When I first read the description for Log Horizon, my initial thought was ‘oh look, a comedy ripoff of Sword Art Online’. That didn’t stop me from giving it a try though… and boy was I wrong.
Log Horizon, like Sword Art Online, does take place within an MMORPG. The most immediately noticeable difference is that Elder Tale, the game in which Log Horizon takes place, wasn’t virtual reality – people were playing the game on their computers and then the next thing they know they had become their characters. The situation this creates is really interesting as these players not only have to deal with being trapped in a game, but they actually have to learn to play the game without having the comfort of a mouse and keyboard.
Log Horizon focuses a lot on the social aspects of MMO gaming and how they would be altered if people couldn’t log out. There are guilds that work people like slaves, and people who are kind of depressed and lost, one character – who in real life was in a wheelchair – who is genuinely excited to be able to move freely, and this is just scratching the surface. This is where this show shines. Thus far, what combat has been there hasn’t been the most exciting… but the various characters, and the social structure within the world, are utterly fascinating.
By focusing more on organization and the social structures, the show is able to actually spotlight a character who would in most shows(or really in most games) be a support character. Shiroe, the main character, is an Enchanter – a support class – and his main strengths are his intelligence and planning – he was an engineering student in real life, after all. Within the game he was a famous strategist, but refused to join a guild due to some social awkwardness on his part. This is the type of character that would normally be an interesting but hard to follow side character… but in Log Horizon, he’s the central character, along with the adorable assassin who has strong feelings towards him and calls herself ‘his personal ninja’. In fact, each of the characters has believable personalities… and while most are fairly eccentric, we are dealing with gamers here so that’s not surprising. Even the NPCs have become believable people since the ‘Apocalypse’ – the fateful day when the players all became their avatars.
This show does a fascinating job of providing a look into the aspects that I wished SAO had, and provides a great spotlight of a character that isn’t the normal type to take the stage in most tv shows or anime. So far it hasn’t been the most action-packed anime I’ve seen, but the cerebral take on everything and the level of detail the show gives about what is happening more than makes up for that.