For general information on this series: Log Horizon entry
This review is for the first volume of Log Horizon by Mamare Touno. The English edition was released by Yen Press in April 2015. The second and third volumes have since been released, and the fourth will follow in March 2016. So far, there are nine volumes available in Japan.
I was first introduced to the story of Log Horizon through its anime adaptation (more specifically, it’s first season), which I tried on a whim and ended up enjoying a lot more than I expected to. The characters are easy to like, and I found the story’s focus on society-building, economics, and political maneuvering quite interesting. But despite the subject matter, the plot remains fairly straightforward and the topics introduced are easy to digest.
The first volume follows a young man named Shiroe, who one day finds himself (along with several thousand others) trapped inside the world of an MMO fantasy-themed computer game. He and his friends are adventurers such as mages and knights, and spend most of the book working out all the rules by which the game-turned-reality world is governed. Log Horizon is very much a setting-driven narrative, and it is the characters’ struggle regarding how everyone should go about their new lives that serves as the central focus of this volume.
I have never played the type of game that Log Horizon and other stories (such as Sword Art Online or Overlord) have used for their setting, but I was able to follow this story easily enough thanks to the level of detail Mamare Touno places in his world-building. Actually, some readers may feel he goes a bit too far in that respect, as it’s pretty common to find a whole page of explanation for things that perhaps only needed a paragraph.
Most of the things I liked about the anime, I liked just as well in the light novel. Shiroe, Akatsuki, and Naotsugu are a fun group of characters to follow, and Shiroe in particular has a bit more depth than I feel is typical of light novel protagonists. I also appreciate the tone of the story in general–it’s got a sort of slice-of-life feel to it, with a positive atmosphere and an emphasis on teamwork and strategy.
I do have some hangups with the novel, and they mostly relate to the way the story itself was written. I feel the book was translated really well, so I think my issues stem from the original story. When it comes to fiction, the general rule of thumb is “show, don’t tell.” In Log Horizon, I believe the author does well to show–but then tends to backpedal and tell us everything he just showed us. We are shown how battles and professions and commerce all operate, but then we get in-depth explanations for everything. It makes the narrative feel very repetitive, and bogs down what is already a slow-burner of a story.
For an example of beating a dead horse, one of the main characters (Naotsugu) is more or less the laid-back sidekick who makes dirty jokes but is still (overall) good-natured and reliable. This is clearly evident from his dialogue and actions, but the author still takes the time to explain all this to us every chance possible. And for an example of something that simply felt out-of-place: nearly every time Akatsuki was involved in a scene, the author would take the time to explain how she is such an impeccable beauty. Not to say she isn’t cute, but I always felt she was more… an everyday individual like the others? (Albeit a pipsqueak?) There are lots of little things like this that feel a bit strange.
At any rate, fans of fantasy setting world-building should certainly give Log Horizon a try, as it definitely has had a lot of thought put into everything that falls under that umbrella. Those who want a snappier, tighter-paced read may wish to look elsewhere however–or perhaps consider trying the anime instead. I try to avoid this suggestion, ha ha… but I feel it’s fair to mention in this case. And in the event the franchise does click with you, the books will certainly offer more details that fans will enjoy–so do always keep the original source in mind, okay?
Cho’s Rating: Maybe Recommended