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Log Horizon Vol. #05 Novel Review

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Log Horizon Vol. #5
Log Horizon Vol. #5

Will Akiba survive the threat of bureaucracy and budding romance?

Creative Staff
Story: Mamare Touno
Art: Kazuhiro Hara
Translation/Adaptation: Taylor Engel

What They Say
In the sort of autumn afternoon that leaves maidens sighing, new enemies arrives in Akiba! And these enemies are more terrifying than any monster–they’re human. Worse, their target is the very system at the heart of the city–the Round Table Council! Will the tenuous government that Shiroe’s worked so hard to build survive this latest threat?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After several story arcs setting up the new world and the character’s places in it, this volume of Log Horizon is focused on the characters themselves. Even as a plot takes shape to break apart Akiba and sow distrust in the Round Table.

The Libra festival is a chance for the new denizens of the world to both relax, celebrate and to buy and sell to their hearts content. Everyone finds themselves frantically trying to organize and put on a festival, and that’s where the majority of the action takes place. It’s a painfully slow start but it’s also uncomfortably hectic in conveying the stress that Shiroe feels attempting to organize everything. Even when others attempt to make him relax he finds himself the target of misplaced jealousy and scorn. He has only himself to blame as he’s taken on the role of the bad cop for the city. It’s over two-thirds of the way into the volume before the antagonist is revealed, and it isn’t monsters that Shiroe must confront this time, but politics.

At the heart of the matters in this volume are the hearts of several of the women in Log Horizon. Both Minori and Akatsuki realize that the admiration they felt toward Shiroe has developed into love. Both realize that they don’t know how to process this information.

For Minori it’s her first love, and she realizes that with  the ten year age gap between them she’s not going to have that love reciprocated. With that understanding, she quickly progresses into heartache and then a renewed sense of purpose. She still wants to be able to stand beside Shiroe and decides to fight to the best of her abilities. To that end she offers to help Calasin with the mountain of paperwork that has come in from the festival, and in doing so is one of the first to identify the attack on the city. Minori’s character arc remains one of the strongest in the series.

Akatsuki, however, manages to realize her emotions and has no idea how to take the next step. Her baggage about her height in real life extends to the game world. She never got a chance to experience romance or relationships, and has been continuously treated like a child. Her lack of experience makes her awkward around Shiroe, and her idea of playful teasing just comes off as cringeworthy and weird. She mentally berates herself for feeling jealous about Minori, but when she discovers that the middle school girl has actually been a better friend and help to Shiroe than herself, Akatsuki withdraws further into herself. When this volume ends she remains just the weird ninja girl, which is going to set up her growth arc for the next volume.

Shiroe remains clueless to the true emotions of the women around him, even though he has no trouble spotting and manipulating the women who make up Soujirou’s guild. However, they are far more transparent in their emotions. It’s not as if Shiroe has no interest in women either, as is shown when he comes face to face with his western counterpart at the end of this volume. He is almost as much of a shut in as Akatsuki, and  as we’ve seen his confidence in himself wavers just about as much.

For all of the meandering the eventual payoff is a compelling set-up for future conflicts. Shiroe meets his match in Nureha, a seductress who is also an enchanter. She uses all her wiles to lure Shiroe to join her side, and Shiroe actually contemplates her words before realizing that he’d be betraying the friends who have been with him since they found themselves lost in Elder Tales.

While the writing has reached a point where the repetition isn’t as prevalent, it’s still uneven and clunky. Touno lets his characters thoughts wander through tangents, and this volume is a whole lot of tell and not show. The distinct lack of focus in this volume makes most of the scenes taking place feel like a slog early on. The best bits are when we are focused in on Minori, as has often been the case throughout these volumes. Also frustrating is the fact that the romanization of some character names goes through a reconfiguration in this volume. (Reinesia to Reynesia, Crusty to Krusty.) Why the uncredited editor of this series thinks it’s a good idea to suddenly switch spellings five volumes is beyond me, even if they are more accurate now. I hope at least that if Yen Press reprints earlier volumes that they’ll go back and retroactively make all of the names match up. This lack of consistency drives me nuts and looks completely unprofessional.

This volume gets more creative with the insert illustrations. A few of which are half page portraits with the text wrapped around them. They continue to capture the spirit of the story very well. The color fold-out illustration for this volume features a group picture of the Log Horizon members on one side and a diagram of the headquarters on the opposite. The usual character status sheets begin each chapter and there’s a recap at the start. The extras in this volume take up a good chunk of the back of the book, which includes the usual glossary and author’s afterword but also a schedule of character daily routines, festival foods, and a map of the festival grounds. The sheer amount of supplemental extras for this series is staggering.

In Summary
What starts off as a bit of downtime and silliness for the cast of Log Horizon eventually starts to feel like the beleaguered emails of an organization that has bit off more than it can chew. The writing isn’t as focused as previous volumes, becoming a meandering train of thought that eventually finds its footing dangerously close to the end. The humorous situations come off as more embarrassing for Shiroe, and some of the situations the group find themselves in are painful to watch play out. The ideas here are solid but the execution reflects the plot in more ways than one. The introduction of a true rival saves this volume from uselessness, and Minori’s growth makes skipping it a mistake for committed readers. I just hope that the next volume sees tighter editing, on both sides of the ocean.

Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: B +
Packaging Grade: A –
Text/Translation Grade: B –

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 19th, 2016
MSRP: $13.99

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