It’s finally time to turn our attention back to Shiroe. Hopefully, this will be a less angst-ridden arc. It’s not like the guy’s going to fall in love with and miss himself, right?
— We finally get to see how Shiroe managed to die back on Christmas Eve, but after spending so much time with Akatsuki, I was hoping to see the story move forward. Unfortunately, we’re going back in time to see what had already happened. I mean, it would’ve been cool to see our hero wipe a few weeks ago, but now that I know what will happen, I’m just not all that excited to see it. And no, it’s not like watching a prequel. A prequel will either be a whole new movie or a whole new series, and as such, it will contain a wealth of new information, characterization, etc. This is just one episode, and half of it is going to be devoted to a battle. I just think the battle has been rendered unnecessary. But anyway…
— I’m surprised that their odds of success aren’t 33.33 percent… repeating, of course.
— I just can’t get over all the colorful lights in this anime. Here, it almost looks like someone’s firing a gatling gun at the the raid boss.
— Unfortunately, these raiders are pretty bad. Not only does Shiroe have to warn them about an incoming attack, you even see the boss charge up said attack. But despite all this hand-holding from both the raid and the raid leader, two people still manage to get themselves insta-killed.
It just goes to show you that Shiroe really has no one to depend on. These are the people brave enough to risk dying, but at the same time, they’re just not very good at the game. It’s frustrating enough when you wipe in an actual MMO and feel like you’ve just wasted an hour. The thing is, that’s just a game. Shiroe doesn’t really have a choice, He has to do this or else he won’t solve Akihabara’s cash flow problems. So not only is something very serious at stake, he has to deal with inattentive, underleveled players (to be fair, he’s underleveled too). As a leader, he’s going to be nice about it, but I’m not. In an actual MMO, these players would all be kicked.
— Oh god, the gatling gun effect gets worse. This is literally the best that Studio Deen can come up with. How do we animate a bunch of raiders attacking the boss from a distance? Neon jelly beans!
— This cat dude just stands there and beats on his drum. I wonder what this even does. Must be a group buff of some sort. Still, the idea of a guy doing nothing but pounding on his drum for an hour amuses me.
— Like most raid bosses, this one changes its attack pattern mid-fight. Our adventurers thus run into a unique problem. Most raid encounters are not designed to be beaten within the first few tries. Hell, some are even deliberately overtuned to keep players from finishing the content too quickly. But in this universe, you don’t have the luxury to wipe to a boss for weeks upon weeks in order to learn its mechanics. So what are we to do?
— At one point, the boss’s armor shatters, and the tiny pieces turn into adds, i.e. extra monsters for the raid group to deal with. But every time our adventurers defeat those adds, the main boss heals up a significant chunk of his health. Whoops.
— But hey, at least there are actually adds in this MMO anime. It never made sense to me that none of the raid bosses in Sword Art Online would ever spawn adds. It’s pretty much an MMO staple. Why would you require so many people to gather in one area if they’re just going to hammer away at a single target for an hour? In fact, SAO has the largest raid group I’ve ever seen. You need 49 people to make a full raid group, and yet, the show’s bosses never seem to spawn adds. That’s ridiculous.
— Not only that, it’s just not fun to fight or watch people fight a single target. The best raids are the hectic ones that force you to juggle multiple tricky mechanics at once. So likewise, watching a raid group do more than just fight a single boss should be more fun as well. Fairness has nothing to do with it. Log Horizon isn’t quite there, but it’s at least a few steps ahead of its MMO-based brethren.
— Is Log Horizon a better MMO-based anime than SAO, though? I don’t know. I think Log Horizon gets incredibly dull at times. It is, however, better at portraying an MMO than SAO.
— Shiroe figures out how to get past the shadow adds. You simply have to limit the number of people who attack the boss when it’s in its Black Knight form. Then when the shadow adds spawn, you don’t have to defeat them all. Yeah, my initial idea was to have a tank taunt all the adds, then kite them around the edge of battlefield, but maybe that’s just the old FFXI player in me talking. Man, there was a lot of kiting in that game…
— This entire time, Demikas still wants to get his revenge on Shiroe. I would’ve never taken him with them. I’d rather take some green, level 85 newbie over someone like Demikas. But hey, the story’s gotta create tension somehow, right?
— Unfortunately, two more bosses enter the battlefield when our heroes manage to whittle the current one got down to half its health. To be honest, however, these raiders should’ve seen this coming. Raid bosses always switch things up around those health thresholds, so it’s kind of funny to see them look all shocked and everything.
— Three raid bosses at the same time is nothing, man.
— So Shiroe dies and he sees some of the same things that Akatsuki had seen.
— Christ, this animation…
— When it doesn’t derp out on us, however, I do like this style over the one we normally get.
— As it turns out, Shiroe’s not much different from Akatsuki. Oddly enough, he seems to garner a lot of respect in Elder Tale — and that’s probably because he’s a bit of a Gary Stu — but back in the real world, he had trouble connecting with kids around his age. But unlike Akatsuki, the real Shiroe sounded like a brat: “I mocked the kindness of others. When people stretched out their hands to me, I smacked them away.”
— A flashback reminds us why people avoid dying: “When you die, you learn a lot… That you suck, that you’re petty, that you’re lame.” We saw Akatsuki confront her shortcomings shortly after her death, and we’re now seeing the same thing with Shiroe. I don’t really see this has to be a bad thing, though. The memory loss thing seems like a greater deal to me. I certainly wouldn’t want to forget anything about the real world. After all, I might return there one day. On the other hand, confronting our shortcomings might be painful in the short-term, but the way I see it, it can actually be therapeutic. Take Shiroe, for instance. He’s been so wrapped up in his current responsibilities in Elder Tale, when was the last time he really took the time to reflect on his past life? I think it’s all about how you approach it. If these reminders are too painful, then I guess you’re just not ready to reflect and improve as a person.
— Shiroe comes to the realization that he’s holding his allies at arm’s length. He’s not telling them about his true goals. Even though he has an easier time befriending people in Elder Tale than Akatsuki, he still doesn’t really trust his allies as much as he should. So y’see, it’s not completely bad to die in Elder Tale. You just have to be mature about it.
— Our hero then makes some observation about how they’re on the moon, i.e. the game’s unofficial test server. Not sure what to say about that…
— The rest of the episode is stuff we’ve already seen before, so let’s just end the post here. The second half of the episode is interesting. Not stellar, but interesting. The first half, however, doesn’t feel necessary. Still, I’m already liking Shiroe’s side of the story better than Akatsuki’s.