「ロカの遭遇戦」 (Roka no Souguu-sen)
“The Battle of Loka”
It’s confirmed – this is not a death game. The combat is damn good though, and any feeling that was lacking in the premiere came through better this episode.
Fighting Like a [Good] MMO
One of my favorite things about fantasy action – and about good MMORPGs in particular – is the strategic elements that can arise. When it’s a one-on-one fight (regardless of genre), it’s largely a tactical affair – there are certainly strategies that can be employed, but a single strike can turn the battle. The more combatants there are in the fight, though – and the variety in their abilities, positioning, skill levels, and all the small tactical movements they make – make for a richer and more varied experience. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of large-scale conflicts with loads of characters – I know, you’re all surprised – and Log Horizon is already showing us some of the same.
This episode we learned for sure that this is not a killing game, but fortunately the combat hasn’t slacked off for it. Part of this is probably because the characters can never quite be sure – personally I wouldn’t go running around buck-naked and chain-dying to low-level mobs, for fear of dying right as the cathedral stops resurrecting people. Perhaps that’s why Akatsuki and Shiroe showed reservations about killing other players, and Naotsugu was so angry that players were turning to PKing for, basically, the lulz. It’s a strange situation, where characters who know their opponents will (probably) be resurrected have more qualms about killing than many characters in other stories do when they’ll stay dead, but it speaks to their origins as gamers rather than soldiers or true adventurers. It also speaks to their kindness.
I got a bit distracted there. As for the combat itself, I liked the strategy that Shiroe and the others employed, because it used elements the characters were known to have – or it was reasonable to expect they had, because an Enchanter having crowd control and debuffs and a Guardian (tank) having a forced taunt are not unusual among MMOs – along with the situation they found themselves in to triumph over a numerically superior force. There were no ass pulls, basically. Especially well done was the conservation of detail, and how it all made sense after the fact but was constructed so as to make us unsure as the fight unfolded. The best example of that is how Akatsuki disappeared for most of the battle, only for it to be revealed that she snuck away and eliminated the finger-wigglers lurking in the woods. This could have even been a bit of an ass pull itself, if it weren’t for that opening spell that couldn’t have come from any of the enemies who revealed themselves. Mind you, the PKers were stupid to leave their fragile casters in the woods when they could have brought one out and left a meleer hidden with the other, but so be it, people aren’t always strategic geniuses. It cost them this time, and I enjoyed watching Shiroe & co’s victory unfold.
An Excellent Team
Speaking of their fight in the forest, these three are already showing themselves to be an excellent team. This is largely a function of their personalities, and having picked classes that fit them well. The main element is Naotsugu and Akatsuki’s trust in Shiroe, because all major decisions and strategies flow through him, and he shoulders this responsibility well; that, by the way, is the second element, because if it weren’t for Shiroe’s selflessness and his duty-bound – if somewhat moody – nature, they wouldn’t be able to function nearly so well so quickly. The other biggest reason is that they picked classes that suit them well – Naotsugu is big and loud, but kind-hearted; Akatsuki is soft-spoken and swift, and has the deference of a ninja; and Shiroe is always looking out for his friends like a true support. I have to say, though – it’s a good thing they found Akatsuki, because otherwise these two guys would have been hard up for some DPS. A pure tank and a hard support? They would never die, but they’d take forever to kill anything!
Even better than this was what Akatsuki and Naotsugu did in the Crescent Moon Alliance guildhall. While Shiroe, having already figured out the best course of action, was vacillating over whether they had a right to do what he knew they should, they quietly gave him the support he needed to do what was right for them. Not only do they fight well together, those two know what Shiroe is thinking without him having to say anything, just like Akatsuki did back in the forest. It warms my heart to see a team like this.
A Listless Life
What’s the point of life? I don’t mean to get too heavy on you, but there’s actually some parallels between the players’ dilemma and the lives all of us lead. It’s easy for them to earn basic food, shelter, and protection while they sleep – just as it is for most of us to get the necessities – but what’s the point of it all? I’m talking about something beyond keeping themselves entertained, though that’s important for some people if they’re going to turn to PKing when they get bored. No, what Shiroe and the others need is something to work towards, something to make their new reality into a game once again – just as each one of us needs the same, even if our own lives are more serious since we don’t get free resurrections at need. Just because it’s serious doesn’t mean it’s not a game.
