Studio: Satelight / Studio Deen
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Game, Magic, Shounen
Release: S1 (2013), S2 (2014)
The first time I saw Log Horizon, I just shrugged it off since it looked like another teenage ‘stuck-inside-an-MMORPG‘ anime a.k.a. Sword Art Online, which I really didn’t enjoy much. But after having watched it, I regret to say that I should have known that this was yet another masterpiece of Mamare Touno, renowned for his other work: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha! I guess that explains the RPG setting.
What’s unique about both is that he deviates from the cliched action-packed front-line battles, and focuses on the usually ignored development happening behind the scenes. In other words, world-building thru economics, politics, finance, business, even the micro and macro management of key societal functions. Being a business grad, this was quite a treat!
Summary: “By the 12th expansion pack of Elder Tale (a successful MMORPG with millions of patrons worldwide) called Novasphere Pioneers, thirty thousand Japanese gamers who are logged on at the time of the update suddenly find themselves transported into the virtual game world while donning their in-game avatars.
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 ahead of them.” -Wikipedia. Pretty cliche up to this point, yeah? Read further!
Emphasizing the 12th Expansion of the game indicates that this is not the world they used to know, and new unknown content has been implemented. This adds the mystery factor in the show that makes it unpredictable and interesting.
The main difference from all the other MMORPG anime I’ve watched is that when players here die in-game, they don’t die in real life here. They just respawn in the Cathedral. It doesn’t seem to make an impact at first, but that change does have crucial implications.
So you’re stuck in a game where you’d usually play using peripherals such as a mouse and keyboard. So how’d you play here if you’re now in complete control of your character? With command menus right in your face to configure as monsters try to devour you! Lol.
After their first few fights, they finally got the hang of it. Since they’re fully in control of their avatars, they can actually do the moves if they think and act on it so they wouldn’t rely on the command menu anymore.
The show also gives ample time to explain the general inner workings of MMORPG games every now and then. They explain the moves and mechanics of the ones engaged in battle so viewers will be encouraged to think on how the characters will counter their opponents’ attacks. Sky is not the ridiculous limit here- skills are properly balanced, so just think of it as a different kind of chess.
I’ve been playing FFXIV: A Realm Reborn these past few months (my first MMORPG, btw) so I could really related terms and concepts explained here. It’s awesome for MMORPG players because they can relate, but it’s also the same for non-players because they’d get an idea on the genre.
Everything’s explained in a nutshell: rules and physics of the world, classes, sub-classes, class types, cast times, cool down times, team strategies, what have you! The feel is that you’re playing Elder Tale itself while watching.
Well, that comprises most of the action-packed battle parts of the anime. Now we move on to the juicy world building parts! Like what you saw earlier, there’s a menu where you can do everything, including making food. Just like any MMORPG, you need certain ingredients to make certain food via the cooking craft. To Shiroe and his gang though, the food they make look and smell delicious but are actually tasteless.
But their cat-human friend Nyanta, who happens to be max-level at cooking, explains that you can only make delicious food by being a high-class chef and cooking the food just as you would cook it in real life, and not relying on commands. This would set-up the stage for the anime’s economics part later on.
Now let’s go to the story’s conflict: wait, is there one to begin with? Players may be stuck in the game, but they can’t die, after all. And living expenses are pretty cheap with one being able to survive with 35 gold a day which is equivalent to killing three low-level boars outside the city. Well, looking at things realistically, there will be problems. With no threat to their life and no pressure to work to live, people will be bored. That’s why others resort to PK-ing (player killing) to get their loot or to get some entertainment. Low-level players will be used by abusive high-level players, and that will create a societal imbalance. This is where Shiroe, The Strategist, comes in.
To be honest, I don’t really like the way Akihabara feels right now. It’s petty, pathetic and cheap. That’s why I’m going to clean the place up. It’s our hometown- it’s the largest city on the Japanese server. And it’s sad, unpleasant, frail…everyone walks with their heads down…it’s as if our only purpose in life were to be pathetic. We number thirty thousand, but that also means there are only thirty thousand of us. I think everyone’s been underestimating this world far too much. People have nothing to do, and we aren’t nearly desperate enough. -Shiroe
Shiroe is so well known to being a strategist second to none, that he’s earned the title ‘Villain in Glasses.’ He can really be quite the manipulative bastard, but the good thing about it is that it’s for the benefit of everyone.
I won’t dwell into the details as they will be spoilers. What I can say though is how Shiroe took over: being the guildless introverted guy that he is, it was really a grand diplomatic feat. He really is the epitome of the conniving glasses stereotype!
After conniving with a major crafting guild, they set to carry out Shiroe’s plans. They start with something unheard of by the masses: real tasting food! With food being tasteless and all, this sure caused a stir.
Now gaining reputation as the ones with the secret to make tasty food, they proceed to step 2: closed-door negotiations with the other big guilds and set plans on how everyone make a livelihood with the best-case scenario where it’s a win-win for everybody. But what does Shiroe want to do with the money anyway?
Again, I won’t dwell in the details, but Shiroe needs to have an upper hand on all the guilds (both corrupt and good ones alike) if he wants to change the unruly ways of the people as well (as make a functioning and moving society so the players will liven up). As the situation is now, low-level players with nowhere to go are being force-labored by some guilds into leveling and crafting against their will, and can’t do anything about it.
One of the crucial secrets revealed in the new expansion in the game is being able to invent things that weren’t originally from the world of Elder Tale if the crafting skill is high enough.
This will pave way to a new working society in motion: to get money and crafting materials, activities such as hunting becomes necessary. That would give the combat guilds more work as bodyguards, and crafters will be motivated to make more interesting things as they aren’t bound by simple menu commands anymore.
Yes, it’s definitely interesting up to this part, but it gets better when the People of the Land starts getting involved. They are, by the way, the NPCs (non-playable characters) in the game who were originally just there to give quests to the players, manage inns, sell items and weapons, etc.
They’re AI, but let’s just say they’re not what you think they are. They also consider players as outsiders from their perspective. Now that the players are self-sufficient and can invent things the People of the Land can’t, what do you think will the implications be to the kingdoms and societies of said NPCs?