Log Horizon – Episode 1: The Apocalypse [First Impression]
Log Horizon, my shotgun pick of the season. Written by Mamare Touno, who is responsible last years Maoyu Maou Yuusha, Log Horizon takes us into the world of Elder Tale (the hugely successful MMORPG) and introduces us to a group of interesting characters and their friends. Upon the release of its twelfth expansion pack (Novasphere Pioneers) however, 30,000 Japanese players are trapped inside the game and sh*t goes down. That is all.
For a first episode to a series, Log Horizon episode 1 wasn’t bad. That said, it also wasn’t the best first episode I’ve ever seen. That said, I loved it. The same thing happened with Maoyu Maou Yuusha, the first episode was great, the ideas presented were interesting and cohesive and the characters were enjoyable. Eleven episodes later however, and the flaws were more than obvious. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Maoyu Maou Yuusha more than I probably should have and perhaps that’s why I’ve gone into this series with a keen interest, but what I can safely assure you is… that Log Horizon has exponentially more potential than Maoyu ever did. Not to talk about Maoyu too much (considering this is meant to be a Log Horizon impression post) but the issue with Maoyu was that it came across rather condescending at points, the majority of viewers not being experts on economics and agrarian techniques. But with Log Horizon we’ve been presented with a familiar formula that all viewers can enjoy; moe, comedy and lots of action packed fun, or, should I say, ‘the language of anime fans everywhere’. The video game ‘genre’ (as I’ve so aptly named it) is one of perplexing unique potential, there are so many possibilities and, for some reason, writers always seem to get it wrong. Take .hack for example, all they did in that anime was talk… and then take Sword Art Online (as another example), the latter half of that anime sucked pretty hard. For some reason writers just can’t seem to find the right balance when it comes to the video game genre but I think that, for once, someone might just have gotten it right.
Allow me to elaborate.
Plot wise, I’m not totally sure where Log Horizon is going… yes, I know, that was some top quality elaboration right there. But I digress. I have a feeling that Log Horizon is going to be one of those shows were the characters run about helping everyone else and there isn’t going to be an actual plot per say… okay, I said “I have a feeling” but what I actually meant was “I have a fear”… If the aforementioned does happen, this might just turn into another Sword Art Online. But, luckily for you, I have hope.
Allow to me elaborate further.
I think that we need to take a look at the cast of characters we have so far. Shiroe is no Kirito, in fact I’d say he’s more of a Katsuragi Keima… He’s not your typical gung ho main character, he’s tactical, he’s efficient and, best of all, he has glasses. Glasses aside, we also have Naotsugu, our tank and our resident pervert. Now Naotsugu is definitely there for more comedic purposes (or, at least, that’s how it seems so far), his character lacking a lot of the depth and mystery that surrounds both Shiroe and Akatsuki. And, speaking of Akatsuki… she’s just so cute!
Now I’m talking about the three main characters as a collective because I feel as thought that’s the way they’re meant to be experienced, at least for now anyway. Their fighting style is team based, the best comedy comes from when they’re all together and, honestly, I don’t think these characters would even be half as interesting if they were on their own. Take Akatsuki for example, she’s cute and funny because of the interactive opportunities given to her character by the characters around her. That’s what makes her interesting. Not the fact that she’s an assassin, not the fact that she’s innately cute anyway, but the fact that, when she’s with Shiroe and Naotsugu, she truly comes to life. Shiroe however, is somewhat of an exception, not in the sense that he’s funny and interesting on his own (because, to be quite honest, on his own all he did was walk around and mumble), but because he has that Koroko no Basuke ‘Generation of Miracles’ member feel about him. Debauchery Tea Party? Firstly, quality name, secondly, what happened to them? The latter question alone is enough to make his character interesting and I feel as though the other two characters lack that, cute though Akatsuki is and funny though Naotsugu is.
Aesthetically speaking, the show isn’t spectacular. Even some of the wider shots felt a bit lackluster, predominantly due to the fact that the color scheme feels a bit… green. It almost felt as though I was playing through the anime version of The Last of Us… Log Horizon pales in comparison to shows such as Kyoukai no Kanata and Sword Art Online when it comes to the visuals, the characters feeling rather ‘flat’ and the overall design of things being rather uninspiring, but, nevertheless, it’s not bad, in fact it’s much better than some of the other shows I’ve begun watching this season and, I suppose, that’s something. The soundtrack was nothing to turn your nose up at either, but again, it’s nothing spectacular… Oh! And before I forget… that OP is damn awesome! Probably one of the best I’ve heard this season…
Before I began watching the episode, I came across a post on 4chan. It said:
– The characters are not “trapped” in a game. Rather, a video game world has become the real world.
– It does not try to be grimdark. You die? You are resurrected at a town. This is used for comedy effect.
– The main character is a mage, aka a support role, and does not try to steal the spotlight. Nor is he perfect at everything.
– The development focus lies on the main character’s party members and not only the main.
– It is not a harem.
– Focus on MMO politics and economics.
Basically… if all of these things are true… this is going to be one hell of an awesome show. I love MMORPG’s, in fact, some of my fondest childhood memories pertain to my MMORPG experiences and I’d love to see the classic MMO torn apart and analysed for comedic effect. I’m also glad that characters don’t die indefinitely, I mean, that was definitely one of Sword Art Online’s more alluring features, but I don’t want to watch a show that’s going to keep depressing me over and over again, I’m watching Log Horizon to be entertained in a comedic sense! It’s a weekly reprieve, something that I’m sure everyone needs once in a while and I’m glad that it’s not going to be bogged down by overtly depressing themes and plot points.
On another note, I found the battle sequence to be most interesting, the whole ‘let your body do all the work’ tactic being rather reminiscent of Sword Art Online’s first five minutes. The battle itself was nicely paced and the animation quality of the entire scene was just as you’d expect from your average anime. I’m glad that Shiroe isn’t ridiculously overpowered as well, even though he has reached the game’s level cap (you know, you’d think they’d raise the level cap by a few levels for the new expansion pack?)… It’s good to see the entire team working together to defeat their enemies and, even though this was simply an introduction of the series and the ‘game mechanics’, it was a nice to see some good MMO action.
The episode itself was smoothly laced with information, ‘info dumps’ being spread out throughout the episode to give the learning process more of a natural feel. Nothing was truly imposed, Shiroe explaining everything through either his dialogues with other characters and or his inner monologue. And it wasn’t overbearing either, the exposition, unlike Maoyu, being much easier to comprehend and different mechanics being introduced through experience and comedy. For example, the introduction of all food tasting like soggy crackers, they didn’t outright state that “Food here tastes like soggy crackers”, they entwined comedy and world development to create one of the more comedic scenes in the episode. I guess you could say it’s clever.
And then of course you have the all important question… will Shiroe ever join a guild? Was won’t Shiroe join a guild? Who will romance Akatsuki? Just who is the cat women… or man… or… wait… why is it a cat? I thought everyone had ‘turned’ human (or, should I say, they’ve reverted back into their ‘natural state’)… and another thing! Why didn’t they elaborate on that? Sword Art Online had the mirror scene, Log Horizon had a few passing comments made by Naotsugu and Shiroe… ah well… I suppose I can forgive them.
To conclude, Log Horizon’s first episode can be taken in one of two ways: either you’re going to find it bland and generic, or you’re going to enjoy the humor and find it refreshing. I find myself more inclined towards the latter state of mind, but it’s entirely subjective, I can just tell that Log Horizon is going to divide the anime community and, I can only hope, that the next episode will find a way to draw the non believers back into the mix. Let’s just call the subtle blandness a case of first episode syndrome eh?
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