DVD REVIEW: LOG HORIZON PART 1 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: TAKUMA TERASHIMA, EMIRI KATOU, TOMOAKI MAENO, YUMI HARA / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 11TH
Log Horizon is based on the series of light novels by Mamare Touno with art by Kazuhiro Hara, which were initially published via a user-generated content site, before making its way into print in 2011. Given the franchise found its footing online and underwent a collaborative metamorphosis, it makes sense that it’s a humanist series steeped in teamwork and friendship. They’re hardly the most original themes when it comes to anime, but Log Horizon is a pleasant surprise.
Like Sword Art Online and .hack before it, Log Horizon sees the players of an online role-playing game get trapped inside. This time the world is Elder Tales, a cross between EverQuest and Final Fantasy Online. .Hack may have opted for a darker approach which dealt with events outside of the game world, but Log Horizon focusses solely in-game as players claim the basic infrastructure and make a fully functional, democratic society. From the first episode, which deals with the fallout of getting trapped, an event players dubbed ‘the apocalypse’, it’s easy to dismiss the series as a knock off. But a few episodes in, the series begins to reveal itself and develop into a surprisingly nuanced study of character and the wild west of the web.
The character animation is one of its failings, with plenty looking like they were randomly generated. Given the story sees 30,000 players getting trapped, there’s bound to be some archetypes at play, and trust us, there’s plenty. But the main characters are a great bunch. There’s the devout ninja Akatsuki who first appears as a tall man, but uses a potion to change her sex and appearance to better resemble her real petite self. There’s ‘The Warrior of Panties’ Naotsugu, who makes up in heart what he loses with crude humour. There’s Shiroe, an awkward player who is at the centre in the story. And then there’s Nyanta, a debonair werecat, a swashbuckler and chef both, who on the Japanese dub has a suave enough voice, but in the English he’s straight out of a Blaxploitation flick.
There’s plenty of running gags where Akatsuki kicks Naotsugu in the face before he has a chance to say anything perverted. Or Akatsuki getting dressed up like moé mascot. But there’s also room for touching sub plots, the most poignant being the brother and sister Tohya and Minori. In real life Tohya is in a wheelchair, but in game he’s able to protect and care for his sister. It brings home just how liberating and important online games are for a lot of people.
But there is the thorny issue of just who the series is aimed at. While online gamers will get a kick out of its familiar mechanics at play, it’s often like MMO 101. As the series progresses, Shiroe’s voiceover develops into revealing the Elder Tales lore, whether it’s the monetary system or a certain beasty, it often feeds into that episode. It might have started with a few clunky episodes, but by the end of the first volume, you’ll be clawing for more.
Special Features: Opening