Dr. Stone: Sid Meier’s Civilization Just Got a Lot More Anime

Dr. Stone is one of those manga that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It became exorbitantly popular (deservedly so) during its initial 2017 debut, even winning itself the 2018 Shougakukan Manga Award under the Shounen category. That same year, I got into the hype months before its anime adaptation was even announced, and it quickly became one of my favorite manga of all time. The anime was also very good for a TV anime, and I—along with many other people—watched it while it aired. However, it aired alongside Kimetsu no Yaiba. And as anyone who saw that nineteenth episode go viral and single-handedly put both the anime and its source material on the mainstream overnight, Dr. Stone—while still running for a perfectly respectable period of time afterwards—practically vanished off the face of the earth as a result. As the contrarian I am, I nonetheless committed to Dr. Stone, and—you know what—it’s still one of my favorite manga of all time. Let’s find out why.

In Dr. Stone, a boy named Taiju is about to confess his love to a cute girl named Yuzuriha. However, right at that moment, a bright light covers the earth, turning all humans to stone. Thousands of years later, thanks to his testosterone-fueled drive for the girl, he manages to break out of the stone shell, awakening in a world that has been reclaimed by nature. There, he sees his classmate, Senku, who promises to use his incredible wealth of knowledge to restart all of human civilization.

Dr. Stone is a science-themed adventure manga, which is a very unusual style for the shounen genre. But hey, the manga makes science fun. There’s a lot of cool and interesting things that happen throughout the story, and it’s all very engaging. The humor is ridiculously on point as well. However, Dr. Stone is a science FICTION manga, and thus, you can’t not have creative liberties taken. As many, MANY critics on the message boards pointed out back when the anime aired, the science isn’t 100% accurate. Sure, maybe some chemical or whatever took a bit faster than what it’s supposed to in order to finish cooking, but for the sake of pacing, would you want five chapters of waiting for a thing to be done brewing? There’s also the fact that Senku is literally reinventing the wheel when it comes to all this civilization stuff, so he won’t need to waste time making the mistakes that were made a million years ago because those people already made said mistakes.

Another criticism I’ve seen ad nauseum was the fact that it doesn’t go for any darker tones when the opportunities were present, and that “Dr. Stone would’ve been better if it was seinen”. Granted, Dr. Stone would be a GREAT seinen manga, but I think it’s perfectly fine as a shounen manga because of how hard it commits to being lighthearted. When presented with one of the potential dark questions regarding if it’s actually better to NOT bring back civilization, lest the world return to its old state of corruption and war, Senku literally says that he wants to bring back civilization because he thinks it’d be fun. Fun, that’s what Dr. Stone is at its core. THINGS DON’T NEED TO BE DARK TO BE GOOD *huff* *huff*…

Anyways, the characters are what makes Dr. Stone come to life. My boy, Senku, is insanely narcissistic and I love him. His cunning, as well as his tendency to count in increments of ten billion, make him one of Jump’s best heroes (or anti-heroes) ever. “BUT HE’S WAY TOO SMART FOR A HIGHSCHOOLER! THAT’S UUUUUUUNREEEEEEEEEEEAAAAALIIIIIIISTTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIC!” you exclaim VERY loudly. I’m not going to get into the endless debate of the limits of suspended disbelief, but if you don’t like what you’ve read about Dr. Stone in this review, then it’s clearly not for you.

But hey, there’s still your fair share of idiots. After all, Taiju maintained consciousness for thousands of years on sheer force of will (“FORCE OF WILL?! ALSO UNREALISTIC!”). He’s always hilariously dumb, and his chemistry with Senku is great. Yuzuriha comes into the mix, but I’ll admit that she’s not too interesting outside of being super cute.

