Just when I think I got my MMORPG addiction under control!
Story - 7/10
From the looks of things it would be easy to think Log Horizon was just another “RPG come to life” anime, where every episode is just more of the same, fight after fight with no real point, but the show ends up much more than that, which at times does feel like a downside.
Soon after the “Apocalypse” a term given to the phenomenon that caused all humans with an Elder Tales account to suddenly be transferred into the game world, things start to resemble a scene you would expect after any such earth shattering event. People don’t know what to do with themselves, how to stay safe or even how they should act, because while they may feel like themselves, they know they’re in a game world where there are different realities.
With no real laws or consequences some groups start to do whatever they please. They have no problem killing and robbing other players, because there’s no one to stop them, and being a game they know that person will just be resurrected at their Cathedral home point. Other’s take a different approach to enriching themselves, but one that is still none the less devious. They recruit lower level players into their clan, essentially using them as slaves in exchange for protecting them from the Player Killers.
None of this sits right with a character named Shiroe, someone who always played the game on his own terms, valuing having a good time, challenging himself and helping others above his own gain. When he see’s what the world is starting to become he feels it’s his duty to put a stop to it, to make sure the morality of the game world mimics that of the real one.
Shiroe puts a plan into action that see’s him take control of the major guild building in town, thus forcing everyone to abide by his new laws of decency, lest they be banned from the most important building in the area. As to not be seen as an evil dictator, he then convenes a group that includes the heads of the strongest merchant, fighting and social guilds in their region, Akihabara. One caveat to these new laws was that they would also apply towards the player’s interactions with the NPC characters, as Shiroe learned that after the recent update, which caused this whole situation, the formerly developer coded characters are now acting more like independent thinkers, not just those from a script.
After this initial storyline we start to get into what MMORPG’s are all about, killing the same monsters over and over until you hit level Twenty, then changing to different monsters. Okay, well there’s a little more story than that thankfully.
With some semblance of peace now achieved in Akihabara, guilds begin to go back to their major duties of crafting, dungeon raiding and leveling up. With so many lower level players now on their own, after Shiroe freed them from the guilds that were taking advantage of them, he decided it would be a great idea to hold a training camp for them, teaching them how to work as a team, as well as how to fight now that they no longer have use of the computer interface.
At the same time the NPC’s of Elder Tales invite the members of the newly formed “Round Table” to a gala under the guise of building a relationship with them, when it reality they are suspect of the adventurers, unsure of their new motives. The group accepts, but just like the NPCs, they decide this is a great opportunity to learn more about the people of the land and what they are really all about.
Unbeknownst to both the adventurers and NPCs, their work to familiarize themselves with the game, create a real society and form diplomatic relations has had a major consequence, no one was accepting a quest in which they needed to kill a specific type of monster, and now a special game instance has begun, where all the demi-human type monsters have started to form in advance of re crowning the Goblin King, which would cause massive destruction for the game world.
The adventurers all wait for the NPC’s to start seeking help, thus initiating the quest, but it never comes as the characters don’t want to have to reward all the adventurers for their work. Their reluctance to ask for help is noticed by the princess of Estal, Lenessia, and she takes it upon herself to travel to Akihabara and ask for help, which the adventures all give without a second thought.
When the battle finally ends the show goes on for a few more episodes, mostly dealing with all the town festivals and events celebrating their victory. One of these festivals turns out to be the battleground that actually best suits Shiroe, as an NPC is trying to attack the Round Table by trying to tarnish their name through intentionally screwing up shipping orders and trying to create small disturbances in the town, but as usual this is no problem for Shiroe, now aided by his apprentice Minori.
The series starts off a little slow, but still pretty interesting. Seeing how these players adapt to their new world, as well as learning about Shiroe’s past made for a good show, but unfortunatly they very quickly veered from those story lines. While I did enjoy what the show did, by having Shiroe’s brains be the best weapon or ability available to the team, if not the game world as a whole, they still really needed to balance that with some action, as this is still an MMORPG based game.
When they did finally try and produce a battle, it felt phoned in. First the only thing we end up getting from the apparent huge world changing fight, were a few annoying garbage children apparently saving the day, because in just a handful of days training in a dungeon they were able to become as powerful as a group a hundred times their size. Secondly the main boss fight is just talked about, we never get to see the tactics and abilities of these apparently legendary guild leaders and their clans.
