This time I’m taking a look at another anime, a fantasy anime series that takes a unique spin on the “Trapped on the MMO” sub-genre of fantasy anime.

Cast & Crew

Emiri Katō as Akatsuki
Takuma Terashima as Shiroe
Tomoaki Maeno as Naotsugu

Ayahi Takagaki as Henrietta
Daiki Yamashita as Tōya
Eriko Matsui as Isuzu
Hiro Shimono as Sōjirō
Hiroki Gotou as Michitaka
Jouji Nakata as Nyanta
Mariya Ise as Lenessia Erhart Cowen
Masaki Terasoma as Roderick
Misaki Kuno as Serara
Nao Tamura as Minori
Ryota Ohsaka as Shōryū
Satoshi Hino as Isaac
Shōhei Kajikawa as Hien
Takahiro Sakurai as Crusty
Tetsuya Kakihara as Rundelhaus

Directed by Shinji Ishihira
Story by Syouji Masuda
Based on the novels by Mamare Touno
Animated by Satelight

Available on DVD (Part 1, Part 2) and Blu-Ray (Part 1, Part 2) from Amazon.com.

The Premise

The latest expansion to the MMORPG Elder Tale titled “Homesteading the Noosphere” has lead to the game’s players becoming drawn into the game, and then trapped within the game’s world, in their characters. Among these characters is Shiroe (an Enchanter), Naotsugu (a warrior), and Akatsuki (an Assassin). The three people, along with their allies, attempt to carve a place in this new world. Since they are in an MMO, if they die in the game, they (and other player characters) respawn at the Cathedral at the nearest town, death is no longer an issue for them. Thus, they have to deal with a whole bunch of social and political issues that come with this.

Further, the game’s NPCs have also become sentient, and the are having to have to adjust to this horde of (to their eyes) insane demigods roaming around the land.

High Points

By dropping the “Die in the game you die for real” aspect, and by allowing players to keep their avatars (as opposed to Sword Art Online, where characters were converted to representing the RL appearances of their players), Log Horizon opens up a whole bunch of really interesting narrative ideas. How do you penalize bad behavior in a game world where you can’t “ban” players, killing players causes them to just teleport to the nearest Cathedral (so the death penalty is meaningless) and by extension, people have develop enough power that they can’t necessarily be imprisoned.

Or, for example, what happens if you’re stuck in a body that’s not your own (season 2 gets into this more in depth, but it comes up a little here)? While some people want to go back to the real world, what if your life in this world is now better than your old life – not just in terms of quality of life, but in terms of losing a disability that you had in the real world before? What happens to the economic structure of the world when you have players throwing this much cash around? What happens to a fantasy world when you have thousands of people with modern technological knowledge dropped into the world, not just your random Connecticut Yankee or Ashley Williams.

Also, the game world is a 1/2 scale recreation of the real world, which is great, because it gives the game world a sense of comprehensible scale. In Lord of the Rings, we knew distances were long, but it wasn’t always clear how long. Here, we can go on to the internet, look up the distance between, for example, Akihabara and Susuhino in the real world online, and just divide that by half.

Low Points

The social order in the game world, in some places, feels like it disintegrates too quickly. Not that I think it wouldn’t disintegrate, but more like I think that bad actors would emerge a little more slowly as people figure out what behavior the remaining automated systems won’t penalize.

Also, while I like Rundelhaus, I’d think his pretentious attitude when he’s introduced would be clamped down on a little earlier.

Scores

Originality: The base concept of the show isn’t exactly new, but it innovates on it heavily to create something much more original. 5/6

Animation: Very nicely done, with lots of great little details. 4/6

Story: This show brings a lot of interesting stories out of it’s worldbuilding and narrative backgrounds. 4/6

Emotional Response: Aside from one significant moment towards the end of the series with Rundelhaus, the emotional impact of this season is less “oh nos” and more “Holy crap that’s a brilliant plan” with some sides of “I can’t believe they did that.” 3/6

Production: The sound and music are very nicely done, and the general world design is well put together (including the design of how the characters use the game interface). 4/6

Acting: The Japanese voice acting is generally good. I did listen to some of the English dub, and I thought it was alright, but but having seen the Japanese dub first, that’s the voice I associated with the characters. 4/6

Overall: This is a really fun, and really smart anime series. 6/6

In total, Log Horizon: Season 1 gets 3o out of 42.