What They Say:
Elder Tales has become a global phenomenon, immersing millions of players in its online fantasy world. However, something goes wrong with the twelfth expansion pack. Eight-year veteran Shiroe and 30,000 other players suddenly find themselves trapped in the game’s no-longer-fictional universe!
Except it’s not even exactly the game they knew: things are in different places, the portals don’t work, and if a gamer was playing an avatar who wasn’t a physical match for their real self… well, let’s just say that everyone who’s been playing is going to have to make some serious adjustments to their new world view.
On top of that, the former Non-Player-Characters are now self-aware and working towards their own ends. This collision of the Elder Tale people and players with seemingly impossible skills, abilities, and knowledge promises to be cataclysmic. Get ready for heroes to rise and new legends to be forged as Shiroe and fellow players Naotsugu and Akatsuki discover what happens when sword and sorcery becomes real!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the new English language dub in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that uses the forward soundstage well enough with its mix of magic, science and dialogue to convey a pretty decent balance of material as the characters interact. There’s a good full feeling when it’s all about the non-spoken dialogue while the placement throughout the rest of the dialogue is certainly well handled and properly set so that multiple characters on the screen feel like they’re where they’re supposed to be. There isn’t a lot of action in the show but we do get a few sequences of it here and it’s definitely a lot of fun with the way it goes in a kind of big way without being overblown or too dramatic. The opening and closing sequences are naturally the bigger areas in terms of music and having the strongest design, but dialogue is well done throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the fall of 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes of this series are spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by Satelight, the series has a good range of detail about it in both the backgrounds with the world setting and the character designs and the virtual aspects. There’s a good bit of color to the show in general with a lot of variety, but also a lot of shades of green for all the overgrowth that’s definitely got a lot of appeal. The show isn’t huge with detail when you get down to it, but we do get some good designs for the characters that make them all individual and with more than just simple outfits while the backgrounds are nicely lived in. Colors are strong and solid throughout and it has a very rich look when you get down to it.
The packaging design for this release definitely plays to the natural side, though it has a few odd choices to it with what it uses for artwork. The front cover is nicely laid out with a strip of characters standing side by side along it where we get their height differences and their detailed designs, and it sets them against the overgrown background which has a few hints at the world that’s there, but it’s mostly obscured by their designs. The top half is just blue skies and white clouds with the logo through it, which adds to the color combination nicely. I like the overall look of it, but it’s an unexpected group of characters that have been pulled together here. The back cover goes with a circle design in the center that’s larger where we get the premise while ringed around it we get a few shots from the show that are mostly darker in origin. The disc and epsiode count is clearly listed as are the meager extras that we get here. The bottom has the standard design layout with the production credits and the technical grid that lays it all out cleanly and clearly in an easy enough to read format even with the small font. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design is another odd choice piece, though one that certainly does work in a very good way. The layout for it goes in a very earth-natural kind of way where the navigation strip along the right is just a slightly curved piece that uses black for the breakout of episodes by title while the left side of it has the numbers in green, the text for all of it in white. It has a very natural feeling to it that works well, especially with the first menu screen that has a larger and expanded background piece from the front cover that shows off a whole lot of green to it with all the overgrowth. The logo is kept to the left in the middle and there’s no character artwork, which is a little unusual but I really like the backgrounds here so I can’t complain. Navigation is fairly standard overall with no real deviations outside of a little stylistic point here and there so it’s easy to navigate and everything loads quickly and smoothly from the top level and as a pop-up menu.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series written by Mamare Touno and illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara that began back in 2011, Log Horizon is a twenty-five episode series that aired in the fall 2013 and winter 2014 season and received a simulcast in North America. I didn’t get a chance to watch it then, but it caught a mix of grief of being in the same vein as Sword Art Online with its general concept idea. This is a fairly normal occurrence in a lot of media, so I didn’t give it a lot of play. What I don’t like to do is compare series since each has to stand on its own merits, so you won’t find me going back and forth talking about them in that way here. With it being a modern fantasy series, it’s one of the few tastes an old school fan of the fantasy genre can get these days in this form, so there’s a natural latching onto it there for me since I enjoy a proper fantasy show.
Log Horizon sort of is a fantasy show, just with some amusing trappings. The premise is straightforward enough that players in the game of Elder Tales are excited about a new expansion pack that has come out that they’ve installed, but quickly learn in the short term that there’s something more malicious going on here as those that are in the game at a certain time, dubbed thereafter as the Apocalypse in the game, find themselves unable to log out. That has some thirty thousand people in the Japan serve stuck there across several territories where they can no longer get out and get back to their lives. What we don’t see with any of this is if there is a larger threat that’s orchestrating it here or a look at events on the outside. Everything is focused on this world, one where there’s still not a lot of danger as once you die, you do get revived back at the Cathedral and can go about trying to level up again.
