Log Horizon II Review

This is review number four hundred and twelve. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called Log Horizon 2. It’s a twenty five episode anime about a bunch of gamers stuck in a game. Yeah, it’s pretty much like Sword Art Online but infinitely better than that show. Let’s read on.

Story

After maintaining peace in Akihabara by establishing the Round Table, made up of the massive guilds in the area, Shiroe is facing new problems. Changes in the game, lacking funds to keep the peace and the fact that they are still stuck in the game looms moving forward. There is an answer to everything though, and Shiroe is out to solve every problem presented his way.

Taking the Pants Off

Oh gawd, when was the last time I saw the first season of Log Horizon? I’m pretty sure it was ancient times ago, but now we’re back in the Database Database, I’m struggling in the Database Wow Wow. I don’t remember much of the first season, but I still know how it ended. It promised something big when the main character discovered the world changing magic that was only used twice or something in the game’s history. The first time the magic was used, the adventurers were summoned. The second time it was used was when the adventurers couldn’t log out of Elder Tale. I still remember this, because I had chills when it was being explained. Concept-wise, it was so good. The possibilities the narrative has set up had me very excited for the second season. I really love this anime, because it can send chills down my spine. I’d often be in awe at how original the story is turning out. When you review anime like me, the repeating formula can get pretty tired. The moment you spot something original and brilliant, you just can’t help but fall in love with it. Log Horizon has that in spades at it tries to spin something new out of basically the same plot as Sword Art Online. It’s a plot heavy SAO, but with better characters, stories and no wish fulfillment harem. I already love it. Naturally, I am excited for the next season. After the spine chilling ending that got me on a weird high, of course I want to see where this roller coaster takes me. Log Horizon 2 apparently suffered some setbacks though, and it shows when the second season used the same OP as the first season. The anime has more trouble behind the scenes though, and it does affect the overall anime. Switching studios, the thing about the author and the thing about the station that airs the anime also affected this show. It is a mess, but I’m in this for the story so let’s get down to it. How awesome is Log Horizon 2?

Since I’ve seen the first season like two years ago, then I am blurry about the details. I just remember the main gist of the stories. The characters cannot log out, the legendary strategist of this raid party makes his own guild, he tried to resolve the strife in Akihabara (their server) by buying the guild hall forcing the other guilds to come together and make a round table, the reached out to the NPCs which fleshed the story into a typical “stuck in a game” story into one about a fantasy story with a thrilling mystery, and there is a group in the south that is fated to clash with the main character. These are the details of the first season, and I mostly remember them because of how I was impressed with the show. Anyways, the mystery surrounding why they can’t log out seems to be connected to why they are able to enter the world in the first place. NPCs are actual legit people with their own government and stuff, and the adventurers help them kill monsters for them. Since adventurers can’t die, they accept quests from the People of the Land. The story now transforms into something much more intense as we slowly abandon the Sword Art Online story and head into a bigger premise for the series.

The second season came out swinging as we are suddenly thrust into a new story involving the characters. Apparently, maintaining the guild hall is going to get the characters bankrupt so they must find a way to secure funding. After talking to some people, the main character realized that they must go on a raid. A twenty four member party will now head into an unexplored dungeon to actually get their funding. I smile at how fast paced the development of the story is, and I also had the familiar chill come back to me. Shiroe realized that monsters drop coins and treasures, but someone actually gives those to the monsters. After all, they re-spawn and they drop money again. Shiroe realized that they don’t have to go after the monsters for the money, but go after the middleman instead. Before the money gets to the monsters, Shiroe will stop that middleman. It’s brilliant, and it’s another way the story keeps bending and breaking the “stuck in a game” scenario. They did this with the NPC story as well. A bunch of people that would mostly just give quests suddenly turns into something else.

