The basic concept of this anime is “stuck in a game.” This is one of the stronger anime to use the concept because they actually fully utilize the world to explore really interesting ideas. That said, it’s more of a video gamer’s anime in the sense that video gamers will recognize the basic concepts and rules in the world faster – there’s a lot of information to take in for non-gamers.
Purpose: Very Good. The whole point of this anime was to explore the big “what if we were stuck in a MMORPG?” The answer was, “politics.” This anime existed to explore both the possibilities and consequences of being stuck in a game, but on a societal level. Thus, it took a highly different approach from the groundbreaking .Hack//sign and the more recent Sword Art Online (season 1). To compare them, .Hack is more of an exploration of characters, using the pressure of being stuck in a game. SAO ended up being about providing a magical world for a high school love story/drama to play out in. Log Horizon fills the unique niche of exploring society (people in general) and their relation to each other in a novel environment. That’s why I said it’s a gamers’ anime. Gamers will be more familiar with some of the concepts in the anime and exactly why they create certain kinds of pressure or difficulty, such as PvP (player vs player) or PKing (player killing). While the main purpose is very strong, they tend to get distracted and dabble far too long in certain aspects of the anime, wasting valuable time. The distractions are fairly entertaining nonetheless – sometimes they are character antics while other times, they are going down a “rabbit hole” of things like MMO teamwork.
Characters: Good. While fairly solid for their role in the anime, the characters aren’t particularly special. The characters bring a distinct way of solving problems to the anime, although the most important characters aren’t necessarily the main group we are following. It takes a while to get to that point, though. Albeit consistent with the tone of the anime, it was odd that they didn’t spend very much time on who the characters were before being stuck in the game. It was treated almost as something that didn’t really exist, and so wasn’t really explored, which I found a little disappointing. On that note, they actually started to develop the characters nearer to the end of the anime. The most interesting character episode was the last episode of the season, episode 25. Over the course of the anime, most of the character development was learning about the characters, rather than progressing them. On that note, although characters did grow a little bit, we didn’t really get to see much more than fairly superficial motives and interests.
World: Masterpiece. The world was highly unique. This is an example of the merits of using a video game setting for the anime. For certain kinds of anime, the use of a video game is a cheat to spice up things in “normal” life, by creating new and exciting situations without any real consequences. For those anime, there is little purpose to having the game world as opposed to a “genuine” magical world. The whole point of having a game world is so that it stands in comparison to the real world. Thus, anime where characters are stuck in a game, if used properly, serves to highlight the differences between the real world and the new “reality.” This differs from the standard magical world setup because it requires the characters to adapt to a new world rather than always existing in the world that is foreign to us, but not them. For a magical world, it’s the viewer that has to learn the rules that govern the world.
Log Horizon really delivers in that respect. For the most part, it was the characters creating a place for people who were stuck in the game – creating a human “world” within the game. It was clear that the characters had to create a new reality and adapt to life, something only touched on and then discarded in other entries in this genre. On the road, they struggle with difficult MMO situations like reigning in player killing and establishing rules for people to follow. One other fascinating aspect of the anime was granting “actor” status to NPCs in the sense that they were able to provide perspective on the people stuck in the game. Essentially, the people stuck in the game were alien to the NPCs, who had always existed there.
Plot: Good. There is a definite progression to the plot. First, it showcases difficulties that people are having in the world. As those are solved, then it become a society-building plotline. After that, it’s more nation-building and politics. The plot does take its time getting where it’s ultimately going, meaning that there’s a ton of stuff in there that really didn’t need to be. That complaint aside, it does a solid job of using the characters to change their place in the world.
Storytelling: Good. Much of the same to be said for the storytelling. One of the competent points was the way they strung out certain kinds of video-game specific information – they would bring it up only when relevant, and only then to provide some perspective. Other times, they just got lost in the weeds. That aside, there were some really clever ways that the stories were told so that it left the viewer with a sense of accomplishment. Amusingly, it acted almost like “achievement unlocked” moments. There was an appropriate amount of drama for some of the plots and an appropriate amount of silliness for others. Again, consistently good, but not spectacular in execution.
Pace: Not Really Good. This is the weakest point of the anime. It was just this side of annoyingly slow. Some of the pace’s problem can be attributed to the purpose – they tended to digress quite a bit. Really though the problem was that they lingered. They spent far too much time driving some ideas into the ground, such as teaching “new players” teamwork. Sometimes, they would delve a little too far into video game concepts and end up bogging the story down. It wasn’t crippling enough to wholly damage the anime, but was enough to be occasionally getting in the way.