Log Horizon Season 1: *push glasses up*

Log Horizon S1 - 2501

With the sequel just around the corner, I guess I better say what I want to say about the first season before it’s too late. Well, how do I put this… I didn’t like it. I mean, I don’t hate it like I hate a show like Sword Art Online, but I found Log Horizon dreadfully boring to watch. Maybe it just isn’t a show that I’m supposed to marathon. I initially tried to watch the show in one sitting, but I just had to stop after a few episodes. I did eventually finish watching the whole thing in a handful of sittings, but it was a painful ordeal. The show isn’t without its merits, but it has some serious flaws as well. And at this point, I seriously wonder if I’ll ever like any anime that claims to be about an MMO. This is rather peculiar because, well, I haven’t stopped playing MMOs since Final Fantasy XI first came out. I’m no Ultima Online “superveteran,” but I’ve still been at this for quite some time. I just love the idea of a massively multiplayer online RPG. I’ve played almost every major one that’s come out. So why is it that these anime series bore me so much? This is just one of the many problems I have with the Log Horizon, but I find that these anime series tend to keep skipping what I enjoy the most about MMOs, and that’s the part where the hero builds his character. Where is that goddamn part, man? In Sword Art Online, we simply get a timeskip, and all of a sudden, Kirito is this badass swordsman. And what do I get in Log Horizon? Shiroe is a super intelligent strategist who’s already at level 90. Not only that, he knows almost every goddamn thing about the game. Yawwwwwwn.

I mean, sure, there’s a story reason for this. Elder Tale is a successful MMORPG that has been out for quite some time now. A new expansion is coming out, so a bunch of people, including our hero and the people on his friends list, log on to play the game only to find themselves trapped in the game world. Still, you can justify it all you want, but at the end of the day, we’re missing out on that classic hero’s journey from chobo to gosu powerhouse. What I enjoy most about MMOs is seeing my character level up, acquire new spells and abilities, acquire cool-looking gear, so on and so forth. It goes without saying that I’d probably like to see the same thing too in a story about people playing an MMO. Sure, Shiroe gets new spells throughout the course of the show, but these instances are few and far between. In fact, there’s hardly any emphasis on character building whatsoever. Our hero and his allies are super capable from the start, and fittingly, I’m just super bored. Like a lot of shows, you have to look to the side characters to see anyone actually grow and get stronger. So there’s this summer camp thing for the younger players to learn the ropes. Unfortunately, they’re not the main characters. Alright, sure, you can argue that I simply had the wrong expectations for Log Horizon. In fact, you could argue that the story is about transcending the RPG part of the MMORPG altogether. And to give credit where credit’s due, this is honestly the only redeemable thing about the show.

Log Horizon S1 - 0501

So these characters are trapped in an MMO world, and instead of just being all nihilistic about it, i.e. randomly PKing people for fun, they try to treat the world as though it’s the real thing. This is foreshadowed from the very start when the characters initially complain about all the tasteless food in the game. When you treat the food as though it’s a video game mechanic, i.e. you try to cook by combining the ingredients through the RPG menus, everything comes out tasting horrible. If you want your food to actually taste like food, you have to take it seriously. Like literally seriously, if that makes sense. Food is no longer just a simulacrum that arbitrarily removes your hunger. When you treat it like the real thing, it may as well become the real thing. For instance, you gotta put the diced cubes of meat on the skewer, season them with spices, then hold the skewer over an open flame until the meat is cooked just right. In other words, the world is what you make of it. Sure, you can see Elder Tale as a game, and if you do so, nothing will have any meaning because video games are just video games. But that’s all on you. You’re the one who didn’t give the world meaning just like how you’re the one who didn’t give the food any flavor. The world starts to change, however, when you start giving it meaning. Cooking delicious food is just scratching at the surface of what the adventurers can do, too. Soon enough, they have invented a prototype steam engine, which has never existed in Elder Tale. The question soon becomes, “What else can we change about this world?”