Fortunately, they aren’t the only ones who survive the apocalypse. There’s the super swole Tsukasa, who serves as the first major antagonist, and the charismatic pig-Latin-speaker, Gen. But in addition, there’s a whole tribe of primitive humans (whose existence gets explained). Among the villagers are Chrome, who is literally Taiju, but with a better knack for science. There’s also Best Girl Kohaku, a cute tomboy that you do NOT want to mess with, and the cute Suika, who literally wears a fruit on her head and rolls around in it. Later on is the rich boy Ryusui, whose talent as a navigator, coupled with his all-encompassing desires, make him a refreshing take on the greedy noble trope.

Of course, with Dr. Stone being a shounen manga, I have to put out the usual warning about the ending not being what you might want it to be. I have no idea what the manga’s state was at its end (I wouldn’t be surprised if it got axed), but… I would be lying if I said they didn’t jump the shark, even by Dr. Stone‘s own standards. At the same time, they almost make fun of critics who use the “realism” card, because you’d essentially have to know all the secrets in the cosmos to be able to declare if something is realistic or not. In any case, this manga is more about the journey than the destination. 

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Final Verdict: 9.85/10

The few hiccups in Dr. Stone don’t stop it from being one of my favorite manga of all time (although I’m probably the only human on Earth who gives it this rating). It’s a cute, non-cynical celebration of humankind and its evolution that actually shows some semblance of hope for once. I can’t really recommend Dr. Stone easily because of the kinds of buttons it pushes; you’ll have to decide if this is the kind of thing you’ll like.

Attack on Titan: A Mainstream Series That I… Love?

Preface: If you’re wondering how I already have a review of Attack on Titan the day after it finished, don’t worry; I didn’t pirate it! There are official channels through which to finish this manga right now, at least in the U.S. One is to read the last leg of it on Crunchyroll’s manga tab that they actually updated after the death of Flash even though most people never use it. Alternatively, you can buy the remaining chapters on BookWalker for about 2 USD each. Of course, you’ll have to have read all thirty-two currently published U.S. releases for it to work. But you know what, at least you’d be supporting the actual creator!


There are types of stories that have existed since the dawn of man. Romance, for example, as full of BS as it is, is one of the most enduring story types of all time. Stories like Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan are insanely common; plucky teens thrust into a world of strife against some “mysterious enemy” that the main character “happens” to be “special” enough to save the world from. However, Attack on Titan is probably one of the best variations of this story ever created. And here’s why.

The plot is nothing new. We have the Titans—the “mysterious enemy”—ravaging mankind and driving them into hiding behind some walls (“But what about the possibility of an AERIAL ATTACK?!” Squidward Tentacles exclaims). After the designated first-chapter-death, the “plucky teens” join the designated “cool fighter people” and, well, fight the Titans.

I’m gonna tell you straight. You likely already know what’s going to happen, thankfully minus the dumb romance sideplot. As much as this series excels at foreshadowing and build-up, you don’t need it. If you’ve read stuff like this before, then you can probably make several ballpark guesses on what the low-down of this manga’s world is and at least one guess would probably be correct.

But you know what, strong execution beats lack of originality. The rules of how the different units of the military work are all thought out (even if the Survey Corps are the only ones who matter), the “parkour gear” or whatever it’s called is one of the coolest things I have ever seen, and there’s always something engaging going on in terms of plot progress. Even during a later arc that is notorious for its utter lack of Titan combat, the manga consistently keeps the momentum going.

Most of the time, I’m not a fan of “human” characters. But unlike cardboard boxes such as Rimuru Tempest from TenSura, Isayama actually seems to understand the definition OF a human being in the first place, especially what it’s like to be a teenager who has to live in a world of despair, and to have their perception of their established facts of life turned upside down numerous times. Wow, that was all one sentence…

First off, the three main characters—Eren, Armin, and Mikasa—somehow manage to maintain a relatively platonic relationship throughout the whole series. Two male characters and one female character, all of which are childhood friends, is a perfect love triangle, and any [bad] YA author would’ve done it in a heartbeat and ruined the story forever. Mikasa clearly has some level of “thing”-ness for Eren, but it’s seldom ham-fisted into your face but instead shown visually merely by the scarf that she wears; a gift from him when they first met. The fourth main character is Best Boy Levi, who is raw badassery and intellect rolled into one handsome boy. What’s there to dislike? The supporting cast is also phenomenal. From gambit-happy Erwin Smith, to potato-eating Sasha Blouse, to Actual Best Girl Krista, these kids are surprisingly easy to love.

This manga warrants a reread, because re-experiencing the story by watching the anime from the beginning, after having read past chapter ninety, really shows how organically they have developed over time. I cringed at the first episode, at Eren’s incessant whining, thinking, “Is this really the SAME GUY who I grew emotionally attached to?” THIS is character development at its finest.

“Rough around the edges” is an understatement for the art in this manga. Based on the “rules of art” that have been established over the years, Attack on Titan has “objectively” bad art. It’s not smooth nor crisp, but for me, it somehow “works” (It’s as if art was never meant to be assigned rules to begin with…).

If there is one “rule of art” that it follows, it’s gesture drawing. The many (MANY) tiny strokes in Isayama’s technique helps to convey motion in a spectacular fashion. I didn’t need the anime’s sakuga to feel the force of the parkour gear as our intrepid heroes flew through cities and forests, striking Titans as they went. All this in addition to his great sense of good panelwork makes Attack on Titan a tightly paced read. Not even the dialogue-driven chapters feel like a waste of time.

For the last paragraph, I’ll touch on the one thing that always ends up being divisive for long-running battle shounen series: the final act. Don’t worry; I’ll word it in the least spoilery way possible. Late-ish in Attack on Titan, an epic battle—one of the best in the series—unfolds in spectacular glory. But the aftermath opens up a can of worms that drastically changes the entire tone of the manga. Although it is still a great arc, the biggest problem is that it introduces a metric ton of new characters that I honestly didn’t care about, let alone remember their names in the first place. It also didn’t help that this was the arc where I had caught up on the most recent chapters, and ended up playing the waiting game most often. Since I’m always pressed for time, I can’t reread volumes to make sure I still remember stuff. 

And honestly, like a lot of long battle shounen, the plot gets pretty complicated. There’s even the possibility that it was retconned at some point. But you know what, I still love this manga to death. You gotta give mangakas some benefit of the doubt, since a lot of them are forced to make this stuff up as they go along. No matter how confusing it got, I still loved Attack on Titan all the way through. Isayama knows how to make a story feel engaging regardless of what’s happening. That takes talent.

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Final Verdict: 9.8/10

Attack on Titan is one of my favorite manga of all time. Isayama draws (no pun intended) influence from the very best of Western culture, without using any of the BS, to make a fantastic battle shounen series that miraculously maintains a consistent state of cohesion for a decade-long runtime. I’d recommend it if you want a shounen series that’s light on the fanservice, but I also just recommend it in general. The biggest issue will likely be the art if it doesn’t suit your tastes, but other than that this manga is a masterpiece through and through.

Eighty-Six Volume 4 Review

Last time on Eighty-Six, Shin’s team sets out to fight the Morpho, the giant Legion that fired the railgun at the Federacy, and is controlled by the mind of one of Shin’s relatives, Kiriya Nouzen. Well, he beats it, to say the least (and by himself, of course). And just like it was foreshadowed in volume 1, Lena shows up and they meet IRL! Now we can FINALLY know what happens next!

So, I haven’t been enjoying the past two volumes of Eighty-Six. A lot of it felt like torture porn as Shin and the others get exploited, and have to fight to save people who treat them like crap, even in the Federacy. There were also a lot of boring military people who got all introduced at once and had really boring personalities. 

But now… hoo boy, Lena is back, making the power couple that carried Eighty-Six’s first volume so good! I know I normally don’t like romance, but these two established themselves as one of the most organic and interesting relationships out there, and it once again shows. They even had some great interactions together (even if it resulted in some misplaced comedy scenes).

