ログ・ホライズン 第2シリーズ 第1話 「北の国のシロエ」
Log Horizon 2 #01. 「Shiroe of the Northern Lands」
Source Material: Web novel series by Touno Mamare (橙乃 ままれ)
Studio(s): Studio Deen
Director(s): Ishihira Shinji (石平 信司)
Script: Nemoto Toshizou (根元 歳三)
Music: Takanashi Yasuharu (高梨 康治)
Log Horizon is a currently ongoing Japanese novel series written by Touno Mamare that was originally posted online via a site called Shousetsuka ni Narou in 2010. It became a print novel series in 2011, published by Enterbrain, and there have since been four manga adaptations, each of which focus on different aspects of the original story-line. The first season of the anime adaptation aired from October 2013 to March 2014 and was produced by animation studio Satelight and was broadcasted on NHK Educational TV.
The residents of Akihabahara are having yet another festival to commemorate a random occasion; and this time, the festivities are oh-sovaguely themed as the “After-Halloween” celebration. Behind the scenes, Shiroe attempts to take care of the Round Table’s financial issues with its ownership of the incredibly costly Guild Building, Cathedral, Trade Building, and various other facilities around the city. Shiroe meets with the remaining present members of the Round Table who aren’t a part of the ongoing expedition at Seventh Fall; with a representative of the Kunie Clan that controls the banks, and thereby, the flow of money of the world; and with his trusted Log Horizon guild-mates, to whom he discloses his intention to leave Akihabahara. Shiroe, Naotsugu and Re Gan resort to a cabin in the middle of the snowy mountains to once again meet with Kinjou, the Kunie Clan representative, and to engage in a more aggressive diplomatic approach. With Re Gan’s knowledge, Shiroe has ascertained that the snowy mountains in which they currently reside, the Tearstone Mountains, is the location of the Kunie Clan’s village; and also more importantly, that they can bypass the standard procedure of earning money through defeating monsters by directly accessing the Kunie Clan’s clandestine whirlpool of gold in the deepest depths of Palm. Kinjou realizes the antagonistic implications that Shiroe’s plan holds and as a final farewell, challenges Shiroe into succeeding in a large-scale raid on the depths of Palm. Shiroe tacitly accepts the challenge by immediately beginning preparations and strategies for the raid. He concludes that he cannot rely on the Round Table’s other guilds because of Plant Hwayden’s Southern spies running reconnaissance on all the leading figures of Akihabahara and designs on enlisting the help of individuals he had been acquainted with before the Third World Fraction.
Log Horizon returns in the hands of a new production studio, but nonetheless remains true to form. A pre-opening sequence gives us a glimpse of future events with climactic scenes from the next arc in the series, though you wouldn’t be able to tell that to be the case without delving further into the episode (the very end of the episode, at that) and might mistake it as the season starting in media res after a time-skip of some sorts. What you may notice however is the subtle shift in art style due to the aforementioned studio change; while just about every visual aspect looks nearly identical to the preceding season’s, the new presentation gives off the feeling that the budget for the show has been marked up (unless they’re just going all-out for the premiere episode, but Log Horizon‘s history has shown it to be impeccably one of the most consistent shows, this year and ever, when it comes to art and animation). but there are the discernible nuances. Naotsugu’s battle face, (or I guess we could technically and literally call it his game face, in this case), bears a new devilish appeal to it and is quite the huge contrast to his usual chibi-eyed self. Right after Naotsugu’s seasonal entrance is another quite dramatic paradigm shift in Souji, who dons a look of cold-blooded heartlessness (someone missed the casting call for Samurai X’s Shinsengumi), which is, yeah, definitely an about-face from his usual harem-entourage-accompanied self. As the episode goes on, we continue to notice such updated touch-ups, coincidentally mostly in character eyes (Shiroe too doesn’t quite have the same countenance as before, except when his signature glasses-gesture is shining the entire ocular region of his face, that is), but also in the line-work for Nyanta’s fur, various characters’ hair-styles, and the like. It might take some time to adjust to the slightly different aesthetic, but it’s nothing to complain about, especially if it brings in the more ambitious visual production. Touching back on the episode’s beginning sequence, it’s a bit unforeseen but it does a damn good job of reminding us of the essence of the show. A montage of party-quest battles, a display of various character classes’ skills, and dialogue from the players who seem bent on having the time of their lives despite being trapped in a game for quite possibly the rest of their virtual-human lives remind me instantaneously why I adore this show and its take of this niche sub-genre. But what the overture does perhaps most significantly, narrative-wise, is the unexplained introduction of three soon-to-be core characters, one of which I’ve already gone and fell in love with. But the fun doesn’t end there, because right after the pre-opening sequence is, of course, the actual opening sequence, which pretty much parades the same exact things on screen, only this time to the tunage of a more particularly riling and representative theme song. The more the merrier, I’d say. As we get into the actual content of the episode, we realize that a time-skip has in fact not occurred, quite the opposite actually. In the last season’s finale, Shiroe had already made a rather determined proclamation that he was leaving behind the city of Akihabahara, so it wouldn’t have been surprising to be thrown in the middle of his next adventure, far away from the electric town. Well, no, it turns out all the goofball adventurers of Akihabahara are still in town having their not even Halloween, but “After-Halloween” festival. But the situation is completely welcome so long as it means being in the presence of cherished characters such as the lovable Maryelle, And while Shiroe may still be Akihabahara, it doesn’t mean for one second that you or anyone will be seeing him out in the open, as the illustrious villain-in-glasses continues to lurk behind the scenes to ensure the ongoing prosperity of the Akihabahara region. Plant Hwayden’s Guild Master Nureha may have been dressed in all blue when she approached Shiroe in last season’s finale, but she’s turning out to serve as a considerable red herring this season, as the anticipated warfare between her dictated forces against Shiroe’s allied forces is a plot progression that has been wholesomely side-lined by a completely new conflict based upon Akihabahara’s financial fiasco and the Kunie Clan. All in all, the episode stands as a solid structure of the series’s well-paced and well-toned story-telling. Elements of the past are traced back to as Shiroe explains the absence of half of the members of the Round Table, who have initiated an expedition of the Seven Falls territory after the triumph at the Battle of Zeatland over the Goblins; and newer elements are firmly established to present the plot’s exciting course of progression by the end of the episode. While I am admittedly disappointed at the suspension of Plant Hwayden’s arc, a story-line that seemed to stray away from the basic upbringing of Shiroe as a key leader in this new reality and that seemed to close in on much more interpersonal back-story content, the current arc is definitely showing signs of building up to that more juicy content. This premiere seems to center on our original three characters, Shiroe, Naotsugu and Akatsuki most of all and does a swell job in re-establishing their relationships, i.e. how easy it is for Naotsugu to understand both Shiroe’s mindset and his personality that drives his mindset; Akatsuki and Shiroe’s mysterious Christmas Eve together (the new opening and ending also show quite the bias for Akatsuki over Minori); and then there’s the more tenuous reveal of Shiroe’s past relationship with two other formidable characters. And if you left the score-cards up to me, that’s definitely three out of three enticing plot points that I can’t wait to see more of.