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Thoughts on finishing Log Horizon Season 2

In the end the same “spotty quality” issue that brought Season 1 down plagued Log Horizon Season 2 all the way through as well. Maybe it’s not an issue of “spotty quality” and more a case of “this is the only way the author knows how to write.” He likes to sandwich important revelations and developments between lots of unfunny comedy, boring fights and unnecessary character development. You either like that, or you don’t. Personally, I think I’m done with Log Horizon for now. When the author finally gets round to finishing the light novels I’ll read a summary of the ending or something and call it a day.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy Season 2, because I did. Or rather some portions of it. I liked the super-tough raid into the money dungeon. I wished the final battle against the moth genius could have been longer, but it was still a good final battle, all things considered. Also I thought I would hate Kanami when I eventually met her, but she’s fairly amusing. And they set up some good mysteries for the eventual next season: what’s on the moon, how did the scythe warp Crusty to where he ended up, what are all the things Kanami has discovered, what exactly are empathions and why are they being collected, etc etc.

isaac-kun-log-horizonCompared to that, all that fake “heartwarming” stuff involving Isaac and Iselus (like, who?) and pretty much every scene involving Roe 2 and the Whining Whelps was just torture to sit through. Log Horizon has too many characters, that’s one of its problems. Some series cope with that by keeping the focus firmly on the mains and only focusing on others as it pertains to them. Others try to get everyone equal time and end up leaving everyone unhappy. Guess which category Log Horizon falls into.

Anyway, there’s no need to write too much about Log Horizon Season 2 since its highlights and lowlights are pretty much the same as for the first season. They did address the issue I mentioned last time of people being a little too happy to be in the Elder Tale world. We find that there are some people who left family behind and who are dying to get back there, which makes lots of sense. Shiroe & Co. come up with the obvious remedy: send them back home, but the season ends before they even take the first real step towards making that happen. Bummer.

Furthermore I’m still a bit disappointed because all the interesting things I was hoping would happen didn’t really happen. For example I thought the Round Table would finally clash with Plant Hwyaden this time, but they barely acknowledged each other. I thought the show would finally explain Plant Hwyaden’s structure and plans, but instead it just introduced a bunch of new characters, gave them a few speaking lines and a pointless aborted plan and then shuffled them off to the side for the rest of the show.

eye-glasses-villain-log-horizonPlus the implications of the buying/return of all facilities to the Yamato server aren’t really explained. We were told in the previous season that Plant Hwyaden is holding its adventurers hostage by owning the cathedral. Now that the cathedral is free for all, shouldn’t there be a major upheaval in their power dynamic? Or is that not how it works? The whole thing went completely unexplained. The show keeps throwing up new mysteries and characters and factions and clearing them all up very poorly, if at all.

And that’s the reason why I won’t bother with Season 3 or 4 or 5 or whatever until/unless the light novels are complete. It’s just going to be another frustrating 25 episodes of watching unimportant characters do unimportant things while the whole world with all its mysteries is sitting there waiting to be explored – and I don’t mean by Kanami and her ad hoc team. If you’re a huge fan of Log Horizon you’re going to watch Season 2 even without me tell you to. If you’re in the “Eh, it’s okay” camp like me, I won’t tell you not to watch it, just don’t expect too much from it and you’ll be fine.

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One Punch Man anime review

I’d heard a lot about One Punch Man before watching the show. I figured it was just the usual internet hype about any slightly good show and basically ignored it for a while, but eventually the title sounded intriguing enough that I eventually tried an episode. And then another episode. And then another. I was kinda busy so it took me several sessions to get through the first 6 or so episodes, then I marathoned the last few in a night. Verdict: One Punch Man is actually really good!

