What They Say:
Even as Shiroe slowly learns the secrets behind the creation of the World Fraction spell, the origin of the Demi-humans, and how his own actions in the Real World have affected the world in which he now dwells, the seeds of thought he’s planted in the minds of others begin to bear fruit. Game strategy and tactics may have been intended for amusement, but their origins were pulled from actual war planning and stratagems. As others begin to accept and implement those theories on their own, the existing alliances and balance of power begin to shift.
Those changes can’t possibly come quickly enough, as the adventurers’ preoccupations have allowed the Goblins to unite and amass a giant army. Now the Goblins are on the march, and as the Estal Lords debate their course of action, Minori makes a dangerous gamble and initiates action on her own. In the midst of this MMORPG turned real, an unassuming princess may prove to be the key to ultimate victory.
Contains episodes 14-25.
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 twelve episodes of this half of the series are spread across two discs in an eight/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 Akihabara side of things as we get the main function place in the background, which darkens up the cover considerably, while the foreground is made up of the younger generation of players lined together in a good. way. It has the same level of detail in the character designs as the first cover and the background certainly has a lot to like with it, but it just feels oddly oppressive. 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 show itself with the building with the icea throughout it done during a darker scene, so it has a beautiful but creepy feeling about it all. 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.
The first half of the Log Horizon series was one that I rather enjoyed, especially since it played so differently from the other big trapped in a game series around the same time with Sword Art Online. Log Horizon has its own larger story that it’s developing, which is more apparent here as something that can sprawl over multiple seasons, but it was mostly focused on the foundations of it all, introducing the cast and setting the tone of really working on world building. That’s something that a lot of series either skimp out on or just do poorly, so I was rather taken with the way it looked at what life would be like in the game for people that lived normal lives before and what kinds of challenges they’d face. Which would in turn lead to greater understandings in a more general sense of their new world.
This half of the series is a little bit underwhelming in some ways as it doesn’t really capitalize on anything, but it does work through the slow build more of the world. At least until the last episode or two when new truths are revealed about the world at large which offers its own tantalizing teases of what’s to come. For the majority of this set though, it’s largely focused on a couple of main events, each of which are interesting and all tie together in the end. Shiro is still the main driver though in his quest to understand things, which we get at the beginning as he and Akatsuki spend some time with a mysterious great mage who explains more of how magic should be categorized by people as it deals with the scale of power, going up through abilities that can reshape the design of the world itself. That’s what’s drawing Shiro, though you can also tell that while he has designs on it, it may not be for the obvious power grab. And that’s a big part of his appeal because he’s really invested in this world, game or not. Understanding its history is definitely an important piece of that, which this area also gives us a bit of.
While Shiro is working to understand that and actually develop new magic, we spend a good bit of time in two other areas. The first is that we get Minori and her group as they’ve gone off to train as we saw before and they’re working through a particular dungeon but having a hell of a time with it. They’re not high ranking players, but they’re diverse enough and with enough ability that they can do it. It’s interesting, if slow, to watch them work through figuring out the right approach because it’s teaching them the proper way to fight and clear dungeons. It’s not just barreling ahead with the strongest while others cover, it’s about the proper use of everyone’s abilities. This is also driven home through the use of Rundelhaus Code, a young man desperate to prove himself. There’s the beginning of some romantic material in this mix as well as Isuzu is getting closer to him, but it’s not played heavily but rather enough so that you grasp it and understand the emotions when things turn sour for this group for awhile. That entire area is really well done as it ties back to Shiro and his quest for new magic as it’s part of solving some of the larger problems in the game that exists between players and the People of the Land.
The other area that I liked was watching Krusty and some of the others deal with the People of the Land and their alliance as they try to figure out how to work together considering they have very different views of the world and each other. A lot of this starts to turn on the princess, Lenessia, as she started to get closer to Krusty before and she ends up as an emissary towards the Adventurers and what they’re doing. She’s not like a lot of the other People of the Land and that works well to provide a kind of bridge between the two sides as it goes on. But it’s also fun just watching Krusty with a lot of this as he can really read her well. Through these two, and some of the others, we get some good insights into how the alliance is working, their fears and their own attempts to use the Adventurers to protect them. But as we’ve seen with Shiro, it’s all about finding a new balance in this world rather than exploiting, as the dynamic has changed since they all got stuck here living their lives in this accelerated state. The politics and economics of it all may bore some, but it’s a really enjoyable part for me to see it addressed. It’s not a huge part, but it’s integral to it all.
What unifies a lot of this for quite awhile is the advance of the goblins throughout the lands. As we understand a bit of how the People of the Land view them, what with their respawning making them seem like an endless horde, it’s definitely interesting to see them ravaging the land which forces events between the sides to figuring out how to work together. That brings Lenessia in the middle, Shiro manipulating as he can and the younger generation providing their view of things as they travel while in contact with Shiro. They also provide what could be a real game changer in the series with some of the revelations made within the party but also with what Shiro does, something that catches the eye of some really powerful players out there. The actual event with the goblins and going after the goblin king may feel a little underwhelming as it hits its finale, but I really liked how it instead played towards Shiro’s understanding of how to work this world and the mechanics of it.
A lot of the events after all is said and done is largely epilogue material, but it’s good epilogue material. Even if we get scenes with both Minori and Akatsuki trying to get closer to Shiro as they have a real interest in him and see each other as competition. Some of it is focused on a festival to celebrate the changes put in place, and that introduces us to a lot of characters and the new dynamic of the world, but also a little action and adventure just to spice things up. It’s a solid mix with intrigue and politics, family relationship material and a lot of good stuff with Lenessia settling into her new role. I really do like what it does towards the end as it introduces a new challenge for Shiro that wakes him up out of his bureaucratic slumber, but it’s more of a tease of what’s to come rather than anything firm. But it fully justifies there being more work to this because it pulls back the curtain more to the scale of what’s going to be done and what can be done within the game.
I wasn’t sure how the back half of Log Horizon would play out, but it largely landed where I wanted it to when you get down to it. It has its slow moments and it builds itself in some less than exciting ways at times, but it’s really building something here rather than just going from event to event with a whiplash of events in between. It’s doing the hard work of really building something and getting people invested in it, which works at least for me with my heavy (text based) RPG days and old school pen and pencil stuff. There isn’t anything here that feels epic or grand, outside of some of the last minute reveals of the bigger world at hand, but it solidly works through its storylines and presents something engaging, detailed and involved that left me wanting more right away. While the two halves of the first set get B+ grades individually, it’s definitely an A- first full season for the show that I hope has several more ahead of it.
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: January 27th, 2015
Running Time: 300 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.