What They Say:
The online fantasy game Elder Tales is a worldwide phenomenon, immersing millions of players in its intricately conceived virtual world. However, the release of the game’s twelfth expansion pack makes that immersion all too literal, as players from around the world are suddenly pulled into the game’s no-longer-fictional universe! Now, eight-year ET veteran Shiroe, his friend Naotsugu, the beautiful assassin Akatsuki, and 30,000 other players are faced with the daunting task of learning how to deal with an entirely new reality, one where the Non-Player Characters are actually alive, and the tips and tricks learned while playing with a keyboard no longer apply. Flesh and blood replace avatars and stat lists, and an entire world stands on the brink of Apocalypse in the ultimate LOG HORIZON SEASON 1 & SEASON 2 complete collection!
The audio presentation for this release is available in both English or Japanese subtitled DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless codec, and the fullness of this sound presentation helps to flesh out the show acoustically. We are presented with real world ambiance to throw the audience within this escapism show, reflecting the reality of how sometimes we can be so absorbed within a game, it seems like IRL. There is a delicate balance between each seiyus’ performance to carry the weight of the show and allowing the audio surroundings to reflect on the fantasy setting. You cannot but smile as a gamer when you hear the monsters pronounce when they attack, mystical energies crackle as spells are cast or the satisfying echoes of metal on metal as sword strikes shield. And yet even within this serenely quiet other world, there are still times when music is needed to announce emotional timbre for effective moments of change, whether they be intense battles or climatic times of unadulterated pleasure to see this foreign land. The studio makes stunning use of crescendoed orchestral fanfare, so subtle at times you do not notice it until the sound resonates within the event. But even more surprising, they also make effective use of normally unused rock instruments, conceding to the rhythmic beat of drums, cymbals and bass guitars to accompany more feral battles, allowing for these primal sounds to intensify the struggle for life or death.
However, even with tranquil times within the series, the fantastic themes used in the show help to announce the energy of the anime. The highly intense opening theme for both seasons of the show has a primal hard rock declaration – at beginning with the lead singer screaming at the audience; the song called database is performed by Man with a Mission featuring Takuma (10-Feet) and feels out of place since nothing like this piece is heard within the show. And while it may fit into the underlying theme of characters being trapped within this video world by raging against the system and wanting to escape, the overwhelming starting intensity makes me feel uncomfortable. Although some people may like this song with its heavy metal pronouncement, when I first heard it, I was tempted to skip the opening scenes and start the show. This is a first for me as I usually like to hear these themes to see how they accompany the show, but there is always an exception.
Thankfully the closing themes more than make up for this disappointment with charmingly soft ballads sung from Akatsuki’s point of view to Shiroe, which delightfully close the episodes. For the first season we have the innocent gentleness of Your Song, sung by Yunchi which encompasses the ninja’s dedication to her master, and how she gradually sees the days as precious memories. Then for the second season we treated to the upbeat charm of Wonderful Wonder World, also sung by Yunchi which brings substance to Akatsuki feelings that we see evolve within the show for all her friends, but especially Shiroe. However the best part of these two songs were the visual montage which accompanies each, the first watching the young woman quietly walking through a rainstorm, observing the world around her to which she is but a protector. Then as a follow-up, the secondary piece allows us to see the shinobi comically taking a nap as her companions look in on her, to her delight and/or malice until she wakes to see her center of attention watching as they leave the guild. These musical accompaniments are so well suited to rounding out the show, allowing the audience to remember this series is not only about surviving within a strange land, but also one cannot do it without their friends.
This series is brilliantly broken down into six disks expanding the breadth of two seasons and fifty episodes, encoded in its original aspect ratio of 16×9 in 1080p using the AVC codec for anamorphic playback. However even with this daunting task of supplying so much animation footage for this show, the visuals are outstanding, for the most part. Since we start the show submerged within the world of the game, normality of what is real or fantasy does not stand out during a majority of the series. We are immediately thrust into an organic land of rough surroundings, but then again, there are things which seem familiar since this land is morphed from real world locations, such as the starting city of Akihabara, which is based on the area within Tokyo. As such, it is admitting strange to first see modern buildings now lying in ruins, rubble crumbling and overgrown with flora and strewn with vines. However at the same time, those experienced with role playing games will also recognize the expansive landscape, with non-player characters interacting with adventurers to make everything seem alive.
