Directed by Shinji Ishihara
Written by Syouji Masuda
Character Design by Mariko Ito
Voice cast: Emiri Kato, Takuma Terashima, Tomoaki Maeno, Ayahi Takagaki, Daiki Yamashita, Eriko Matsui, Jouji Nakata, Kanami Takahashi, Misaki Kuno, Nao Tamura, Ryota Ohsaka, Shohei Kajikawa, Sora Amamiya, Taishi Murata, Takahiro Sakurai, Tetsuya Kaikihara, Yumi Hara.
Air Dates: Saturdays, 6:30 a.m. CDT.
Currently Simulcasting on Crunchyroll
At first glance, NHK’s production of Log Horizon is reminiscent of many anime series in the fantasy/RPG genre. Sword Art Online and .Hack both come to mind. Nevertheless, this series has its own strengths that allow it to stand on its own, including character development and story details that don’t distract from the plot and wonderful character designs and fight sequences.
Simulcasting on Saturday mornings on Crunchyroll, Log Horizon is based on a series of novels by author Mamare Touno. Besides the anime adaptation, there have been four manga adaptations of the original novel series as well. The anime centers around three main characters, Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Akatsuki, who are among some 30,000 players in Japan – and several hundred thousand worldwide – trapped in the world of “Elder Tale,” a long-running MMORPG that, for some unexplained reason, has trapped everyone within it. At this point, I must mention that I love the setting for this series. The action all takes place on the actual islands of Japan and in real places like Akihabara and Susukino, but in “Elder Tale,” they are set in a kind of post-apocalyptic, sword-and-sorcery environment.
The series opens with our main protagonist, Shiroe. A level-90 enchanter and a bit of a loner, Shiroe awakens in the middle of the game world, and upon finding out where he is, begins looking for his friends to see what happened. In quick order, he finds his friend, Naotsugu, a guardsman who he’s quested with before, and Akatsuki, an assassin/ninja who he’s also befriended. Together, they begin to find their way around in this strange new reality, negotiating with guilds, fighting monsters, rescuing other players, punishing villains, and trying to figure out why they’re trapped here in the first place.
There’s a definite vein of old-school heroic fantasy that runs through Log Horizon. It may turn off viewers more accustomed to seeing the flawed anti-heroes that populate many of today’s narratives, but I happen to think it’s refreshing. These protagonists are highly experienced players who know what they’re doing and you see it in every episode. Shiroe’s knowledge of the game alone is encyclopedic. But don’t think that these characters are flat cardboard cut outs, either. Shiroe is torn between his natural tendency to shyness and his stature as a hero and leader in the “Elder Tale” world; Naotsugu, who goes around bragging openly about being a pervert – and getting pounded on by Akatsuki when he gets on her nerves – is nevertheless noble, loyal and kind-hearted, and devoted to his friends. Akatsuki, who battles with her own doubts about working in a group, is also enamored of Shiroe, although she doesn’t want to show it too much.
Log Horizon is one of those shows you will either love or hate at first glance. I happen to be in the former party. One of the aspects of this show that I love is the way that the series staff balanced out key details about how the world of “Elder Tale” works while not detracting from either the action or the storyline. That’s a tough skill to master in any discipline, and writer Syouji Masuda and director Shinji Ishihara do a great job at it.
It may not be to everyone’s taste, especially those who are looking for elements like the sublime tearfulness that resounds from a series like Sword Art Online, but Log Horizon is worth a try, especially if you like an old-fashioned sword and sorcery tale where the good guys always win. So, here’s to the good guys.