by Rebecca Silverman,

Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade

GN 1

Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade GN 1
West Wind Brigade Guild Master Soujiro was hanging out with some of his guildmates in the their hall, waiting for the new expansion of their MMORPG Elder Tales to install when it all went wrong. Waking up outside of town, Soujiro quickly realizes that the game is no longer something to play – somehow the new expansion has pulled him into its world. While everyone else is freaking out, Soujiro finds that he's actually really excited to be living the game...even as it slowly dawns on him that there might be more to it than just having fun.

The original Log Horizon, be it anime, novel, or manga, has a lot of characters floating around while only focusing on a select group. Despite that, it offers a pretty decent cross-section of the people trapped in the world of Elder Tales, an MMORPG that abruptly became more than it seemed. So it wasn't precisely screaming out for a spin-off series, much less one about the so-called “harem guild” comprised of one male guild master and lots of (apparently) girl players. Despite that, West Wind Brigade is an interesting new take on the early days of living in the database, much better than you might expect it to be, and definitely offering a different vision of how people reacted to being trapped.

As the title suggests, the main protagonists here are all members of Soujiro's West Wind Brigade, a combat guild led by a former member of the Debauchery Tea Party. The very fact that the guild is combat-focused plays a major role in the way the story plays out: where Shiroe is more into strategy and survival tactics, Soujiro's people are playing this game to kill monsters in a way they can't in real life. Whether they see this as stress release or just a chance to be “strong,” it's clear that they have a totally different approach to the game, and that almost immediately influences the way they react. These aren't players who wait around to react – they jump right in, and while Nazuna and Isami, the two women who are with Soujiro at the start of the book, do freak out at first, they also snap out of it fairly quickly. In fact, another guild member has followed a couple of new players out of the safe confines of Akiba, quickly – and correctly – assuming that this new world won't be safe for them. When you compare this to how most others around them are wallowing in fear, it's pretty impressive. What really shows that this is a play-style difference, however, is the quick introduction of three other combat guilds and their masters, including Crusty of D.D.D. Readers (or viewers) of the original Log Horizon will recognize him as an important figure later in the main story, so seeing him as a competent and motivated leader this early on helps us to understand how he becomes so central to Shiroe's plans further along. Also the fact that these other combat guilds have mobilized to check things out indicates that Soujiro and his group aren't unique in their adjustment – it really is likely something to do with how they've played the game.

Most interesting here, however, is Soujiro himself. The main story paints him as some kind of ladykiller, always surrounded by attractive women to the point where they make up most of his guild. When we actually meet him, though, he's simply a nice guy who prides himself on looking out for others. While we could see this as casting him as the typical milquetoast harem protagonist (and he is pretty clueless when the girls fawn over him), it seems more likely that he's just a lot younger than we've been assuming. His first reaction to being trapped in the game world is glee, not fear, and it's worth thinking about that the only other character we've seen have a similar reaction is Touya, who is revealed to be restricted to a wheelchair in the “real” world. Elder Tales gives him back the freedom he lost, and so we have to wonder if somehow it is doing the same thing for Soujiro. It could also be that Soujiro's real-world life is particularly unpleasant for some reason, and that now that he's living in the game, that no longer needs to be his reality. This would make him an interesting foil to characters like Isuzu in the main story or Isami in this version, who comments that she hoped to be more useful in Elder Tales than she was in her previous life.

This volume is much faster in bringing in the aspect of the People of the Land than the main series, with good results. The West Wind Brigade had hired an NPC maid to take care of their guild hall, and now with the change in circumstances, the woman suddenly has a face and a name. Sara, as they discover she's called, is also given some point of view narration, and we discover that the Adventurers appeared unreal to her previously. She's as startled as they are that things have changed, but pleased that they're treating her like a person...while other Adventurers take a much darker view of things, having figured out that rape won't trigger the game's guards.

While there is a lot of retread in the subject matter covered, Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade's first volume is still a good read for series fans. It gives us a different angle on the Catastrophe and more views of how people reacted. Koyuki's art is similar enough to other iterations that the story looks familiar and while the story moves fairly quickly, it doesn't feel too rushed. If you're curious about going into more depth in the world of Log Horizon, or you just like Soujiro as a character, this manga is worth giving a look.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B

+ New perspective on the story, makes Soujiro more than just the “harem guy” character. Sara as a point of view character is interesting.
A lot of retreading of old ground, may be too haremy for some readers. Occasionally hard to decipher the art.

Original creator: Mamare Touno
Original Character Design: Kazuhiro Hara
Art: Koyuki

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Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade (manga)

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Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade (GN 1)

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