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
The 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
The bad parts of Log Horizon
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 already 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.
Speaking 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 was going on in the “real world” while the gamers were trapped in Elder Tale. Unlike in SAO it seems they have been bodily transported so there’s no need to worry about bodies 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.
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.