Naturally, the NPCs, a.k.a. the “People of the Land,” have also come to life. If anything, they’re more “real” than the real people themselves. After all, they don’t magically respawn at the cathedral when they die. When they die, they actually die. So who’s really real here and who’s fake? A large part of the story thus revolves around the uneasy alliance between adventurers and the NPCs, especially when a horde of goblins tries to invade. There’s also all the sociopolitical stuff involving the various guilds and Shiroe’s attempts to turn Akihabara into a legitimate city. Rather than bludgeoning us with the idea that death is totally serious business (with them losing bits of their memories, though, it still is kind of serious business), Log Horizon puts the onus on the self-proclaimed humans to take back their humanity. This is kind of odd, of course. People play video games in general to escape from the real world. One thus presumes that most of the trapped 30,000 adventurers had logged into Elder Tale that one fateful day to do that exact, same thing. All of a sudden, they must now ignore the fact that they’re in a video game, and make the world around them seem like the real thing. What’s the point here? In fact, is there even an overarching point to the anime? It’s hard to say. Much of the narrative seems aimless as it just goes from one story to the next without any real final goal for our heroes to achieve. Maybe this is all just one long build-up to something big in the sequel. After all, all those World Fraction stuff does seem kind of intriguing. For the moment, however, the story lacks much of an endgame. But then again, if we’re all about making the world seem more like real life, then we must admit that real life doesn’t really have an endgame either.

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Unfortunately, Log Horizon has major problems that detracts form the overall experience. The narrative is crippled by how voiceover-laden it is. There’s this bizarre need to have every character feed us paragraphs upon paragraphs of inner dialogue that I’d dare say it’s rather masturbatory. It feels as though the author is super proud of his brilliant strategies, so he has to make sure we are really aware of this. But even when there are no brilliant strategies to go over — even when a character is just mere seconds away from dying — our characters continue to yap, yap, yap. And yeah, I know part of the narration feeds into the world-building. Not everyone has played an MMO before, so the story has to clue the audience in on the mechanics of the game. What’s a cooldown? What does this spell do, what does that ability do, so on and so forth. But there’s got to be a better way than bludgeoning me with voiceovers and narration. This can’t be the extent of our storytelling abilities, can it? It doesn’t help either that I find none of the characters remotely charismatic. If the main character isn’t a badass who can destroy everything in his path through sheer strength, then he’s a wide-eyed, ganbatte-it-up shounen. But if he isn’t that either, then he’s this mastermind strategist who knows everything. It’s just the same boring shit over and over. And for the love of God, can he stop pushing his glasses up? I fucking swear I see him do that like twenty times in a single episode. But like most shows nowadays, he’s just this brilliant know-it-all, and naturally, every character worships the ground he walks on. Naturally, every girl wants to fuck his brains out too. Shiroe might not be the standard dual-wielding jackass, but he still feels like a self-insert character. He’s still a special snowflake in a world that’s supposed to feel real.

The supporting cast isn’t much better. Akatsuki is this tiny, pubescent-looking girl, but dude, she’s totally a college-aged woman in real life! And don’t you call her small! As previously mentioned, she’s one of the many women who have this instant infatuation with the main character. Akatsuki even insists on calling him her master, which just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Even if you say she’s just roleplaying as an assassin, and ninjas usually answer to a master, she quickly becomes an obvious love interest without Shiroe having to do much of anything. And the “jokes” between her and Naotsugu are just annoying. It’s like Flanderization, but they don’t even get a chance to be normal before they get Flanderized, y’know? Right off the bat, the two of them fall into a routine where he say something perverted, she kicks him, then she asks Shiroe for permission to kick him. It isn’t funny the first time, and it never ever becomes funny at any point after that. But does this deter Log Horizon? Heeeeeeeeeeelllllll no. Enjoy these shitty, cliched character interactions until the end of fucking time. It gets even better when the goddamn cat man joins the party, so he feels the need to throw in “nyahhhhh~” at the end of every other sentence he utters for the rest of the series. At one point in the story, the focus of the narrative shifts away from Shiroe and his sociopolitical stuff to watch a bunch of kids tackle a dungeon. Problem is, they’re not Shiroe, who is thinly-developed to begin with. As such, I have no investment in these kids succeeding at some dinky dungeon. Every single character, including the hero himself, is utterly and painfully one-dimensional.

