This Week in Anime
The Politics and Antics in Log Horizon

by Monique Thomas & Nicholas Dupree,

After six long years, Log Horizon is back to turn isekai tropes on his head. Sure, you could go on a magic-fueled power fantasy, but why not try to run an election campaign featuring someone named "Krusty" instead?

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Nick
Well Nicky, I think it's just about time that we talk abo—
COUNTERACTION RISING
YEAH WE ARE READY FOR THE PUNCH LINE
THERE'S NO USE WITH ALL YOUR GIMMICKS
SO CHECK THIS OUT
Nicky
That's right, it's back baby! After several long years we finally get to Log back-in with the strategic third season of this "Trapped-in-an-MMO" anime, Log Horizon!! Boy, have I missed this show.

Though, RIP "DATABASE," you served us well. We also have a new OP this time around. Get ready to push your glasses up menacingly, folks, cuz Let's go! it's showtime!!
It's unfortunate but hey, we got 50-odd episodes of living in the Database, so I guess it's only natural we get used to something...DIFFERENT. Amiright?

...see the joke is that the song is literally called "Different"

Controversial: I like the new OP. It's not quite as hardcore as Database but it's got the same kind of hyped goofy energy I expect from the show.
Anyway, yes, after nearly 6 years and one jail sentence, the harrowing tale of a bunch of nerds getting trapped in an MMO is finally back. And considering how many people I know have gotten sucked into Final Fantasy XIV in the intervening years, it's more timely than ever.
Hi, I'm one of those and being able to relate as a hardcore MMO player now has definitely strengthened my affection for this show.
Around here is where we'd provide a quick summary of the previous seasons of Log Horizon, but I'm gonna level with our dear readers: I didn't have time to rewatch 50 episodes of this show. I'm relying entirely on hazy memories from 2014 and the fan wiki. So no training wheels for you or me. Though thankfully I remember the important things, like how Akatsuki is great:
Yeah, unfortunately time (and licensing issues) forbade me from re-watching the show in its entirety like I wanted to, but at least for a general overview I recommend Rebecca Silverman's primer found here. The show doesn't do a whole lot to recap the many plot threads going on, but even when it's just talking-heads it's still really nice to be able to see some familiar faces. Akatsuki is great as always, but I also gotta give some love to Akiba's favorite idol, Tetora.
Everyone's favorite Looney Tunes Idol is back!
God, she's such a little gremlin. Log Horizon puts up a serious front but I can't help but feel relaxed in how it treats its characters, even if some of them offer nothing to the overall plot at the moment.
Log Horizon's cast aren't exactly deep. Everyone has a pretty simple personality and motivation, but by god are they fun to be around. If nothing else, this series can absolutely capture the energy of a bunch of MMO-playing nerds hanging out and soft RPing in-between raids and snack runs. I know anyone who's played WoW can relate to having that one guy in your guild who never breaks character as a cat-boy.
Look, calling Nyanta a simple cat-boy is an insult. He's far too sophisticated for that. He is a gentlenyan.
He's also like, in his 40s. And married! And now he spends all his time roleplaying as Puss in Boots and SOMEHOW the show makes him seem cool.
And it's those kinds of eccentricities that make the cast just weird enough that they hew closer to the reality of an MMO playerbase than most anime for me. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, after all! While being trapped in a video-game seems fun on the surface, the fact that these are real people outside of the game and not simply characters always lingers in the back of the mind. And currently, they still haven't got a clue to how to return to those lives.
The end of season 2 offered a sort-of possible way for the Adventurers to return to their world, but even that is a far-off possibility contingent on finding a way to go to the moon and beating all the alien raid bosses up there. And as the subtitle of this season would suggest, the Akiba crew currently has other problems that don't include creating a fantasy space program.

For one, Petelguese has escaped from Re:Zero.

Heck, it's implied that some of the adventurers who've gone "Missing" might've even found a way to go back, according to one of these eldritch horrors. But some other problems just hit closer to home.
For now though, outside of making a deal with the digital devil there isn't really a way to get home, so Shiroe and everyone else have to plan for the long term. And the tensions caused by that decision eventually lead to the DESTRUCTION OF THE ROUND TABLE.

Though to be accurate it's more the Civil Restructuring Of The Round Table.
For those who might've forgotten, the Round Table is the temporary government the adventurer's major guilds built at the start of the whole deal. But after a whole year of being stuck and the absence of their representative (Krusty), there's been more and more disagreements over what to do about their current situation of living in Elder Tale.

And some of you may be thinking, "Wow, that sounds like a really dull conflict after 2 seasons of fighting raid bosses and founding Isekai McDonald's. How could the show make that interesting?"

