I do not normally write hype posts, but this time I cannot help but to do so. It becomes especially ironic since I earlier this month wrote “How Expectations Can Make or Break Anime”, in which I point out that I normally try to have low expectations so I am not let down.
But in this particular case I cannot help but let my expectations get ahead of me. The reason for all of this is Log Horizon, a new anime about people being transported to a video game world.
Virtual reality is something that has always fascinated me ever since I first heard of it. I imagined being able to discover and explore virtual worlds as if they were our own. You could wander about, touch, smell and hear everything around you. It would be like being transported to another reality.
This fascinating has always been with me, especially today with Oculus Rift and other similar VR-headsets being created as we speak. How will it feel to use them? With a video game properly made to work with virtual reality, will it feel as if you embark to a new land? As if you are one with it?
As I think of all the possibilities I cannot help but feel overwhelmingly excited about what the future holds in store for us.
Now let us jump back in time to the year 2006. Back then there was this manga called .hack//Legend of the Twilight being released here in Sweden. The story centered around, you guessed it, virtual reality! The story took place in the MMORPG “The World”, something which only made me enjoy it even more thanks to being a fan of video games.
Reading .hack//Legend of the Twilight was extremely fun as it did so many things right. It poked fun at virtual reality while also showcasing what a wonderful addition it could be to video games. Especially the latter really hit home, with our main characters leveling up, meeting other people, taking part in unique competitions and festivals in a way games never had, and still have not, done before.
Exploring zones to find a cure to a dying pet? Experiencing a tanabata festival? Or only walking around in the main city hub? For the first time ever with a medium I felt like I was there. The series perfectly captured what makes video games, and specifically MMORPGs, fun. It also made me long for such an endearing MMORPG as “The World” to become a reality. I wanted it, no, I needed it.
However, since .hack//Legend of the Twilight also wanted to tell a story and not only be about playing a video game, it ultimately decided to leave that aspect in favor of something more serious. A later entry in the franchise called .hack//Quantum sadly also followed in this manner.
Slightly let down over how two .hack titles decided to not fully focus on the lighthearted side of VR-video games, and without finding another series to satisfy my hunger, my love for the “genre” somewhat died.
Eventually the year 2012 came around the corner and this popular franchise Sword Art Online was about to be animated. There was some buzz before it aired, much due to the original light novels being fan translated and hugely popular in some internet circles, but it never got to me. I only looked at Sword Art Online as any other anime.
Then I watched the first episode.
My love was rekindled.
With a great start, Sword Art Online seemed to be exactly what I had wanted. First of all the VR-headsets, called Nerve Gear, were much more exciting than the ones featured in .hack (which, from what I recall, only were normal headsets plus a gamepad). Nerve Gear actually “connected” to your body and stimulated your senses, providing an extremely real experience. Just thinking about the possibilities made me drool.
In addition, the fact that the players were trapped in the game opened up many opportunities to tell an interesting story. What if people simply stopped playing and decided to live their life in the virtual world? Perhaps we could see how the community teamed up to beat the game, or maybe even fight each other? And why not follow different types of players, such as forgers and knights? Not to mention the possible character drama…
Sword Art Online could have been a .hack that was slightly more serious, but still retained the fun. It could go places. But it decided not to do anything of what I mentioned above. The series merely briefly touched upon them, ignoring every little bit of potential in favor of breaking its own video game rules and having shallow characters. It was, mildly put, a shame and a disappointment.
Many tears later and we enter today, fall anime season year 2013. Log Horizon, a new anime about merging reality and video games, will air. At first I was not excited about it. It did not seem bad, but I could not bring myself to hype it because of my previous disappointments.
Then I came across an image from 4chan of all places. To sum it up here:
– The characters are not “trapped” in a game. Rather, a video game world has become the real world.
– It does not try to be grimdark. You die? You are resurrected at a town. This is used for comedy effect.
– The main character is a mage, aka a support role, and does not try to steal the spotlight. Nor is he perfect at everything.
– The development focus lies on the main character’s party members and not only the main.
– It is not a harem.
– Focus on MMO politics and economics.
Color me interested, to say the least. If this source is to be trusted, Log Horizon might be able to nail both the fun and the more serious moments. The little footage released sure looks fine at least. Overall, it almost sounds too good to be true.
But naturally there is some cause for concern. The largest reason is the original novel creator being Mamare Touno, the author of Mayouu Maou Yuusha. The anime adaptation of Mayouu Maou Yuusha felt very dull, with one-dimensional characters and a focus on politics and economics that became too much towards the end, especially when the anime explained those parts poorly.
Hopefully this will not be the case in Log Horizon, or at least the anime might present the themes in a much more captivating way. Let us hope.
Log Horizon can possibly be the anime I have long dreamed of. So, please, let that be the case.
If all else fails, we will at least have a protagonist who is a mage.
And we all know mages are the best.