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Log Horizon 2
Episode 14

by Nick Creamer,

Absolutely stellar episode of Log Horizon this week, with momentum and direction far outstripping the show's usual fare. The episode first jumped over to Nureha's city in order to check in with a couple of the old Debauchery Tea Party regulars, before dipping into a story-within-a-story of Kanami's adventures on the Chinese server. Like many of Log Horizon's best episodes, this week was almost entirely self-contained, offering an engaging introduction to the woman who inspired Shiroe.

Kanami's journey across the Chinese wastes was set up as a very direct parody of the classic Journey to the West, the Chinese epic that's inspired countless parodies and retellings (including many works familiar to most anime fans, like Dragon Ball). Kanami, the old leader of the Debauchery Tea Party, took the role of the hot-headed Monkey, and proved herself extremely worthy of the part. Her companions included the American assassin Leonardo, maid-cleric Coppelia, “progenitor” Erius Hackblade, and the narrator KR, who played the part of the horse (he even summons a dragon at the end, a nod towards the original horse's true dragon nature). Cute details like Kanami sitting on her cloud with extended pole for the ad break helped tie the whole parody together, but this story wasn't just a running joke - the Journey to the West frame ended up being a perfect way to both roughly establish the personalities of these characters and allow Log Horizon to tell an engaging side story, all while keeping the momentum moving towards the ultimate reunion with Shiroe.

The actual plot of this side story was focused on Kanami being sidetracked in her journey towards Japan, as strange demihuman movements and an inexplicable “plague” threaten the People of the Land. This frame allowed for plenty of nice character moments between the new cast, as well as the introduction of a number of new worldbuilding details. The consequences of the “plague demons” seem uncertain so far, but it was interesting to see Erius, the parallel of Yamato's absent Izumi Knights, actually working in a party of Adventurers. Worldbuilding and character work came together gracefully in the form of Coppelia, whose identity as a Chinese farming bot worked as a cute joke while both explaining her mannerisms and raising even more questions about identity and personhood in post-Apocalypse Elder Tale. And those questions were given a slightly more personal tenor in Leonardo's mini-arc, as his initial apathy towards the plight of “NPCs” ran into his sense of duty and clear feelings for Coppelia.

And even beyond all these great character bits and understated worldbuilding, this episode still found time for some of the most well-directed fight scenes of the show so far. The animation of the final battle here was still pretty limited, but the direction and visual design gave a great sense of energy to the fight regardless. The way the show articulated Leonardo's opponent using a kind of damage-swap ability and the dramatic pans across the fight of Kanami, Erius, and Coppelia were both a clear step above Log Horizon's usual visuals.

Overall, this episode was almost shocking in how much it packed in and how well it was executed. I don't expect this from Log Horizon! The underlying structure provided by the Journey to the West riff, the gracefully established characters and plot-relevant worldbuilding, the solid visual execution - Log Horizon can sometimes do all of these things, but not consistently, and not all at the same time. I doubt the show will maintain this level of execution moving into the second half, but I'm still very ready to see Nureha, Kanami, and Shiroe finally come together. Sometimes this show is a treat.

Rating: A

Log Horizon 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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