And therein lies the way the series attempts to differentiate itself in a way. With no larger threat, it becomes more about the characters and figuring out their existence there since there is a basic assumption that someone on the outside will try to figure this out. But until then, there’s little they can do as the game mechanics are in place, but there’s really little that you need to survive within it. The setting is one that I do like though as we get a standard fantasy class group of characters here, but it takes place in the familiar real world, just one that has been completely overgrown and with technology that’s inaccessible. That keeps it in a fantasy area, but it has a lot of appeal in the background and setting design with the buildings, the highways and all the other pieces of modern Japan that have been consumed by the natural world. It’s a good blending of the two in a way that works, though like a lot of games you have to suspend some disbelief in order to let it work when it comes to the technology.
The human part of the show is also a pretty good draw as what we get here is more a focus on world building rather than extended PKing, expansive quests within the game or the whole level clearing aspect to get towards a goal angle. The main focus is on Shiroe, a graduate student who is known in the game as the Villain Behind Glasses for his cunning way of dealing with things. While not a top end player, he’s a respected one that handles himself well and was the lead part in the Tea Party Debauchery group that he was a part of before it disbanded. Shiroe isn’t a guild joining type of person, so that’s kept him separate from things but also keeps him from being too close to any particular guild, which gives him an ideal position in this new world. He joins up with his friend Naotsugu early on, who hadn’t played in an age, and they both team up with one of the more well known assassins of this server, Akatsuki, who they discover is actually a cute girl that’s rather tiny in the real world. Akatsuki has some fun ongoing gags with Naotsugu, but we also see that she’s very bonded to Shiroe and serve as his ninja and servant though it’s obvious she has stronger feelings towards him.
The first half of the series here is one that does some fun things. We get the kind of acceptance over the situation and exploration of basic game mechanics for a few episodes as the group tries to figure out what’s going on and that serves as a good introduction for the viewer to how it all works. The cast expands nicely, with other guilds coming into play and some of those individuals that Shiroe knows, particularly a couple of young kids that have been conscripted into working for a guild to produce potions that essentially has them as slave labor. With crafting guilds, hunting guilds and a few other types in there as well, it’s mostly standard stuff, though thankfully it seems like it’s very light to non-existent on religious type guilds to complicate matters. Over the introduction and the time period that elapses there, we see a lot but also understand that because of the way the system works, there’s a kind of emptiness about those that have been thrust into all of this.
And that’s what slowly starts to get Shiroe thinking about how to really bring this place to life if they’re going to live there, since a slow depression among the population and the potential for abuse in slave labor has him fearing how dark and grim his beloved game could turn. Shiroe’s plan is reminiscent of other world building shows out there and it is, for me, a lot of fun to see the things he does to manipulate situations and people to move towards his goals so that he can get the population there to do more than just exist. He wants them to live. With a good range of characters that, even if superficial at times, we see some really good movements across this as the nature of the region they inhabit – Akihabara of course – starts to come to life in a new and exciting way. That makes for a lot of fun as they start drawing people and things together and plans go into motion, allowing you to get caught up in the excitement.
I also like that, as it goes on, we see the kinds of tricks and changes that are part of their being trapped there. While the mechanics seem the same at the start, they start to learn that there are more things they can do than believed and the investigation of it leads to simple but needed growth, such as learning how to give food real taste. That’s a pivotal moment that has a long range effect. We also see that the NPCs of the game are starting to take on lives of their own as well, and as Akihabara starts to revitalize, that has NPC kingdoms around there start to take notice and begin to explore relations with them. It’s a fun twist in having the human players starting to realize that the NPCs aren’t just doing the same standard responses but are rather coming to life themselves and finding their place in the world in a more realized way.
I had a basic kind of idea of what to expect with this series going into it and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. There’s some very fun characters to work with here, even though they’re not deep or anything because we’re mostly getting a mixed combination here of their game selves and their real selves, with a lean towards their gaming personalities and backgrounds. It’s easy to get sucked into this kind of world when you live it like this and that’s one of the explorations in showing how it is that you have to adapt to this kind of life. The show is a slow build to be sure, but I like that it’s not focused yet on any big bad, extensive action or fighting or other grand plans in a way. The release here is short on extras, which is of course still sadly standard across the board these days, but the overall package is pretty strong with a great presentation and the inclusion of an English language dub, that has a very large cast to work with. This show ticks off all the right boxes for me in what I’m looking for when it comes to a show like this and I came away very pleased.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 25th, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.