There are three seasons of Log Horizon. Season 3 is currently airing as of 2021 May, so this review is going to cover up to season 2.
I consider Log Horizon a spiritual successor to Hack.Sign. Of course, there is SAO (Sword Art Online) but I do not grade that series high.
The series begins as Shiroe and Naotsugu are having a really hard time against what is supposed to be easy mobs.
They are having a hard time because they are no longer playing a game. They are – living – in the game. What wasn’t considered are being considered as a factor, such as smell, vibrations, movement speed, and etc.
Then we are presented with a medieval fantasy world that was once a world of a MMORPG.
Shiroe is the main protagonist of this series although I wouldn’t call him a traditional main character. His ingenuity and adaptability are paramount in reshaping what was once an online game world. However, he does not actually drive the plot forward. It’s those around him that do.
I’d say he is a passive main character.
He also has no special powers and no over-the-top moves. What he has is deep knowledge as well as being able to be creative enough to bend rules of the game world.
Season 1 is where everything begins. Everyone is shell-shocked how they became locked up in their online game world. They cannot log out. They cannot enter the real world. They cannot also die. They also do not age.
As a former raid player (From Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Eve Online), that’d be a dream come true. I would absolutely love to be trapped inside of an online game world.
Moving on, the hub where Shiroe and others are trapped in is called Akihabara. It is basically a Japanese sever. Its population is about 30,000 players. There are apparently others hubs where players are trapped as well. However, since gates are disabled, making long distance travels infeasible, players are basically trapped to their hubs.
Now, this is where Log Horizon differentiates from other run-of-the-mill series of the same genre. 30,000 players trapped in Akihabara and its surrounding zones ultimately means 30,000 bored people. There is also no active economy. Basically, there is really nothing to do. This starts to make players do naughty things, like PKing. which forces most of players lurking at the hub, doing literally nothing.
There is another issue. It is that food tastes nothing. NPC vendors do sell fancy dishes but they all taste nothing or salty. Tasty food is important for mortal. Because of these elements, mood in Akihabara is really down. Why? Think about it. You have nothing to do. Food taste like shit. Nothing to look forward to. 24 hours must feel like 240 hours.
Shiroe notices this and vows to change that. It is how everything begins. By mixing his deep knowledge of the game with rules of the real world, he literally bends rules of the game they are living in in order to mimic real world economics.
Season 1 has two parts. The first half is about transition from being mere players to foreign inhabitants of the new world. The second part is about politics between players and NPCs because they have become sentient. Players can no longer treat them like objects anymore.
Season 2 has two parts as well but its overall theme is raids which have been a crucial part in any decent MMORPG to date.
Overall, season 1 is probably easier to watch for those who aren’t a MMORPG player. Season 2 requires one to have been a MMORPG raid player to fully appreciate its brilliance.
⚖️ My verdict
The reason Log Horizon isn’t as popular as I want it to be is because you need to have been a hardcore MMORPG player in order to truly appreciate and enjoy the anime.
Basically, this anime targets a very niche audience. And, because I had been a hardcore MMORPG player in my youth, I really felt home while watching the anime.
What truly moved me is a speech by William Massachusetts of Silver Swords in season 2.
It is after a huge defeat at a raid boss. While players are doubting themselves, William speaks out, telling that what else they could do other than having another go at the raid boss. He says that we all love the game as they are and they all know that the game is hard. He tells them how much he has spent to play the game he has loved and that he has literally lived just to play the game.
He tells them they, including he, are all losers, but they are losers good at something. Therefore, they should stick to what they are good at instead of running away at hardship. He boldly asks them again what else they could do.
…. I was really moved by his speech because it resonated so much with me. I strongly feel that the author of Log Horizon has to have been a hardcore MMORPG player himself.
Look, playing a MMORPG casually is entirely different from being a raid player of MMORPG. It requires commitment as well as careful planning both in real life as well as in game to make it tick. Normally, a raid takes hours, not few hours but upwards to 10 hours. It is physically and mentally draining to participate in one.
Raid does not normally forgive mistakes. One mistake, and you are going back to a starting point. To make it worse for us in early 2000s, there was no voice chat in my era. So, everything was done by text chat although I actually favor text chat more than voice chat.
It’s not easy. It’s fucking hard. I can’t even count how many times I swore during raid parties because of my own mistakes as well as others’.
If my memories are correct, I was a wood elf bard in Everquest for about 4 years. Then I was an elf enchanter for about 2 more years before moving onto Eve Online. Both classes had something in common; It is that I could control regeneration speed of mana which was a HUGE factor in raids. You never want your healer to go lom (Low on mana).
Oom (Out of mana) basically means a wipeout unless the party has a backup healer or tanks can last long enough to withstand a wave. A paladin’s lay on hands (LoH) sometimes would save the party though.
Not surprisingly, Log Horizon makes a big deal about mana regeneration as well. This is something MMORPG players would understand and know the pain of.
This anime, Log Horizon, resonates with me. It touches a bolt of fire deep inside of me that has been dormant. Sadly, however, I can no longer spend the amount of time I was able to spend on MMORPG anymore. I could see myself playing it again after retirement but I fear the game would change too much by then.
💬 Text vs. Voice chat
Voice chat has become the norm now in 2021. But in late 1990s and early 2000s, text chat was the way. The technology was there for voice chat but no one really had the bandwidth to utilize it.
I was using a dial-up in late 1990s and only started to using DSL in early 2000. Bandwidth was precious, and voice chat was seen as a luxury instead of a necessity.
However, even in 2021, I still favor text chat when it comes to raids. The reason being is that, in text chat, you can control your words and emotions.
Raid parties are a marathon. And you are pretty much guaranteed to get frustrated at one point. This can start a verbal fight with voice chat whereas in text chat I can just swear to myself in my room and get it over with. This creates more tame environment to work with.
I know this because I started using voice chat in Eve online. There isn’t “raids” in that MMORPG. But similar things are there with system conquests in null (lawless) sectors. I witnessed a lot of verbal fights in that game. The frequency of fight was far more than I had encountered with text chat.
That’s why I favor text over voice.