Worst of all was they decided to end the show not as a great adventure series, but as a bad soap opera that started to border on creepy.
There were a few things that could have used so much more time, but it’s possible they are saving them for the next series. More info on Shiroe’s name being part of the game’s legend, including his past battles and accomplishments, more insight into ‘World Class Magic,” and finally any other details into the mysterious woman who knows about Shiroe and his abilities. With a large number of episodes for this series I think they could have used a few more of them to expand on those topics I mentioned, as well as giving us at least one really exciting battle, with those additions this show would have been almost perfect for those of us who are fans of the genre.
Animation - 6/10
There are some parts of the animation in this series that are amazing and others that really belong in the trash heap.
Being an MMORPG focused series they needed to make sure the locations were top notch, and here they really hit the mark. Towns all look like the busy city centers we’ve experienced in worlds inhabited by thousands of players. Likewise the outer battlefields and dungeons are beautifully drawn and colored and will make you long to play Elder Tales yourself.
Far back from that are the character and monster designs. They are all drawn well, but everything is just too generic, with mobs we’ve seen over and over again and characters that just look like reprints from other series (Tell me that aren’t many times when Shiroe’s look isn’t that caricature of Koshi Rikudo from Excel Saga.)
The worst part is when they finally got around to the massive battles they pull out the typical horrid CGI animation that they often do to lessen their work load. They managed to go most of the series without it, but drop it in there with just enough time to ruin some exciting moments.
The show also never really features that one epic large scale battle, with a massively imposing boss, that should highlight any MMORPG.
Sound - 5/10
The opening theme for the show is truly atrocious, just some of the worst Japanese nu-metal that I can really remember hearing. The ending is also pretty bad, but it’s a song that would fit in fine with many other different anime shows, just not this one.
Background Music was what it should be, those many classical sounding songs you’d here in say any Final Fantasy game, paired with exciting tunes to enhance the battles taking place.
The voices were okay, but for the most part they are what you would expect for each character, as we’ve come to a point where there seems to only be about a dozen voice over artist in the world of anime. The only two who jumped out as new to me, at least from what I’ve watched, is Akatsuki’s v.o. artist Jad Saxton, who I really enjoyed in her role, and Princess Lenessia, who while voiced by a well known artist, does have an interesting resemblance to the mysterious V.O. artist that voiced Kitsurubami in FLCL.
This was a series I can forgive those horrible opening and closing themes, because for once a show was about an MMORPG where the music within the series really felt like it was made for an MMORPG.
Characters - 6/10
In MMORPGs most people only succeed at the highest levels when they team up with a Guild that has enough high level players to take down the biggest monsters and complete the most successful raid dungeons. In the world of Elder Tales there was a player who refused to join with these large groups, due to the politics and drama, and instead became a sort of mythic character, as he was able to accomplish all the greatest tasks with only a small group of friends, he was Shiroe.
As someone who often tried to resolve problems and quests using planning and unique thinking, as opposed to brute force, Shiroe was always a born leader, but it wasn’t until the exploitation of characters became real did he decide to actually take charge. By gathering all the strongest guilds in town he was able to create a group, now called the round table, which worked to stabilize the economy and protect all the inhabitants, though he achieved some of this through slightly sneaky means, but that is why he also happened to be known as the “Villain Behind Glasses.”
On top of his work as a pseudo governor of sorts, he also still has his skills to fall back on, specifically being one of the strongest Enchanters around, as well as a master Scribe. You would hope this plays into the show, as it is about an RPG, but instead most of Shiroe’s skills are relegated to making deals and reading books.
One of Shiroe’s oldest friends in the game, and a member of his renowned questing group The Debauchery Tea Party, is the Guardian class character Naotsugu. His role is that of the “Tank” a player who relies on high defense and provoke skills to gain the attention of the monsters while his teammates deal damage. He acts like a goofy woman obsessed character, and claims to be a proud pervert, but when ladies do throw themselves at him, such as Marielle, he’s extremely uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to do.