The answer is it doesn't.

Yeah, the round table conflict is overall a pretty dry set-up for perhaps a bigger conflict, but I also think it's necessary given some of the things we've learned since the start of the show. For example, the adventurers didn't consider the fact that what they thought were just in-game NPCs are now living, breathing people who live and die in the world once known to them as a video game. Since then, the adventurers and the People of the Land have been cooperating, but that could be threatened if some neighboring nobles were to intervene, especially if it's one of their own that's siding with them.
It's an interesting conflict in theory! Log Horizon's most unique feature is how it dives into the weird grey area where game mechanics and worldbuilding meet, and some of its best moments focus on this exact idea. But the first three episodes of this season are long conversations of exposition built around characters I don't know or care about, and they climax in an orderly and civil public election. It's one step removed from Fantasy C-Span.

Yeah, the stuff with Eins isn't the most compelling to me. After being dealt a bad hand and unable to deal with taking on many new and unemployed members, he has a pretty good reason to be mad and genuinely believes that his way of bending over to the stronger western nation is best. But the emotional thrust has been the much simpler and more personal conflict of Princess Reyneshia's arranged marriage.

Reyneshia, despite being a Person of the Land and European-Style fantasy princess-turned-mascot and representative of Akiba, has always been one of my favorite characters in the series.
She's fun! And her arc during this story is the most engaging of any of them. Though even that kind of gets solved via a polite and orderly family meeting, which kind of deflates it for me. I know this is a show for turbonerds but give us at least a LITTLE drama y'all.
Still, I can't help but admire her resolve. She's always felt a little torn between her royal duties and her loyalty to her newfound friends and where she's supposed to stand between the adventurers and her own people. Not to mention, she's got a whole saddlebag of what we call "unresolved feelings" for a certain Simpsons character who got yeeted over all the way to the next continent that Akatsuki pretty quickly calls her out on even though they look just like a pot and kettle next to each other.
Look girls you can talk about your crushes later. First we have to film this Get Out The Vote PSA video.

<
I wish this aired a little sooner when it would've been more useful, lmao.
Honestly I'm glad this got delayed. I was wound tight enough during election season; I did not need a goddamn isekai anime also telling me about the importance of democratic participation.
Pictured: Me, blocking out all political comments made in response to this column now.
But really, what sinks this whole story arc for me is that by the end of it the show basically insists that both sides have the best interests of Akiba at heart, and so it doesn't REALLY matter who wins, since both sides are ultimately good people who want to do right by their citizenry. That's a nice political fantasy but it doesn't make for a very compelling conflict in your TV show. The biggest threat in this whole arc is Tetora going Bull Moose.
Tetora trying to spoil the ballot by proving everyone who is best girl. Though my heart goes to Reyneshia on this one. Even Akatsuki agrees.
Note: subliminal campaigning is both illegal and highly ineffective. Thankfully Shiroe's plan of turning on the Fast Travel gates to bring in the Adventurer vote works out well. Leave it to the Villain in Glasses to Air Bud the rules:

The call for reinforcements causes their political opponents to totally back-down (for now) which means we can focus on more important things: Puppets.
Well I mean, it's kind of a weird move to switch subjects in the middle of a TWIA but I won't say no to talking about Thunderbolt Fantasy for a bit!
So the big question that everyone's been asking since season 2 is "Where's Krusty?"

Well for one thing, he's with Kanami's group over on China's server, but also like, how??

And the show chooses to answer by having his guild lieutenants put on a puppet show for the rest of the cast to explain what he's been up to. I don't totally understand why, but I appreciate the big Celestial Being: The Movie energy of it all.
It's a pretty fun way of integrating what's supposed to be the events of an entirely different novel into the picture. Though, I would rather have had three episodes of puppet show than C-Span. We get a lot more of the adventure game-mechanics fantasy that we're used to.
It's not perfect, but it's definitely closer to what I liked about Log Horizon back in the day. Plus it's nice to get another glimpse of Kanami.
note: she's married and has a kid and also super-duper cool, but it's fun to tease Shiroe.
Also we got to see NINJA FROG Keronardo, Leonardo, again!!
He's no Nyanta, but a globetrotting New Yorker who designed his class and gear around looking like TMNT pajamas is a damn good replacement.