It’s such a brilliant concept, because the story expects its audience to know the unspoken rules of gaming. NPCs aren’t really human, monsters drop gold and treasure, you can learn skills by grinding and you re-spawn when you die. Any gamer knows this, and I don’t even play much games. I only know of these rules thanks to Final Fantasy games. Log Horizon’s brilliance comes from the fact that they acknowledge the rules and they now try to break it. It yields some incredible results, and it’s then bulked up with a satisfying narrative. The plan Shiroe has by going after the middleman, that gives the gold to the monsters, is practically breaking the rule. You don’t go for the middleman, but you defeat the monster instead. But the anime doesn’t just break the rule of gaming though. It also honors the spirit of being a game, and the second season does that by giving us a raid. I’ve personally never been in one, but it weirdly reminds me off the Leroy Jenkins meme. Characters work together, talk strategy and execute a plan as they explore a dungeon. The quest to find the middleman requires a raid team, and the anime actually gives us some really fun sequences of the raid team fighting bosses. I don’t know how a raid works, but I know the anime nails it wonderfully. Characters attack in mass, healers at the back, tanks at the front, a countdown for the next massive attack by the boss, cool down time for magic spells, and a lot of shouting to keep the party in formation. This is actually something missing from the first season. We didn’t get enough “gaming” and the anime is bogged down by too many “story”. The first arc of the second season now gives us as much “gaming” as there is “story”, and it combines into a really satisfying anime experience.

The anime has two arcs, but there are a lot of subplots in it. The first arc is the raid arc, but there are actually two raids happening in the first arc. The first one is focused on Shiroe as he tries to secure gold from the middleman. The second raid is focused on his little ninja buddy and the strange occurrences happening while Shiroe is not in Akihabara. Aside from two subplots, the anime also focuses a lot of time on character building. So, in the middle of the exciting raid, we’d often stop the pace to focus on a character. It’s isn’t that big of a deal for the first arc, since fleshing out the main characters does help the story a lot. The payoff is in the end though, so you’d have to sit through a lot of dialogue and exposition. This does help the first arc a lot though. Seeing ninja girl express her insecurities is a bright and refreshing change from the cute kuudere that we expect her to be. The show explores her shortcomings and personal dilemma as it builds into an exciting clash with the enemy boss.

It’s not just her though. A lot of characters a fleshed out in the first arc, and it does affect the story greatly. The Princess also had her own personal dilemma, two of the raid members in Shiroe’s party also had their own fleshing out, and Shiroe himself was developed as the raid commences. Every character building is fascinating in their own right, because we see the story from their point of view. A guy that was basically a mid-boss in the first season returns for a redemption subplot, a guy that refused to join the round table comes back to redeem himself as well, and a tactical genius reveals his weakness as he experiences dying in the game. The character building soon shares one important plot point for the anime: the gamer behind the characters.

Before we continue, an arc is the overall story resolved in a couple of episodes. In Shounen, it’s often thirty episodes but this anime covered twelve episodes for one arc. A plot point is present throughout the series. It’s a theme constantly popping up or developing as the show progresses. For this anime, a common plot point emerges as the characters are fleshed out. Their real life counterpart is revealed, and it soon connects to their gamer persona. I was utterly shocked when Shiroe’s real life character is revealed, and we soon discover his sad background. As he ponders about his shortcomings, it somehow tells a lot about him as a person. Since he had some problems in real life, his gaming persona is a controlling and tactical genius that can control everything. It’s a subtle reminder that, in real life, you have absolutely no control over everything. Shiroe’s character is one thing, but we soon discover new things about the other people in Elder Tale. They gather to escape the world, and they are much better individuals in the game. It actually reminds me of Kirito’s quote from Sword Art Online when he and Asuna watches the game crumble. I don’t remember the whole quote, but it’s about how the online persona isn’t far from their real life counterpart. I remember it having an impact on me, and I think I even used the quote as a header once. Anyways, this quote from SAO is seemingly explored and given more body as a plot point for Log Horizon. The sentiment is quite different though. In Log Horizon, the gamers are at their best in Elder Tale because real life seems to be a raid boss that they cannot defeat by themselves. It’s a beautiful plot point, so I’d recommend the second season just for this one plot point.

