Log Horizon – An Anime Exploring Life In Virtual Reality
From Candy Crush on our phones, to action thrillers on our game consoles, loads of us play games. But would any of us ever swap our real life for a virtual one?
Log Horizon, a new streaming anime series – part of Crunchyroll’s winter season of releases – explores what it would be like to suddenly become your own gaming avatar and have to live, fight and survive within virtual reality.
For the characters within Log Horizon, to enter the gaming world was not their choice, simply a freak event that trapped 30,000 Japanese gamers within the highly popular online multiplayer role-play game (RPG) Elder Tale. Now inside the game they face the prospect of living within this hostile virtual reality full of monsters to fight, enemies to defeat and solving the puzzle of finding a way out.
Within all of this commotion we meet Shiroe, a socially awkward eight-year veteran gamer, and his friends Nostsugu (a Guardian) and Akatsuki, (an assassin within the game), who team-up to face this new world together.
The story begins in Akiba, the largest player city where Shiroe and his friends were when they became trapped within Elder Tale. At first Shiroe’s main goal is to simply acquire information about this new world and work independent of the games guilds, groups of players who from groups to who live, work and explore the game together.
However, soon the city becomes central to the narrative as players run a mock after discovering they cannot die and simply regenerate, simply re-awakening in the town’s cathedral. Soon Shiroe, Nostsugu and Akatsuki have to deal with some clichéd power mad villains to protect the city and its guilds.
The series is a slow burner to begin with. As a multitude of secondary characters, from the various city guilds, are lengthily introduced and very little combat takes place, which in a gaming series is disappointing – you want some epic battles to get you hooked, plus it takes a while for the premises of the plot to take shape. For many episodes are centred on the characters becoming accustomed to their new surroundings.
However, as soon as the narrative brakes into two the series picks up pace. Two younger game character twins Minori and Tohya, complete gaming novices, enter the series and make for an endearing story line following their personal strife’s and progression within the game – It’s hard not to become attach to them.
Their narrative counteracts the increasingly political side of the series, which can become a bit tenuous at times. As shireo transforms from a very reserved player to the “Villain in glasses” as it become apparent he possess the natural ability to lead. His development pushes the story forward as he engineer’s bigger plans and tactics to overcome the ever-growing threats gamers face within Elder Tale – from social turmoil amongst themselves as well as the game’s growing number of enemies and monsters.
What’s key to this series is its endearing and down to earth characters, who make you laugh especially when Akatsuki is beating up Nostsugu for his perverse ways. As well as Shiroe who despite his personality transplant within a few episodes he still has his friends and fellow gamers well being in mind when conjuring up his latest plan. Although it can feel a bit cluttered at times, with each guild consisting of numerous members, it’s a case of the more the merrier which makes for colourful and often comedic viewing.
The anime has an iconic gamer feel, that gamers will love, as it’s complete with pop-up game menus, a wide variety of monsters and colourful array of spells plus vast wondrous forests and lands. The animation is slick and well polished with great attention to detail when concerning the world of Elder Tale itself. Although when it comes to combat there are quick and decisive colourful bouts, usually within game dungeons, rather than epic battles with a boss from the game or even between players.
Log Horizon tackles the popular premise of gamers becoming trapped within virtual reality with conviction. Using down to earth characters that courageously work as a team to overcome the challenges they face. It is a pleasantly entertaining series to watch if you want to try watching something new.