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it doesn’t help either that the character designs are bland as fuck. For instance, the anime repeatedly tries to convince us that Akatsuki is hot as hell, but even if I was into tiny midget characters like hers, she’s about as generic as they come. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she’s just some non-playable ninja character. But as it turns out, she’s the main heroine of the story! Whoops! But don’t get me wrong; I don’t want them to look like weird raid-geared World of Warcraft freaks. There’s a middle ground, though. I’m not asking for the characters to look flamboyant, but at the same time, they don’t have to this boring. For all the world-building, the world itself isn’t very interesting to look at either. It’s all just a bunch of generic fantasy locales. I feel like if you’ve seen one fantasy anime, you’ll have seen them all. Worst of all, the animation quality leaves a lot to be desired, too. And after watching Satelight bungle M3 – Sono Kuroki Hagane all spring and summer long, it wasn’t exactly a treat to watch Log Horizon in action. I can hardly believe that this is an anime that aired just earlier this year. Heads are sometimes too small and mishapened, bodies are sometimes too big, and the action scenes feel perfunctory. You’re definitely not watching this show to be swept away Satelight’s animation prowess. Oh, a new studio is heading up the sequel? Let’s take a look… Studio Deen. Welp!

So with all that I’ve said above, why would I even watch the sequel to Log Horizon? Again, the story isn’t without its merits. If you can get past the cardboard-cutout characters, the uninspired setting, the lame humor, the mediocre animation, and the meandering direction to the narrative — which admittedly might be intentional — there’s something potentially intriguing about where the story is headed. What exactly does Shiroe want to do to change this world? Is there any point to returning to their previous lives if this life is just as real? But like a lot of shows of its type, I dare say Log Horizon doesn’t quite know its limits. There are way too many characters so none of them really stand out (unless you’re the sort who just automatically falls in love with character types), and every attempt at humor falls woefully short of the mark. If the sequel can just cut the bullshit and focus on the more serious aspects of the narrative — minus the narration… oh for the love of god, take out the shitty narration — then we might just salvage something out of this whole mess. I’m not going to get my hopes up, though. At the moment, I have Log Horizon on my list of things to watch for the soon-to-come fall season, especially since it appears to air on the same day as SAO, but it’s all tentative at the moment. I won’t hesitate to drop the show if it becomes too much of a slog to sit through.

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17 thoughts on “Log Horizon Season 1: *push glasses up*

  1. Anonymous

    One of the things that really sucked was the world. Yeah, it’s just like any uninspired fantasy world BUT I’m talking about the main city.
    It just sucked, and absolutely everything being obnoxious green didn’t help. That place is moss, moss and even more moss. I’d get away from that place asap.
    And the characters suck too of course.

    Reply
  2. Flawfinder

    I’d say Log Horizon suffers a bit of the opposite problem that SAO suffers, at least in terms of what I understand of the original novels based on the anime. The author seems to want to focus on MMOs rather than be a fan-wank story with an MMO dressing, but he’s not really putting enough effort into it. And I mean effort creativity-wise, because I’ve seen the author go to 4chan in order to interact with the fanbase regarding whether he was doing a good job, what improvements could be made, etc. (I personally woulda picked a better website to interact with, but eh. It’s no “video game developer interacts with fanbase” mess), so it’s clear he really wants to make something good. Still though, I can’t help but feel an “afraid to take risks” vibe from what I know of the guy. Not that I’d consider SAO risk-taking in any way. It’s kinda hard to say in words.

    As for whether a really good anime regarding MMOs will ever come out, maybe. But who knows how long it’ll take before we get an anime version of…I dunno…Tron? Took a long time for Ping Pong to come out regarding the sports genre after all, and that genre has been around in anime waaaaay longer than the MMO fad, even if you include .hack/sign.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I dunno about you, but I’d rather let the MMO fad just die. I don’t think there is anyone out there that could do the MMO genre justice. .HACK is great and it’s a shame that we’re stuck with SAO as the “face” of the MMO-anime genre.

      And what the fuck was The Tower of Druaga show? What a meh show that was.

      Reply
  3. eternia

    The glasses! I am going to vote up on that remark.
    I hate how the protagonist is portrayed as the smartest person in the world when, as we can see, all that he has done aren’t that great.
    And buy a damn new glasses already if it keeps sliding down on you!

