Merry Days of Anime 2020: Log Horizon (Season One)

Sorry, everyone. I would’ve had all this typed up yesterday, but I got caught up in some holiday decorating. I definitely wasn’t putting this off because I have a lot to say about this or anything…

So, this is probably the best isekai anime I’ve ever seen. Now, for those who don’t know me, that’s not really as glowing a statement as it seems. Historically speaking, the isekai genre and I have never seen eye to eye. I’m not a huge fan of self-indulgency in stories; I find it shallow, uneventful, and at its worst, obnoxious. Isekai series such as this practically invented self-indulgent writing, and this holds no punches when it comes to this. However, it does a lot to thwart my own expectations by being relatively varied in its character prominence. It’s pretty neat, and also really painful.

I almost want to write out a short and sweet pro-con list of everything I both like and dislike about this series, because trying to elaborate on every detail would probably make this article exceed 3,000 words. It’s so fascinating for me to encounter three anime in a row (disregarding Guilty Crown) that were a) enjoyable, b) self-aware of their genre’s tropes, and c) still heavily involved in their genre’s tropes. Like the rest of the Merry Days titles I’ve watched, Log Horizon is something that is moderately good at what it wants to do, but is bogged down by a key detail or thirty.

Yeah, series!

First off, Log Horizon is absolutely self-indulgent. The male lead, Shiroe, is a tactical genius master who’s already at the level cap and can think of his way out of any and all situations with relatively no effort. Pretty much everyone relies on him and follows his lead and lets him do all the major work, with most of the more peril situations being saved only by his whims. Well great, what a real benefit to the tension and drama of dangerous situations when we have Jesus Christ on the battlefield. By the way, he (and others) talk a lot, too—similar overexpository jargon that doesn’t ultimately justify more than a quick explanation in the thick of things, but is rather done in one large spurt that halts the pace.

And every character with glasses does that dumb “glasses adjustment” trope that anime is known for, sometimes multiple times an episode It’s almost like the series’ running joke. I hated it.

Second, every attempt at humor in this series is borderline painful, especially in the beginning. What constitutes as a joke in this anime? Harassing people. Boob/panty jokes. Generally unfunny things that aren’t clever or thought out. Log Horizon is at its best when the action shines through and the focus is on conquering a certain task. Or, alternatively, indulging in worldly curiosities. When the story actually has a primary focus and when a plan is in action, it’s tolerable enough—occasionally genuinely interesting. When it focuses on a slice-of-life-esque, calm atmosphere where characters just have fun with one another, nine episodes out of ten, I want to die.

me_irl

Thirdly, and I will be spoiling something in this paragraph, Shiroe’s outcomes to situations feel really far-fetched sometimes. For example, in order to blackmail various other guilds from being giant dicks and forming a round table of guilds with him, Shiroe builds up five-million gold to buy a guild building that basically every player uses to make the game way more convenient. Doing so ensures that he can provide or deny access to any individual or group that doesn’t bend to his whims. Question: Who the fuck did he buy it from? The game gods? That was never established. Why the hell was the guild building even available for purchase in the first place? I highly doubt that would be a feature in the game. Why is it here? Did the building have a previous owner? That seemed like enormous bullshit. Various other events kind of smelled the same way.

In spite of these things, Log Horizon did very well in gradually evolving its world. Eventually, I was interested in the world they inhabited. Eventually, I was interested in the characters that made it up. Eventually, I saw purpose in where the plot was going. What was probably my favorite segment of the entire series was when they formed the round table and started investigating the “People of the Land” (NPCs). It was intriguing to see how people and non-people interact, even though the results of the game-become-real-world turned NPCs into “real” people. It went for a sort of anarchy vs. barbaric adventurers angle, which was fairly interesting. I think when the story wants to be serious about development of characters and the world, it does a pretty good job with it. When it wants to.

This scene’s kind of boring, though.

Of those characters, Shiroe is not all that interesting, for obvious reasons (to me). Naotsugu, the token pervert, is also not interesting. Akatsuki, the female ninja, is partially interesting if not for her borderline sexist role of calling Shiroe “Master” and serving his beck and call at every turn due to romantic affection because… lead male character, yeah. These three make up the main trio of adventurers that serve as the focal party for the first third or so of the series. Once the character roster expands, the series does a good job of giving importance to others characters and providing them more depth than, ironically, those they started with.

This also adds to my conclusion that Log Horizon gets better as it expands. Expanding the world, its characters, and its scope of what it could do provides more positive viewing experiences that are generally only bogged down by self-indulgent/unfunny writing. Along with the exploration of the “People of the Land,” it also coincides with the focus on a minor group of adventurers consisting of Touya, Minori, Rudy, Isuzu, and Serara. These characters—minus Rudy, who’s a little shit—are both far more interesting as characters and as a plotpoint than the major group. They’re much weaker and are in need of training to get to the eventual point of being as OP and Shiroe and co. To me, that is way, way, way, way more interesting to watch than I-am-already-max-level-and-perfect. These newbie players are experiencing the world in a more natural way that the audience can relate to… because they have no idea what it’s capable of.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahhahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahaha

They aren’t perfect—nothing about this series is. But the positives are surprisingly frequent, given my history of looking down on isekai. If it manages to improve its overall writing quality, which I intend to see for myself as I watch more from the series, this should turn out to be a really good series. With the approach of a third season, interest in it will return and people will be talking about. Maybe I’ll join in? Probably not—I have too much on my plate. Nonetheless, I’m actually looking forward to watching more. Not so much looking forward to more neutered sex jokes.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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