Things took a massive dip in the second arc though. It isn’t even a cohesive arc, since a general story is being impeded by an emerging one. It was pretty confusing to watch, and the dip in the animation quality really had a big impact as well. I can understand laying the groundwork for a new story, but the balance is once again ruined. “Gaming” is slowly taken out and we were overwhelmed by so many “story” that it really destroyed the series. Sure, it had a climax at the end, but the buildup was abrupt as we focus on so many things. The second arc started out simple enough as we focus on the young members of Log Horizon going on a quest to make a magical bag. We follow their journey going through villages until they reach the area where they can hunt a wyvern for the magical bag. This simple subplot somehow spun four more subplots though. Plant Hywaden is reintroduced in a new subplot as they execute their Operation Red thing which involves an awesome train. This sets up a new subplot where the Log Horizon members meet a vampire that looks like Shiroe on their journey, and they meet up with the leader of Plant Hywaden as well.

Plant Hwyaden is a guild from the south that was introduced in the first season as the big faction that plans to fight the round table established in Akihabara. With the teleport gates not functioning, the two large factions will really only meet when their influence and territories clash. This is a story different from the main story of the Log Horizon members hunting a wyvern. This is problematic, because this doesn’t serve the current plot. Log Horizon usually strays off the main story to establish subplots, but it does tie up in the end to create a memorable climax. The second arc seems to just introduce stories for no reason, and creates loose ends in the process. But Plant Hywaden is re-introduced into the story so I do like that move. Sadly, more subplots are thrown in. The Odyssey Knights and their portable church create a new subplot as well.

This one I actually liked as it reveals a new plot point: “we want to go home”.  The first plot point reveals that there are people behind the gamers, who escape to the game because life is overwhelming. The second plot point reveals that the apocalypse happened a year ago. It’s been a year, and the gamers still cannot log out. Some of them cannot cope with this fact. The Knight Odyssey nicely visualizes the desperation and hopelessness of the situation. When you die, you get a glimpse of your life, your family and the real world, as revealed in the first arc. With their portable church, they can revive in the same place instantly so they can die again. It’s like a drug, and you really can’t blame them for feeling desperate and pathetic. The second plot point re-affirms that the gamers are, indeed, human. The problem though is that there are only five episodes left after the Odyssey Knight’s introduction, and you can tell their subplot won’t be resolved in this season. That’s fine, the anime is preparing for season three. One problem, I’m reviewing this anime three years after it came out and there is still no season 3.

Yeah, it’s pretty clear a next season is a bust. The problem is clear early on. Why is the second season using the same OP as the first season? Why did they switch to a different studio? The first season was done by Studio Satelight, and this season is done by Studio Deen. Why is there significant dip in terms of animation and story? Well, a lot of bad sh*t happened. First of all, when the show came out, there was very little source material to work with. The first season consumed five volumes and the second season stretched out three volumes. We’ll have to wait for more volumes to come out. As of 2017 though, there are actually ten volumes out so there is enough material for a new season. One problem, NHK (the channel that broadcasts Log Horizon) is seemingly distancing themselves from the series. Why? It’s because the author was jailed for two years for tax evasion. I see no problem with it, but I do know NHK is careful of its image. Airing a show with an author that served jail term doesn’t look good in the public eye, so I do understand NHK’s move. NHK E also has a children centered demographic, so it’s always in the scrutiny of the parents that pays for that cable access. You can wave Log Horizon 3 good-bye, and just read up on the light novels instead. This is particularly mean for the audience though, because the second season dedicated a lot of the second arc to build up another season.

As the main story of the magical bag wraps up in an anti-climactic way, a new story is setup revealing the identity of the beings that removed the log out option for the players. Once again, the chills went down by spine as the anime gives me another wonderful high. Shiroe must now reach them, and he plans on researching a way to do that. While that happens, a sh*t ton of subplot is also introduced completely running the anime to the ground. Remember that the subplots introduced in the first main story aren’t resolved. They were just quietly put to the side. There were three of them, and five more was introduced as the anime heads to its final episode. A subplot about a prince, a subplot about the legendary Tea Debauchery reuniting, a subplot about new monsters called the Geniuses, a subplot about an impending war and the stagnant feeling of inequality in Akihabara, and a subplot about the world not actually being a game are all thrown into the last five episodes of the anime. Ohmygawd, it was a beautiful clusterf*ck and it really affected the overall quality of the anime. It ended on a high note though, as Shiroe comes to a conclusion on how to solve ALL the problems but that payoff is reserved for a non-existent third season. I feel…..sad. One of the rare and original anime out there is never going to get a continuation. It also ended on a cliffhanger. That is just so mean.

