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.
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.