Log Horizon is one of the fall season's best anime. It’s not particularly action-filled, but it takes its sci-fi premise and runs with it—addressing the logical implications of being trapped in an MMO world. The second half of the series steps it up a notch and adds war, international politics, and magic to the mix.
[Note: This is a review of the second half of Log Horizon and thus contains spoilers. For a non-spoiler review, check out our review of the first half here.]
Log Horizon is an anime all about consequences—namely the chain of consequences stemming from the player population being transported into the game world. For the first half of the series, the characters spend their time trying to adapt to the world they find themselves in—and find their role in it. More than that, they must adapt to the idea that the NPCs are real people and this world is no longer the game they knew.
The consequence of their new worldview is forgetting that, while this world is not exactly the same as the game world, it is still a reimagining of that world and scheduled world events still happen whether anyone participates or not. Thus, without knowing it, the players fail a world event and cause a goblin invasion—an invasion that the NPCs cannot handle alone.
When the players decide to go to war, the series largely focuses on the viewpoint of Lenessia, an NPC character and princess. This allows us to see the player characters in the way a normal citizen of the game world would see them. In Lenessia’s worldview, people are set into different roles in life and are usually good at the skills that come with those roles—be that fighting, farming, or lounging around as a princess.
However, the players seem superhuman to her in their knowledge and power. They can all read and write, know how to fight, and understand tactics on a nearly instinctive level. But what really shocks her is the fact that the kind, friendly, and supportive adventurers are also bloodthirsty killers who find war fun. After all, she has no idea that, to them, killing and quests are somewhat like entertainment—a way to escape the boring real world.
In the second half of the series, we learn why the players were transported into the game world—at least through the eyes of the NPCs. They believe it to be a type of world-changing magic—a magic that had not existed in the world before. To them, major system changes—like the arrival of the first beta testers—are previous examples of this magic. But what this tells Shiroe, the main character, is that it is possible for him to invent new magic.
Thus, when faced with the death of an NPC one of his guild mates cares deeply about, Shiroe creates a new magic spell to bring him back to life. However, by doing this, he dramatically alters the very nature of the world—as well as sending an unmissable signal to the other players in the game that the creation of new magic is possible.
Because of the closure of the portal network that connected the player cities together, the players have found themselves without a practical way of travel or communication. Thus, each area of the world is largely isolated from the others. This means that while Shiroe and the others in Akiba have found a way of living happily and in peace with the NPCs, that might not be so with the other player characters in other cities.
So when someone in the Western area of the world also creates a new form of magic and Western ships and travelers begin arriving in the ports of Akiba, it feels more than a little ominous even as the characters try to enjoy their hard-fought-for peace and relax.
However, despite the sense of impending doom from the West, the series really feels like it climaxes at the goblin invasion; and the remaining episodes are just an epilogue of sorts. We see party planning, a love triangle (that due to age differences can never come to any but the expected conclusion), and lots of light-hearted fluff.
Even with the arrival of people from the West, the Akiba players find the West’s battle plan is one of politics and social discord rather than overt invasion. In fact, the climax of the entire show is one brief, two-minute conversation where Shiroe makes a Western trader look like a complete idiot.
But while the series does end rather anticlimactically, it does do a good job of laying the groundwork for the second season of Log Horizon which is coming this fall.
Log Horizon is an excellent anime for anyone who “overthinks” popular media—be that books, movies, TV, or anime. Consequences are everything and watching how the world develops because of the actions (and inactions) of the players is always interesting.
And despite hitting the climax a bit too early and lacking a bit on the final resolution, it is definitely an entertaining watch. If you love thought experiments dealing with social implications, Log Horizon is definitely worth a watch.
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