There are certain degrees to which MMROPG series are adapted these days. While not an original concept, Log Horizon has been unanimously compared to another popular series known as Sword Art Online. It’s almost unavoidable considering both series are based off a light novel and relates to character in an MMORPG setting – an open world based off a video game. But really, that’s all there is to it and the similarities ends there. Log Horizon isn’t a rip off of SAO, .//hack franchise, or anything else relating to the MMOROPG theme. It’s a show that shines in its own way that makes its point in the horizons.
Log Horizon is an anime adapted series based off the light novel of the same name written by Mamare Touno. The setting takes place in a virtual world known as ‘Elder Tale’. Log Horizon follows the story of a young man known as Shiroe who has earned a reputation in the community. His nickname “Shiroe the Strategist” fits his title exactly as such because of his analytical skills and abilities of intellect. Together with his companions, they take on this world that blurs between the lines of fiction and reality.
As a MMORPG series, Log Horizon adapts many of its concepts relating to the fantasy realm. Nothing in Elder Tale is real but they have their own mechanics. These include but is not limited to various classes players can adapt their roles in, monster categories, economic/politic aesthetics, and world concepts. In fact, the world that Log Horizon is based on is colored with all sorts of fantasy attributes; goblins, murlocs, gryphons to just name a few. More importantly is the fact that the world itself also has its own rules such as penalties, death/respawns, pking, etc. On many chances, Log Horizon follows a suit of narrative through which mechanics are explained thoroughly to give viewers insights. These narratives often goes over background information and how exactly certain notions function. Log Horizon presents this flawlessly because it both tell and shows its mechanics firsthand. It brings out its best when the show follows the concepts of actual MMORPG mechanics. As a former MMORPG player, I am pleased to see this such concepts being explored. More so, Log Horizon also focuses on world building with its construction of its fictional universe. It aims to inform, presents it, and delivers.
Series based off of MMORPG often incorporates a large cast of characters. Log Horizon is no stranger to a large cast. Most prominently however are our main protagonists of the guild – Log Horizon. Shiroe, Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Nyanta, Minori, Tohya, and Isuzu makes up this group of players and together stands as a unity to face their world. Even from the first episode, there’s a sudden degree of chemistry between each member that can attract viewers to see how it develops. On a technical level, each character has their own personalities and more importantly, a class and level. This is important as each class has a skill of its own as well as a sub-class that is imperative for a guild to survive. For example, Akatsuki’s class is ‘assassin’ with a sub-class of ‘tracker’. Both of these functions well in stealth missions where infiltration and gathering information is significant to ensure a guild’s success. Log Horizon demonstrates this well on various degrees by testing the limits of these classes for both its advantages and flaws.
The series functions well in terms of storytelling on most parts. Every episode offers something new to the audience with its game mechanics whether it’s combat, politics, or even culinary. While the series does have its concept of survival, it doesn’t just focus on that exclusively. Rather, its formula consists of various degrees of concepts that connects the story as a whole. It focuses on an internal level of struggle and warfare that sets Log Horizon as a unique series. Furthermore, it also engineers the overall theme of the plot and doesn’t go overboard with its comedy, drama, or even romance. Of course, there is also action offered which brings the show to life with its sequences. What makes it more entertaining and attractive is the way characters engage in combat with their skills based off their classes. Even players in a party such as healers play prominent roles and no one is left in the dust. There is also no player that plays the role of an overpowered protagonist or break through impossible circumstances through deus ex machina. The concepts and mechanics are explained beforehand and applies when the time calls for it.
Even though Log Horizon is the main guild that is explored throughout the series, it doesn’t just focus on them. Supporting characters also get their spotlights with their own classes, levels, and secrets. There’s a degree of connection that the audience can relate to. There’s no random fan service or the typical cliche of the accidental bath walk-ins that sets no relations. As a fan of MMORPG games, I appreciate its presentation that focuses supporting characters and not just its core players. Even NPCs (non-playable player) gets its exploration that is intuitive. And as a MMORPG based off setting world, it doesn’t forget to add the idea of PKers – player killers. It’s a common sight to see and offers a threat for players to face beyond just the world and its creatures.
As fantastic as it sounds, Log Horizon is by no means a perfect series. Fantasy wise, the world of Elder Tale adapts itself well but hard to take it at heart. It quirks into silliness with its high dosage of comedy that makes it hard to take the show seriously on occasions. Demonstrated by its cartoonish designs, most of the characters lacks any features of impressive design. Akatsuki is also advertised as a young girl with a cute face but dangerous nature which is ironic since her age contrasts greatly with her appearance. Her devotion to Shiroe, or rather in her words “protecting her lord” can get repetitive and lacks substance. Essentially, Akatsuki suffers from developments and characterization. And from some flashbacks are shown, most of the main characters’ backgrounds are only briefly touched and vaguely touched upon. It leaves viewers in the dark as to how our characters became the players are they are in Log Horizon. Finally, the connection between the players in the game and their real life counterparts is completely omitted leaving viewers in the dark on their origins.
Despite some of these drawbacks, Log Horizon still offers impressive features to take notice of. From minute one, the show focuses on its theme and doesn’t venture far off of it. The world of Elder Tale also presents location that is credible such as the natural mountains, the ruined cities (that resembles past civilization), fresh breathing beaches, and dampening caverns. There’s a sense of reality that the audience might relate to if they have played MMORPG games in the past. It adapts itself based on these themes where Log Horizon and should be endeared.
The artwork of Log Horizon strikes as a make or break situation. By credibility, it works out very well with adapting its fantasy style of Elder Tale. Satelite studios previously were involved with other fantasy series such as Guin Saga, Arata Kangatari, and Fairy Tail. Here, they make the show believable with its artwork designs at the surface level. On other hand, character designs sometimes becomes distracting and hard to take seriously with their designs. Akatsuki is perhaps the character that stands out the most with her appearance as an assassin but nothing else strikes more than her as that. This same applies to Shiroe with his geeky like appearance that acts as the brainiac of the group. They just seems to be there with its blend background. However, Nyanta is one character to take notice of because of its feline features that really defines the fantasy atmosphere to what Log Horizon is.
Soundtrack wise, Log Horizon strikes as an outstanding feature. Beginning with the OP song, the show defines itself with the theme of “Database” that blurs between lines of fiction and reality. Most characters’ voices fits their roles well with some that defines their characters more than others such as Nyanta. The OST also performs at a level that matches scenes whether it strikes as important, emotional, cinematic, or comical. The ED song also reflects a more innocent theme with Akatsuki as its main mascot.
As a former MMORPG player, I appreciate the way Log Horizon presented itself. Rather than just going with a concept of the typical virtual war trope or saving the world, Log Horizon sets its basis on a foundation of mechanics that is presented in an exquisite way. Not only is it accurate to the basis of an MMORPG setting but the characters themselves drives the story with their adequate roles. Log Horizon also likes to focus on various degrees of politics and economics to explore its insight on a more intellectual level. It also adapts world building concepts that becomes a focus to drive the story forward. It explores territory an MMORPG exactly as it should be and doesn’t lose track. On some technical note, it can take some time to get used to the artwork. Comedy can also strike as a hit or miss depending on your preferences. Still, the end game is that Log Horizon is an unique series. It’s not a clone of Sword Art Online or does it leave audience confused. In fact, you’ll likely be forming your own theories as each episode progresses relating to its world and characters. It’s appreciable that Log Horizon can adapts so many concepts into the show as an industrial revolution of success.