Since this is the first volume with Lena in a while, this it’s going to be about her. As established, she transferred to the multicultural Federacy from the whi- I mean- Alba Supremacist Republic. The racist practices of the Republic are well known to the Federacy by now, and because of this, Lena gets crapped on from the powers that be. Fortunately, Shin exists as a cushion for her guilt complex. It’s actually something that I felt when I was a kid, when I first learned about Martin Luther King. I wanted the African-American kids in my class to bully me, so I could be punished for something that I didn’t even do, just because people from a generation ago did it.

But Lena doesn’t have much time to get used to her situation, for today’s mission actually starts pretty darn early (much sooner than taking a whole volume and a half in the previous arc). This mission involves going into what’s left of the Republic that got overtaken by the Legion and, well, taking it back. This means going back to Nazi-Germany-Meets-Overly-Patriotic-White-Supremacist-America once more.

And as you can expect, the only thing waiting for Shin, besides some angry Legion, is racism. While the racism came off as torture porn last time, this time we get some interesting and differing perspectives from Lena and Shin. The irony here is that Lena, a whi- I mean- Alba person is much more offended than the actual victims. It’s almost implying that certain people shouldn’t respond to certain other people who are just being jerks, or trolls.

Overall, the only problem I had was kind of telling where people were in 3D space. A lot of times, during the actual operation, the story would flip perspectives rapidly, and it confused me a lot. It also was pretty inconsistent with whether or not it wanted to mark transitional points with a simple page break, or an actual symbol. Maybe if they- say- used the symbol to transition between P.O.V.s in particular, I would’ve understood what was going on a lot better. 

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Verdict: 8.9/10

Finally, Eighty-Six is back with a vengeance! My interest in the story is reinvigorated, especially with the new development at the end, and now I can’t wait for the next volume. Here’s hoping that it stays strong all the way through!

Log Horizon Volumes 5 and 6 Review

Last time on Log Horizon, Marielle and Co. get attacked by fishmen. But Naogutsu’s group also has some goblins to fight! In fact, there’s a lot of goblins. Oh, and these super important Knights of Izumo, who are supposed to protect everyone, decide to just disappear. According to Krusty, this many goblins can only mean that the Return of the Goblin King event has begun. Naogutsu and Marielle’s groups manage to meet up,but they notice a goblin unit making its way to the helpless village of Choushi. Shiroe also spills the beans on the memory loss thing, and Krusty confirms it, as it’s happened to him. Meanwhile, the kids manage to hold off some of the goblins attacking Choushi. While the politics heat up, Princess Raynesia breaks the ice by just offering to recruit people from Akiba herself. When they arrive, Akatsuki changes her into “proper” (a.k.a. fanservice-y) clothes. She and Shiroe give an epic speech, and a bunch of people join to fight back. Also, the twins arrive at Choushi and there is no goblin issue whatsoever, mainly because Marielle’s group already beat them to the punch. The group of 1,200 players splits into units and agrees to meet up at the Midrount Equestrian Gardens. The thumb-twiddlers are at odds with what Raynesia did, but Michitaka smooths them over (I think? I can’t understand any of this political crap…). While Shiroe is organizing stuff, a bunch of Fishmen appear in Choushi. They win, but they lose Rudy, who was a Person of the Earth, and can’t be revived… But Shiroe uses the power of Buddhism and his super-crafting skills to bring him back for long enough to have him sign a contract for him to join Log Horizon, making him an Adventurer who can’t die. Meanwhile, Raynesia and Krusty’s group are attacked by goblins and Dire Wolves, but they’re dealt with smoothly. In the end, the Goblin King was a scrub and never actually showed himself.

I’m sorry, but volume 5 was about as bad as I expected. The whole volume revolved around this Libra Festival thing, as well as the cliche love triangle between Minori and Akatsuki. There was no way for me to write a whole post about that volume alone, so that’s why I’m condensing these two volumes into one post.

The only interesting thing that occurs is what happens in the interlude at the end of the volume. The world of Log Horizon gets a lot bigger and scarier in one fell swoop, and it made me mildly interested in the story for the first time since volume 1. 

