When I first heard of Animes like “.Hack”, many years ago, I was overwhelmed with an excitement that, to this day, has not been properly replicated. I never really had the follow through to actually watch the series but just hearing about a premise that revolves around the combination of video games and reality, as a young gamer, had me so inspired. Too bad all the creative energy that coursed through me in my younger years was never directed at anything of substance, but the feelings of adoration to such series’ has stuck with me even into my adult life.
When I got the chance to review the Anime adaptation of “Sword Art Online” some time ago I thought I was in for quite a treat…too bad that series only proved to muddy up what was once such clean, drinkable water. Since then connection to the fantasy sub-genre has dwindled.
I passed on watching “Log Horizon” during the time when it was getting a legal stream across the West simply because of my experience with “SAO” but when Madman Entertainment offered up a review copy of the first half of the first season…something within me just had to take it. I’m not sure what it was that possessed me to put my hand up for it but I’m very much glad that it did because, well, without giving too much away; it has lit a fire within me reminiscent of my past and for that I cannot be more grateful.
Elder Tales has become a global phenomenon, immersing millions of players in its online fantasy world. However, something goes wrong with the twelfth expansion pack. Eight-year veteran Shiroe and 30,000 other players suddenly find themselves trapped in the game’s no-longer-fictional universe!
Except it’s not even exactly the game they knew: things are in different places, the portals don’t work, and if a gamer was playing an avatar who wasn’t a physical match for their real self… well, let’s just say that everyone who’s been playing is going to have to make some serious adjustments to their new world view.
On top of that, the former Non-Player-Characters are now self-aware and working towards their own ends. This collision of the Elder Tale people and players with seemingly impossible skills, abilities, and knowledge promises to be cataclysmic. Get ready for heroes to rise and new legends to be forged as Shiroe and fellow players Naotsugu and Akatsuki discover what happens when sword and sorcery becomes real! – Madman Entertainment
In situations like this I’d usually talk about how, although this premise has been done before, this particular series flips it on its head and makes it something entirely different. Unfortunately, I can’t say that because, well, that’s not what “Log Horizon” does. What “Log Horizon” does is take what has been shown in the past through series like “.Hack” and “Sword Art Online” and grounds it. It brings such outlandish stories to a point of realistic excellence and makes sure that it stays there for as long as justifiably possible. To compare “Log Horizon” to other series’ of the same type is something that can be done easily but something that, I believe, is necessary.
Unlike “Sword Art Online”, “Log Horizon” is actually somewhat believable. Instead of taking a break from escaping their virtual prison to go an live in a cabin somewhere in a quaint forest, the crew of “Log Horizon” stick to what is absolutely necessary; learning to live in a world they’ve previously only “played” in. What I enjoyed so much about “Log Horizon” is that the theme of “escape” was no where near as predominant as the theme of “sustenance”. From the first episode, Shiroe who is the main character of the series explains that it is not about them working to leave “Elder Tales” but to learn to exist in it long enough for them to become stable wherein which then they will find themselves confident enough to begin searching for some sort of exit strategy.
Once again, unlike “SAO”, the characters don’t go from players of the game to citizens of the game’s world in a matter of episodes. It is only by the end of the first, let’s say, ten episodes that the characters make a conscience decision to start living actively as not only their classes but as the roles they most fit into. The series, for a large stretch of the first thirteen episodes, goes through somewhat of a metamorphosis and becomes very much about the politics of the world. Subsequently there’s also a fair bit of it that focuses on building an economy and making money for future operations. Though I did find myself wishing that it would all move on a little quicker, I couldn’t help but notice that it all eventually added up to quite a huge step in the development of not only the characters, not only the world, but also the story itself. It’s hard to be upset with something that does indeed allow the story to progress.
The review copy sent to us by Madman Entertainment was, thankfully, the Blu-Ray version of the release which, if you chose otherwise, can be bought as a DVD instead. I’m thankful for it because, to put it simply, “Log Horizon” isn’t just a series with a story that can be digested well but it’s also very good to look at. While I can’t honestly say there’s plenty of action to keep you at the edge of your seat, I can say that there is enough of it. The series never let’s you get too used to high-octane battle scenes and it ends up working well for it in the end.
Much like a great deal of contemporary Anime series’, “Log Horizon” is visually appealing: The entire series is animated fluidly and it seems as though the development team only took shortcuts when it was absolutely necessary, for example; during unimportant, quick scenes. Studio Satelight did a great job at making sure the animation quality stayed as consistant as possible and, I have to say, it’s quite obvious. The colours, the costuming, it’s all wonderfully fitting and wonderfully good to look at. I can’t imagine anyone being upset with what they’ll see in “Log Horizon”.
What impressed me the most about the visuals of the series was not so much that of the animation quality but of the simply beauty of the environments the characters travelled through and travelled too. You can probably imagine the fantasy-style environments that make up the world of “Elder Tales” but what you cannot imagine is the ay in which the design crew seamlessly combined staple fantasy visuals with that of the real world. This means moss-covered highways, lamp posts, staircases and everything else that you’d see in the real world make a creative appearance in the world of an MMO and it is simply wonderful.
Something I didn’t expect to be this good about “Log Horizon” was that of the English voice cast. What started off as a singular love for the opening theme song “Database”, which can only really be described as sounding like a Japanese interpretation of an undisclosed “Rage Against The Machine” song, eventually lead to an overall love for not just the music but that of the audio quality as a whole. The standout audio aspect would have to be that of the voice acting, as previously mentioned. The “normality” of the way in which characters speak is so much more impactful than the silly and highly-unnecessary over the top fantasy-type dialogue you’d usually hear in series’ like this.
All the characters know that they’re in a video game, this is made obvious time and time again. The fact that they decide against talking dramatically is probably the best thing these characters could have possibly done. The one thing we forget about a good voice actor is that they first have to know how to act, which I think cannot be said about a great deal of the talent out there. Somehow, the team behind the English dub of the series found the perfect people to represent those in the series and for that I, alongside many other fans I’m sure, are eternally grateful.
The soundtrack is made up, mostly, of high fantasy-style tracks which fit in as well as you’d imagine. What made the soundtrack so much greater was the way the characters referenced it. In one particular scene Shiroe mentions that the song they’re listening to is the opening theme song from the in-Anime game. This makes me think a lot of the music we’re hearing as audience members is meant to be from the actual “Elder Tales” game and that adds a whole other level to the enjoyment of the series that other shows just cannot deliver.
“Log Horizon”, at the risk of sounding cliche, is without a doubt one huge breath of fresh air. It took a sub-genre I had come to despise and pulsed life into it. The way the characters interact, the way in which the story develops, the attention to detail and the pace at which it moves along…it’s all so great! Of course, there are pieces here and there that were, for lack of a better term, less than desirable, but they came and went in a flash. In fact, they were gone so fast that I, for the life of me, can’t even remember what it was that i disliked.
It truly is a series for those of us out there who are NOT fans of “Sword Art Online” and I know they’re out there because as many fans of “SAO” as there are…there are just as many people that absolutely despise it. “Log Horizon” is for the latter. It’s a series that won’t have you second-guessing or doubting or questioning why a character decided to do one thing over the other. At this point in time I’ve only seen the episodes that featured on this release which are the first thirteen: In those thirteen, “Log Horizon” has build one hell of a sturdy foundation for future episodes AND future season. I can’t wait to see just what happens next!
Log in and experience it for yourself by purchasing “Log Horizon” part one through Madman Entertainment’s official store: Click Here