10/4/14 Saturday Anime – Log Horizon

The first episode of the new season of Log Horizon aired today. Huzzah!  I’ve probably watched the first season of this show half a dozen times now and have been greatly looking forward to the new season to start.  I have a rather fond affection for the fantasy genre in books, film, and anime, which sadly is somewhat lacking in the last category in my opinion.  I was introduced to anime by the Sci-Fi channel when it was still known as Japanimation by us silly Americans, one of those titles being Record of Lodoss War.

I spent all day today watching the first season for that sixth(ish) time and watched the new episode twice to make sure I caught everything.  I learned there’s a lot I’m still catching for the first time in the first season, though I will say here I haven’t read the light novels (yet!).  I had missed the comment that the song played at the ball with Eastal was the title screen theme of the Elder Tales game.  I realized one time through that the Man With a Mission band members appear in the crowd when Rayneshia (Lenessia) is giving her speech.  Speaking of that speech, I still get goosebumps after she speaks and that silence is broken by the adventurers pounding their weapons and a group blows their war horns.  The speech itself and that scene is masterfully crafted.

Log Horizon is a fantastic entry into the growing “trapped in an MMO” genre.  I’m not going to delve into the comparisons many make with another current anime, nor with older ones (admittedly, I’ve not watched those older ones), but at the moment, Log Horizon is my favorite of them, primarily because of the detail that’s been put into building the world of the MMO Elder Tale rather than just the world of the anime once the game becomes reality.  Tying in game mechanics into lore is a nice touch – one that most actual MMOs don’t do.  The explanations of how the monster tribes came to be, where adventurers came from, how resurrection works as a concept rather than game mechanic, and even where enemies get gold from are nice touches.  On top of that, there’s the well details interdependence of classes that’s rather well designed (if perhaps not perfectly balanced for actual gameplay…we’ll leave that to game designers).

The next aspect Log Horizon explored that really drew me into this world was then the exploration of it as a new reality.  Gender swapping and player bodies feeling odd due to differences from normal bodies were touched on in the first season, though I think enough men play females in MMOs that there’s a lot that could be explored there for a series at some point.  The fact that players resorted to PKing not out of sadistic tendencies or malice so much as just boredom was a nice touch as well, as “just something to do” is a real driving motivation for many players in MMOs. They just find things to do “for the lulz” after all.  The discovery of how to make food that tastes good (though I have a hard time believing nobody else would have figured that out in all of Akihabara’s territory, but I let it slide), the use of game mechanics in a new world to establish a method of enforcing law and order, and the use of telepathic conferencing were nice touches.  The big thing I liked about the development of the new world they’re living in was that they actually did approach economy as a driving factor to everything.  Shiro needed money to enact his plan to enforce law, supply and demand drove higher costs of the Crescent Moon Refreshment Stand, new discoveries that weren’t in the game led to new demand, which led to demand for supplies, which led to work for adventurers.  It was nicely put together, I thought.

Finally, what I particularly appreciate is that Shiro, nor the others, are truly perfect characters that can handle everything alone.  Each supporting cast member has their own strengths and while Shiro is the main character and sometimes given a lot of lip service from others, in action all of the players have been shown to be quite strong in their own right.  I give a lot of respect Mamare Touno for making a support class character the main protagonist and I have really enjoyed seeing the story from the perspective of the strategist.  I find it quite fitting that a strategist would be nicknamed “villain in glasses” considering the strategist’s job will often require some choices that seem cruel, but are done to move pieces into a better position for the endgame.  While Shiro excels in planning and putting together the grand schemes, and has some convenient items at his disposal such as the gryphon whistle and appearance changing potion (to be fair, I’d have one to offer if this happened to me with FFXIV…I haven’t used mine), it’s believable things that a multi-year veteran of the MMO would have.

While Shiro is the protagonist and strategist, though, I think it’s safe to say he wouldn’t succeed without Naotsugu and Akatasuki.  For that matter, they may not have saved Serara without Nyanta’s presence, and they certainly wouldn’t have succeeded in saving the low level players, including Tohya and Minori, without the Crescent Moon guild’s work allying with Radio Market, Marine Agency, and Shopping Street 8.  And even still, Crusty is named as one of a handful of players who has commanded 100 players simultaneously, a feat that Shiro likely couldn’t do even if he could plan a strategy for the battle.  Plus, for all the praise Shiro is given, a level 20-ish Minori is already following in his footsteps as a strategist.