Story summaryOn an Earth-like supercontinent planet, strange monsters have been mysteriously appearing and causing disasters resulting in the world’s superheroes rising to combat them. Saitama, the protagonist of the series, is the strongest hero alive who easily defeats the monsters or other villains with a single punch. However, due to his immeasurable strength, Saitama has become bored with his power and is constantly trying to find stronger opponents who can present a challenge to him.

one-punch-man-saitamaThe show is exactly what it says on the tin: superhero beats villains and monsters alike with a single punch. You might expect a show like that to get boring pretty quickly, seeing as you know the end of each monster even before it shows up, but they managed to keep it fresh at least for 12 episodes. Much of that “freshness” comes from sub-protagonist Genos and other superheroes who act as cannon fodder to show how strong the villain-of-the-week is before Saitama smashes it to show how much stronger he is. If you’ve watched Dragonball Z you know the whole mechanic.

Part of the fun of the show comes from the variety of monsters and superheroes. What kind of bad guy is going to show up this week and what ridiculous powers is s/he going to have? A Godzilla clone, a skyscraper-tall bodybuilder, a giant beetle, a gang of lazy slackers in power suits, and on and on. Of course their doom is assured, but it’s fun watching them have their little day in the limelight before they’re polished off. As a bonus they often get to voiceover the next episode’s trailer for some final lolz.

As an action show, One Punch Man doesn’t pull out any big surprises and doesn’t contain much tension due to the aforementioned foregone conclusion. What little excitement comes is from watching the supporting cast attempt and (usually) fail to deal with the problem. Then Saitama comes in and ends things with a single punch. The viewers who will get the most out of this show are those who enjoy destruction on an absolutely massive scale – cars overturned, buildings sliced in two, half the city blown up every episode and, of course, the giant blood splatters and ludicrous gibs that come with the territory when you exterminate a giant monster with a single punch. There is some good choreography on some of the fights, but really it’s usually people jumping around and somersaulting and getting smacked to the curb repeatedly, not much more than that.

Rather it is as a comedy and a parody of superhero shows that One Punch Man comes into its own. After all, genre savvy viewers know that no matter how many blows the hero takes, he’s always going to vanquish evil in the end. So why not cut to the chase once all the messing around with minor lackeys is done? As a result, the viewer ends up watching the ridiculous hijinks of the villains with a kind of spiteful glee. Oh boy, you’re really gonna get it now, just wait till Saitama gets here!

one-punch-man-mangaAs a result I’m a little on the fence about the show’s occasional attempts to humanize Saitama and the rest of the cast instead of just letting them be delightful caricatures. Things like the weaker heroes trying to stand up to the bad guy didn’t really add anything because of the foregone conclusion. Though I was a little touched by the unlikely camaraderie between Mumen Rider and Saitama, it was offset by Saitama’s unusual… niceness, shall we say, when it came to taking the blame and making the other heroes look good. Like, was it established already that he’s the kind of guy to care about such things? His character is a little hard to pin down, and the excess focus on Genos’ point of view of things doesn’t really help.

But anyway, I’m not here to analyze One Punch Man, just to wax on and on about how much and I enjoyed it and how you should totally watch it or read the manga. I think the anime is more fun, but the manga covers way more ground and the show will only leave you wanting more (Season 2 can’t come quickly enough) so go for both if you can. It’s a great show, memorable characters, funny premise, lots of actions, good ending, the works.

 

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Log Horizon Season 2 – Thoughts on episodes 1-12

I jumped straight into the next season because, why not? It turns out season 2 of Log Horizon has many of the same issues that stopped season 1 from being a top-tier show. Mainly a tendency to focus on side characters doing things the viewer doesn’t care about and which are only marginally important to the rest of the show as a whole. All the while when something far more interesting is going on with Shiroe and his main party.