The exterior surroundings are just as vast with vistas populated by the same reclaimed landscape, but this is where we run into some issues. Since there is nothing to suppress the natural lighting of sun streaming down, the reflectivity of the surroundings at times is blinding. You have scenes which are oversaturated by glare, almost being on the brink of being painful to see, with actors who stick out due to the suppressed colors of their outfits. However when the characters enter our favorite environments, namely dungeons, this overcompensation is muffled with calming darkness which is offset and balanced due to lack of an overhead light source. While you may become accustomed to this radiance over the span of the show, it is odd to be bombarded by it every time we come out from underground, and once again to be stunned.
Then on the opposite side of the animation spectrum, we are introduced to computer generated images during the first massive assault of monsters. While these scenes are impressive in their scope due to the number of creatures on screen, there are times when the action slows down that you begin to see where they sacrificed time and money on this show.
Some of the CGI looks stale, with images appearing to be cut, pasted and overlapped so much whereby there is no texturing on the individuals and they all move in one group, almost robot like. Although this type of imitation is understandable within these gargantuan battles, what makes it worse is to have a close up of these abominations, thus magnifying the error of taking shortcuts. Even if you can understand the need to use these time saving techniques, it still does not make it excusable to do so with such cheap tricks by which you insult the attention span of the audience, but giving the scope of this show, one can admirably overlook the result.
Finally, while this last minor error is not as outstanding as previous ones, the repercussions do make it stand out due to the extended usage within the show – subtitle colors. It is the norm within the industry to use white letters to literate spoken language on screen, however within this series, there are times in which white game menus need to be translated. If you use the same color, of course, everything would blend in to make reading impossible. However, if this was the case, then why use such an obnoxious tone as bright lemon yellow? While the choice is not so hostile to the eyes, the distracting presence on screen makes it stand out even against the brightest of sunny days in the anime. Surely there were other choices to use for lettering than to assault our senses with this attention standout … perhaps even a lighter shade? Sentai Filmworks has never done this before, and hopefully they will never do it again.
The case packaging is the first thing a buyer sees and thus, it should project the proper attitude for the series, and Sentai Filmworks did a great job in creating the mood. While we have a standard Blu-Ray disk case, they did manage to show the normality of what you think for a fantasy game – a rocky terrain. As we survey the landscape we can see a Fairy Gate in the background, but what attracts your attention are the charming images of the members of Log Horizon, each showing their enthusiasm in their own ways, all to focus your attention on them. The anime’s logo is predominately displayed in the foreground, daring us to venture further by opening the disk case.
This enthusiasm continues with the elaborate care applied to the silk screened disks inside the case. Each is a piece of beautiful artwork unto itself, with a different scene from the show displayed on each one, giving the viewer various perspectives of Akihabara. From the sunny illustrations of street life, a nighttime display of a festival and the grandeur of the council chambers, we are treated to dazzling delights of the city even before starting the first episode. This is the way to get the viewer interested with a show, by showing what they have in store, not with full out action but the subtly which draws them in without spoiling anything.
Although Sentai may have used the same beautiful city displays which were etched upon the disks for menu backgrounds, this eye pleasing artwork is not what catches your initially catches attention. With the series’ forthright logo prominently displayed left of center with season number underneath and the episode names listed on the right in white letters against a black frame, your selection is easily highlighted with a pull out cursor. This simplistic interface makes choosing extremely intuitive, which is a pleasure since once the menu’s music begins, you do not want to stay in this area for very long.
