5 Reasons To Watch: Log Horizon

#1 Isekai about community

The MMORPG Elder Tale was about to release its 11th expansion, but something went terribly wrong. Its playerbase suddenly find themselves trapped in the fantasy world of the game, occupying the bodies of their characters. A familiar and perhaps tiring trope even when Log Horizon first released, but which this anime gives an all-new spin.

PHOTO: Shiroe looking around Akihabara.

As thousands of players find themselves standing around where they last logged out, there are no instructions of any kind. No cackling villains who confess to holding them hostage or cosmic deities to guide them onward. The situation is as inexplicable as it was sudden; nobody has a clue what is going on and if getting back home is even feasible. There is no grand adventure or purpose, leaving many confused, melancholic, and angry.

Shiroe is one of many players trapped in Elder Tale; a veteran player of much renown, infamous for refusal to ever join any guild. Witnessing the dour mood among the players—the lawlessness and the power plays from the bigger guilds—Shiroe commits himself to a cause. He is going to build a community in this world. A community with laws, systems, and rights, where players can once again find purpose and friendship. A community that can stand up to dominating raiding guilds, as well as outside threats.

PHOTO: Shiroe leading the Round Table Conference.

But to pull it off, he’ll need resources, allies, and a lot of cunning. Much of the fun in Log Horizon stems from watching Shiroe’s amazing plans come together. On a small scale, this might mean defeating a PvP guild that robs players with Shiroe’s superior strategies. On a MUCH larger scale, he orchestrates incredible power grabs that force hundreds of players to submit to his will or flee elsewhere.

If that sounds nefarious, then it kind of is. Shiroe is as much a schemer as he is a strategist. He becomes known as “The Villain Behind Glasses” owing to his willingness to upset people to achieve his goals. His underhanded methods cast him in a suspicious light, even though his intentions are ultimately benevolent.

Shiroe is, however, not the only schemer out there. Any problem he solves has a tendency to be quickly replaced by something new and bigger. Conflicts escalate, new threats arise, and ever-stronger rivals present themselves—all of which threaten to undo Shiroe’s achievements.

PHOTO: Sad adventurers, sitting around in the alleys of Akihabara.

It’s interesting to see an isekai anime that really asks what it’d be like for players to live in an MMO. When they suddenly need food and shelter, and guilds become more than just a calendar for weekly raids.

Community is what makes online gaming memorable, so it’s cathartic to see an MMO city flourish as Shiroe’s plans bear fruit. Players begin to organize fun events, they trade and cooperate, and customize the places they hang out in. Seeing a city come to life like th,t with hundreds of unique fantasy characters in it, speaks more to my nostalgia for MMORPGs than any action scene in Sword Art Online or Overlord could.

#2 An MMO world unlike any other

Elder Tale is a game far bigger than anything that exists in our reality. Its world is a 1:2 scale copy of the entire Earth, given a post-apocalyptic overhaul with a fantasy touch. It feels like a medieval fantasy world with all of its magic and tropes, yet it’s set in the ruins of “our” world. A fascinating setting indeed.

PHOTO: Adventurers running away from enemies at the beach.

Not only are the scope and theme impressive, so too is the way this world is connected. Large city hubs are surrounded by wildlands with monsters in them, as well as castles, forts, and smaller NPC villages. There are special locations dotted all over with unique purposes and history. Including raid zones and dungeons.

I was shocked when Shiroe had to travel to another city in one episode, which required crossing through an entire dungeon. One that was far below Shiroe’s level, but just the idea of bottlenecking parts of the world with a dungeon fascinated me from a world-building and game-design perspective. It’s not something I’ve ever seen a real game do, but it’s possible and a damn cool concept. Rather than feeling unrealistic, Elder Tale feels like a hypothetical that real games could stand to take inspiration from.

Further helping Log Horizon feel authentic is its approach to game mechanics. Elder Tale has a lot of advanced mechanics in it like world PvP, player housing, and professions, all of which are implemented pretty darn well. The way they work is inspired by real games, usually older MMOs like Ultima. Mechanically, Elder Tale makes a lot of sense. Certainly when compared to worlds like Aincrad or Yggdrasil.

PHOTO: Touya, Isuzu, Serara, Rundel, and Minori eating togeter while out adventuring.