Early in the show Shiroe and Naotsugu run into Akatsuki, a Ninja that they had previously met a few times before when Elder Tales was just a game. Shiroe receives his first unofficial quest from this character, helping them change their male avatar to a female, so that it more resembles their real life persona, though she ends up looking many years younger. After gaining her new form she devotes her life to protecting Shiroe, as any good ninja would do, and stays by his side as his body guard. As much as I usually dislike these cuties type characters that are meant to draw in a particular type of fan, I think they did a good job with Akatsuki, balancing her appeal to viewer’s eyes along with her strong character and goofy interactions with Shiroe and Naotsugu. Her inclusion in the little love story at the end was also the better part of that plot, as it helps merge the idea that while her character is supposed to be a steely eyed assassin, she is also now her human self who can have a crush on someone, even if it is counter to the front she puts on for the game world.
As Shiroe’s guild Log Horizon is brand new it doesn’t contain many members just yet. One is his long time friend and old party mate Nyanta, who along with Shiroe is a legend in the game not only for his ability, but for his outside the box thinking, which leads to him figuring out how players now have the ability to cook food just like in the real world, as well as creating items that were never coded into the game such as steam engines. Another member is Rundel Haus, an adventurer whose backstory ends up being pretty intriguing, as he literally owes his life to Shiroe. Finally the last two members of our young guild are Minori and Tohya, characters that are the poison in almost every anime they touch, massively annoying children. They were new characters who were helped by Shiroe, and thus can’t do anything for themselves, later in the series Minori gets an extra awful storyline as they try to use her in a love triangle along with Shiroe and Akatsuki, despite the fact they are most likely twice her age.
One of the guilds with a friendly connection to Shiroe is the Crescent Moon Alliance, a group that in the past often tried to recruit him. While their members do play an important role in helping Shiroe, for the most part there are only two who matter to our story, Marielle and Henrietta, and they are there for some comic relief and the tinniest bit of ecchi for those that need it in every single series.
Like the Crescent Moon Alliance there are many other guilds mentioned, and their leaders are present throughout most of the main storylines, but there is little to any of them. I felt as if characters like Crusty, Issac and Michitaka were there just because they fit character types that shows like this need. They also filled in for the fact that they couldn’t have Shiroe do everything, so instead they had rather bland and cliche characters pick up the slack, as they were so mundane no one would ever care if they didn’t have a backstory or plot arch, you just want them off the screen.
Surprisingly a group of characters that end up being more important than most are the NPCs, or in our show’s case People of the Land. In this new version of Elder Tales the NPC characters all think and act for themselves, no longer constrained to the scripts given to them by the game’s coders. Unlike the player base, the NPC’s all live by a class system, with with the royalty ruling over all. With everything changing during the “apocalypse” the NPCs are now leery of the adventures and their way of living, but they try to befriend them in hopes of keeping a close eye on them and seeing what they’re really all about.
The characters aren’t particularly well written, but there is something there, at least with a possible backstory for Shiroe and his group of friends. They could have built up more of his legend if they actually showed some of his group’s exploits, instead of wasting time on the dregs of their guild.
Overall - 7/10
As a fan of one MMORPG in particular, the great original incarnation of Final Fantasy XI, I enjoyed this show immensely, because it touched on aspects of the game I also dealt with, notably eschewing high level guilds because they often are filled with petty squabbles and greedy characters. The writers did a great job creating Shiroe as the outlier in these worlds, someone who is more focused on having fun and challenging themselves, as opposed to being the person with the most shiny baubles. They also wrote the show as if they too were participants and fans of similar MMOs, as there was clearly knowledge of the genre strewn throughout, though never getting to the point where it may turn off those who aren’t well versed in the games.
The show did have it’s downsides, such as the repeated need to break the fourth wall to teach the viewer about RPGs (which to a point is understandable, as they want to reach new viewers), the lack of any real exciting battles, the pointless stories that filled the final quarter of the series, and completely overlooking Shiroe’s past accomplishments, which felt like they could have been a very interesting topic to throw in here and there instead of the more childish stories. That being said I believe the show had much more good than bad, and did one of the best jobs of making a show that focused on an MMO world, that actually felt as if it came from a real game.