An event known only as the Apocalypse has left thousands of players of MMORPG Elder Tales permanently trapped within the online world. With the possibility of escape from the game barely even considered, the first season largely focused on the nascent society the gamers gradually built for themselves within the large player city of Akihabara along with the planning and scheming required to maintain it, mostly by central character Shiroe.
This time around events are far more focused on combat, with the bulk of this first half of season 2 taken up with the preparation and execution of two protracted battles. First, when a seemingly indestructible killer begins stalking the streets of Akihabara, relentlessly taking out players for no apparent reason, a band of the city’s female gamers co-ordinate an assault to take him out. At the same time, three guilds undertake a dungeon raid to raise the gold needed to meet the costs of maintaining the world the gamers now call home.
Although reminiscent of the likes of .hack and Sword Art Online, and to a lesser extent Accel World, Log Horizon distinguishes itself by taking place entirely within the confines of its gaming realm, with the outside world barely even given lip service. Now that the players are properly settled all that matters to them is the preservation of the way of life they have developed.
While the players’ ability to respawn effectively eliminates any true sense of danger, the first season revealed that is done so at the cost of memories of their lives outside the game, presumably implying that should they be killed often enough their very sense of self will become gradually eroded. We now see for the first time what actually happens when a player dies, the experience adding some philosophical undertones to the story before they are lurched back into the fray. Other problems for the gamers are caused by flavour text – the supplemental descriptions of the history of unique weapons and equipment – having taken on a life of its own by calling into existence the myths it references, further expanding the mutable reality by which the Elder Tales realm has begun to function. One further welcome development is far more variance in the character design, with the largely generic repetition of the first season’s incidental characters now giving way to a prismatic explosion that better represents the endless and inventive variation with which people customise their gaming avatars.
The plot progresses as leisurely as before, with single stories stretching out over several episodes, skilfully wrangling the multiple characters involved in each collaborative moment of action. One episode consists almost entirely of a monologue of one character attempting to inspire others to carry on after a crushing defeat, while at the same time also touching upon the social aspect of gaming and how people who have difficulty making friends in the real world can often find solace in the virtual one.
After a meandering first season, Log Horizon is now becoming more focused on its story, and the season’s second half promises to bring in some much-needed permanent antagonism for our heroes to battle against.
LOG HORIZON SEASON 2 (PART 1) / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: SHINJI ISHIHIRA / SCREENPLAY: TOSHIZO NEMOTO, MICHIKO ITOU, SHINSUKE ONISHI, SHINGO IRIE / STARRING: MIKE YAGER, JAD SAXTON, ANDREW LOVE, JOVAN JACKSON, EMILY NEVES, CHELSEA MCCURDY, MAGGIE FLECKNOE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW