Last time on Log Horizon, a whole slew of people enjoyed their own beach filler episode. Meanwhile, Shiroe actually does something important and heads to the Ancient Court of Eternal Ice, a castle where the important people of Eastal, the League of Free Cities, meet to discuss political bullcrap. But first, ballroom dancing, and assorted conspiring! During all that, the twins do some combat training in the dungeon known as Forest Ragranda. While they barely manage to survive against some skeletons, Shiroe and his buddies end up… having to attend various social gatherings (disgusting!)! One night, while Akatsuki is having an existential crisis over being a loli, some Li Gan dude shows up to discuss matters with her and Shiroe. This guy is some kind of powerful Sage who knows about the different classes of magic, including some seriously OP classes that can change the entire world in a single use. The Catastrophe that caused the players to be stuck in this world is world-class magic, a World Fraction, and this is the third time it’s been used. The first one involved these alv princesses from long ago who attacked mankind as revenge for their people getting wrecked, but they died too. This caused the demihumans to pop into existence, and take the world by storm. Even after creating the first Ancients, humans have been driven into a corner. Right at the end of their rope, the Second World Fraction occurred, but there wasn’t enough material left to actually know what happened. But after that, the third one occurred… and here we are. Based on the time scaling, Shiroe realizes that the second World Fraction was at the time of the open beta for Elder Tales (and also, that dying can apparently cause people to lose some of their memories). Back in the forest, the kids discuss the natures of their abilities, and- poof!- finally understand the basics of playing a JRPG! And it shows too; for they have a kick-ass expedition the next day. Oh, and the people at the beach get attacked by fishmen. That’s what you get for having a fanservice-y filler episode!
In this volume, the fishmen quickly end up becoming a less vexing threat than anticipated, mainly because they’re accompanied by a massive army of goblins. This is an in-game event called The Return of the Goblin King. Basically, this volume is about taking out this threat.
But it’s not so easy, thanks to politics. The League of Eastal has no choice but to hire the people from Akiba to fight back the goblins, but it gets complicated for some reason. It’s something about “them just exploiting the Adventurers” or something. Based on this, it seems that Log Horizon is no exception when it comes to fantasy politics that waste time more than build the world of the story.
There’s good news and bad news with this. The good news is that we get more character development regarding that Raynesia girl and Krusty (whom I didn’t mention in the recap because I figured that she’d be written out of the series after this arc). The bad news is that it’s boring. Raynesia is your typical “sheltered girl who can’t do anything, but then she meets ‘the one’ and he shows her ‘a whole new world in shining shimmering splendor’ and she comes out of her shell”. It’s cool if you like romance, but it’s not even as remotely interesting as the one player/tian relationship in Infinite Dendrogram, because those people are actual A.I., as opposed to the People of the Earth, who are humans.
At the very least, the twins and their group are now more than capable of defending themselves. The goblin battles end up going way to smoothly in this volume. I get that it’s still early, but even DanMachi had more serious situations going by the fourth volume. Normally, I don’t care if there is low tension, but here it felt very boring to read through for whatever reason.
One issue I’ve been having is that Log Horizon doesn’t seem to be very good with giving its characters well-defined movepools. Sometimes, it feels like these characters have moves that they didn’t even have before. The writing is still wrought with exposition, and it’s getting to the point where it’s describing moves that have already been established, as if we were being shown it for the first time.
Back to the low tension topic, the biggest issue with the volume is at the end. Something occurs that doesn’t just ruin the tension of the arc, but ruins any sense of tension for the entire remainder of Log Horizon. As established previously, crafting-based classes can use real-world experience to make something that isn’t originally programmed to exist in Elder Tales. This includes steam-powered boats, and food that actually has taste. Minor spoiler: Shiroe makes something that completely rewrites the established rules of the world, which makes him eleventy times more Kirito-ish than before, and he was already leaning far toward that extreme at this point. Sure, it’s still “technically” following an established rule, but that rule now seems to serve toward justifying any number of Deus ex Machinas that could occur moving forward. Plus, it undermines the worldbuilding that served as Log Horizon’s greatest source of appeal.
Holy crap, these scores have been degrading over time. It’s now almost as low as my final score for Overlord… which I recently dropped. Things are not looking good on the horizon (no pun intended). Let’s see, the next volume’s called… Sunday in Akiba? Oh… that sounds like filler. Eff me.