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Log Horizon Anime Review
Within the past decade or so, there have been multiple iterations within the realm of MMORPG-based anime series. One of the first of these is known as .hack//Sign. From what I've heard of this series, it has little in the way of interesting plot or action. Although I have not actually seen .hack//Sign, it seems quite bland, though a future viewing may change my mind. The second notable, and most popular, installment within the MMORPG-based anime setting is Sword Art Online. In many ways, I see Sword Art Online as a lot of wasted potential. This is mainly because of the characters within it. All of the characters feel pretty generic and have little to no depth and a large portion of the story is spent following the protagonist character, Kirito (and only Kirito), through a bunch of filler episodes and then a sudden romance plot line which both ultimately fail in turning Kirito into even a remotely interesting or relatable character. That being said, 2013 brought forth Log Horizon, which uses a relatively new take on the setting.
What sets Log Horizon apart from other titles in this setting is that the main goal of the characters in the story is not to escape the game-like world that they have found themselves in. Instead, the characters (a group of them, not just one or two people) seek to change the world they are in into a stable land with as little conflict as possible. This is partially due to the fact that nobody in Log Horizon has any idea of how to escape the "game", since they are not within a voluntarily-admitted virtual world such as the one in Sword Art Online, but rather, they are suddenly whisked into a real place which follows the customs and rules of the MMORPG known as Elder Tale. This includes the mechanic that allows adventurers (or players) to appear at a cathedral when reaching a fatal level of health rather than dying.
Log Horizon features a very diverse and large cast of characters, though a great number of them don't get a whole lot of screen time or are not elaborated upon that much. The main purpose of this is probably to make the world feel more real, though this does also give away to the fact that the Log Horizon anime is based on a series of novels, which usually have more room to elaborate on certain aspects of a story more than any series or film will ever be able to. But what a series can do is focus on a few central characters and make them feel as human-like as possible.
Throughout the majority of its first season, Log Horizon centers mainly on protagonist Shiroe and his group of friends who become members of Shiroe's guild, Log Horizon. Since there are so many characters in this series, there is room to discuss only a few of them. The only two characters who seem to remain constant during the whole season are Shiroe and Akatsuki. Shiroe is a reasonably intelligent man who acts as a sort of support mage. He is responsible for most of the stupendous events that occur in the series and some don't agree with his actions since most would consider them to be quite drastic. However, Shiroe only cares about his close friends and those people know that Shiroe is a compassionate person at heart. Shiroe's loyal servant, Akatsuki, is a woman of very diminutive stature who is an assassin-type character. She seems to rarely speak her mind but seems like she would have her own strong opinions. Naotsugu, an armor-ridden fighter, has little to offer in the way of plot advancement, but is used often for comic relief and provides a different view on things compared to Shiroe and Akatsuki.
Next is a group of children who are newer to the world of Elder Tale than the three previously mentioned characters. These characters seem to admire Shiroe and his friends a great deal, which is not unlike something you would see in an actual MMO. All of the remaining characters are either members of other guilds within the city of Akihabara or "people of the land", also known as NPCs, which are now real people and can actually die, unlike the adventurer characters. This detail in specific leads to a large amount of disharmony between the adventurers and the people of the land since the people are likely jealous of the adventurer's immortality as well as their freedom. What I feel is notable about the entire cast as a whole is their ability to appear human. I can't think of any characters in the entire series that feel one-dimensional or shallow, though some might assert that Naotsugu does nothing but be perverted and take damage for the party. This is true to an extent, but in the later episodes it is shown that Naotsugu is not only a comedic relief device (much akin to Clannad's Sunohara).
As of this writing, there is no English dub for Log Horizon. I'm not sure why there isn't one, but I could definitely see this series becoming popular in the U.S., to the point of which it could actually be aired on Toonami. Though I could be wrong about this, since many of Toonami's viewers would not be interested in Log Horizon's relatively low amount of action.
What bothers me most about Log Horizon's audio is its intro song, which contains english rapping by a native Japanese speaker. It's obvious here that nobody on the development team knows much about English grammar to the point at which the lyrics made absolutely no sense and even the subtitles don't follow simple punctuation rules correctly. The rest of the soundtrack, excluding the ending song, is forgettable. To put this into deeper perspective, I can't recall a single track during the body of the series that was noticeable or stuck out in some way.
Also, the animation in Log Horizon is not something to gawk at, since most of the settings and characters feel bleak and/or dull. I'm not sure if this is just the art style they went for, a result from lack of budget or what, since it seems most MMORPG worlds have brighter colors than Log Horizon.
As to the show's audience; I'm not really sure who exactly Log Horizon was made for. There isn't a whole lot of swearing, there is no sexual content or nudity (unless you count Naotsugu's persistent mentioning of "panties") of any kind, and the violence is PG material. This all points to the idea that the series was designed for a younger audience, but I digress. The hours upon hours of dialogue that Log Horizon offers probably isn't something most males age 10 to 18 would be interested in, though this obviously depends on the specific person in question.
Log Horizon does not attempt to draw its viewers in with fan service or repetitive action. Instead, the show tries its best to show us what would actually happen if the world's rules were suddenly exchanged for the rules of a real MMORPG instead of some fantasy world where some guy magically can do anything and every female he meets somehow becomes infatuated with him. I highly recommend Log Horizon to anyone fatigued by the direction that anime has gone recently, though if you aren't annoyed by things such as Kill la Kill and No Game No Life's ridiculous popularity, then Log Horizon is probably not something that would interest you.