Log Horizon Episode 1

Kill la Kill Episode 1 and Kyousougiga Episode 00 are great, but I don’t have much to say about them other than that. A middling adaptation of a serialised e-book about MMOs though, that I can get a couple of hundred words out of.

It’s going to get compared, fairly or unfairly to Sword Art Online. Unlike that show, there was nothing in the first episode that made me go “This is so stupid I am not watching any more”. While it has that “trapped in a deadly video game with just one man” element, it owes a lot to .hack too.

Like .hack, the game in the show, Elder Tale, is long established rather than a new launch. Likewise the characters are experienced players of the game. Unlike .hack it does feel like the characters actually play the game rather than use it as a fancy chat room. In one of many nods to real life MMO game mechanics, all the characters we meet are 90th level, having already hit the game’s level cap.

That element makes it feel like it’s written for people familiar with MMOs. I’m not sure how much that would tell you if you weren’t aware of them. The character who hasn’t played for two years, but decided to come back for the new expansion pack (that seems to be the cause of the game’s entrapment), also felt true to real life MMOs.

There were some nice gags too about being stuck in a videogame. People whose avatars diverged from their own body shape had difficulty controlling their new bodies. There’s a nice gag about what videogame food would taste like (and which may also be some foreshadowing). Other gaming gags included one about how tricky navigating menus would be if you had to do them in a real fight and another about the illogical nature of in-game architecture. And there’s a legendary raid party with the sort of dumb almost-a-joke name that real world game groups would give themselves.

The reason it’s only middling, despite these touches that make it feel fairly smart, is that it plods along with a lot of exposition that it’s humour and self-awareness can’t hide. In a week that gave us one great show with a simple revenge mystery and another that foregoes talky world building for hitting things with giant hammer, the literary origins of Log Horizon stick out like a sore thumb.

Still, there’s Jouji Nakata as a Puss n Boots type swashbuckler next episode to look forward to.