The layer cake of conflicts gets even thicker in volume 6. For the first time in the series, a murderer attacks Akiba in the dead of night, and somehow, no alerts go off. Also, the Goblin King returns, and since they didn’t kill him the first time, this raid’s gonna be a lot tougher. But as far as the former conflict is concerned… well, the guy’s only been targeting adventurers, who get revived… Yeah, as established ages ago, Log Horizon is not meant to be an emotional rollercoaster. In fact, every time something serious happens, it’s almost immediately followed up with something goofy. Chapter 1 of this volume ends on such an ominous note, and the first thing that happens next chapter is Henrietta trying to put Raynesia into a skimpy nurse’s outfit. 

If you couldn’t tell from volume 6 being titled Lost Child of the Dawn, this one’s all about Akatsuki. She deals with an existential crisis because she’s an Assassin. She devotes herself to protecting Shiroe (because she wuvs him or something arbitrary like that), but realizes that she can’t cut it. Her skills are great for stealth-killing single targets, but, naturally, that doesn’t help in big groups or head-on fights. Get ready to be constantly reminded that Akatsuki’s short, and that she’s sad, and weak! 

In fact, that’s been a running theme in Log Horizon’s writing: redundancy. For some reason, the author is telling you rudimentary aspects of the series over and over again. They repeatedly tell you that Adventurers are immortal, People of the Earth are not, Henrietta is a lolicon, and even that Raynesia is a woman. In addition to the boring characters, this is the biggest reason for my declining joy in Log Horizon. I assume that the anime would naturally be better because of the lack of writing, but I’m not so sure anymore, given that I’m not the biggest fan of TV anime.

Oh, and for the record, the climax of the volume has a REALLY abrupt ending. I read the last few pages like eight times because I legitimately couldn’t understand what was occurring. Maybe I was just sick of Log Horizon at this point…

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Verdict (Volume 5): 5.5/10

Verdict (Volume 6): 6.9/10

After the boring bonanza of volume 5, volume 6 at least shows some semblance of… er… being interesting? I’m at my wits end with this franchise. I tend to side with critics more often than not, but this is one time when I do not. What do you like about Log Horizon? Seriously, I desperately want to know. I’ve already acknowledged that I like the idea of the world, and Shiroe being a clever-leader-type guy as positives. But that’s not enough. I’ll try to give future volumes a shot, but I’d still love some input.

Log Horizon Volume 4 Review

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.

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Verdict: 7/10

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.

Log Horizon Volume 3 Review

Last time on Log Horizon, the group returned to Akiba with Serera and Nyanta (while learning how to cook real food). But meanwhile, some old friends of Shiroe’s are in a bind: the twin newbs, Minori and Touya. They are kind of being held hostage by the guild, Hamelin, and forced to work their butts off. Shiroe responds by forming his own guild, the titular Log Horizon… and they raise money by selling food. Some clever negotiations help the business boom. But the real battle is when Shiroe attends a meeting with all the other guild leaders, and proposes that they form a governing body. Shiroe sways (i.e. blackmails) them by announcing that he purchased the guild center. Meanwhile, the operation to free the twins commences at the same time. While that goes down incredibly smoothly (as you’d expect), Shiroe brings up the secret to Snack Shop Crescent Moon’s success, as well as the revelation that anything can be invented by hand, such as steam engines and radios. He also proposes human rights laws for both players and People of the Earth. With this, his proposal for the new government- the Round Table Council- is approved with unanimous decision.

This volume tackles what I think is one of the hardest things to do well in the fantasy genre: in-universe politics. Most “plebian” folks will find politics, at first glance, to be absolute nonsense and rubbish, and writers can use that to justify wasting a lot of time in a fantasy narrative. There are times when fantasy politics can be good, like in One Piece‘s Reverie Arc, but most of the time, it’s just boring banter between unmemorable characters who will never appear again.

But hey, Log Horizon did have a great political meeting in the last volume. Shiroe was real clever buying out the guild center in order to sway the meeting, and it utilized an established mechanic of Log Horizon to boot.