The game being real now has twisted these mechanics a bit, of course. Finding out how crafting or housing works now that players are actually living as their characters is a big part of the story. This again adds to the sense of realism, as players are gradually figure things out as opposed to instantly adapting to a strange, new reality.

There is no shortage of isekai anime that pander to gamers. They toss in flashy interfaces, impossible mechanics, and worlds that prioritize seeming cool over being actually sensible. Log Horizon is a hallmark of world-building by comparison. Not only is it far more believable than any of its contemporaries, it’s also far more awe-inducing. None of the spectacle of other hotshot isekai series could compare to the ambitious yet grounded wonder of Elder Tale.

#3 Tactical raid combat

While a lot of time goes towards politicking and elaborate schemes, Log Horizon is no slouch as an action anime either. PvP, monsters, and massive raid bosses, there is plenty of it all to go around.

PHOTO: Shiroe casts a spell while gazing at a massive raid boss.

In terms of choreography and visual splendor, Log Horizon can stand besides more action-oriented shows without shame. Fight scenes often look impressive, particularly in raids or when dealing with massive enemy hordes. Even its shortcuts look better than in other anime, such as with the waves of CGI goblins that far outclass those of Overlord.

Where Log Horizon distinguishes itself is in the tactical aspect, though. Its combat is perhaps the only deviation from familiar MMO proceedings, as it requires a level of coordination and tactics far beyond your everyday raid night. Even basic dungeons require players to kite packs of mobs around and move in formations. Top tier raids utilize intricate planning and complicated tactics, directed by a dedicated strategist that keeps an overview of the entire battle.

It’s an astounding level of challenge that makes each victory feel hard-earned.

#4 Yasuharu Takanashi’s best soundtrack

While you may not be familiar with his name, you’ll almost certainly be familiar with his music. Yasuharu Takanashi is one of the most prolific composers in anime. He has worked on many high-profile shows since 2002, including everything from Naruto to Precure to Hell Girl.

PHOTO: Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Akatsuki gazing at the sunset from atop a cliff.

For all the big franchises he’s worked on, Log Horizon really is my favorite soundtrack Yasuharu has ever composed. That’s a bold claim, but damn do I stand by it.

Some of the tracks in Log Horizon give me shivers whenever I hear them. Its main theme especially is catchy as hell and gets several remixes to fit different moods. It can be a high-pace action track to accompany the show’s greatest battles, an epic orchestra to set the adventuring mood, or a melancholic piece for those bittersweet moments.

Other songs don’t lack far behind. Moody chanting, electronic rock pieces, songs that remind me of old video game battle themes, soothing town music. It’s such a diverse soundtrack and most I would instantly recognize as being from Log Horizon.

#5 Romance

Wait romance month was supposed to be over already!

Across its 3 seasons, romance is a frequent theme of Log Horizon. Characters form relationships and Valentines Day is even the entire focus of one story arc. The main characters are certainly not immune to the “love” status effect either.

PHOTO: Shiroe and Akatsuki at a ball, framed against a large window.

Shiroe’s best friend Naotsugu has romantic adventures of his own and Shiroe soon finds himself in the middle of one too. The villain behind glasses draws the romantic affection of two girls. Akatsuki is a ninja assassin with a passion for roleplay, who in real-life was a college student just like Shiroe. On the other hand, there is middle schooler Minori. A more outspoken girl who becomes something of an apprentice to Shiroe after being rescued by him.

Both girls are interesting characters that synergize well with Shiroe. The story treats them fairly equally too; both girls go through a lot of development and have lives outside of their shared affection for this one dude. It makes them feel like more than just the appointed romantic interests.

PHOTO: Very determined Minori.

Their rivalry is also handled very well. The girls are ostensibly friends, but with a skewed power dynamic. Akatsuki is older than Minori, as well as a veteran of the game they are now trapped in. She is even partly responsible for training Minori and keeping her safe during that process. When Minori decides to commit to her crush on Shiroe, Akatsuki becomes anxious. Here is a girl so much younger than her, who is seemingly far more mature when it comes to handling her emotions. Isn’t she is supposed to be the adult here? And is she really going to be jealous of a girl so much younger than her?

I won’t get too far into how this rivalry unfolds from there. It’s really good and gets a nice resolution by the end of the show’s third season.

More like this…

Eagle: The trials of a politician who doesn’t shun underhanded strategies.

Maoyu: Fantasy series by Mamoru Touno.

A Witch’s Printing Office: Isekai about a character who organizes community events.

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