Sidenote: a great game to play while watching Log Horizon is to pick out your favorite goofy ass player characters from group shots. Shout out to Little Miss Teapot and Predator Zaku from this season.
Now that you pointed it out, I better see her fighting with these kettle-based knuckle-busters in the future.
But yeah, Krusty is over on the Chinese server dealing with some amnesiac curse, when suddenly the creepy witch who keeps trying to "heal" him gets him involved in a fight with one of Elder Tales' mascots.
Honestly the most unbelievable part of this arc is that "Elias Hackblade" is the name of an NPC and not something a 15-year-old came up with for themselves.
Anyways, Elias Elder Tale starts as a member of Kanami's party but he's deeply troubled by one thing. Just like how I can never finish a full club sandwich despite how hungry I am, Elias is strong but unable to finish off his opponents if they have lower than 25% of their hp. Oh yeah, he's also got some creepy-ass nightmares.

It's kinda both hilarious and sad that his personal crisis is entirely born from the game-logic of "he's an NPC so he can't ever upstage the player characters".
I kind of feel bad for how I don't actually care about Elias. He's not a bad character, and in different circumstances I'd probably love his little arc here. But mostly I'm just cheesed that after 5 episodes of tedious paperwork, we're moving over to this new character while the rest of the cast I already love are stuck with their thumbs up their butts.
Yeah, I think I would've been able to be a little more invested in his character given more time, but the short season doesn't really allow for that. He mostly exists as a contrast to Krusty, whose curse means that he not only has lost some of his memories, but is also unable to restore HP naturally or through items. Just like how I'm cursed to never feel rested no matter how many hours I've slept.
Krusty actually salvages this arc for me. He was a decent foil to Reyneshia and companion to Shiroe previously, but never had a ton of depth to him. But here he gets a whole backstory dropped on him and it instantly makes his whole character feel a lot more weighty.
This backstory was apparently hinted at in season 1, but since he missed the "everyone gets their dramatic IRL Backstory explained with wide-angled shots" train on s2, we get to see a bit of that now, and yeah, it explains a lot, albeit brief.

Also he does some pretty cool stuff, LIKE HIS ABILITY TO SWITCH TO TOP-DOWN VIEW AFTER EVERYONE WAS FORCED INTO FIRST-PERSON.

It's also one of those moments that makes Log Horizon feel special. So much of the MMO and broader isekai trend has escapism baked into its premise, but precious few of them ever explore anything about that. I guess that's because talking about the problems that would make somebody want to escape into a video game world defeats the purpose of said escapism, but it's a really effective idea and I'm interested if the story will follow up on it.
Yeah for sure, and as the adventurers feel more "at-home" in the game-world the distress created by the idea of having to choose between the two worlds becomes more of a contention.

I'm genuinely curious whether some people would give up their whole real-world lives just to stay with their NPC-wife in Elder Tale or if there is a better way to compromise, whether they'll take it.

That was more or less the conflict Season 2 left off on, and I hope it comes around again soon, because that's a really novel idea in the current anime landscape! And you even get some kind of dark stuff, like Krusty willfully giving up memories of his real-life past in order to buff past his curse.
Krusty in particular doesn't seem like he has a lot of affection to his folks back home, but he also mentioned having a little sister, and a cat, that he seemed to care about dearly. He also has trouble remembering details about other important connections like his guildmates or Reyneshia after being cursed, which would be a really big sore-spot for viewers if he also didn't find a loophole in his contract of simply using his head to recall them again.
It's not Log Horizon if a gamer wearing glasses doesn't find loopholes in God's Rulebook!

I swear the finale of this franchise is going to be Shiroe just filing a strongly-worded complaint to The Moon and solving everything.

I mean this was pretty much everyone's reaction to the new Final Fantasy XIV expac, so I'm praying for that crossover event.

Also I'm pretty sure Reyneshia is going to punch Krusty's lights out in zero-gravity just for leaving her alone for so long. Gotta learn how to treat a lady willing to put on a space-helmet for you.
Well with any luck we'll get to see that some day! Because for as much griping as I've done about this season, I'm still thankful to have this series back. It's a quirky little series that's managed to do more than most of the genre that it helped codify, and I'd like for it to stick around.
I mean, strongly-worded letter or no, I'd definitely like to see what this villain-in-glasses is plotting next as long as it involves seeing more of the characters I've really come to love. Even when it's slow, just having them on screen is such a big comfort to me especially after all this time.
Oh I'd also love to see more Akatsuki. Let this tiny ninja nerd live her life, Touno-sensei.
Look, if my ships never become canon due to tax evasion, I don't know what I'll do. Also I'd really like to see more of Frog Guy.
AND MORE PUPPETS
With only 11 episodes this season and no new light novels, I doubt we're really going to be getting any of those things right away though. Until then, a PSA to get up between raid pulls and use the goddamn bathroom, gamers.

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