As I have stated before, the opening theme for this show is one of my least favorite pieces and unfortunately, Sentai Filmworks decided to use this cacophonous assault to the eardrums as the background piece for menu selection. This discomforting flaw of the area is a repetition of the first minute from the opening theme database, shrilly echoing in the background; while this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with its primal J-Pop beat, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. I do not want to hear someone yelling at me while I make my selection, and it is even worse once the lead singer begins screaming to increase his intensity and emotional drive. Sentai should have given us an option to switch off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend much time in this area, even with the alluring menu pictures.
In saving the bonus features for the last disk, perhaps Sentai Filmworks knew how disappointing they are and chose this strategy as a grace after the show is over. The extras for this collection are supremely disappointing considering the remarkable popularity for this fantastic title. While we still have the general trailers for Sentai Filmworks’ other properties, the only other supplements which they deemed necessary are clean opening and closing animations, which is standard for this licensing company. However with all of the effort put into promoting this series, you would think it would not take much effort in creating something in house like a glossary of terms used within the anime, some main characters biographies or definitions of various game classes. But of course, we are not given that viable option. Even within this disappointment, at least we are not bombarded time with the repetition of any background music as is the norm for the studio, however long we may spend within this barren location.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
At the stroke of midnight, the premiere expansion pack Novasphere Pioneers for the wildly popular MMORPG Elder Tales came online … and that is when the world as they knew it collapsed around them. The anticipation of starting unique quests, meeting new monsters and achieving higher levels came to light once Japanese gamers began delving into this unknown content, but it was not before long until they noticed something new had been added, and panic set in. All of the waiting for new horizons were crushed once people began to realize something unique had been incorporated to the world … they themselves are now a part of the game. This was not an example of virtual reality, not some warped experimental interface which allowed interaction nor a dream which they could rouse from – the players had somehow entered the starting city of Akihabara.
No longer were they on the other side of the screen, navigating their avatars to face familiar creatures or wield fantastic powers which were well beyond their imaginations – Elder Tales the game was now their home. Thirty thousand players were trapped within a place which many had come to for escape from the hectic pace and horrid insanity of the real world. The day which they would later call the Apocalypse had come to pass, and for all they could not understand what had happened or how they were transported into a place which before only a fantastical dream … but was now a nightmare. Their fight for survival had begun, within this new world the real possibility of dying was no longer a passing inconvenience, but a frightening shock of horror. Would they shiver in fear and wait for someone to help them, venture outside the safety of the city to face whatever may wait or look for a way home? The latter was impossible, all communications to the outside were cut off and logging out of the game was locked out, making escape not an option. What else was there to do?
All of these thoughts passed through the bespectacled mind of Shiroe, a half Alv Enchanter who like others only wished to enjoy exploration within the new downloadable content. His logical thoughts mused as he watched others around him mulling forth through the same motions, some crying, others screaming for help, while a few unique individuals even tried to have non-player characters contact the Game Master – which only returned looks of confusion and statements of noncompliance. He would not fall into the same traps, even as his flowing white robes shifted around his skinny body, Shiro knew there should be another choice. All of his equipment still worked, magic was at hand and though his gait was unsteady, he could still walk in this strange body. But while flipping through the once understandable screens, the Friends menu struck a chord of insight and allowed for the slightest bit of hope. If he could not find the answers he was looking for by himself, then why not ask his companions for help … like Naotsugu?
It had been a few years since his friend had logged on, too busy with work but now found time to relax, all for the surprise of absence and lure of new adventure. This fully plate armored tank played a Guardian, a front line fighter who would absorb damage from incoming attacks, allowing characters like spell casters to unleash powerful magic. This partnership between the two friends had worked in the past and they accomplished many high level quests with this cooperation, but now they faced something entirely different. Naotsugu sat the at base of a great tree, confused as to what happened during his vacation from the game, and was not reassured when Shiro told him they should get ready face for the worst. Even as he cracked a joke to hide his uncertainty, they two walked toward the center of the city to decided what to do next.
