Amid the chaos of the Libra Festival, Shiroe meets a very, very dangerous woman. It looks like Shiroe has his eyes set on something bigger than going home, and we’re getting a Season 2!
Fight Forgery With Forgery
As expected, Lord Malves got owned! His gambit was simple – show up with a bunch of cargo and some forged documents to make a big stink amid the chaos. It’s petty, yes, and there’s not much to gain – a little friction between Eastal and the Round Table, at most – but that’s politics, where you score points whenever you can. Plus there wasn’t much risk, since it was implied that Malves didn’t even bother to bring the cargo, the cheap bastard. Unfortunately, Shiroe doesn’t play fair. Not only did he bring Krusty and Michitaka along to put the squeeze on, he forged a document right back at Malves. That’s a prime example of why you shouldn’t tell such an easily verifiable lie in politics – once you start, you can’t say shit when someone does it back to you. Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Malves. You don’t get to win when Shiroe is in evil bastard-mode.
Bad Cop Shiroe
I’ve always been curious as to whether Shiroe was intentionally playing the bad cop, or whether it was in his nature and he felt more comfortable shunting people’s attention away from him. This episode tells me the answer is both. He’s definitely playing the bad cop intentionally, like when he made Lenessia “hate” him – though I don’t think she can hate Shiroe when she seems to like a monster like Krusty – and…well, basically everything he does ever. I still think there’s a strong strain of him not being comfortable as the center of attention though, and playing the bad guy is the best way he knows how to do that.
But here’s the element of Shiroe’s personality that I find fascinating (one of them) – when Minori asked whether everyone hating him bothered him, it seemed like he had never even thought about it. That is a strength, my friends. While it can be useful to be liked, no one should let other’s opinions of them determine their self-worth, and Shiroe has taken that lesson to heart so instinctively that he doesn’t even realize that others hating him should bother him. Your opinions do not matter to Shiroe, everyone, unless you’re one of his family or closest friends. Everyone else can think whatever the hell they want.
I imagine this will come back when the story continues later on – Season 2, woohoo! – but Akatsuki was quite the melancholy chibiko this episode, and I understand why. While Minori and Nyanta proved themselves to be perceptive and sympathetic to Shiroe’s problems and concerns, Akatsuki was beside him the whole time and didn’t notice a thing. Akatsuki is a regular gamer, someone who plays her role well but is out of her depth in the political world we’ve been swimming in. Matching her with Shiroe and pitting her against women like Minori and Henrietta is interesting because it gives us obstacles to a (hopeful) Shiroe x Akatsuki end other than the traditional the-main-character-is-as-thick-as-a-pool-full-of-cement (AKA Ichikaitus). That’s a more interesting conflict than a dense protagonist, because it’s internal and one we don’t see all the time.
The Ruler of the West
We finally have an antagonist of sorts, and her name is Dariella—Nureha (Saito Chiwa), a Lv 90 Fox Tail Enchanter and the guild master of the only guild in Minami, Plant Hwyaden. Whereas Shiroe shaped Akihabara into a benevolent oligarchy by buying the guild hall, Nureha used the local nobles to buy the cathedral and force everyone into her guild. She lies compulsively, she uses people without a thought, she’s powerful enough to restart the transport gates (kind of), and like Shiroe she can bend the rules of the world to her will. As is fitting for the women of Log Horizon, she’s very interesting, very intelligent, and very dangerous.
Her back story is of interest, because it’s one I’m sure a few of us can relate to. Where she felt plain and boring in real life, she found Elder Tale, hoping that here there was something where she could be special – but that turned out to be a lie as well. The real question is, what does she want now? She’s throwing out yandere vibes all over the place, and she says she wants Shiroe and will do anything for him, so the easy answer is that she’s seeking that “special” feeling in a relationship with Shiroe. I’m not sure that’s the whole answer, though. She offered Shiroe help in creating a Fraction spell that will send people back to Earth, but did she mean it? I got the impression she might have been saying that to get Shiroe to come to her side, so she could sink her teeth into him and protect the world where she’s finally become something special. But that seems too easy as well, doesn’t it?
