Source Material: Mamare Touno (橙乃 ままれ)
Writer(s): Toshizo Nemoto (根元 歳三)
Director(s): Shinji Ishihara (石平 信司)
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi (高梨 康治)
It’s easy to underestimate the possibility control and power of money on any given industry, and the major power of the media mix in anime is no exception. Especially in recent years, we’ve seen our fair share of questionable adaptations every season. Shows that are adapted into anime series before even having enough content to satisfy one cour. Shows that are altered completely from their original narrative. Shows that are oh-so well deserving of continuation but are ultimately truncated. And shows with essentially unnecessary continuations. For both the good and the bad sides of this coin, it’s definitely an interesting conundrum about a certain influence on culture. All of this is open to contention, of course, though one fact remains constant and that is the inevitability of further exposure. Whether they be manga, novels, games or even the more up-’til-lately less indulged mediums such as light novels, visual novels and the like, getting an anime adaptation will increase audiences. That is a formula that has long since been set in anime-drawn stone, which really brings us to the true topic of this article, a little niche light novel series I like to call Log Horizon and whose anime adaptation I like to call ‘the best MMORPG sub-genre anime I have had the pleasure of watching.’
Leaving aside a thorough synopsis of the overall series for another time, what we’ll discuss is its state in the last fours weeks of its broadcast. After a thrilling finale at the Battle of Zantlead, the arc focusing on the conflict with The People of the Land comes to a satisfactory close. Back in Akihabara, the army-disbanded adventurers are back to their free-willing, adventuresome selves and are effervescent in their post-victory celebration and indulgence in the first ever Scale Festival. It’s not really a set-up for another gripping battle, at all. This is evident when this in-between arc’s antagonist arises, a nobleman and person of the land named Lord Malves, who besides in countenance proves to be no spectacular authority, no more a threat Shiroe. What worth he does prove himself to be, however, after two episodes of moderate lime-light, is a fantastic red herring. As a generous fate would have it, the issue with Malves is effectively resolved within the first five minutes of the season finale, leaving a whole lot to be covered in terms of embellishing the episode greatly with a sense of yearning for the riveting teased things to come, a sense of nostalgia through heartfelt moments with the eponymous guild of the show and just a general sense of astonishment at wonderful story-writing.
With the good riddance of our short-lived villain, things are immediately taken up a notch. A moment between Minori and Shiroe finally has her simultaneously confronting the Akihabara populace’s general opinion of Shiroe as well as confronting Shiroe himself. At last, Shiroe is posed with a particularly heavy-hitting question that doesn’t revolve around strategic analysis but rather, around him as a person. It is here that Shiroe expresses his own personality quite explicitly, which is such a seldom occurrence for him – and you can’t help but notice that he must have had a long and emotional history with his past guild, something that always seems to linger in the back of his head as he plays that role of the “villain in glasses,” brooding behind the scenes of everything. And if I had to put a finger on it, I would say a huge deal of this demeanor involves Kanami, a character I’m anxiously looking forward to finding out more about. Conversely, in the tween eyes of Minori, we can see how much her image of Shiroe, once so glorified, is losing its luster, though not negatively so. If anything, Minori has quickly grown out of her phase of idolization and is subconsciously equalizing herself to Shiroe, even pitying him to a certain extent in this episode. It’s hard to say whether this shaping of her outlook on Shiroe and people in general will play strongly towards her affection for him or not; but either way, it’s a damn fine level of character depth. Of all the new Log Horizon recruits, Minori is definitely the brightest of the bunch and the level of her character growth is something so satisfying that it could enable her to surpass Akatsuki in terms of a likeable character, even if the mentioned is frankly cooler in combat ability, appearance and class (that’s MMORPG class, not aristocratic class, mind you).
But of course, as she probably heard me say that just now, Akatsuki was looming in the background and witnessing the whole discourse, she possibly being the only one more specialized in covertness than Shiroe, something that speaks for their own compatibility I suppose. (A cinematographic quality worth noting is the framing in three shots, wherein Shiroe is seen looming over the entirety of a twilight Akihabara, then Minori is revealed beyond that scope and a while later, Akatsuki is even more so beyond that. A very nice sequence of composition.) And in my opinion, this was a much needed advancement. Beyond her moe stature and position of over-poweredness at level ninety, Akatsuki really needed a stronger persona and connection with Shiroe to have anyone rooting for her attempted courtship. This being especially necessary considering her longer history with our megane protagonist. Though by this, I’m not saying that I enjoyed seeing Akatsuki essentially hating herself for being so unobservant of her beloved despite being so aware of her own lifestyle of inconspicuousness. Quite the opposite, I was overjoyed at the under-the-stars guild dinner scene, that when all the cards were on the table and everyone was being so open with each other, the girl was able to brush aside her self-directed frustration and take part in the unity of the members. Truly, if that isn’t what a guild family is for, then I don’t know what is.
Speaking of good and bad sides of coins earlier as well, Shiroe’s romances and the coin Shiroe fiddles around with in his fingers this episode, it’s an interesting dynamic that is introduced between Shiroe and Nureha, guild master of Plant Hwyaden and interim leader of the Minami District. God knows Shiroe has enough romantic interests for the time being (though I suppose more age-appropriate ones are welcome) but additionally so, the relationship, or rather, obsession, that Nureha has with Shiroe almost seems to resemble Shiroe’s position of captivation towards his past and still mostly undisclosed (frustratingly so) guild master, of the Debauchery Tea Party. And I guess when a resemblance to deep-rooted memories doesn’t work, there’s always a buxom figure and irresistible fox-tail. Proving to be calm, cool and collected as always, Shiroe resists the irresistible and rejects Nureha’s guild membership offer. Further excessively, he continues to renounce their relationship and essentially makes a declaration of war with Nureha, a course of action that I thought was a bit sensitive; but I wouldn’t say it makes me skeptical of Shiroe as much as it makes me eagerly anticipate just what the story can ensue towards.
And it’s definitely a extensive route Log Horizon has assembled for itself. The closing moments in this episode re-created the legitimate sense of adventure and friendship that has been a core element of (and that has made me enamored with) this series all throughout. Following a truly MMORPG-tributing and gratifying action sequence involve our current line-up of Log Horizon adventurers and the usual energizing ED sequence, Shiroe informs Ri Gan he is leaving Akihabara and the announcement for the second season wraps the finale up. Something about Shiroe looking more mischievous than usual made me believe it was actually Nureha disguised as him talking to Ri Gan, but if my paranoia isn’t something to worry about, there is a sense of conceptual symmetry here. Admittedly, it is a bit saddening to see Shiroe essentially abandoned most of what he has established in Akihabara these past twenty-five episodes (especially so damn amazing comrades, shout out to Crusty), but what is an adventurer’s life other than one of taking risks and reaching new heights?
So, now in posing the post’s question, how does an anime properly seize a second season? Well, for Log Horizon:
A great introduction season through and through, no news announcements concerning continuation preceding the final episode broadcast, a mislead of sorts at the near end to make you think it’s just another completed series to drop in the recess of your memory bank, and then a full payout in the end with a myriad of moments that will remind you of the show’s best qualities, a clincher of story-writing that tells you things can get even better, and the crowning announcement that things will indeed get better. Damn more than good enough for me.
And to think, it all started with a hamburger that had some flavor.