The players of the hugely successful MMO Elder tales are still trapped in the virtual world. They now survive as immortal adventurers living out what some would call a dream come true by incarnating their online personas. But playing a game and living it are two very different things. Stakes that were once amusing have very real and grim consequences. And increasingly, it seems what constitutes the “real” world, isn’t as clear as it uses to be. The all-powerful adventurers have had a huge impact on the world of Theldesia and its people. Now they have some pretty big responsibilities, and the pressure is building!
I was happy to return to the second season of Log Horizon. The first had been a pleasant distraction and one of the few video game isekais I didn’t drop. Despite the fact that the genre seems Made for me, I have trouble sticking with it. But Log Horizon had a great mix of actual mmo mechanics to Stoke some gamer nostalgia, interesting moral dilemmas and practical pitfalls usually ignored by the genre and classic fantasy adventure. I was hoping season 2 would be more of the same.
Production-wise it is (more of the same that is). If the cast changed between seasons I couldn’t tell and the chemistry between everyone remains effortless. As if these really are great friends that have been playing together for a while. I still didn’t notice the soundtrack.
Visually, Log Horizon remains consistent with its first season but there a visible animation boost and design overhaul. I’m guessing the original series must have proved popular enough for season two to secure a better budget. And it’s on display. For the most part, it’s very successful. I found everyone to just look “better” this time around and the art, in general, is more polished and detailed. The one glaring exception being Marielle (?). Her design has been tweaked so much that I literally did not recognize her at all and I never managed to warm up to this new look, no matter how sweet the actual character was.
Marielles aside though, at first glance I was very happy with this new season of Log Horizon. If you’re not comparing it to the first but to modern anime instead, you could say the visuals and production were all well made if unremarkable. I think that would be fair. Except for the voice acting which is quite good by any standards. However, through my warped perspective, it was pretty and inviting. An above-average production.
This said Log Horizon was never an anime to watch for its technical merits. It’s a classic gamer Isekai with occasionally ambitious high fantasy beats. I believe the story is really what’s going to appeal to most viewers here.
What I really enjoyed about the first season was some of the cleared eyed mundane considerations it dealt with. The little touches like tasteless food or rampant depression caused in people who were trapped in a world with no long term consequences to them and a general feeling of “unreality”. I’m happy to say, this second season continues this trend through its natural progression.
By now, the adventurers (players) have gotten somewhat comfortable in their new lives. They have managed to mould the world around them to their needs and have created a semblance of life that is acceptable, for the time being. Of course, this means they have also had a huge influence on the world around them and there are some unexpected results.
We see the impact of what is essentially a new, ultra-powerful species on the people of the land, their economy, resources and politics. This aspect is delved into much deeper as the adventurers must each face themselves and get to know themselves as they decide whether they will treat the people of that land as..well… people, or not.
The dynamic here is rather unique since the disadvantaged and even sometimes helplessness people if the land is the great majority here and on home turf. They are the ones with deep roots and traditions. The ones with steady, established social-political systems, trade routes, an economy. You can’t draw direct parallels with disenfranchised minorities. Rather there are elements there that play on the nature of people and humanity in general.
For me, one of the most touching moments came when Rudy explained that there are only 32 songs in the world. Their creator only gave them those songs and the people of the land lack the ability to make more. There’s something deeply meaningful there. It solidifies the basic otherness of the pol while at the same time showing how tragic their fate is. But they are evolving with the rest of the world, so I hope some day, they’ll create their own music.
Season 2 also went back to its MMO roots by showing us not one but too epic raids. The gamer in me enjoyed those episodes tremendously even if I felt their frustration with every wipe!
Unfortunately, although all the separate elements were great and the second season of Log Horizon had a generous share of wonderful episodes, it didn’t quite come together as well as it could have. All the characters evolved a little and were better by the end, but there was still work to do. A lot of great notions were brought up (new sending creatures that are aliens(?) Or maybe game AI(?), A great people of the land war, the unknown side effect of player death, flavour text coming to life, the disappearance of Crusty…..) and just left unsolved.
The second season also added a dash of urgency in finding a way home. We saw a lot more of the players in the *real world*. Another aspect I really liked. I enjoyed that characters kind of looked like themselves but not really, just like we all do when we try to create avatars of ourselves. These flashback scenes also deeply humanized the characters and gave them a lot of depth, particularly Tohya who’s story was only glimpsed at in season 1. But when they said that they had been trapped for a year, something started really bothering me. What are their bodies doing during all that time???? We just don’t know.
I have a theory that the players may be AI copies of themselves and their real selves are still living their lives in the real world. Basically they have no home to go back to. They were just as unreal as the people of the land all along… It’s just a theory. I have a few. This show leaves room for some juicy theorizing. And you know why that is? Because it’s unfinished!!!!
For all the great btw, season 2 feels like a set up for the actual story. It’s getting all the prices in place, showing us the old tea party members, explaining the treats and obstacles, creating the stakes. It’s all ready for the great adventure to begin and then boum, end of series. Maybe there will be another season and if so I am jumping on it, but it seems unlikely. The market may be a little saturated now. I’m still very happy I watched Log Horizon S2 but if you get irked by incomplete stories, this one will drive you nuts!!!!
Images from: Log Horion Second Season. Dir. S Ishihira. Studio Deen. 2019.