    I advised people to pick up this anime, but for people such as us who’s already drowned halfway in the mud, it’s better to stick around to see how it ends, huh.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    1. I would love seeing a cast in a MMO-themed anime leveling up, but I can see A LOT of things that can go wrong along the way. The only realistic approach to having a good focus on the leveling-up aspect of the MMO would be a “slice-of-life” show with characters who are friends just logging in and doing stuff, everyday. Does it have to be VMMORPG? Not really. Welcome to the NHK did a pretty good representation of MMO-play by pretty much passing it off as a fantasy anime. I think by this point VMMORPGs have been completely ruined thanks to a certain show. *coughSAOcough*.
    I’m guessing the purpose of omitting the “leveling up” is because there is an over-arching story that just can’t facilitate the HUGE thing that is the leveling process. Because the story’s focus is beyond and past the early parts of the game. So, we ask ourselves, “Why even have it take place in a MMO?” And the answer? It doesn’t need to. The grinding for levels and gear is SO vitally important and integral to the MMO that leaving that out entirely completely destroys the purpose of the MMO setting. Seriously, just have it set in a high-fantasy world if swords and magic are REALLY needed.
    But there has to be something in the industry who has enough writing chops to strike the delicate balance of grind and events, right? Well, seeing the caliber of writing that has been coming out for past couple of years, that somebody will be very hard to find.
    Now, everybody knows that grinding is just mind-numbingly boring; that’s why it’s called “grinding” instead of “sliding” or whatever. And honestly, I seriously doubt there’s any way to convey grinding as a integral part of the MMO experience satisfyingly. On one hand, we got realistic grinding, which people will bitch and moan about being too boring, and on the other we got the time skips where apparently our cast have diligently put X amount of hours every day to level up. And that feels artificial, because you can’t really connect with the audience with “Oh, trust us, they worked hard. We didn’t show you, but still they worked hard.” Also, fuck montages, leave that stupid shit in the 80’s and 90’s.
    The only real way is to bullshit and bend the experience of the MMO, for it to be palpable for viewers. Because let’s face it, we know that watching real MMOs can be painfully boring to watch in real life.

    So here’s what I’m waiting to see: a one cour show being very much tongue-in-cheek and (like I said before) being “slice-of-life”. Let’s have episodes of the realities of grinding levels and items, fun stuff like annual and holiday events, and the obligations and frustrations that every MMO player encounters. Also, have the writer know how much bullshit most REAL MMOs have to padding out their playtime. And why stop there? what about they can’t stop because addiction? Oh, hey, there’s one real topic to discuss: addiction. Sure, Welcome to the NHK dipped into that bowl very briefly (and in fact, pretty well), but surely that can be re-visited in a more broad setting. Of course, let’s get have some real characters…

    2. Yeah, that’s one very negative aspect of Log Horizon: nobody is that interesting at all. And like the posts discusses, I’m not seeing characters, I’m seeing archetypes. And the fact that I’ve seen all of these characters before only in another form in some other show doesn’t exactly help me jive with the cast.
    Well, that and Shiroe is already max level and a know-it-all, which I will say is the most annoying, unsympathetic, and unlikable quality of any human being.
    Hey Japanese writers, maybe there should be a nation-wide conference/education program on how to write well-developed and likable characters. That will only HELP your work.

    3. I’m getting pretty tired of multiple female characters just wanting to jump on the MC’s dick. And it happens literally in every show (unless it’s a moe-blob show where this is no dick to jump on). Is romance between one guy and one girl not enough to count anymore? Is that completely boring? Has it really come to the point where it’s either “I want my own harem” or “I don’t care about girls at all”? Just from a quick search, there are at least three females who are “infatuated” with Shiroe. Why? There’s nothing great or exciting about Shiroe to prompt having three girls chase after him at once.
    But it all just comes down to “this is anime, and all our MC’s should have multiple girls coming after him. Why? Because.” No rhyme or reason. It’s just so it’ll feed into the status quo.
    And it just so happens that 99% of the MC are INCREDIBLY bland with nothing. The whole “the viewer can project themselves through the MC” is tired also. Writer’s shouldn’t pander to their audience for a lame excuse like that. Have a character that is distinctly it’s own character and not just a blank canvas that comes off as just incredibly same-y and boring. And guess what? That’s because a blank canvas MC, who apparently should be fleshed out with the viewer’s own personality traits, are being dragged around by actual narrative that prompt that MC’s reaction. That’s completely self-defeating by creating a dissonance between a blank canvas MC who’s they’re own character and the viewer that’s supposed to project themselves into THAT MC.

