Log Horizon Series 2 Part 1 (Episode 1-13) (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 338 minutes approx.
Before diving into the second season of this fantasy series featuring a group of MMORPG players trapped inside the game Elder Tale, it is advised to reacquaint yourself with the first season, either by rewatch or Wiki-aided revision. As yours truly found, the hasty continuation and lack of proper recap proves detrimental to getting back into the story, unless one possesses a photographic memory.
We rejoin the saga following the events of the first season, six months after the player found themselves trapped inside the fantasy world of Elder Tales. Akiba is now safe from the attack of the Goblin King and restored to its former glory, and Log Horizon guild founder Shiroe, plans to leave Akiba, forcing a split among his group.
But with winter approaching the self-governing Round Table Alliance are concerned that finances are rather strained. Shiroe tries to seek financial aid from the Kunie Clan who refuse, so Shiroe decides to go directly to the source of gold in the Depth of Palm, prompting the Kunie Clan to challenge him to lead a raid on The Abyssal Shaft, where the gold is being hoarded, and earn their assistance.
As suggested earlier, a comprehensive refresher of the cast and their associations is required to make following this new adventure much easier, especially after marathon watching as many anime series as we reviewers have in the interim. A non-canon opening to the first episode involving a sports day event is the best we get to a reintroduction but it barely suffices.
The story itself diverges like the futures of the main characters following Shiroe’s decision to seek a new life outside of Akiba, presenting us with two concurrent threads to follow, although there is a tendency to focus more on one while the other fades away into the background. But it does allow for some character building, the ninja assassin Akitsuki being the main beneficiary of this.
With Shiroe away, Akitsuki is tasked with protecting aristocrat Lenessia Erhart Cowen, but when a powerful and dangerous serial killer arrives in Akiba, Akitsuki realises her powers are insufficient for fulfilling her duty. With help from the ladies of the Crescent Moon guild – sisters Maryelle and Henrietta and druid Serara – Akitsuki is given a crash course in awakening her Teachings Skill.
Meanwhile Shiroe, along with Naotsugu and elderly sage Regan, have teamed up with the hot headed and distrusting Demiquas, former Guild master of Brigandia and now under the servitude of the Silver Sword Guild, headed by the randomly named William Massachusetts. Along with members from other guilds they form a four team assault on the Abyssal Shaft to improve their chances, but each stage has a boss (this is a game remember) and lives are rapidly lost.
This plays into a surreal twist which was barely explored in the first season regarding the fate of the characters and how this affects them in the real world. While this is a real for the people in the game, they still exist within the diegesis of the game’s rules which means they lose power points for injuries and of course, when they die they can be regenerated.
Without spoiling things, two major characters suffer this fate and of curse get a second chance to correct their mistakes from before, but it is the world they arrive in during their death which is of interest. An aesthetically grey and lifeless existence, this appears to be akin to an out-of-body experience for the players, in that it is their home as they know it, without the ability of tactile interactions.
One player gets to relive his troubled childhood, a period full of insecurities and unresolved paranoia that belies he persona he is able to project in the game. This is presented as a universal trait among the players, as William breaks his character after a particularly heavy defeat to reveal his true self to be in stark contrast to his cocksure virtual reality counterpart.
Not being a gamer I don’t know if this is truly representative of the MMORPG community as a whole or just a small fraction of it, nor can I presume this generalisation will cause offence to the masses; I can relate to it in the sense of being someone who is a complete zombie in real life social situations yet is more communicative on social media and through the written word.
One trend remaining from its predecessor is the paucity of action. While frantic and exciting with a smattering of violence, is likely to disappoint those who expect the fast and furious aspect of their games to be reflected in this series. It should be expected by the very nature of the concept to be a character driven show, with a huge scope in exploring the psychological strains of a virtual existence being key plot points.
The humorous distractions appear to be on the increase this time around, getting even sillier than before – largely courtesy of idol-esque newcomer Tetra – while the tendency to cut away from the perils of the raid mission or the Akiba serial killer to celebrate Christmas, and in the last episode in this set, Valentine’s Day, is quite jarring and often irritating.
Keen eyed viewers will also notice a change in the artwork and especially in the character designs as the production duties have switched from Satelight Studios, who handled the first season, to Studio Deen. The overall designs have not been altered but the actual detail of the faces is slightly looser than before, although backgrounds are just fine.
Ending at a fairly convenient point midway through this run, some may find this first part of Log Horizon Series 2 initially a bit of a challenge to get into without referring to the first season before hand. It’s essentially more of the same but this time we get meet the real people behind the avatars, giving this a welcome existential touch missing from before.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black