The second season of Log Horizon is a caricature of the first.
Characters have been flanderized to a significant degree, the dialogue is suitably wacky™ enough for your regular trash animes, and they introduce an incredibly stereotypical and annoying character that everyone wishes would just go away, but persists in being in the show to contribute to the aforementioned wacky factor.
The small crush Serara has in the first season returns only to annoy you with extremely overblown animation and dialogue whenever she thinks of Nyanta. Akatsuki is treated like a complete child for an entire arc, and again has over-dramatic dialogue every time Shiroe is mentioned. Shiroe himself is also reduced to a simple stoic badass type, occasionally pushing his glasses up with none of the sense of irony of the first season. The plans and plots which make you like or admire Shiroe from the first season are nearly gone, with only one central plan being the draw for the first half of the season, which brings me to another problem this season has that is directly different from the first.
It takes forever for anything to happen in this season. Unlike the first season, where it was a blitz of plots, move and countermove, this season languishes in dialogue. So much dialogue, all of it so terribly written. Entire episodes are devoted to senseless monologuing and pointless fluff, you will end up asking yourself why you even bother watching this when nothing at all happens.
This season is so full to bursting with pointless dialogue and plot "points" that it can't even get what it does have straight. They make a big deal over flavor-text on items becoming real and applicable, but all this amounts to is a device to allow them to seemingly kill off a character and not even mention him again in the next dozen episodes, as well as an entire filler episode. That's right, they "kill" off a character, don't even give you any closure about it, and have forgotten about that arc since. Everyone treats Akatsuki like an absolute child for no reason for half a dozen episodes, when they're fighting a super-powered person of the land. How do they take down this person? Akatsuki uses a equipment-breaking sword to break his weapon, then everyone else does something incredibly dumb, with horrible long-lasting effects for the entire city, in order to power down his super armor. Hang about, if Akatsuki can hit him and break his weapon, why can't she just break his armor? The answer is they needed to squeeze some more episodes of deliberation over whether or not to do the extremely stupid thing.
I should actually note that in writing this review, I called Akatsuki Tsubaki for most of it, because that's how much this show made me care about her as a character. Re: Not in the slightest bit.
The issue is, this season takes the characters you enjoyed from the first season, and takes their most annoying single aspect and twists that into their central character trait. Even if the season weren't about 90% filler and horrible, horrible dialogue, they've sucked away any life or likeability from their main characters. Good job, guys, good fucking job.
Log Horizon had a huge amount of potential. It had moments of greatness alongside plenty of slice of life moments. There was playing around with cliches and using them in surprising ways. The second season shows just how much the staff actually hate the viewers.
The second season of Log Horizon is an exercise in masochism. Like many viewers, I have this obsessive streak which makes me want to finish what I started vieweing. Boy do I regret it. It caused me not only to despise every moment of the second season, but to also retroactively start loathing the first. It is like they used every single trick to make the show less appealing and fun.
A common complaint about the first season is that things move too slow and that there is too much fluff in Log Horizon. Of course, the second season slows the pace down to a crawl and manages to be far more fluffy. But no, it isn't even the good kind of fluff where it is light hearted fun, or cheerfully romantic, or philosophically deep. Any of those would be fine, and in the first season we had a surprising amount of that. The fluff of the second season is the type where the characters are dumbed down in order for their interactions to fit the emotional range of twelve year olds.
Log Horizon manages to be insulting to the viewer on many levels. From an intellectual perspective, the first season had the whole "integrating off-line and on-line personas" theme, which no longer exists. From a philosophical perspective the first season had "where is the border between real and virutal if you cannot escape the virtual", so naturally the second season ignores that. From an emotional perspective the first season had characters learning to cope with a strange world whose rules changed, and in the second season that is replaced with the cheapest form of interpersonal drama. The writing staff thinks so lowly of the viewers that I cannot help but feel insulted not only on my behalf, but on that of the people surrounding those arrogant bastards.
Writing (Story and Characters):
Good lord did someone drop the ball here. The writing staff deserves not only to be fired, but to be whipped in the town square. I'm not sure how they managed to take all of the potential of the first season and miss every drop of it. Was it intentional? Did they try to be this bad? Did they take the guy responsible for all the good stuff and chain him in the basement? These questions are really the only ones left that I want answered about Log Horizon.
A story that goes nowhere seems to be the "idea" behind the second season of Log Horizon, and if that was what they wanted, well, misery accomplished. There is literally one main plot that they hint at, and in eighteen episodes there is nothing that manages to actually move it forward. Not one damn thing. The "plot" at this point becomes nothing more than a hindrance. While it is not the worst concept, the attrocious execution, pacing that ranges between a snail's pace and outright going nowhere, and character driven elements that are all but futile make this one of the least enjoyable stories in recent anime.
My main problem with the first season of Log Horizon was that the cast was too big to actually develop in a meaningful way. So naturally, the way to solve that was to dumb down the characters and stop whatever development they had in its tracks. What was an average cast has been turned into a bunch of characters that elicit no empathy from the viewer and manage to drag down whatever character-driven elements there are to the story down. Whatever potential there was in the first season is so carefully taken out of its place and shot in the face, and then peed on.
