39 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Inushinde /

Log Horizon Review: More Like Log BOREizon

LogBorizon501

I’d like to imagine that this image perfectly encapsulates the only two responses to that title. Also the show. 

Judging from the OP, a swaggering, pumping cross-section of 90’s cock-rock, one would reasonably expect a tale of survival trying way too hard to be cool, rather than a 12 hour-long video game cutscene about boring people doing tedious things.
What sets Log Horizon apart from its MMO kindred is a focus that isn’t on themes of escapism, or making the characters paragons of coolness whose dicks everybody wants to jump. Instead, it’s about a stereotypical nerd, a stereotypical idiot, and a token girl trying to make a living in a strange land that they’re only marginally familiar with… while fighting off hotties intent on jumping their dicks for contrived reasons. Everything, from a steady source of food to shelter, must be procured in a hostile environment hellbent on providing extremely minor inconveniences. The main cast providing both not only for themselves, but for other adventurers, drives a significant portion of the show’s plot, with decidedly mixed results.

All too often, Log Horizon conflates long-winded explanations of game mechanics and lore for world-building, substituting this in place of actual character development. Almost everybody is fully-formed upon introduction, acting as cardboard facsimiles with stock personalities that communicate with each other entirely through observations of their current situation, and gushing over how fucking cool Shiroe is.  It almost rivals The Room in its propensity for providing glowing praise/admiration for the lead at the slightest provocation. It’d be tolerable if he was actually a dynamic character, but just like everyone else, he exists solely to provide borderline unnecessary exposition or plot contrivances, making the constant fawning all the more bizarre.

LogBorizon502

What’s clear is that the author of the source material finds great interest in anthropology and human interaction, and there are certainly worse ways of expressing it than transplanting real world societal contents into an MMO setting. Sadly, when attention isn’t paid to expounding on the virtues of particular shrubs, or the metaphysical ramifications of talking to NPCs, Log Horizon has noticeable difficulty in conjuring scenes through which to express its musings. One particularly blatant example is when it very clearly runs out of ideas, and lifts a scene almost ad verbatim from Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, where people constantly praise the guile of the lead character while negotiating with merchants to sell a particular food. Other times, it hobbles itself with forced comedy segments that often last entire episodes. There’s never an overarching purpose beyond the nebulous end-goal of leaving the game, and even the presence of that is questionable.

The series hits the closest thing resembling a stride toward the middle, when it forces our heroes to maneuver through the complex social web of the NPC aristocracy, where espionage is conducted almost entirely at lavish balls that occur with startling regularity. Here, characters are forced to weave their thoughts into their dialogue, making it unnecessary for characters to have to outright say “this girl is painfully shy” or “Shiroe is evil but I still want to jump his dick because author insert”. While it eventually falls into the trap of repetition and Shiroe worship that everything else does, it’s probably the closest thing that the series has to a coherent narrative with clear goals thought up by real human beings. It has a far easier time showing the tense relations between the adventurers and the NPC “people of the land”, compared to the long-winded lore and mechanic explanations disguised as plot that defined earlier arcs. That’s exactly what it does well here– it shows, without telling through another borderline-irrelevant exposition dump.

LogBorizon503

It’s the scattershot approach that ultimately dooms Log Horizon. It broaches interesting concepts and subplots, but has no idea how to fuse them into a cohesive package with clear stakes. It has colorful characters, but they’re very noticeably props without an iota of personality between them. So many elements that would be ordinarily relegated to optional lore segments are given the full frontal treatment, almost all of which have no bearing on how the world affects our characters. There’s nothing to be gained from learning how goblins came to be, when they don’t seem to pose any sort of persistent, non-arbitrary threat, nor is the creation myth going to chill me to the bone when it’s sandwiched in the middle of a lighthearted business creation storyline.

I think the best thing that I can say about Log Horizon is it certainly isn’t a cynical cash-grab, and I certainly respect what it tries to do. It definitely isn’t good, but it isn’t for lack of effort. The scope of the series is simply too large, long-winded and scatterbrained. Ultimately, it fails to engage because it doesn’t give a reason to care about its world or the people in it, eagerly explaining both without showing why the explanations are important. It’s like if an anthropologist lectured entirely through short vignettes about his made-up fantasy world—certainly an interesting way to go about it, but will most likely result in confusion and boredom, rather than increased admiration for the subject matter. But it’s getting a second season, so what the fuck do I know?

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39 Comments

  1. boku
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    “Shiroe is indicative of the”
    I think something got cut off there. Otherwise, good article! Now I know I shouldn’t pick this series up.

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Oops, thanks for catching that. Thought I cut out all the half-formed thoughts, but I guess I missed one.

  2. Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Has anyone here read or heard of 1/2 Prince? It is another hyper-realistic MMO themed (shoujo) series which actually uses the idea well in my opinion. Instead of having a serious life-consequential plot the characters just fuck around doing highly exaggerated MMO stuff that gets hilarious with the dramatic exaggerations. It also has the best character creation system ever conceived.