This time the problem was a long arc focusing on Akatsuki’s crisis of confidence and her attempts to deal with a “serial killer” on the loose in Akihabara. This would have been okay if it lasted for only an episode or two, but episode after episode after episode of Akatsuki angsting about her own inabilities and her (forced, unconvincing) feelings for Shiroe grew tiresome very quickly. The resulting “girl power!” showdown that was supposed to give the female eye candy of the show something to do might have been interesting if the guys weren’t also having a far more epic and monumental showdown right around the same time. If you want to give characters a day in the limelight, make sure the spotlight is on them, don’t make them a sideshow distraction from ‘the real thing.’

log-horizon-season-2-imageSo anyway, that was pretty boring. The whole first half of season 2 has been pretty boring, actually. The best part was the revelation of how much it cost to maintain all those buildings and the resulting plan to find the source of the gold. I enjoy Log Horizon best when it’s focusing on things like basic economics and less when it’s doing generic MMORPG battles, though the battles against the raid monsters were pretty intense. The shock resolution of the whole gold arc is also interesting and unusual and I look forward to finding out the implications.

First, though, it appears I’m going to have to sit through a Valentine’s Day episode… ugh… I’ve been watching anime for almost 20 years at this point and I have never, I repeat never seen a good Valentine’s Day episode. In fact, I’m very tempted to just skip episode 13 and go straight to 14. Why are they doing lovey-dovey hijinks when Rusty has gone missing, his aide has lost an arm and the West is up to shady shenanigans that need attention pronto? It’s this tendency to wander and insert fanservice and slice of life elements at the most inappropriate times that keeps Log Horizon from being the 5-star show it could have been.

Still I just have to suffer through episode 13 and then I’ll be treated to all the action and intrigue and world-building I could ever ask for, riiiiight? Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath, but the rest of the show should at least be decent. I’ll get round to finishing it one day.

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Log Horizon anime review – Spotty quality but enjoyable overall

I finished Sword Art Online and went around looking for something similar. Not that I enjoyed SAO all that much, but the general idea of an overpowered protagonist stuck in another world is one that I still like so I’m still looking out for shows along those lines. Log Horizon came with good recommendations and less of the positive/negative hysteria that accompanies SAO, so I decided to give it a try.

Blurb: Thirty thousand Japanese gamers suddenly find themselves transported into the virtual game world of an MMORPG called Elder Tale. In the midst of the event, a socially awkward gamer named Shiroe, along with his friends, Naotsugu and Akatsuki, decide to team up so that they may face this world, which unfortunately has now become their reality, along with the challenges and obstacles ahead of them.

The good parts of Log Horizon

log-horizon-volume-1-coverThe main character Shiroe and most of his friends and companions are all level 90 by the time the show starts. The way the game world is set up also means they’re essentially immortal, so they’re usually never in any real danger. Shiroe is also portrayed (somewhat falsely IMO) as a super-strategic genius but he can also do his share in battle, making him the right combination of brains and brawn to satisfy any viewer looking for a character who is overpowered either physically or mentally.

Log Horizon also puts more focus on economic issues, quality of life issues and power balances/relations than most “trapped in a game” shows tend to do. This makes it pretty good for people who care about world building and immersion, though I imagine the light novels would be better for this than the show.

The show also spends some time exploring the lives and politics of the non-player characters (NPCs), the guys you would normally ignore in town and villages in videogames, who only exist to sell you stuff/give you quests/die miserably when the bad guys attack. Turns out they’re “human” just like everyone else with families and tastes and complex political relationships, etc etc. It’s an interesting world to explore. The show is actually a good commercial for the light novels, ‘cos I’m slightly curious now.

Shiroe as a super-strategist is more of an informed attribute than anything that really stands out in the show, but he has his impressive moments. His strategy for getting Akihabara under control and establishing law and order was really quite clever. His use of his scribe skills to change the fate of a particular character was seriously over the top in both a good and bad way but hey, you asked for an overpowered main character and you got one.