I guess what I liked here – aside from the excuse to go off on a philosophical bent – was that the emotion some viewers found lacking in the first episode came out better here. It’s a worry less about death – that worry was quickly removed, though I do agree that it was somewhat lacking before previously – but in how to live and what it’s like to kill. Log Horizon remains a fairly lighthearted affair – or rather, it’s an adventure rather than a drama – but the feelings are coming across better. Not of despair, but anxiety and depression; emotions far more similar to those we deal with in our real lives than the unbridled terror of the death game.
Off On An Adventure With Blushing Akatsuki
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m loving this show. Understand that I’m not trying to be objective in this; I’ve admitted to not caring about that before, and I’m not about to start playing the uptight critic now. I love fantasy adventures! Of every genre I’ve ever read, watched, or listened to, this is my favorite, and I can say that without hesitation because fantasy adventures are what I write. If I seem overly excited to you, please bear with me. I hope it continues for the show’s entire run.
This is why I’m so happy that they’re off on an adventure to save their stranded ally. Related side note: I wasn’t sure for a while why Shiroe thought they were the best people for the job, but I like how it was eventually revealed that it was because he and Naotsugu had Griffon whistles, meaning they could get there faster and fly right over many of the obstacles. This highlights a tendency this series has already shown multiple times – last episode in how Shiroe tripped on flat ground long before it was explained why, and this episode with Akatsuki’s mid-battle disappearance and this – of not explaining itself until it is natural to do so. I like this! Many authors – myself included – have a tendency to want to explain things immediately, for fear that the reader will get confused and annoyed and put the book down–or more correctly, get disgusted and think we’re bad writers. Fiction authors are an insecure lot. Touno-sensei, though, has repeatedly shown that he will explain what’s going on in time, when it’s important and natural to do so. I respect that a lot.
More importantly, blushing Akatsuki! I’m a romantic, but I prefer romances like this that build slowly while there are other things going on, and a dose of Akatsuki and/or Shiroe blushing once or twice an episode does my heart good. They’re so adorable!
Looking Ahead – The
Mines of Moria Depths of Palm
Next time it looks like we’ll see more of their adventure, as well as some delving into Shiroe and Naotsugu’s past with their old not-guild, the Debauchery Tea Party. By the way, am I the only one that feels like “Debauchery Tea Party” isn’t a name people should be looking back on fondly? It does fit the normal (i.e. terrible) naming sense that most MMORPG guilds / groups ascribe to, if a bit more creative. I’m waiting for the Brothers of Blood or another guild like that to pop up. I’ll laugh my ass off!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Strategic combat & excellent teamwork gave me the warm fuzzies, while their anxieties drew me in. Off on an adventure we go! #loghorizon 02
- It’s a nice touch that they need to practice their skills, but holy heck, Akatsuki is good. She may be good enough as is.
- Speaking of emotions, I liked how Marie was still all over Naotsugu, but I didn’t believe it for a second. This time it was even clearer that she was trying to hide her worries by acting all genki, and that she was not alone.
- The combat dynamic between the protagonists and the PKers was interesting for another reason; it showed none of the crowd control “balance” of recent MMOs. Putting that healer to sleep for so long felt like a throwback to late-90’s / early-2000’s MMOs, not the recent ones that always make CC against players shorter (or hard to stick at all) because being CC’d forever makes paying customers rage. I wonder if that’s how Elder Tales always was, or if the rules changed when they all got sucked into the game? Personally, I’m going with the former.
- Akatsuki kneeing Naotsugu in the face will never get old. Moar!
- Don’t piss off Shiroe, Marie-nee. Always be kind to your supports. That’s how everyone stays alive.
- Anyone else think the soundtrack is pretty good in this? I usually don’t notice such things, but it was powerful during a during a part or two. Though that may just be my fondness for adventure stories coming through again.
- I apologize for the late post, but as I mentioned last week I was off at a giant beer festival all weekend, and that doesn’t leave much time / sobriety for blogging. I’ll get these posts out on Saturdays like usual from now on. Trust me–it’s hard for me to wait to watch this show after it’s out. I enjoy it too much!
Check out my blog about storytelling and the fantasy novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Beer does the spirit good, Convenient, The four levels of consuming art, and Realism in fiction is overrated.