3bzliic

The characters are pretty incredible though. I love how the anime balanced the large cast. There were a lot of them, and the show even felt like a really good Shounen manga with how it juggled the characters. They were given ample time to grow, they had a significant impact in the show, and they made the story a lot more interesting. I particularly love how the anime fleshes out the already established characters. As I said before, ninja girl was just a kuudere from the start but the anime transformed her into someone more compelling to watch. A lot of characters undergo the same fleshing out, and they all had incredible impact in the story. It’s a testament to the author’s great storytelling style, really. He never let one character fade into the background while also making sure the narrative flows in a smart manner.

There’s so much to juggle, and yet he seems to plan things out in a complex and effective manner. I was thoroughly impressed seeing one-dimensional characters from the first season given ample time to shine. The mid-boss Shiroe fought comes back with a grudge, but he soon transforms into a character you’d be cheering for. I was even more impressed when the young members of Log Horizon are fleshed out. The emerging subplot bogged down the impact of their backstory, but it was still very well done. To explore their reason to escape into the game and then actually grow as an individual because of their weak hearted escape is such a brilliant concept. I never expected these characters to shine, in any manner, but the show somehow pulled it off. I even scoffed when the anime halted the pace to talk about music, but it somehow made sense in the end. The characters are often one of the bright spots in the confusing second arc that salvaged the sinking experience for me.

A lot of people had problems with the sudden studio switch. Satelight did give us a better presentation compared to Studio Deen, but it’s really a very minor change. Animation-wise, nothing really stood out in the first season. I mean, I remember the story as it unfolds but I don’t remember the monsters they fought and the animation scenes that unraveled in the first season. The narrative is just really strong, and I think Studio Deen did a great job given the circumstances. This isn’t their preferred style. They have a treasured female demographic that eats up their Hakkenden and their Bakumatsu Rock type of shows. I personally thank them for continuing the series, never skipping a beat on the narrative flow, and actually coming in strong with the first arc. I guess the reason for the smooth transition is because we had the same director and writer working for both seasons. Shinji Ishihara directed Fairy Tail, so you should have a good idea how talented he is. I’ve never seen Fairy Tail, but he handles adaptations well, and Log Horizon is proof of that. Even with a different studio employing him, he still had a good idea what to do with this sinking anime. Quality did decline towards the end, but I still respect the guy for sticking with it till the end.

Sight and Sound

Kazuhiko Kara is an amazing illustrator. I personally love the wide range of character design he did for the series. Shiroe is your typical slender male type, but there are also bulky muscular characters and menacing long haired types. His wide range is pretty great considering he also did female characters on top of that. He also had a wide range of young and short characters to really give us the MMORPG appeal of the story. Every character is also customized to give off a feeling of how there are different people playing the Elder Tale game. It’s incredibly intricate when you think about it. Even though they don’t necessarily look flashy like your typical LN illustrations, he makes up for it with his large range of character styles. He features different classes, different customized armors and a wide array of costumes specific for a character. And with the large cast, it’s really the visuals that help you remember the characters. It aids me a lot, since I saw the previous season a good three years ago and yet I was never compelled to revisit the anime in fear of not understanding who is who for this season. I just go “oh yeah, he was with that guy and they fought those guys” and that’s a testament to the strong character design for the anime. You can remember characters without the help of the narrative, and you simply just look at them. They’re unique enough to stand out on their own despite the lack of a flashy LN style. With how strong the narrative is, when it’s coupled with the strong character visuals, then it really adds to the viewing experience.