    So, people just compare Log Horizon to SAO just because they came out near the same time and are about MMOs. Exactly like InFamous and Prototype. And unlike these video games, neither of the anime are that good.
    Log Horizon suffers from being too meandering and boring while SAO is just… a pathetic virginal teen power fantasy. But at the end of the day, I’d rather watch something that is boring than something that’s offensively terrible in every aspect.

    Oh wait, I’d rather go watch .HACK even with all its teen angst.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      And honestly, I seriously doubt there’s any way to convey grinding as a integral part of the MMO experience satisfyingly.

      We don’t have to make it so realistic that it’s a grind. Some time lapses are necessary. But just having the main character go through a dungeon, get a decent piece of gear, do quests, etc. would be a start. In SAO, Kirito participates in a single fight against a raid boss, gets one armor and wears it for the rest of his goddamn life. In Log Horizon, they don’t even want to do quests. So what’s the point? Why even call this shit an MMO?

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        There’s the fundamental problem with these MMO shows. They’re obsessed with the fantasy setting but not willing to just straight-up go fantasy. Why not? With either SAO or Log Horizon, there’s nothing interesting going on in real life. Ditch that detail and go full D&D and literally nothing important would have to be changed. Well, other than SAO’s shitty ADHD-setting swaps as if the concept of Sword Art Online the game is boring or whatever.

        Are writers just bored with the high-fantasy thing that they have to smack on something to make it “transcend” the regular fantasy genre?

        Reply
  5. ceniotnaram

    «This is just one of the many problems I have with the Log Horizon, but I find that these anime series tend to keep skipping what I enjoy the most about MMOs, and that’s the part where the hero builds his character. »
    So…what? You want an anime where the MC parks is ass somewhere and grind the same respawn spot for ten episodes and a finale where he goes to a dungeon with a bunch of people, kill the boss easily and then park their collective ass to wait for the boss to respawn too? That would be awesome.

    « don’t want them to look like weird raid-geared World of Warcraft freaks. »

    And why not? How funny would that be if the characters would have to go on an adventure and on the way, have to wear ridiculous and mismatch outfit because efficiency is the primary point of wearing gears in any RPG. Imagine then they’d look at each other and remarked how much a bunch of dork they look like? It’s not highbrow humor, but at least it would be a small wink to MMO players.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      So…what? You want an anime where the MC parks is ass somewhere and grind the same respawn spot for ten episodes and a finale where he goes to a dungeon with a bunch of people, kill the boss easily and then park their collective ass to wait for the boss to respawn too? That would be awesome.

      You guys take this stuff very literally, I see.

      Reply
  6. Michael Huang (@gendomike)

    I’m going to step in and defend this show, and a lot more wholeheartedly than my searching sort-of-not-really defense of SAO the other week (which was really about why people hate it so—and I think I know why now).

    It helps to see this work in common with the novelist’s other work, Maoyuu, because their strengths are similar: they are both concerned with how societies work and how they are developed over time. Maoyuu arguably does it even with even greater precision and reference to actual history, but in Log Horizon I think in some ways the MMO setting was essentially a vehicle to try to explain how a functioning society could be built almost from scratch. For me the most interesting parts was how they had to negotiate and build alliances with other guilds, deal with opposing forces in different directions, and how to establish order with not only other players but the sentient NPCs/People of the Land who constitute a wild card. In fact, to me this is the point of the show.

    Maybe it helps too that I’ve only dabbled occasionally with MMOs personally, and so have little investment in how close it is to real games. It still seemed a lot closer to game mechanics than SAO, at least.

