Log Horizon: A Sunday in Akiba

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

Unlike Sword Art Online, which in many ways was less about the game itself and more about the romance between Kirito and Asuna, Log Horizon tries not to focus too hard on romantic pairings. This is not to say they aren’t there, of course, but they’re never going to take over the plot. The closest we get may be this book, in which Akatsuki and Minori both independently realize that they’re in love with Shiroe. This initially starts off being fairly mediocre – the cake eating scene is not as funny as it thinks it is, and reads as quite cliched – but it begins to get good when each of the two girls spies on the other bonding with Shiroe and is forced to deal with ugly feelings of jealousy and self-hatred. Minori, being a middle schooler, has never felt like this before. Akatsuki’s older, but she has a different issue – Minori sees the bigger picture better than she does. In fact, Akatsuki has trouble with the big picture in general.


As you might imagine from the romantic sideplot, this is a bit of a ‘break’ volume for Log Horizon, with the crisis being less epic and more annoying. We get to see more of what we’ve enjoyed from prior volumes – Marielle being genki, Raynesia and Krusty snarking at each other, etc. The adventurers are holding a festival in their town, and people are coming from all over the area to join – both other adventurers and People of the Earth, many of whom have ulterior motives. The idea that these are just NPCs has long left town, and indeed the loathsome Lord Malves could hold his own with some of the other Adventurer villains we’ve seen before. But we save the true villain for the epilogue – we’d seen Shiroe worrying about another large town’s issues at the start o the book, and now we see why: it’s a dark mirror imagine of Akiba.

Nureha is clearly being set up as a major villain, though I’m not sure if she’s really the one manipulating everything here. She’s quite content to turn on her seductive wiles to lure Shiroe to their side, and they really, really want him – rewriting reality last volume to make Rundelhaus an adventurer was something that got noticed, and suddenly Shiroe, who was always the introverted social nerd – is dealing with unwanted attention. This is likely why he’s so comfortable making himself the ‘scary villain’ in Akiba, despite Minori’s protests. Being the center of attention, being wanted, is something that he desires, but makes him too uncomfortable. Not even Nureha’s manipulative sob story about her background (I do think it’s true, but it was still manipulative) or revelation that they may have a way back to the real world can sway him.

For a volume that seemed to be marking time, there was a lot going on here, and some good setup for future volumes. Log Horizon continues to be one of the best of the ‘people trapped in a game world’ books, and deserves attention.

Log Horizon: Game’s End, Part 2

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

As I’ve said many times before, Log Horizon has a bit of a fandom war with a similar series, Sword Art Online. It’s something of a one-sided war, given that SAO has about 10 times the number of fans LH does, but being #2, Log Horizon fans try harder. And one thing that comes up in complaining about SAO is how Kirito is the sort of self-insert perfect hero type who always gets all the attention and the girls. This contrasts with Shiroe in Log Horizon… somewhat. Shiroe’s not a front-line combatant, being more of a general and tactician. And there are many girls in the series who seem totally uninterested in him. This is perhaps balanced by the events at the end of this book, in which he reveals that with a properly written contract, he appears to have the power to resurrect the dead and create life. Which is something Kirito could never do. (Isn’t it sad, Sachi?)


Of course, Shiroe’s role in this book is not as big as it has been, mostly as the cast continues to be fleshed out and expanded. On the cover we have Crusty and Reinesia, two similar characters who are able to project a veneer of serenity and competence even though they’d rather be doing something else. And, as we find in this book, both are able to supporess their lazy impulses when the need arises. Reinesia impressed me the most in this entire book, showing off impressive political acumen in cutting through all the red tape and ego tripping of the Council arguments and realizing what had to be done. And then she goes and does it, despite being forced to dress in a revealing Valkyrie costume “for morale reasons” and getting exposed to horrific battles (and, even more terrifying, Crusty loving those battles). I really hope to see more of her soon.

Meanwhile, we discover the terrible secret of Rundelhaus, though admittedly we don’t get the extensive background story I was expecting. He’s an NPC who desperately wants to be a hero, and has tried even harder than the others, despite the fact that the game itself won’t let him level up as much. So, naturally, he’s killed in combat, which leads to Shiroe doing what I said he did in the first paragraph. I had sort of hoped that this would lead to Isuzu finally treating him like a man instead of a big dog, but to no avail. Actually, shippers will be happy-yet-left-wanting with the ending, in which no less than four ships get teases but that’s about it. Also, I am amused that it became so obvious Akatsuki had done next to nothing since the first book that she actually whines about it here.

Log Horizon continues to do a very good job of building a world logically based on “what if we were trapped in a game” mechanics, with the plot of these two books being particularly clever, as it relies on the adventurers not doing something due to the crisis, and the consequences being horrible. I do wonder if we’ll ever see the original core trio battling together again, though. Perhaps next time.

Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade, Vol. 1

By Mamare Touno and Koyuki. Released in Japan by Fujimi Shobo, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dragon Age. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Given that Log Horizon contains a huge cast with at least a dozen named guilds, set over a wide area, it is not particularly surprising that we’re seeing spinoffs about some of those guilds. This also allows the series to show the same events, such as the moment when everyone realized they were in the game, with different viewpoints, and see how crises are solved when the lead is not Shiroe. Most importantly, it also allows us to try out a different genre, as Shiroe, as a harem protagonist, fails miserably. Soujiro, meanwhile, is not only an excellent oblivious harem protagonist, but he even has a guild that has become famous as a “harem guild”.


In many ways this is played absolutely straight. The guild is almost entirely female, with the one non-Soujiro exception appearing to be a gay man (or is he trans? it’s unclear, and I doubt the manga will bother to get into that sort of thing anyway). The girls all have various feelings of love for Soujiro, none of which he acknowledges in the slightest, at least romantically – he’s the sort to charge in, say he will protect everyone, etc. the polar opposite of someone like Shirou, in fact. When they first discover they’re trapped in the game, we see his reaction, and it’s one of complete and total delight, contrasting with almost everyone else. As for the girls, the two that get the most attention are Isami, who is the cute girl with no confidence type, and Nazuna, who is the cool big sis type.

But I doubt readers are reading this for harem antics – or if they are, they’ll be disappointed. Where the series succeeds is in showing off new aspects of Elder Tales, or in giving us different perspectives on the same events. Sometimes this can be chilling – we see Touya and Minori getting taken into the Hamelin guild, with none of our heroes really seeming to notice the danger yet. There’s also a moment when Soujiro, defending his teammate against a guard who’s trying to dole out justice, is killed, and everyone has to frantically rush to the temple to see if they can be revived like they were before.

Mostly it’s what you’d want to see – a band of adventurers bonding like a family and looking out for each other. One of the maid NPCs, Sara, is fleshed out as well, and we see her perspective on things – these adventurers, who used to barely give them the time of day, are suddenly opening up and being friendly and rescuing them from attempted rape. (I am starting to get weary of the hints that attempted rape is rather common in this world, though I agree that this would be depressingly realistic. Thankfully, it is averted here.) If you enjoy Log Horizon and want to see a simpler, more shonen take on the world, this is a very good place to start.