    • Someone Else
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Seen it. It’s chinese manga though so I doubt it will get anime (sadly). Though I doubt it’s any realistic, I really liked it with it’s over the top silliness and MMO reference but got bored with the sudden out of place melodrama and deus ex machina

    • Mr. Anon
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      I’ve read a large part of that. It was fun but ultimately didn’t go anywhere.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      Funny how we all dropped it after reading large portions, but for different reasons (I got distracted by other stuff).

  3. Outcast
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    ” Shiroe is indicative of the”

    Of the what? I NEED TO KNOW.

    EDIT: “Confirm you are not a spammer”. Lolwut?

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Both are very good questions. Also cut out that cut-off because I could not for the life of me remember where it was going. Probably toward the characters wanting to jump his bespectacled dick or something.

      • Outcast
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        If only they did jump his bones, then we could call it Log WHOREizon.

      • Inushinde
        Posted March 28, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

        Damn, show got told. Should be called Log TOLDrizon.

  4. ANON
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I sometimes really think you’re not capable of enjoying anything inushinde.

    oh well, to each his own.

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Hey that’s not fair. I like ARIA. And uh…

      • Outcast
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        And non non biyori

      • Nagisa33
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        Ah, Non Bon Biyori. What a pleasantly relaxing show that was.

      • Inushinde
        Posted March 28, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        And Moetan. Log Horizon confirmed for worse than Moetan.

    • Gan_HOPE326
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Well, Log Horizon is… kind of… boring?
      I wanted to like it. But one day I suddenly dropped it without even realizing it. I just… forgot to watch it and here I am, 10+ episodes behind.
      It’s still better than MMY. And definitely better than SAO in fleshing out this idea. But yeah, lame comedy, boring characters, slow pacing. Would make up for it if the economics and sociology were somewhat higher level, but they’re quite basic. So yeah.

  5. Hanasra
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    The last paragraph is really excellent! And it’s good to know that you can spot needless, long winded world-building that oftenly plague anything fantasy related these days. What worse is that so many people take it for granted. Too many fantasy out there focused on the worldbuilding, like it’s the story become the background of the world not the other way around.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      The thing with worldbuilding is that so much of it is presentation. Building a multifaceted, vibrant, interesting world that could fill books of its own with pure details can be an important part of building a story set within it (just look at Eureka Seven, for instance), but those details are not supposed to be stuffed into raw text as exposition. They’re a framework for a story – not substitutes for the story itself.

      In almost every case the best way to convey these details is to show us scenarios that make their points naturally, rather than literally listing off facts and ideals as they happen. It’s the universal storytelling version of “show, don’t tell”.

      Why did we not see the exploitation of lower-level players by following Tohya and Minori as it happened to them? Why did we have to rely on Shiroe expositing on that incident from the outside, with only brief glimpses into what it was actually like? Why were the exploiters so one-note and underdeveloped as characters?

      Why do LH’s central characters never fail? Where are there flaws? Why is nothing truly important ever at stake; nothing really worthwhile ever sought after as a goal?

      It’s like the author has all these pieces in place to make an intriguing story, but never uses them as such. Log Horizon’s world is full of politics, plots, ideals, conflicts, and people in interesting positions. All with no reason for us to really care. It has endless opportunities for narrative tension and colourful characters, but instead it would rather engineer a city than tell us a story about it.

      • Someone Else
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        I wish this blog got thumbs up like randomc

        Anyways usually world building is often the most difficult thing to pull especially when there’s little to no resemblance to the real world. Though I bet it’s just being used here for convenience so they can ass pull at anytime, which usually is the case, however that only works on adventure genre (like sunday without god) and Log Horizon isn’t one.

      • Hanasra
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Hm, yes, What an excellent post! That’s what I meant basically that worldbuilding shouldn’t stray too far from the context of the narrative. In written fiction, this guilt usually done by needless “info dump”. But sometimes author tends to go out of control with their worldbuilding even when they employed it with natural way, which ultimately dragged down the narratives.

        To put it bluntly, Log Horizon author is one of those people who rich with ideas but lack the talent to execute them.

      • Posted March 26, 2014 at 2:06 am | Permalink

        Building a fictional world has its advantages for something like this – unlike a realistic setting you need only establish its rules and shoot for verisimilitude by sticking to them. A blank canvas needs a lot of work to fill, but also gives the creator total freedom. If the story needs a thing, you can put it into the world with minimal fuss.

        Setting stories in a realistic place on the other hand… well… let’s just say I’ve never had to crowdsource my science until I started writing in alternate history.

        Anyhow, I completely agree about stories getting too carried away with their own setting that they literally lose the plot. Especially in anime, this usually means somebody just telling the audience how the world works, which is all kinds of awful. It betrays this misunderstanding that hearing these facts is what makes us invested, when it’s actually the opposite – the facts are the foundation and it’s the storytelling built on them which makes us care.

        It’s stagecraft they’re missing. How we’re told is more important than what.

      • Canary Paint
        Posted March 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Funny… Same problem in the fantasy novel genre… There are tons of interesting worlds being thought of for various epic series, but they fall flat on their face in terms of how the characters are developed and the plot arcs are expounded. It is like the publishing world has simply forgot what an editor is for.