    It should also be noted that this is an NHK show. Ostensibly, it needs to be family friendly and probably at least somewhat educational, which may account for why the exposition can be heavy-handed at times.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      In fact, to me this is the point of the show.

      Which is fine, because I also mentioned the same thing being the one redeemable thing about the show. Nevertheless, the characters still suck (this is the biggest problem). Nevertheless, it is still voiceover-heavy. Nevertheless, the setting is still uninspired. Nevertheless, the character designs are ugly.

      Maybe it helps too that I’ve only dabbled occasionally with MMOs personally, and so have little investment in how close it is to real games.

      I feel like people are really only reading the first two paragraphs of the post.

      Reply
  7. sensualaoi

    This is a show I WANTED to like but couldn’t get into. I gave the author the benefit of the doubt and managed to get about halfway through it, but the series went nowhere and I finally had to admit that I’d rather grind in the shittiest Chinese MMO than continue to watch it.

    Yes, I cringed at the poor attempts at slapstick. I did like the moe loli mascot who enjoyed role-playing as an assassin even when stuck in a game, right down to the eccentric speech patterns, (I’m glad the author resisted the temptation to be lazy and simply write in a plain-old High School freshman/gamer girl sidekick); her foundation was fine, and she simply wasn’t developed nearly enough. It would’ve been a more convincing romance if she talked about her pre-game college life, and the two gradually bonded over their commonalities… we needed something tangible to give her some character. Maybe flashbacks to before the game would’ve helped.

    >>But don’t get me wrong; I don’t want them to look like weird raid-geared World of Warcraft freaks.

    I like the idea of them changing their oufits constantly as they picked up and adjusted their gear to meet various threats.

    >>Shiroe is a super intelligent strategist who’s already at level 90. Not only that, he knows almost every goddamn thing about the game. Yawwwwwwn.

    Did you want a shounen log horizon? MMOs lend themselves to shounen anime, with all the grinding *ahem training* required to defeat bosses as you progress further into quests or dungeons. Yes having an overpowered cast did reduce the tension to the point of boredom, but Superman was been a popular series too, and like Superman this anime still could’ve worked if he were instead forced to defend and save weaker characters, villages, and things that we were made to care about. The bigger problem is there is neither no antagonist, no sense of purpose, and no exploration (which would’ve resulted in world-building.)

    A major flaw of these MMO anime is they don’t simulate the sense of exploration that draws us into this genre. I wanted more Lord of the Rings style adventures, rather than sitting in a town and negotiating over guild prices for a full episode, or endlessly talking to a creepy pedo-furry about how to better cook virtual food. (I always wince when characters sit down to eat in an anime because I know they’ll waste precious minutes on formalities like “Itadakimasu” “Ahh oishii! Sugoi! You’re such great cook!” scenes. I think it’d be better to fast-forward whenever you see food in an anime. It’s not worth enduring them for the lame jokes either.)

    How about if the main character’s crew spent the game exploring the remotest corners of the game, looking for clues as to why they’re there, and trying to find a way out of the game? Maybe trying to find a way to send an SOS to the outside world. On the way they fight nihilistic members of anarchist guilds, soul-less marauding beasts, and enlist help from oddly human NPCs. Along the way the three learn more about each other, overcome character weaknesses and form bonds. Such a retelling of Log-Horizon would have left me eagerly anticipating the second season.

    P.S. As an aside towards the people who keep recommending .Hack, is it worthy of the hype? I’ve tried to get into it before, but it’s looks slow and has dated animation.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Did you want a shounen log horizon?

      Part of MMOs involves questing, seeing the world, and leveling up. I think the problem is that you seem to assume this sort of character building necessitates that the anime become some sort of shounen. Why would it have to be a shounen? Is there no other way to have the characters level up without it becoming a shounen? I think that’s sort of silly.

      Reply
  8. Pia

    I’ve the same problem with this anime that you have: it’s very boring, they talk to much about stuff that most of us know over and over, and sometimes they info dump merciless and confuses us, and I do agree that all these characters looks boring as hell, they look way too generic, the only one I kinda like is Nyanta-san.

    It’s an interesting concept, but painful to watch
    I do hope next season get better now that we know the basics about the world they live in (I know, isn’t gonna happen).

    Reply

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