Unfortunately, the politics in this volume are less than stellar. Basically, as a result of Akiba establishing a governing body, the Round Table, right next to the territory of Eastal, the League of Free Cities, Shiroe and others are invited (read as: demanded) to come to the Ancient Court of Eternal Ice to discuss their policies going forward. This was some seriously boring crap, and I was not engaged with anything happening at all.

But hey, there’s some action in here somewhere. While the politics are happening, Minori and Touya go with Noagutsu and some other people to a forest dungeon to train. Here, you see just how newbish they are in combat, and how long of a road they must traverse to not be baggage protagonists.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too engaged by this stuff either. I get that the psychology of fighting with your physical bodies is much more intense than a traditional JRPG; that much was demonstrated in volume 1. But, in all honesty, the fear factor became a non-issue rather quickly, once Shiroe fought those PK’ers. So it stands to reason that it’ll be the same case for these kids, once the author decides to sprinkle on that nakama power. But to be fair, that’s kind of realistic with JRPGs in general, at least for me. A lot of times, I think I understand the rules, but then I notice some nuance, and I think, “Wow, I could’ve been doing this really helpful thing since the beginning of the game? Man, I’m an idiot!” But to be unfair, it just makes watching these kids struggle feel like watching a YouTuber’s blind playthrough of a game that you know really well.

As much as it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this volume, it still has some merits. The story goes from 0 to 100 towards the end, when this guy tells Shiroe the entire backstory of Elder Tales‘ world. This leads to a big revelation that’s, to be honest, kind of expected for Log Horizon, but no less important.

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Verdict: 7.15/10

Is there something wrong with me? I was so excited to finally get to read Log Horizon, and so far, I’m on a very gradual road towards ultimately disliking it. From what I had heard, it seemed like an intellectual and well-built isekai, which it is for the most part. But the characters are still as bland, and exposition is as heavy, as any isekai. Also, the fact that all the events in this volume happen in conjunction with a beach fanservice subplot really bothered me. I did not think Log Horizon would do something like this (even if the scene does segue into plot relevant content in the next volume). I know that I’m like a twelve-year-old inside, but I have been known to love some very non-mainstream stuff. Well, there’s still plenty of volumes left to convince me otherwise!

Log Horizon Volume 2 Review

Last time on Log Horizon, Shiroe checked out the new expansion pack of the long-lasting MMO, Elder Tales, and woke up- along with a slew of other people- physically trapped inside the game world. He meets up with his Naotsugu to see what’s up, and we get a long exposition dump on how the game works. After some extensive information gathering, Shiroe and Naotsugu test their mettle in an easy dungeon. Because of the new circumstances, battles are going to be much more high-maintenance than before. Later, they meet up with Shiroe’s friend, Akatsuki, who drinks a potion to revert back into a girl. Even more later, while practice-fighting, they end up in a real fight with PKers. Fortunately, thanks to their teamwork and experience, the jerks go down easily. Afterwards, they end up on a big guild expedition to the city of Susukino, to save a friend of a friend. When they arrive, they manage to rescue her no problem, thanks to some teamwork and an old cat guy.

This volume introduces a number of new aspects to Log Horizon‘s cast and setting. In the case of the setting, they go into a whole schpiel about the NPCs, called the People of the Earth in-game. They’re pretty much your normal isekai villagers, but I wanted to bring this point up as a comparison to Infinite Dendrogram

So far, the NPCs in Log Horizon- despite being called perfectly human- don’t come off as such compared to Dendro‘s, even though they are the same conceptually. This is likely because the narrator of Log Horizon just tells you they are, instead of Dendro, which is setup so that both the reader and Ray are meant to be bamboozled by Liliana’s appearance, mistaking an NPC for a fellow player, and selling the point organically. But hey, Log Horizon also brings up Ancients, who are NPCs that have a bit more chutzpah to them. Hopefully the author will introduce an interesting character from that pool of ideas.