Animation is inconsistent. Some episodes are great, like the raid fights in the first arc, but the quality declined as the show progresses. This is evident in the last boss fight of the anime. Even though it had the same stakes and high energy as the first arc monsters, the animation just couldn’t deliver the awesomeness of the scene. The same goes for the dialogue heavy scenes of the anime. I love how the visuals pace all the dialogue in the first arc. There was a scene where a fire crackles in a fireplace as the negotiating becomes tense between the characters in the room. It is small details like these that really make the flow of a dialogue heavy scene interesting. For the second arc, the camera is often fixed in one position so it’s just a bland scene delivered in a very bland manner. You can tell the animators were just rushing to the end as their budget runs out. I personally don’t mind it given the troubled history of the show. I’d give it a pass, considering how much effort is given in the first arc. Shinji really went all out for the first arc, as he even weaves the two subplots without disrupting the pace of the narrative. He was sloppy at the second arc though, but you can tell he’s just stretching out the three volumes available. Animation really only shine during fights though. I noticed that a lot of scenes are recycled, even in the first arc, and it often throws you off when you spot it. Facial reactions and small details are forgone as well, and the focus of the second season is really just delivering the strong narrative of the original source.

I love the raid battles though. Animation might not be as polished, but I keep thinking that if only Sword Art Online gave us this same awesomeness then I’d die a happy man. A-1 Pictures’ high quality animation, and their recent strong dedication to adapt the original source, seems to be a perfect fit for Log Horizon’s light novel. Alas, I just wasn’t meant to be. The many moving parts in a raid battle is amazing to see unfold. No one is out of place, the spirit of actual game raiding is captured, and the “gaming” element is strongly delivered with the visuals. Characters also shine beautifully while the strong narrative is never pushed to the side. This anime is just incredibly technical and I deeply respect it for that. As a reviewer, solid shows like this make the journey very worth it.

The show had the same OP as the first season, so I’d skip talking about that. The ED song is “Wonderful Wonder World*” by Yun*chi. She also sang the ED for the first season, and I remember it being weirdly cute like she’s trying too hard. It comes off here as well, but I do like this song better than the first season’s ED. It’s also a very good song as it talks about talking the leap together in a very uplifting way. It’s also pretty damn catchy, so there’s that. The ED sequence features the ninja girl falling asleep on the living room of her guild. Members pass by, including the important characters from other guilds, and it ends with Shiroe waking her up. Animation is clearly limited, but I do love watching it. It’s the kind of sequence that’ll make you feel nostalgic as you revisit it on youtube years later. You’ll then be bummed when you realized the show never got a third season. This world is just awful sometimes.

Overall Score

7/10 “Animation quality is low and the show ended on a messy note despite its strong narrative.”

For both seasons, I’d give an overall eight out of ten. It’s a kind of show that requires patience, but the payoff is undeniably great. For the second season, I love how it came out strong in the first half but the show’s troubled production clearly shows. I still like this anime a lot, despite the unsatisfying ending, but it is still a problematic anime. It’s not for everyone, and the fact that there’s a more mainstream option brought to us by A-1 Pictures makes the argument to watch Log Horizon even weaker. I’d recommend this anime for its narrative and technical execution. I’d recommend it for its solid presentation that rivals any good Shounen manga. I’d recommend this anime for all the rule breaking and spine chillingly good twists it presents to us.  I’d recommend this anime for its sheer brilliance and originality. For those that love a good story in their show despite the lack of a better animation, then you will love Log Horizon. It is not for everyone though, and the exposition can be frightening as well. The show’s payoff is incredible though, so I do recommend it.

7 thoughts on “Log Horizon II Review

  1. Akatsuki is the little ninja friend of Shiroe. Yeah I love this series, has bags of potential too bad the author got busted for tax evasion and now his series won’t be picked up again. Raids have tougher mobs, with the bosses having different mechanics at each phases to make it challenging. Yes, my specialty is mmo gaming.

      • Raids vary from MMO. However, they are time consuming and if the group has several wipes or some one is underperforming. It can lead to frustration and arguments. So keep that in mind, the raid arc showed this quite well.

  2. “The first season consumed five volumes and the second season stretched out three volumes”

    No, the second season was also a five volume adaptation.

These are my thoughts. Feel free to add yours.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s