Log Horizon: The Beginning of Another World

By Mamare Touno and Kazuhiro Hara. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen Press.

As I’ve said in a few Manga the Week of posts before this, the first I ever heard of Log Horizon was when I was researching Sword Art Online after reading that series, and TVTropes saying that the two series had a “fandom rivalry”. This is unsurprising, given that the two series essentially share a very similar plot – gamers suddenly find themselves trapped inside a game and have to find ways to deal with it. That said, once you get past that there’s a lot that’s different. In SAO you have “if you die in the game, you die in real life” lending an air of tension and menace to everything. Log Horizon, on the other hand, generates its tension from the opposite: even death merely has you regenerated at your start point, so there’s no point to anything at all.

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Our hero is a quiet, thoughtful, introverted sort, who has those “mean eyes” that fans of Toradora! might recognize, and a tendency to see everything in a cynical way. He’s partnered with a big, outgoing guy who enjoys making perverted jokes as a way of breaking the ice (though, as we later see, he can’t take it when it’s dished out to him), and a quiet, even more introverted assassin who, once she’s in her proper body, proves that Ayanami Rei expies are still alive and well in the world of anime and manga. Much of the novel has them figuring out what the rules of this new-yet-familiar world are, realizing that a lot of combat techniques they did in their sleep seated at a computer are much harder when a genuine threat is speeding towards you, and trying to rescue a young girl trapped in a faraway city that has fallen into lawlessness as some people realize that since there’s no real consequence to death except that you get to loot their stuff, that that’s a great way to pass the time.

This is very much a novel for experienced MMORPG players, and has a lot more mechanics in it than SAO did. Given that I’m not a gamer, I found myself skimming the explanations at times. The characters fared much better – Shiroe and Akatsuki I especially liked, and I enjoy that the two suggested couples (though nothing’s likely to happen for at least 10 volumes is my guess) are both similar types – there’s no “opposites attract” cliche here. It’s actually refreshing seeing two introverts driving an action series at all, and that also came across very well. And the series’ worldbuilding is excellent, taking its time and showing us what you can and cannot do – the food problem is particularly frustrating for all involved.

I would say that I find Sword Art Online more exciting and gripping – Log Horizon has a certain dry tone that matches that of its hero. But it’s a very good start to a series, and I look forward to seeing how things go, and if “returning to the real world” even becomes a plot point at all – it’s mentioned very little here, with a lot of folks just assuming they’re trapped forever. In any case, between this, No Game No Life, DanMachi, and SAO, gamers certainly have their hands full of Yen On titles right now.

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Comments

  1. I’d guess if you were skimming over parts of if you may not have noticed but did you notice any awkwardness to the translation? I’ve seen a few quotes posted on Twitter and some of the dialogue came across as quite stilted.

    • Sean Gaffney says

      I didn’t see any problems that stood out – honestly, two of the characters (Shiroe and Akatsuki) strike me as the sort whose dialogue would be formal and stilted in any case. Certainly it’s not as awkward as, say, Index, whose complexity/eccentricity has proven far more difficult to adapt.


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