An anime about people trapped in an MMO. Now where have I heard about that before?
When two things are released in quick succession, with very similar premises, and you know that one of them was good, there are pretty much two possibilities for the other. It’s going to be terrible, or it’s going to be amazing. With this in mind, I watched the first few episodes of Log Horizon with a cautious, but open, mind.
Log Horizon is definitely the latter of the two options.
The animation quality is mid-budget 2003-2005 level and the opening theme wishes it was as good as what 4-Kids Entertainment uses to replace what they get their hands on. The animation isn’t terrible, though, and you can skip the opening sequence, those are mostly unimportant, aren’t they?
Yes they are.
We’ve all seen the “Everyone’s trapped in a video game!” trope. We’re familiar with “If you die in the game, you die in real life,” and it’s safe to assume most people have wished they could live inside of their favorite video games. Sword Art Online scratches these itches. Log Horizon does something completely different.
The world of Log Horizon is a game. Characters have stats, item menus, they train abilities, and as of episode 2, anybody who dies will respawn at the Cathedral, just like when it was a game. Instead of focusing on the question of survival in the game-world they’re in, characters of Log Horizon focus on dealing with the fact that they apparently have become their avatars in a popular MMORPG, and trying to figure out WHAT HAPPENED!?
Another thing I like about Log Horizon is that the author wasn’t trying to write above his intelligence. The circumstances don’t seem incredibly contrived like in Liar Game, and Shiroe, the brains of the party, doesn’t get billed as some sort of super genius who then proceeds to make bone-headed choices like Lelouch(I’m going to get comments about that one), and it turns out that unlike Light Yagami, Shiroe is already kind of evil, but he knows it, and he’s also a really nice guy, so it balances out. Actually, he’s a lot like Dominic Deegan, minus the clairvoyance.
Shiroe is the brains of the party, yes, but he’s not some sort of prodigy or savant. He’s an ordinary guy, if a fairly good tactician, who keeps his eyes open and makes use of what he sees, and what his opponents don’t. He knows when and how to depend on his friends, and how best to use their capabilities in an encounter. Even if, like with Akatsuki early on, the bast way to use them is “Ignore her and let her do her own thing.” Shiroe isn’t even responsible for the most ground-shattering discoveries. He does, however, show how to effectively utilize these discoveries, whether it be that all of the land in Akihabara has suddenly become purchasable, or that an old colleague of his is the ONLY person who seems to have figured out how to make food that doesn’t taste like Nutri-Loaf.
So of course, the real question you may be asking is, “Sword Art Online, or Log Horizon, which is better?” and I know most of you asking were really hoping I would say Sword Art Online. But the answer is that that’s a stupid question. They aren’t competing, they’re completely different. SAO is prettier, and the characters are more approachable(for me, anyway), and Log Horizon does a better job of telling its story than Sword Art Online does, but that’s the thing. Log Horizon is telling ITS OWN story.
And much like Sword Art Online, it’s a story that is worth experiencing.