For now, I’ll settle for “both, and also other reasons I haven’t thought of yet.” At this point I’m not even sure she’ll be the final antagonist of the series, even though she’s giving throwing out foreshadowing to that effect. She’s an enigma, and an interesting one, but you should be careful, Shiroe. The one thing I’m sure of is that she’s dangerous as hell.
Yandere I-will-give-you-anything-you-want vibes aside, Nureha actually had a point. Why does Shiroe do everything he does? He does so much, and yet he’s mistrusted for it. Why? Why bother? Why does he try? It’s never been clear why Shiroe does so much work. He has a vague sense of right and wrong, but his reasons have never been made clear.
Here’s the difference between Shiroe and Nureha: while Shiroe is a liar, Nureha is a liar to her core. Shiroe will lie, trick, swindle, manipulate, forge documents, kill – buying the guild hall, the Crescent Burger recipe, Lord Malves, the negotiations with Eastal, I could go on and on… – but he has a strong core that he will not violate. He doesn’t care what most people think of him, but he does care about those closest to him, his family and friends, his guild. And you know what? It’s all for them. Shiroe is brilliant because–well, to quote the man himself:
“Being strong on your own is meaningless. To use your power, you need other people, and they need a world where they can all be at their best.”
Shiroe realized that he couldn’t just protect his own little slice of Yamato. For him and his friends to be happy, they needed a world where they could be their best. Most people are only as good as the system they’re in, so Shiroe set about changing the entire system – stabilizing Akihabara, and then making it flourish – all for his small group of friends.
Nureha, on the other hand, appears to have no such foundation. She lied about meeting Shiroe–or did she? Everything she says is instantly suspect, because she has no firm ground to stand on, nothing she believes in. Shiroe may lie about a lot of things, but it’s in the service of those he wants to protect. Nureha, from what I’ve seen so far, will discard anything in the pursuit of her latest obsession. And even then, Shiroe will be an enemy for her, whenever she finds a reason. You just can’t stop playing the bad cop, can you Shiro-bou?
Looking Ahead – Something Much Bigger
A good series needs a good ending, and Log Horizon’s first season delivers. With the news that Shiroe is close to a Fraction spell that could send people back to Earth – for now, all he knows is that it makes them disappear – it seems like the obvious way forward is that Log Horizon will work towards getting back home.
No. Shiroe has something much bigger in mind, and I have no idea what it is. All I know is that it’s bigger than returning home, it involves Shiroe and the others leaving Akihabara, and Regan might be coming along. If that isn’t enough to get you pumped up for Season 2, I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t wait for more!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – We finally meet an antagonist in the very dangerous (& possibly yandere) Ruler of the West, Nureha. Also, season 2 inc, woo! #loghorizon 25
- Marie-nee was beautiful, Nyanta was dapper, and Rudy and Isuzu were like some kind of disco-Jetsons couple, but twintail Akatsuki was so hnnnng~!!
- Marie-nee, you continue to be the best. As least now when you’re treated like a doll you get a hug, eh Lenessia? Ufufu~
- “Being strong on your own is meaningless.” I’ve been trying to avoid doing this, but YA HEAR THAT, KIRITO!? *throws down*
- Side note: Have we met or heard of this Ooshima person Shiroe was looking for before he met Nureha? I don’t remember hearing that name before.
- They’re already planning more festivals? Screw it, I’m in. More genki Marie-nee pleeeease!
- And just to think, it all started with a hamburger that had some flavor. Hamburgers and potatoes sure can be impressive, eh?
- The ‘ol knee to the face. That little skit had to happen one last time before the season ended.
- Pay attention to that coin. Something tells me it’s going to be important later on.
Check out my blog about storytelling and the novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: The easiest to not do, Realism, cynicism, & the unreasonable man, Weak business models, and Combat scenes – Blocking & initiative order.
To date, I’ve only blogged two non-split two-cour shows: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and Log Horizon. I’m always hesitant to pick up two-cour shows, because I’m a stubborn bastard who doesn’t like to drop anything, but while I can stick through a one-cour series even if it’s not good – I’m looking at you, Gen’ei – the thought of half a year of forced posts is enough to make me turn aside. I also just like to change up what I’m blogging about after a while. I pick up two-cour series only with great reluctance.
