I didn’t get the chance to make a 12 Day post on Log Horizon last year, but it matters little because the better half of the first season as well as the first half of the second season aired this year.
It is not a game, it is real.
When Log Horizon first started, it felt like a game. They had game menus. Food didn’t taste real. They had friend lists and guilds, but then it started drifting away from the notion of game mechanics in a smooth, and very interesting fashion.
Right from the get go, use of the menu for combat was discouraged as you just didn’t have time to activate skills.
At first, food didn’t have any taste. Then it was discovered that if you cook it manually (i.e. something you wouldn’t do in a game), the food would have actual taste.
Death was very gamish for a long time. You would die and then you would revive harmlessly at the cathedral. But then that assumption of lossless death was shown to be wrong. Sure, you still come back to life, but you lose some memories.
That is actually far more real than say dying in Sword Art Online. Sure, if you died in SAO, you’d die in real life as well, but the whole die in one world, then die in another implies two clearly separated worlds. It implies that the characters are only in their game world temporarily or rather only part of them is in that game world.
In Log Horizon, there has never been any indication whatsoever that a part of these characters lives in the outside world or that apart from their memories they are still connected to the real world somehow. It is entirely possible that these characters got cloned and put into the game, or they were actually physically teleported to a different world.
Log Horizon is a good show in many ways, but I think what really sets it apart from other “I got sucked into a game” is its attempt to make the world more real by exploring the mechanics of the world and adding logic to them. I am not talking about things that you would normally care about in a game (stats, items, etc) though it does explore them, but the larger political sphere and the rules of physics (or magic if you want) that govern the world.
My favorite example of this exploration is the non player characters, or People of the Land as they are known in this universe.
At first, we, and the Adventurers don’t care about these NPCs. You know, they are the same kind of characters you’d find in any game. They sell you stuff, give you scripted information or are otherwise part of some fictional lore. The second half of the first season establishes that this is absolutely not true and never has been in this world.
These “NPCs” are just as real as the adventurers. They eat, sleep, laugh, cry and die. They are completely human.
Other stories explore the concept of sentient AI, but they always imply that it was either created to be sentient or it gained sentience over time. Regardless, it is still artificial and not obviously human. That is not the case here. The People of the Land were never AI, nor were they made by anything. They have and always will be human. Or at the least, that is the way the world is shown to us.
Apart from combat prowess and reincarnation, there is no physical difference between Adventurers and People of the Land. The People of the Land don’t exist for the convenience of Adventurers. They just happen to exist and Adventurers just happen to be selfish enough to make use of them. The two groups can and do coexist. Heck, they can get married to one another (e.g. Demikas and his wife in season 2). I wouldn’t be surprised if they can have children with one another.
This is why we can have important characters who are not adventurers. Rundelhaus, for example, was not an Adventurer at first. The best example is of course the Princess. She underwent a lot of great character development and ended up as one of the best characters in this show. Heck, her
marriage relationship with Krusty is one of my favorite relationships in this show.
There are other examples of game mechanics being made real. Death was explored in pretty significant detail with the whole magic particle explanation. Money was recently explored and while the system itself makes little logical sense, its existence is enough to make this world feel less like a game world.
Other supposed, static game truths started to change with time as well. The flavor text for weapons started having effects. A city guard started killing people he was meant to protect.
Adventurers have, for the most part, stopped thinking of this world as a game. The only ones left who still think it is a game of sorts are those who only care for games (like the Silver Sword members for whom Elder Tales was the more real part of their life).
It is this devotion to making the world as real as possible and to explore its politics and mysteries in the process that I love most about Log Horizon.101
Adventurers are Free
One big difference between Adventurers and People of the Land is that Adventurers are free or so to speak. In many ways, the People of the Land are like you and me. We go to school/work, cry, come home, cry some more, sleep and pretend tomorrow will be different.
That is to say, we are bound by our obligations to one another and to society as a whole. We can’t just decide to stop working or stop doing what others ask of us. We’d die without the money. The People of the Land in Log Horizon are like that. Whether they are plebians or patricians, they have obligations, rules and duties to hold, Adventurers don’t.
Adventurers do what they want and when they want. Lenessia is shocked by this almost right from the get go and in some ways, continues to be feel its effects into the second season. But, Crusty tells her that it takes resolve to be free. It is often easier to do what others expect of you, then it is to forge your own path and decide for yourself what you want.
Log Horizon made the world pretty real for the Adventurers, but this notion of having fun and doing what you want is one Adventurers carried over from their gaming days. They hold frequent festivals, go on high level raids, make friends with whomsoever they please and just try to enjoy life.
They may no longer be playing a game, but they aren’t living the restricted lives they once did in the human world. Their enjoyment is great to see, but it does make me jealous. It really does!
Just Some Other Memorable Things
The Lazy, Cowardly Princess
Princess x Krusty
Log Horizon has many ships. Ships in Log Horizon include Marie x Naotsugu (those two should get married already), Shirou x Minori (no way! Such a large age gap!), Shirou x Akatsuki (A-OK!), Shirou x Henrietta (unorthodox, but surprisingly workable), Rundelhaus x Isuzu, Nyaanta x Serara (probably too much of an age gap here…) and likely a few others.
I think my favorite ship of all though is Princess x Krusty. The two just go so well together. This ship is why I love episode 13 so much (though technically it aired Dec 28 last year, but whatever!). The second season is great, but it would have been even better had these two spent more time together. 😦
The sneakiest characters in Log Horizon all wear glasses and they know how to use them.
The Princess asks for help
Even though she doesn’t understand them, even though she is in unknown territory, for the sake of her people, the Princess summons the courage to ask (not order or mandate) help from Adventurers. This was a great scene.
Rundelhaus dies and reincarnates
Rundelhaus’es death was pretty touching. The guy knew what would happen if he died, but he chose to be an “Adventurer” and do his utmost best fighting.
Log Horizon season 1 had a pretty good ending with Shiroe schooling that noble. Pretty good indeed.
Learning from death
When Shiroe dies, he realizes what he was doing wrong. He was keeping people in the dark. Akatsuki also learned a lesson. More than the lessons though, I liked how the “after life” (some test server) was presented and how shiny it was.
They defeat the rogue Guardian
Akatsuki and everyone else finally winning against the serial killer was pretty great. Their teamwork was impeccable and the end result spoke for itself. The princess also got involved and helped out by getting the barrier deactivated.
I normally dislike overly genki, high pitched characters, but for some reason, I like Tetra a lot. Tetra’s teasing of Naotsugu is hilarious.
The speech William gave in episode 10 was really, really good. It was probably one of the best moments in anime this year. I only played WoW for a few years and I never was good enough to raid, but that speech still resonated with me. I am sure that for people who invested most of their lives in MMOs, that speech hit real hard.
It is not even the content or the argument behind the speech that I liked so much. I liked how it was straight from William’s heart. He didn’t know what he was saying. His inner self noted this and he even revised what he was saying as he said it.
He said what came to mind. He put his heart out there, right in front of his entire guild. He didn’t hold back. He didn’t make himself look majestic or even worthy of being a guild master. He laid out the truth about himself, about how lame he was, but how much he wanted to continue playing with his friends. William didn’t inspire his guild to stand back up via words of wisdom; he did so with gut wrenching confessions straight from the heart.
I can’t claim what he said was correct or even the right thing to say, but it was that obvious passion and those heartfelt emotions that made this episode. For that reason alone, this episode was probably my favorite Log Horizon episode this second season.