Very rarely does someone manage to fail as badly as the writing staff of Log Horizon did in the second season. It has the "irrelevant OVA" feel as the centerpiece, and instead of picking up and giving the depth that seemed to be lurking in the first season there is absolutely no redeeming feature to the writing of the second other than the fact that memories remain of when it was better. Fire the staff. Every single one of them. Or whenever someone has a suggestion, do the exact opposite. These are the only solutions I can find for this catastrophe.
Artwork (Animation and Sound):
Not that it was particularly strong in the first season, but the artwork manages to become even worse in the second season of Log Horizon. it isn't so much that the animation changed, nor that the sound changed. It is more of the same. Only we now get one crappy amateur song that is repeatedly shoved down the throats of all viewers.
Usually a second season learns from the mistakes of the first and manages to build an even more compelling visual world. After all, the basic concept art has already been drawn, the character designs are already there, and all that is needed is to sharpen things up. Naturally, none of those things happened in Log Horizon. The animation still remains exactly the same, no more impressive and no less. Some points for style, but others removed for mediocrity.
Sound was perhaps the strongest point of the first season of Log Horizon and the second season does exactly the same. Perhaps I haven't explained how annoying that one song is that they think is supposed to show us how awesome one of the characters is. They managed to take the most generic song ever, and give it uninspired lyrics and bad vocals. This is supposed to wow us. Do they really think the viewers lack any taste?
While the artwork is generally the better part of Log Horizon's second season, it doesn't manage to live up to the modest success of the first. A bump in quality here could have made the world feel more alive, bit instead, it was like the staff didn't even try. Somehow, that is even more insulting than being bad.
Don't watch it. Just don't. If you enjoyed the first season, leave it at that. Do not repeat my mistake and allow Log Horizon to defile what little interesting things existed in the first season.
First of all season 1 was really amazing. The series easily caught people's attention through the creative and realistic gaming world of Elder Tale. If we are to compare season 1 with season 2, it is fair to say that season 2 is lacking in terms of excitement whilst season 1 immediately thrilled us right from its early episodes and maintained it well until the end. Despite its failure to surpass season 1, let us not forget the fact that the series is still ongoing.
Intrigue appears to be the name of the game for season 2. Much of the who ha deals with underhanded tactics and dealings with various enemies mostly hidden in shadow or in plain sight but well camoflaged. In some ways, yet the raids and enemies are tougher as they are not fighting the same type of enemy therefore the scale is a bit different. At points it becomes a bit cloudy as to who the enemies are. You do start to wander about what is happening in the real world. If their bodies do not match their real world ones, will those bodies change? Or if they go back, will they have years of being clumsy until they get reacustomed to them? It is said that you change to match your avatar, and yet sometimes I wonder how personalities can be so affected or were some people that quirky before playing the game? That part is unclear. Another thing that is hard to comprehend is, why are the main characters still so low leveled compared to enemies despite the fact that the main characters frequently fight super hard enemies and very high end raids? It does not make much sense to me. At the same time, if laws within game can be changed, does that mean the cocky sorceror who is a native and yet became a player able to then eventually wake up in the real world as if created from nothing? I do not know if this is possible, yet based on how things are going, questions like these come to mind. I just hope we eventually get some answers.
While this series is very strong with a great story, appealing complex characters, stunning events, epic battles, and awesome displays of powers, it is also keeping a bit much in the air and is at risk of doing so for too long. If a series or story leaves certain important questions unanswered or leaves questions unanswered that keep popping up, then that story risks losing the audience's interest. Foreshadowing is not a game to tease your fans with. And if you keep certain important secrets from the audience too long you may anger them. It is unwise to constantly tantalize us with such things only to either drag it on or create more mysteries or one deeper mystery. That is what endangers this series maybe more than anything else. Another somewhat but less overly important issue, is too many characters. If a story creates or has too many characters for which they can maintain a reasonable balance of, then you also assume some great risk of alienating fans. The Xmen movies do that pretty much every time. Or worse, they put one character too much as the important center in a way that never happened and likewise angers at least as many fans as it might please, aka Wolverine. He is not the sole main character despite what the movie series erroneously implies. The villain in glasses himself goes on a sort of covert undercover op reminiscient of navy seals or British commandos. The enemy in some respects is too numerous and powerful. This brings up another word of caution to the makers. Do not do like Fairy Tail and make every enemy they meet the most powerful one so that each story arc you have to keep creating even impossibly, illogical, unreasonably, stronger enemies because you raised the bar too high for the previous enemy and worse, make the heroes somehow weaker again. Fairy Tail does that. It is the only thing I think that really irks me about that other wise great show.
This is all in all, a great follow up to a great show with us, the viewers, being introduced to more of the fantasy world and in greather depth and understanding. For a fairly new show, they do a marvelous job of creating a fairly large, expansive, imaginative, life and death filled world. True however there are a few odd questions that come to mind. Like the so called sister...
