Log Horizon 2 Premiere Review
Before I even get into the meat of this review, I feel that I should offer up a concise summary of my views on Log Horizon‘s first season. I adored it. For me, it was one of the surprise hits of the 2013 fall season. I had enjoyed Sword Art Online due to what I found to be a hilarious downward spiral which had hit rock bottom, drilled through it, and hit incest, but I had hoped for something a bit smarter. By the time I started watching Log Horizon, I was ready to write the trapped-in-a-game subgenre off as “sometimes fun but usually brainless,” which is the same category where I tend to store most harem and 4-koma based anime. Fortunately, despite a somewhat weak opening to the series, Log Horizon earned my appreciation through a large and interesting array of characters, a strategic look at the gameplay, and an in depth look at how the game mechanics of Elder Tale both limit and expand the capabilities of our main cast.
Shiroe of the Northern Lands, the first episode of the second season, feels a bit like the first episode of the first season. Both episodes used cold opens as an excuse to have a bit of action right at the front, both have notable instances of exposition dumps, and both feel a little dissonant with the show as a whole. The reliance on the cold open actions scenes feels a bit peculiar since Log Horizon is a show that defined itself more through the use of tactics to overcome enemies, rather than brute force style battles. Furthermore, the battle from the cold opening doesn’t even end up occurring within the episode, and appears to be clips from a couple different battles spliced together. I can’t help but suspect that Studio Deen, the show’s new producers, were trying to show off some of the visual flair that they will be bringing to the proceedings, but honestly, the clips in question aren’t given any context and are more likely to confuse both returning fans and newcomers alike. The usage of exposition is also notable in this first episode. Log Horizon 2 starts off proper with another festival. The character Marie became comically fond of holding these towards the end of the first season, but this “Post-Halloween” festival has the somewhat awkward purpose of reintroducing most of the main cast. Log Horizon has done a good job filling its cast it well realized, three-dimensional characters so watching this episode try to boil those characters down to their most basic elements in a number of seconds for the sake of reintroduction feels rather unusual.
Despite this less than seamless opening, the episode does improve as it goes along. Due to the purchase of a number of high value buildings in the by the Roundtable Council, the Council is now facing impractical monthly fees. If the buildings, which include public services such as banks, were to be purchased by a third party it could serve to destabilize the community of Akihabara. So, Shiroe has to find a source of sustainable financing without alerting others interested parties to the Roundtable’s current weakness and susceptibility. Much of Shiroe’s planning is hinted at via his negotiations with a clan of NPCs called the Kunie Clan. I actually find this to be a very interesting premise for a story, but that might be due to the fact that I find MMO based economics to be a very intriguing subject.
One other aspect of this episode prevents it from being mediocre. We are given a brief insight into a character’s life outside of Elder Tale, specifically Naotsugu. The show has given us occasional split second glimpses of the outside world, but the glimpse we are given here is not only the longest flashback we’ve been given, but it also marks the first time were shown how a character looks IRL. At first, I was uncertain as to why Naotsugu was the first character we got such a look at, since he’s often simply presented as the clown of the group. However, the moment we get a look at the the buttoned-down real life version it serves to contextualize much of his behavior in the game. His silly buffoonery serves as an aspect of his escapism, but now that we have caught a glimpse of him as a businessman specializing in sales, it provides us a more complete view of a character who, after the apocalypse, maintains a pleasant and jovial demeanor in order to keep his friends at ease and, in his own way, guard them in whatever way he can.
While this episode doesn’t put the show’s best foot forward, it does offer up some nice hints as to where the show is going. MMO economies are an interesting and complex aspect of gaming (…to some people) and the idea of manipulating the system for the purpose of maintaining stability within Akihabara is an intriguing concept. What’s more, the possibility of further glimpses into the main character’s lives “before the Apocalypse” is an intriguing one.
Before I wrap this up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Although this is probably my most highly anticipated anime of this season, I doubt that I will be covering this on a weekly basis due to both time constraints and lack of demand.
- While most of the brief character reintroductions didn’t really work for me, I have to admit that is was a blast to see everyone’s favorite NPC turned Player Character, Rudy, back in all his over-the-top awesomeness.
- Our opening for this season is still the song Database which I honestly have gained quite the affinity for. Fortunately, rather than simply copy and paste the OP from the first season, we instead get some new visuals to go along with it.
- There was a great, albeit broadly focused, video released by the web series Extra Credits a couple weeks back about the subject of MMO economies, and how they deal with issues like inflation. It serves as an interesting companion piece to this episode, and, like most of Extra Credit’s videos, is well worth checking out.
- Also, while I’m directing readers to YouTube videos, I might as well direct them to Arkada of Glass Reflections’s review of Season 1 of Log Horizon. It’s probably my favorite review of the show to date.
- I really want to see a glimpse of what Akatsuki and, to a lesser extent, Nyanta are like IRL. Both maintain a constant state of role-playing, making it difficult to get a complete grasp of their personalities and psyche, so it could be really interesting to get an alternate perspective on them.
- Studio Deen does a decent job with the animation, and aside from a few minor alterations, it largely remains consistent with the preceding season. I’m not going to even try to judge their handling of the combat, since all we really get to see of it is that scatter-shot opening. That being said, some of the side characters look a bit different, and that may take some getting used to.
Log Horizon 2’s first episode feels like it stumbles out of the gate, but picks up steam as it goes along. While this is a less stellar opening than I may have hoped, it leaves me hopeful for the season as a whole.
Once I accounted for my rather lofty expectations, I have to admit that this episode largely does its job in reintroducing us to the characters and world, and succeeds setting up the season to come.