First Impressions: The West Wind Brigade

The story of Log Horizon is full of little side-factions that all have their own interesting characters. Of these various groups, my favorite (by far) was The West Wind Brigade. A raiding guild and personal harem in one. I was therefore very excited when I discovered that an entire spin-off manga was made, just for this guild.

Content warning: (attempted) rape, sexual abuse.

Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade follows a samurai called Soujirou. He and thousands of other players of the MMORPG Elder Tale one day find themselves waking up as their in-game avatars. While many despair at suddenly being trapped in a game world, Soujirou finds it exciting!

PHOTO: Soujirou is thrilled to be in the world of his video game.

And who can blame him. Soujirou is the guild master of The West Wind Brigade, though it’d be more accurate to say that he is the guild’s communal crush. Being a charismatic, handsome dude, Soujirou’s guild consists exclusively of all the people that are in love with him. Dozens of women and even some guys, who together make up a found family united by their shared affection for Soujirou. And as a harem, they are unmatched in their productivity.

In the original anime, The West Wind Brigade stands toe-to-toe with the major guilds of Akihabara, in spite of having only a fraction of the membership. They played a major role in several of the story’s conflicts; often resolving major problems and defeating powerful opponents. They saved the day so many times, even though they were merely side-characters. For that reason alone, a spin-off series about them sounded wonderful.

PHOTO: Soujirou slays a goblin while proclaiming his desire to protect his friends in The West Wind Brigade.

The first volume of The West Wind Brigade was pretty dang good. It reintroduces the cast and shows some of the harem antics that the guild is known for. However, it is also quick to dig into the politics and conflict that made Log Horizon itself so interesting. Soujirou soon realizes that they find themselves in a lawless place, full of people that are upset and irrational. Furthermore, the bigger guilds are already making political moves that put the brigade in a perilous situation.

Volume 1 consists of 6 chapters and felt very well-rounded. I am especially glad that we got to see the duality of Soujirou’s character. He is a lovable doofus with a bumbling charm to him, making it easy to underestimate him. Until you mess with his friends, whereupon Soujirou will show a much more imposing side of himself.

Compared to the anime, The West Wind Brigade is more sexual in nature. Log Horizon had its jokes here and there, but this manga goes all-in on ecchi. We get to see some of the lewd mishaps around the guild’s compound, with future covers hinting at more fanservice in the future.

PHOTO: A judo outfit slides off Isami's shoulders, just as Soujirou grabs her hand.

However, it also features more sexual harassment, which was a no-no throughout the anime. Two female characters get sexually assaulted in an alley by a group of guys, with the very clear implication that they want to rape these girls. This scene is given an even more sinister implication because these same dudes were seen earlier walking off with a bunch of underage kids.

It’s not an issue for me personally, but I could see this direction being problematic for others.

I also hope that the manga will retain its focus on The West Wind Brigade itself going forward. Plenty of characters from the main series already made appearances throughout volume 1, including frequent mention of series’ protagonist Shiroe. This felt unnecessary to me. There already is an entire series for Shiroe and all the other big names around Akihabara. I’d rather see this manga focus on fleshing out its own cast and show their adventures, instead of referencing the main series a bunch.

PHOTO: Nazuna and Soujirou have a conversation on the balcony.

My one issue with the manga so far is the mediocre art. Panels tend to focus on close-ups of characters talking or quick action shots. Backgrounds are therefore a rarity. To the point that entire pages can just be characters spouting dialogue in a void; an issue made worse by the often-chaotic layout of such pages. This is a shame because the world of Log Horizon has such a cool aesthetic to it. The few times we do get backgrounds, these are too simplistic. It makes it needlessly difficult to grasp the visual space that the scenes are supposed to be taking place in.

Overall, I am optimistic about this series. Optimistic enough that I already have volume 2 headed my way. I wanted a spin-off that further fleshed out this likeable band of characters and so far this manga does just that. It sounded too good to be true, yet here we are.

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