I’m damn glad I picked up Log Horizon.
Log Horizon is epic hard fantasy the likes of which we rarely see. And by epic, I don’t mean “damn, that’s cool!”, I mean that it encompasses the entire known world, with consequences for every living being and a plot that exists on the national or world stage most of the time. (Side note: I’d call it high hard fantasy, but that just sounds dirty.) The attention to detail and the level of thought that goes into everything about Log Horizon is awe-inspiring, though for Touno-sensei it appears to be par for the course. This is fantasy so detailed it borders on sci-fi, which is exactly how I like it. Hell, that’s how I write it. I watched Log Horizon after most of my novel was finished, but I assure you it’ll be an influence on later works. There are already similarities aplenty, and I didn’t plan that.
Attention to detail truly is the name of the game here, not just in the world, but with the characters too. The big one is of course Shiroe, who, even with a strong cast, still makes this series. Seeing a support in the leading role is something you almost never see, much less one who dons a slasher smile and scary shiny glasses in the service of good. Add in all the other gloriously evil (but for the side of good) megane characters, the strong, complex female characters, and even others who started off annoying, only to become totally amazing before long (love ya, Rudy), the characters in this are all lively, detailed, and interesting. Oh, and all the OTPs. I’ll trade in a harem any day of the week for a story with a bunch of OTPs, though Shiroe’s Akatsuki / Minori / Henrietta situation is pretty strong. + Nureha? Scary.
Speaking of, one thing that especially interests me is how long this series has gone without a true antagonist – and in fact, it’s still debatable whether Nureha or anyone else will end up filling that role. I recently got one of my RL friends to start watching this series – which was quite an accomplishment, since he doesn’t traditionally like anime – and he remarked upon the series’ lack of a major antagonist. I smiled, and said that Log Horizon may get one some day, but it doesn’t need one. After all, who’s the villain in any MMORPG?
It’s the game. Log Horizon, like Maoyuu before it, has always been about the world as much as the characters. We’ve gone nearly two full seasons without a hint of a major antagonist, and it worked well. Touno-sensei’s worlds have a habit of throwing up enough obstacles all on their own.
Of course, there’s the one comparison that is inevitable when making an MMORPG anime, and it’s one I’ve been avoiding because I don’t want to kick up a bunch of hate. Well screw that, I’m talking about it now. Log Horizon is a better story than Sword Art Online in my opinion, but as far as which one is the better MMORPG story, the contest becomes inarguable. After watching SAO, Divine mentioned that some of our writers were judging it too harshly, and that it was a fine fantasy story – and he was right. If SAO were based in some made up world then it would have been totally fine. It was based on an MMORPG though, and it violated the one rule central to absolutely every MMORPG – you are not hot shit. You are not the destined hero. If you want to get anything done, you’d better gather 25-100+ of your best friends, because alone you are not worth shit, buster.
While SAO tossed that rule aside, Log Horizon worked in the best tradition of late 90’s and early 2000’s MMORPGs. Shiroe was powerful, and he even managed to break the rules of the world, but he was never the destined hero. Everything that Shiroe did and has become is because he chose to do it, and then worked hard to make it happen. Shiroe, Akatsuki, Naotsugu, Nyanta, Minori, Tohya, Rudy, Isuzu, Marielle, Henrietta, Serara, Shoryuu, Krusty, Lenessia, Misa, Michitaka, Karashin, Isaac, Rodrick, Kanami, Soujiro, Nazuna, the rest of Soujiro’s harem, the rest of the Round Table, the PK group, etc…not a single one of them had to do a thing. They all could have languished, and let Akihabara fall apart while they focused on protecting their own little slice of the world.
But they didn’t. Each and every one of them chose to stand up, and they’ve already changed the world for having done so. They weren’t chosen, they chose themselves. That’s one of the many reasons Log Horizon is a great story, and why I’ll be looking forward to its return in the fall of this year. Here’s to more Log Horizon! Sometimes, the good ones really do get to keep going.