The first episode of the new season starts off with a quick glimpse at some characters in new armor, probably a look at fights we’ll catch up to later similar to how season 1 started.  We first see the leader of Silver Sword who we haven’t seen since he pulled out of the Round Table council.  We also see a few characters we don’t know, one of which is Kanami, former leader of the Debauchery Tea Party, who I’ve read was a swashbuckler in the flash backs we saw in season 1 though she dressed as a monk. With a new character on the new server after moving in real life, she’s not actually playing a monk. Despite me being a total boob guy (Naotsugu would be proud of me being an open pervert, right?), her appearance here was really over the top.  She’s bigger than her flash back appearances from season 1 and I’m hoping they tone her down a bit.  I’m also a bit grumpy she seems a lot like my own character for the comic/book I’ve been working on.  Dang world stealing my ideas…I really do need a tinfoil hat!

After that prologue scene, we get the new opening animation.  I’ve seen comments on Crunchy Roll and have to agree with them; it was the right call to keep Database as the opening theme.  The new animation, though?  Wow, that’s a lot of new characters.  I counted over 25 new faces I didn’t recognize (though I’ve read enough to recognize Kanami, as mentioned, and her TMNT-inspired companion Leonardo).

The first episode, and thus the new season, starts off fairly appropriately with a conflict to overcome that revolves solely around money and economy.  The Round Table has purchased not only the Guild Building in season one, but since added the Cathedral and the Trade Building as well as “several other facilities.”  Well, it actually starts off with a post-Halloween festival (good timing there on the release) and appropriately enough for this time of year…PUMPKINS PUMPKINS PUMPKINS! Gourds aside, though, we catch up with our established characters, many of whom are wearing different clothes.  Normally I don’t care for changes in character design, but I like that the changes and additions appear to be warmer clothing, fitting with the fact that it’s Autumn and October in the world.

But back to the main conflict.  Some spoilers ahead from this point onward.  You have been warned.

Seriously, heed the warning if you don’t like spoilers.  😛

The Round Table needs 10 million gold per month to keep up with everything they own now.  They’ve tried reaching out to the clan that runs the world’s banking system, but it’s revealed there’s no loan system in the world and no subclass for it either.  Shiroe has a plan, though, and leaves Akihabara with Naotsugu to meet with a representative of the Kunie Clan, the one that runs the banking system, in a cabin in the snowy mountains near their village, which he determined with the help of Regan, the Sage of Mirror Lake.  Shiro’s plan is to access a fountain of gold that lore claims is how gold is distributed to souls upon their reincarnation (in other words, the lore-explanation for why respawned monsters drop gold for players).  They’re told they’ll need a large group of companions to meet and the Kunie Clan’s decision to help will depend on how they meet the challenge ahead.  Rather cryptic just what exactly said Clan will offer and what exactly the representatives words mean.

All in all, the episode wasn’t action packed, but definitely set the stage to get things moving.  Log Horizon’s strengths is its ebb and tide with the story.  It builds up to a crescendo, then comes back down to prepare for another build up, so I’m not worried about a boring season by any means. The intro and what we’ve gleaned of Shiro’s plan, though, does raise questions for me.  If they were to succeed and get the 80 trillion gold they need (I’m guessing Shiro is calculating to have enough to cover the Round Table expenses for a length of time), what impact would that have on the world?  If they plunder the device that puts gold on monsters, will the device still function, and if it doesn’t, won’t that mean greater economic strife for all adventurers, and even all regions of the Japan, if not the world?  Could the master strategist’s plan actually do more harm than good this time?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and watch the next 23 (probably less for this first conflict to be resolved) episodes to find out. Or we could start reading the light novels.  I should get on that, but I still need about 6 million gil for our FC House in Final Fantasy XIV.

So until next week, I guess I’m living in the database….

Just say “whoa whoa whoa whoa.”

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