The bad parts of Log Horizon
I say No No No

I say No No No

Shiroe stays out of focus in a lot of episodes, especially in the second half of the show. Instead an inordinate amount of time is spent chronicling the escapades of a bunch of level 25 adventurers, which just pisses me off. There are THOUSANDS of shows out there about complete newbies trying to get stronger. I want to watch people who have gone through the grind and are already strong enough. It’s really, really boring to watch those mewling little brats (especially Minori, she is so annoying) squabbling and scrabbling about. Someone should just put them all in a sack and drown them.

This makes it especially annoying when an entire arc is devoted to watching these kids try to defend an NPC town against a bunch of monsters that the level 90 characters could (and eventually do) take out in a few hits. The level 90 guys are presumably standing by because they’re “out of MP”, even though they could just fly back to Akihabara to buy out their entire stock of potions and return in less than time it takes one weakling to kill a single monster.

log-horizonSpeaking of that arc, it’s also painful to see them ignore perfectly valid strategies that were used earlier in the show in favor of just standing around chatting. You have a huge wave of monsters coming. Why not let Naotsugu (level 90) run into their middle, use Anchor Howl so they can’t target anyone but him, have all the healers just focus their healing spells on him and then pick off all the monsters at leisure with the weaker guys? It’s a strategy that was used twice earlier in the show to devastating effect, yet the one time it would actually make a difference it’s ignored in order to manufacture unnecessary drama with the kids! Sooooo annoying.

Other characters the show spent too much time on: Princess Lenessia and Crusty. Enough already, just get married and get off my show. Naotsugu with his constant perverted remarks was also another big drawback, though he thankfully gets a lot less screentime once the focus of the show shifts away from combat. Thank goodness. The Minori-Shiroe-Akatsuki love triangle wasn’t interesting either. There are lots of other love triangle shows out there if that’s what I wanted.

Lastly I’m a little bothered that the show didn’t give any thought at all to what is going on in the “real world” while the gamers are trapped in Elder Tale. Unlike in SAO it seems they have been bodily transported so there’s no need to worry about starving to death. But at the same time you’re telling me nobody has any family to worry about or work to go to or bedridden old grandpa they’re caring for? They all get stuck in the new world and they’re like COOOOL and that’s that? In a show as thoughtful as Log Horizon it’s a pretty glaring oversight, but it might be addressed in season two so I’ll give them a pass for now.

Overall

As I said in the title, the quality of Log Horizon is a bit spotty. When they let Shiroe do what he’s best at – solving problems, inventing clever solutions and exploring the mysteries of the Elder Tale world – it’s a highly enjoyable and engrossing show. Unfortunately that only takes up about 70% of the show and the rest is devoted to dumb love triangles, boring fights, annoying characters and time-wasting forced drama. I’m interested enough in the world that I’m going to watch Season 2, but honestly it could be a much better show. Still worth a try or a buy, just prepare for a bit of frustration and many filler-like episodes.

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Also dropped: Soul Eater, Rokka no Yuusha, Ping Pong

Continuing from the last post, some more things I dropped recently:

Soul Eater: Not my cup of tea. I think I’ve outgrown shounen action shows or something, because the violent action in the first few minutes didn’t thrill me in the least, and then the attempts at… humor? with Maka’s dad or whoever just made me roll my eyes. I turned it off before the halfway mark. I’m not going to bother reading the manga or any summaries either. Tsugi!

Rokka no Yuusha: Meh. Not interested. I made through the whole of episode 1, which is more than I can say for the other two shows in this post, but that’s about it. The fast pace of the first episode was good – demon revives instantly, party starts to come together, all good, but the dense rash main character and the coy (but really strong, honest!) princess didn’t interest me enough to make me want to continue. One episode is enough.

ping-pong-episode-1Ping Pong: The main character’s voice and attitude turned me off completely. I know he’s supposed to sound bored and lifeless, and I’m sure hundred of voice actors were auditioned and several takes were made in order to get him to sound like a dead fish, but he just rubs me the wrong way 100%. I’ve heard good things about Ping Pong so I might read the manga where I don’t have to deal with any annoying voices and the super slow pacing. The anime, though, is not for me.

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