As they continued their conversation as to what possibilities were open to them, these seasoned veterans knew immediately someone was following them, even without the constant pelting of ever growing rocks. After locating the source to nearby ruins, Shiroe was surprised to see the attacker was another person from his Friends List – a shinobi named Akatsuki. However whenever they played before, this person never talked, and thus was surprised to hear the voice of a young girl erupting from the clearly masculine form before them. After negotiating for a rare shape changing potion, her true petite form was restored and a new companion was added to the ever growing party. In appreciation for saving her sanity, this ninja now pledged her services to this new lord, much to the enchanter’s apparent frustration and chagrin. But at least with this thankful addition, they now had a viable scout and powerful ally in this unexplored and yet familiar world.
Log Horizon Complete Collection on the surface may seem to be another dive into a story where reality and fantasy switch places, and for the most part that assumption is true. The misadventures of the overly serious but logical Enchanter Shiroe, wise cracking and always perverted Guardian Naotsugu and ever loyal even if unconfident ninja Akatsuki are amusing, but there is an underlying basis to the story – to never give up. As the people who once played this game from the other side of the screen now learn how to exist within this new world, at the same time they cannot but remember the lives they once had not so long ago. But as time passes, they learn to adapt, bringing in traditions from their homeland, all to cope with a new life. However even as they do this, the underlying memories of the past stir up regrets of having to accept change, even if as they do, there is the chance they will forget or blur the thin line between the two worlds.
This is the main reason why I appreciate how the two seasons are delineated into separate ideals: acceptance and then the need to adapt and remedy any problems which may have been risen afterwards. However between the two cours, the characters never forget they are still foreigners within Elder Tales, even after the main loss of dying was revealed. This foundational spirit of hope was emphasized at the end of the anime, but at the same time, the way which the series closes leaves things open, unanswered for a future show.
Although even with all of these components left floating around in order to create a fuller narrative, there are many which remain unfulfilled, almost as if the studio was expecting the viewer to be a reader of the original manga. Throughout the first season we are brought into the anime as if the audience had the fantasy of living within this same nightmare, trying to shape the world to suit their whims, but also balancing those terms with what they never knew when it was only a game. Shiroe lead the way, shaping things behind the scenes while strategizing details which would work both for the Adventures and the People of the Land. He almost played it like a chess match, thinking a few moves ahead to make things as fair for both sides, while not allowing either to openly take advantage of the other. If he had to live up to his nickname, Villain in Glasses, then so be it, even as his friends rejected the scorn which it brought. This is why I liked the first season so much more than the second, it allows us to see an overall plan of how the Japanese wanted accept their new lives, balancing the good with the bad, their own needs versus NPCs who were once thought as AIs without emotion, thus not needing to take into account the consequences against those same programs. It makes us question what would happen if all of this did happened … would you too feel guilt for your actions against things which are essentially window dressing?
No matter how fulfilling the first season, the second felt as if it were hastily slapped together with leftover elements from the previous. Trying to settle monetary issues and trying to find a way home, why are these so unimportant as to relegate them to the closing cour? Although the first component did add monumental battles reminiscent of an epic Hollywood blockbuster, the additional desperation of finding clues leading to their return did not fit well within the overall narrative. In order to do so, more characters were introduced and those enjoyable ones who were seen in the previous season seemed to be ignored, all to close off the main story with more questions. But in doing so, we are left with dangling plot threads, characters which never live up to their full potential and an ending which has too holes to leave us satisfied after watching fifty episodes and multiple tangential developments.
Log Horizon Complete Collection overall is a good series if you could recut it into something which would make more sense and flesh out necessary storylines. For now, it begins as a thought provoking show, but gradually dwindles down into something which pushes the audience forward too fast to close off main themes but ignores others in lieu of that need. While we do earn some satisfaction for some characters, others are left bereft of wanted development, therefore making us to want a sequel. But with most of the original source materials ending almost three years ago, it appears we will not see any conclusions, which is a sad shame for all.
Features: Clean Opening/Closing Animation plus Available from Sentai Filmworks trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Running Time: 1300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 16×9
Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Microsoft Xbox One S Blu-ray player via HDMI connection