version of the planet. Of course this means that real life places are replaced with fantasy aspects, such as castles that have an ancient mythical flare to them. Travel takes a long time and players are confined to either walking or summoning mounts like horses. Only some of the top players can use Griffons, high flying beasts that were rewards for defeating an incredibly difficult dungeon.
The world is populated with different races of sentient species. This includes humans, half elves, dwarves, cat people, and a few different hybrid human type beings. The monsters of the world are seemingly unintelligent hordes of strange species. They serve as major antagonists for the adventurers. A new concept in the game is that buildings are up for sale in the cities. Many of these buildings have astronomical fees, but are quite useful in developing a thriving world. Most of the players congregate around these main cities. There once was something called fairy transports, however they no longer work. Fairy transports would teleport characters across the world to other cities.
Elder Tale is a game that is 20 years old and has a major following and is one of the most popular and largest MMORPGs in existence. There is an incredible amount of lore behind the game. The sheer scope of the game is enormous as it stretches the entire physical world, albeit half of it. There are varying factions at work, as magic and political intrigue runs amok.
In many games, players like to join up with like-minded individuals and create something called a guild. There are different types of guilds as there are hundreds of thousands of players in Elder Tale. The majority of the story first takes place in Akihabara, where there are about 30,000 people. Unsurprisingly it is located on servers in Japan. Guilds differ in size from a couple of dozen players all the way up to over a thousand. These guilds like to focus on different aspects of the game like combat and crafting.
In the beginning of the show the larger guilds were taking advantage of many of the smaller ones, such as not allowing them prime hunting grounds and bullying them. There was a sense of anarchy and no direction for the players in the beginning of the server. This all changed with Shiroe who wanted to change the way the world worked. To spare the details and make it short, he essentially came up with an elaborate plan to destroy any toxic guilds and bring harmony and order to the city. He did this by making a council of the top guilds of Akihabara called the Round Table Alliance. They are the governing body of the city, keep the peace, and make laws. This is an interesting aspect of the show that is not neglected, unlike in other anime. The politics is portrayed in a light that makes it fascinating to watch as the main characters scheme and contend with ruling a city.This alliance alone may appear complex to run,but in the vast world of Elder Tale this is just scratching the surface; there are thousands of players, a myriad of governing systems, and the ever developing NPC's.
Adventurers & People of the Land
People of the Land were just your standard AI when Elder Tale was just a game. They would give the adventurers quests and provide rewards, evidently with pre-programmed personalities and roles to fulfill in the game. There is more under the surface as these NPCs become living and breathing beings that rival the adventurers in terms of life and develop into people on the same level as the players. They have their own feelings, personalities, backstories, and aspirations. These people are weaker than the adventurers, and begin to harbor feelings of distrust and curiosity of the adventurers after the Apocalypse. They have their own cities and governments which clash with organizations such as the Round Table Alliance. The two groups seek to have a mutual understanding between each other and at a minimum attempt to hold off on any hostilities that may occur. As the players make changes in the world it also affects the people of the land.
Adventurers were seen as a disorganized mob who simply helped the people. That is, until after the events of the Apocalypse transpired and they began organizing themselves. The two different groups begin to take notice of each other and wanted to find out more. They are both somewhat ignorant to the way the other group conducts themselves. Adventurers are much more powerful, as they can level up faster than them. The people of the land can sense this and that is why they are cautious around adventurers. Real life relationships are formed through virtual spaces. People fall in love with each other through their shared online experiences. They show their true colors in times of stress and lawlessness.
Log Horizon hits on a similar theme that has been around for some time and is becoming more prevalent lately. The backdrop and setting of the anime is a virtual world in the near future. Mostly about a video game, with the added bonus of the characters being stuck in the virtual world, struggling to learn how to survive. The boundaries between what is considered real and what is not begin to blur. When the body is fully immersed in something like virtual reality, who is to say that it isn't real? Let's explore some similar titles.
Sword Art Online is a tale that follows a loner who is exceptional at the game he plays. Unlike Log Horizon they are already connected in game through something called NerveGear, which immerses their entire senses into the game. At the start of the game they are trapped and cannot log off, doing so will kill them in real life. Death in game also means permanent death for the players. Sword Art Online becomes the death game as the ones trapped must race to the end by defeating floors and reaching floor 100 to win the game.
Sword Art Online deals more with morality and an emphasis on love. Player killing has real life consequences as this can actually kill the person in real life. To be seen as a player character is akin to being deemed a murderer. The greatest murderer of them all is the guy who was responsible for creating the game, as thousands die under his so called experiment. Another main focus that sets this anime apart is their insistence on wanting to leave the game. That is one of their major goals, though they do end up eventually settling into the game and begin to get comfortable with it as a substitute for their new lives.
One of the best things about Sword Art Online is the love story between the main characters, Kirito and Asuna. Two young hearts bound to each other by the tragedy of their situation. Showing that love knows no bounds as these two overcome all odds to be together and rejoin one another in the waking world.
Accel World also created by the maker of Sword Art Online. This is a unique take on the virtual reality concept as it also includes augmented reality. Augmented reality being the merging of the digital space with the physical world. People who live in this world have chips installed in them that let them access their virtual worlds in a moments notice. There is no being trapped in the game in this anime. What sets it apart is the unique way they deal with time.
The premise of this anime follows a group of virtual players who are involved in a top secret program called Brain Bursts. This program is downloaded onto their chips or virtual reality devices. It is a game that picks up other "Bursters" and they fight seeking to gain burst points. There is a catch to this as they only have a certain amount of points and if they lose a match, then they lose a point. Now the interesting concept with this is that time goes by very slowly in the physical world. As seconds go by in the physical world, minutes and up to hours and days can go by in the Burst World.
Accel world follows a socially inept kid who's got a lot of heart and proves himself as the series progresses. The characters are well thought out and there is twists and turns at every episode. It has the story telling ability to make you loathe or pity a character one moment and then be rooting for them in an episodes time. Accel World is a great addition to the growing number of anime focused on this type of topic.
Log Horizon is on the forefront for a new breed of anime that explores the mechanics of a virtual world and the impact it has on people. Subtly noting that the line between real life and a game is actually a divide between virtual and physical reality. Both of them having equal merits of being considered "real life". Log Horizon focuses more on the things people wouldn't think about in a game and serves as a connection to gamers everywhere. It is an essential anime to watch for anyone interested in the encroaching reality of having both a physical and virtual existence.