        The thing is people keep buying the stuff. There is no incentive to change the formula if people keep buying it all up. Heck… What kind of reception would Lord of The Rings get if it was published for the first time now? Would the characters be too rich? Would the pace be too slow? There may not be enough demand for well realized works. They can exist only as pet projects of real artists who have played the game well enough to produce sufficiently successful and vapid works. Wow… Did that sound cynical?

        So what is the anime version of an editor?

      • Hanasra
        Posted March 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        I presume that, most fantasy novel editors are fantasy fan themselves, or maybe they don’t have a broader spectrum of fantasy fiction. It makes thing worse if the editor have the same spectrum on the genre as the Author did which makes the editing proccess outside of technical editing essentially useless. This creates endless circle of “fantasy ghetto” where there are series of books that spanned for 1000 pages or maybe split into 600 pages of trilogy.

        Isn’t the director also responsible for editing? They are the one who decides which scene should be there, which one should be cut out. But even a talented editor couldn’t do much if the source material is infodump to begin with unless they want to tamper with the story.

  6. Someone Else
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    “transplanting real world societal contents into an MMO setting”

    But aren’t they supposed to be real people from a real world and just happened to be trapped in a new environment? I’m sure it’s to be expected for them to base their decisions with past experiences. Unless it’s because there’s barely any flashback scenes with the real world you find it unbelievable (which honestly I find it that way as well)

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 28, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Well, they had to essentially rebuild their former society from scratch in the game world, at least to a certain extent. I really enjoy the concept, and it would be a good story, were it not bogged down with the minutia of the game world.

  7. Cirith
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Eh I think with more experience and an editor who tells him to not do quite a few things. (Like the Shiroe worship – show, don’t just tell us about him. Showing character reactions isn’t wrong but be more subtle about it.) Do less of others and focus more on some aspects I think the author could make something quite decent. Parts of LH show promise the author just needs to do something with them.
    I finished it after all – I got enjoyment out of it despite it being quite flawed.

    I confirmed that I’m not a spammer, but guess what I don’t mind lying!

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 28, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Are you sure that you’re not a spammer? Actually enjoying Log Horizon seems pretty spammer-like to me.

  8. shytende
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m starting to think the best MMO-related series is Noob.
    It at least showed you don’t have to have your characters trapped in a MMO to make a good story (And Tenshirok the Hacker is amazing, obviously.)

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 28, 2014 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      I’ll definitely have to check both of those out!

  9. Mormegil
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    It bored me to death, too. I ended up dropping it afer episode 5 or 6, I believe. The long-winded explanations, group meetings for practically entire episodes, and non-stop exposistion just didn’t hold my attention. It’s certainly not a bad show at all, and to those peope who were burned by Sword Art Online(myself included), this show really expressed its love for the MMO genre. It was very technical. Very detailed. Gotta give it props for that I guess.

  10. Kenjeran
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    How come you enjoy Non Non Boring but not Log Boringzon? Both are the same level of boredom.

    LH : Boring characters, interesting plot
    NNB : Quirky characters (albeit generic), non-existent plot

    IMO, LH win by a small margin (of not boring).

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 27, 2014 at 3:07 am | Permalink

      Non Non Biyori has Ren-chon.

  11. R1CK_D0M
    Posted March 27, 2014 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    lol you wanted character development out of max lvl 90 characters. That’s why they attempted to shove in the newbie group in the middle of the series.

  12. Vincehwr
    Posted March 28, 2014 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    As usual you manage to stand out as the best anime writer. And the best thing about your taste is quite broad and open to anything unlike quite a number of them. You give chances to all the anime before you make a criticism. Your review is very objective yet informative enough that this anime is not for me at all. Then again most action anime struggles to have any competent characters, a lot of them have to be Gary Stu in the end.

    • Inushinde
      Posted March 28, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I don’t care so much if characters are incapable of fault, so long as they’re at least interesting while doing it. Baccano’s a good example of characters that emerge fully formed, but have strong enough personalities for it not to be a big deal. Some shows can push their perfect characters through the sheer force of charisma. Log Horizon just couldn’t, which sucked.

    • Hanasra
      Posted March 28, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      There is no such thing like objective review. What matters in review is not objectivity but rather the argument that backs it up because reviews is and always be subjective. Inushinde write it well enough why Log Horizon is sucks. Thanks for that, I can put my time elsewhere (probably hunting more monsters).

  13. Zirthiel
    Posted March 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    To quote Scamp:

    “You have shit taste.”

  14. Terthna
    Posted April 26, 2014 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    You and I had such a different experience with this show, that I struggle to understand how a person with your opinion can exist at all. Nearly every complaint you have is about something I simply can’t find in this show; it all sounds like complete nonsense. Regardless, it looks like I won’t be getting any reviews that match my taste in anime here, so best to cut my loses now.

  15. Saga
    Posted July 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I actually found the first 3 episodes or so to be enjoyable….
    But then, it did not go anywhere.

    I was given 20 or so episodes of nothing but them telling me:

    “Here´s a bunch of info about this world and it´s inhabitants that despite being totally meaningless, you are supposed to care about because….yes”

    and

    “Have you noticed how cool Shiroe is? No? Here´s some more”

    Ah well.

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