Now the villainous in glasses is a bit puzzling. Does that mean all those creatures are secondary accounts of other players or are some players that were not trapped? Can he switch between them like he can in the game? Is she actually him but another part of his personality and perhaps sharing his body or soul? I suppose in a way, she explains why his main character is not even higher or maybe he maxed out his main before the expansion and leveled her up, which is also a tad odd that he might not have lost track of time before the expansion and had been playing her instead because she had more room to grow. This kind of creates a bit of a problem for the story by going in directions that defy what appeared to be the game/series logic up to this time. it would honestly make more sense if he could change his character if he had more than one. Why those creatures need any player avatar at all is also odd sense the thing that makes them, them are in fact the people playing them not the pixels. Since there would essentially be no difference in that sense, why the farce? Or why not play the game themselves and level up fast? They were already fairly strong even at lower levels, it would be pretty easy for them to create their own player characters rather than stealing them. The fact that they are stealing makes them seem far less benevolent, any of them that is.
This sort of thing sort of lacks a rythym that other wise units the story and all elements of the world. It feels out of place and lacks any real clarity as well as make much sense relative to the fantasy world.
Another puzzling aspect is, his former girlfriend. I got the impression she joined the game, AFTER the expansion, and/or, she joined where the expansion either did not take place yet, or did not have the same sucking people into the world effect then traveled east towards him. I am not sure which, but either way, I get the strong impression, she was not in fact trapped or at least originally trapped in the game world like all the others. If that is true, what does that mean? Is she now separate for her real world daughter forever? Why would she forsake her family? Is there ways into the game after the expansion? Does having a way to still join after the expansion mean there is some viable yet simple means to leave? It certainly would seem that way.
At least some new elements in the second season, confused the story a bit more, certainly raised a few more questions, and also in some respects seems to stray direction wise from the prior season. I just hope they do not stray too far or leave too much hanging out in some illogical manner with respect to what we come to expect from the show based on previous episodes.
Every season, story arc, event, or episode does not always need to get grander and grander so that you have to keep placing your pedastal and/or starting point ever higher until even the viewers lose sight of you. Creative is not always just about the next big thing or global crisis. Good stories or rather the good writers behind them, know where to draw limits and how to draw attention without things getting ridiculous or out of hand. This show may not be quite there yet, BUT it is certainly at risk and the creators need to pull in the reins to head down the road of quality not flashy showmanship at the cost of a good story.
I do not intend to sound like a sarcastic critic or anything but, Log Horizon could take a few lessons from its rival show with a very similar concept, just executed slightly differently, Sword Art Online. Now SAO may not be totally clear of risk or may or may not have no examples of going flashy, but they did do something to help settle the story. The players got out. Yet they can return. Now, SAO did risk dragging that on for too long and some of its unanswered questions, but it eventually got to some of those critical points. Log Horizon needs to do the same and stop dragging their feet so much. I know it maybe a big story thing and they drop little hints here and there, but they can not do that forever. They are risking dragging a few things on too long such as the solution. So they can do it in a similar way SAO did it so thus they could keep the story going in a manner of speaking. As usual it closed the series with a bit of a bang. Hmm but at the moment I wonder if the ninja is getting too much attention or too many new traits while, the villain in glasses is stagnating a tad. it was a nice twist with the general too and I am curious to know how that will pan out. The anticipation created by the closing moments of season 2 may well be stronger than at then end of season 1.
Story: We start off from the end of season 1 and we're immediately introduced to money issues of the costs to keep running Akihabara the way it is so Shiroe jouneys off to the north to attempt a raid in Abyssal Shaft after failing to negotiate with the Kunie clan. A little later on another problem appears in Akihabara with a murderer that Akatsuki has to deal with. This is where Log Horizon begins to get more personal and is the beginning of it's downfall. The subplot between Demiqas and Shiroe isn't the least bit interesting since the conclusion came down to them not liking each other. The addition of another mechanic, overskills been more explained was welcomed and needed in order for Akatsuki to defeat the murderer. Shiroe finishing the raid in the Gold of the Kunie Arc left much to be desired since I came to the realization that the plot was getting stale when it didn't do much for the overarching world. The subject of death is brought up again around the concerns of memory loss but it's never explored deeply about how or why that came to be so we're left with no closure in that topic. The next Arc focused around the noob squad's next adventure which further dragged the already bloated scenario. This is arguably the low point of the series and to make things worse despite being canon to the original source it felt like filler that had nothing to do with the story since it wasn't related to Shiroe's end goal. Compared to the first season Log Horizon takes a large nosedive in terms of quality when it comes to the plot. The author's lack of oversight in the goal of this series becomes apparent early on and disappointedly enough it doesn't pick up until the near end of this season.
Animation: Studio DEEN is competent enough to animate this season despite some proponents arguing that it was the main problem. The art was certainly of lower quality but I never had a problem with it so I do not think that is the reason why it failed.
Sound: Once again nothing noteworthy here.
Characters: This might have been an improvement over the first season had it not lowered the screen time of some important/good characters or introduced token casts. It was a slight plus that we got to knew more about Shiroe and Akatsuki's past while they were growing psychologically. I didn't like the addition of an annoying gender bender or the hardcore gamer. I couldn't care less about the noob squad since they were not important enough to be included in the main story.