The volume also introduces the issue of the guilds. Due to the difference in strength that various players have, higher-level players are beginning to monopolize the market. For example, a powerful guild called Hamelin employs two of Shiroe’s friends, twin siblings named Minori and Touya. They, along with many other newbs, are being worked to the bone at guilds like Hamelin, and since they’re newbs, they can’t do anything about it.

Unfortunately, these twins aren’t too interesting. They have pretty typical “baggage-type-character” personalities. The annoying thing is that they had an opportunity to go to Shiroe early on, but they refused because of pride or some BS. But when Shiroe reaches out to them anyway, they are astonished at what a good guy he is, painting him as more like Kirito than what I would prefer.

But hey, at least Log Horizon is really starting to get into the nitty gritty of the actual consequences of being trapped in a game world. In SAO, it was clearly a power fantasy, with no extra thought put into how various people would behave from a psychological standpoint. But Log Horizon is definitely the most mature of the MMO-based light novels that I’ve seen.

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Verdict: 7.5/10

Log Horizon is starting to shape up. But with the uninspired cast of characters and heavy exposition, it still has too many similarities to SAO for me to understand why it’s so critically acclaimed. The next volume seems to be the start of a two-parter, so maybe that’s when it’ll take the kid gloves off.

Log Horizon Volume 1 Review

In my first ever post, I called Infinite Dendrogram the best MMO-based light novel series. I knew I was making a wild claim, for I was aware that Log Horizon is generally recognized as such. Now that Yen Press has released it digitally, I can see for myself if it really is the best SAO wannabe.

Log Horizon is what you’d expect: a bunch of gamers log into the MMORPG Elder Tales to unlock its latest expansion pack. What happens instead is that they all get trapped in a fantasy world that just so happens to look and operate just like the game. Hooray!

So far, Log Horizon literally is the “smarter SAO”. Immediately, there is so much more thought put into the world of Elder Tales and its mechanics than most of its ilk. While it does result in this volume being mostly exposition dump, there are a couple of notable things that makes this world different from the others of its ilk. First of all, Elder Tales isn’t set in a stock fantasy world, but a post-apocalyptic Earth (basically, it’s just a better Fallout ‘76). There is also the mechanic of people being able to buy land, which in the isekai version of the game, includes entire dungeons and even towns. This could lead to some interesting scenarios later.

There is also the fact that fear comes into play as well. At the start of SAO, Kirito basically has no problem mowing down enemies, even though he’s effectively trapped in a death chamber where one small misstep renders his life forfeit. Heck, characters don’t even die when they die in-game, and yet we see our level 90 main protagonists wetting themselves in front of weak mooks.

Sadly, the battle system is pretty rudimentary. If you’ve played any JRPG, you know how things work in terms of Elder Tales’ combat system. But unlike SAO, where everyone’s fighting style is more-or-less exactly the same, Log Horizon actually has classes. This means that each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, and they actually have to rely on basic things like teamwork in order to come out on top.

So who are these characters anyway? Our main group is a classic love triangle by the name of Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Akatsuki. To be perfectly frank, the characters are the least exciting aspect of Log Horizon so far, with Shiroe being a generic intelligent and collected guy, Naotsugu being the dumb perv, and Akatsuki being the loli. There’s also Marielle, who is the usual busty woman that hugs other characters and presses said bust against their faces. But you know what, DanMachi didn’t have me hooked on its characters in volume 1, but that definitely changed for me later on. It’s likely to be the same case in Log Horizon.

The art is, sadly, not too exciting. While the cover art has a unique style, the inside illustrations are pretty lackluster by light novel standards. Also, the digital edition can have formatting issues in some cases. For example, the nook version scales down the size of any double-page spreads, and that happens to include the very informative character profiles.

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Verdict: 7.75/10

This volume of Log Horizon isn’t as “Holy crap!” as something like, say, Eighty-Six. But it does what’s most important, and that’s to create potential for it to be something truly great. I will definitely be reading more volumes in the very near future. So far, it looks like Log Horizon is a great read for any modern isekai fan.