Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped In An MMO

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

Log Horizon is one of the fall season's best anime shows. 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 .]

Good -- Consequences

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

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.

Good -- Going to War

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

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.

Good -- Changing the World

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

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.

Good -- An Ominous Impending Conflict

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

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 travellers 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.

Mixed -- Peters Out at the End

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

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.

Final Thoughts

Log Horizon Makes You Really Think About Being Trapped in an MMO

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.

Log Horizon aired on NHK Educational in Japan. It can be watched for free with English subtitles on Crunchyroll and Hulu.


Comments

    Might look into this one :).

    Does anyone else actually like light-hearted fluffy filler episodes in anime?

      I guess It depends, while I don't particularly like them I won't mind if there is a good one episode filler regardless of whether it's light hearted or not......so long as it stays one episode that is.

        Yeah I hear you! I really do like filler episodes, where its maybe a little light-hearted self contained story within one episode. But I hate is when actual broader story is broken up by bits of filler within an episode, or like you said, filler that goes on for an episode too long...

      I like 'em every now and then. Some of the Bleach ones in particular sat pretty well with me.

    Log Horizon was something nice to watch, but I probably won't remember it past the beginning of next season.

    The best anime I've watched so far, can't wait for the next season. :)

    It's good that the main reason it's not as grand as it could be at the end is mainly because they're setting up for the next season. It's genuinely good stuff, and people expecting something akin to SAO really, really shouldn't. Because this is better.

    Last edited 26/03/14 5:06 pm

      And if you actually want more SAO then the second season of that starts in July anyway.

      ... which actually means that most likely the second season of Log Horizon will start halfway into SAO 2's run, so they'll literally be running side by side for a season.

        That's only if they have another arc after the GGO one since that should be only around 12 episodes in which case it should finish before Log Horizon 2 starts in October.....although I guess they could do GGO and finish off with Mother Rosario + a few extra episodes, but I guess we'll know for sure if they announce it to be one or two cour.

        Last edited 27/03/14 1:08 am

          I can't see them greenlighting another season of SAO without it being 2 cours. They've got games coming out and everything, want to milk it for as much as they can. I'm pretty convinced that if necessary they can pad out one story arc with stupid filler and bullshit if they need to, but also they could just go nuts and write and animate a new arc themselves.

            Yeah but he only way two cour will work is by adapting the two sidestories that take place after GGO since the Phantom Bullet arc even with padding should only take about 12 episodes...Although the side stories aren't quite as intense they are still pretty good so if that's the case hopefully we won't have another repeat of the 2nd half of SAO. Plus if those do well they could adapt Alicization (which would be AWESOME) as season 3 ....though that would be impressive since so far it is almost as long as the volumes of the part 1 and 2 of SAO and Phantom Bullet combined.

    I rather enjoyed it myself especially with the announcement of the 2nd season.

    what's this like compared to Sword art online?

      the only similarity is that they are stuck in a game.

      There's no "if you die in the game you die in real life" thing going on, romance isn't as prominent like it is in SAO, and there's less focus on action, with whole episodes which are just politics.

      So, don't come into it expecting SAO, I liked SAO and Log Horizon for two very different reasons.

      The Log Horizon manga author is an Everquest fan and played it for years, so the world actually feels like it's set inside a game - SAO never felt that way to me. Additionally by keeping the circumstances for the players being trapped in the game completely unstated and unexplained it sidesteps a lot of the massive plot holes SAO has. There's a lot of setting points and plot points in SAO that are utterly unrealistic or that if you pick at them a bit the whole plot starts to unravel.

      SAO is a really solid and enjoyable show overall but as a long-time MMO player, Log Horizon clicked with that part of me a lot more.

        That said, SAO had a lot of features and design goals I WISH were in MMOs. A lot more sandboxy.

    Its still left unsaid what is happening to there bodies in the real world. In SAO they were in hospitalized condition when they got out. The theme of this by comparison is our lives are better here lets not try to escape lets just make this world enjoyable.

      Well, the mechanism at which the players were transported into the game is different. In SAO, they had their special VR gear which connects their consciousness to the servers and what not. Elder Tale is just like any current MMORPG. So how exactly did they get in nobody knows as of now. We can't even say if there is a physical body left in the real world so to speak. Heck, it isn't even impossible to go the "THIS-is-the-real-world" route.

      Anyway, back on topic, I wouldn't say that they weren't trying to go back to reality (escapism). Unlike SAO where everyone was informed from the get go that there was a way out and the method to achieve it, those in LH, already befuddled by how they even got into the game, were given essentially no information whatsoever. The first few eps have already shown how depressed so many of the people were in total despair due to the inability to change their situation. There were no leads at all. In addition to that, even the act of suicide wouldn't solve the problem (Disclaimer: I don't condone suicide in real life as a method to "sort out" issues either) as they would find themselves revived at the church* The SAO situation is akin to finding yourself on a remote island in the middle of nowhere with maybe a map and materials to make a boat/raft. The journey home will be dangerous and you know full well that it is not going to be easy but it is not impossible. LH on the other hand, is like throwing you to another random dimension.

      So yea :P

      *SPOILER ALERT:
      Death does come with some side effects
      END OF SPOILER

    There is a second season already announced; hence why the ending of the first season seemed inconclusive. The show isn't about action; never was.
    Look back at the writer's past works and he likes to go indepth into economics and politics in fantastical archtype situations like hero v.s. the demon lord, or in this case being stuck in an mmo.
    Dude's still writing, give him time.

    This is a very good anime, watched it from the start day. I enjoy it on the same level I enjoy naruto/SAO/Bleach. a Very good anime, well thought out with extremely likable characters. Looking forward to the next season in the fall.

    didn't .hack do this already with 4 seasons and like 10 games?

      I loved .Hack by far my favourite. Ive gotevery series and played nearly evey game. I'm still waiting for CC2 to announce a .hack MMO now that sony have announced their occulos rift clone. :P

      Not really the same thing. .hack usually comes back to the digital/simulated nature of the game and so brings in the effects of bugs and hacking on the game world, as well as the side effects of all that in the real world (namely, people going to a coma when attacked in certain ways).

      Log Horizon takes the premise that the game world essentially becomes reality. The old reality is basically gone, out of the picture entirely, and there is no way for ANY of the players to return to it. The world they are in has no bugs (except of the actual insect kind); the new reality sticks pretty closely to its own rules.

      Interaction with NPCs also takes on an entirely new dimension, an approach that I don't think I've seen in any other MMO-based anime. The players are used to seeing the NPCs as cardboard cutout quest/merchandise dispensers; in the new world the NPCs are actual people with feelings, relationships and internal politics, who actually spy on and learn from the PCs.

      Log Horizon also has a much stronger sense of actual community - of the cooperation of disparate groups of people rather than just a small adventuring group or guild.

      Plus, the protagonist is unusual in that he's a very smart guy. I don't mean in the usual anime sense of being able to see the bleeding obvious which everyone else ignores. He lays some pretty deep plots and plans, and recognises possibilities that are implied by the new game reality but which it's very easy for the viewer to miss.

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