Saturday, October 19, 2013

Log Horizon: Episode 2

Log Horizon is an anime that tells the tale of what happens when players of the MMORPG game, Elder Tale, mysteriously find themselves actually inside the game after the 12th expansion, "Novasphere Pioneers," is added. The main character of the series is Shiroe, and he is joined by his two companions Naotsugu and Akatsuki.

Episode two opens with the players learning that if they die in the game, they will be revived at the Cathedral, just like in the game. After this, the audience learns that security is weakening in the game, and that there has been a rise in "PK"s; "PK" can stand for either player killings or player killers. As the name implies, these are players who will attack other players instead of monsters and steal the other players' items and money. And since players can no longer use their mini-maps and can't contact the Game Masters, ambushes have become more common.

Shiroe and his party experience this first-hand when they are attacked by a group of PKs. The PKs are overconfident and don't have much in the way of teamwork; because of this, Shiroe and the others are ultimately able to defeat the PKs.

Afterward, there's actually a bit of a "deep" moment when Shiroe and the others discuss what would motivate players to become PKs. Shiroe realizes that this is happening because there's nothing else to do and no goal to live for. Even though they can survive easily in this world, can they really be said to be living? Even worse, is it just not being dead?

Shiroe and the others are summoned by the Crescent Moon Alliance, and learn that a girl named Serara was sent to Susukino on the Day of the Apocalypse and hasn't returned; they have heard that she was attacked by a PK but was saved by a good player and is now protected by this good player. The guild is planning to send some of their best members to Susukino to rescue Serara. Shiroe quickly deduces that their mission will fail, and as he thinks, he deduces that he and his companions should be the one to take this on. However, Shiroe finds himself wrestling with an inner conflict; on the one hand, he knows this is the best option, but at the same time, he believes he doesn't have a right to involve himself in someone else's guild. After prodding from Naotsugu and Akatsuki, Shiroe volunteers the three of them for the mission, and the episode ends with them starting on their journey.

After watching this episode, I'm glad I gave Log Horizon a second chance. The one thing that really impressed me about this episode was the scene where Shiroe and his companions talk about what motivates the others to become PKs, because it really pointed out to the audience what kind of a world they truly live in while they're inside Elder Tale. After that conversation, it made me think that while this should have been obvious, it's not something I had really thought about as a viewer. And when Shiroe also questions whether or not they're really living or just simply not being dead, it added an ever deeper element to this particular scene. From my anime viewing experience, this isn't the type of scene I would normally expect to find in a series where the characters are trapped in a game.

Shiroe also gets a good character moment when he has his internal struggle while he's talking with the Crescent Moon Alliance. The rational side of his personality knows that he and his companions are the best ones to carry out the mission, but his emotional side argues that it's not his place to involve himself with the guild's affairs. Prior to this scene, Shiroe was basically portrayed as being the strategist and always being rational, so this allowed the viewer to realize that there's more there to Shiroe than the rational strategist.

Even though I have all this praise, this episode did have one downside. Several times during this episode (which included five occasions during the battle with the PKs), the action would stop and Shiroe would explain a concept that was just mentioned. I thought this broke the flow of the fight, and this exposition made it feel more like a manual on how to play Elder Tale than a story with action taking place. I really hope that as the series progresses, we won't have quite as much of this exposition on how the game works during the middle of the story.

Even with some of the extra exposition taking place during the second episode, I still see some promise for this series. Because of that, I'll keep watching Log Horizon.
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