An essential, but extended, side story.

Log Horizon Volume Nine coverTitle: Log Horizon
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Publisher:  Enterbrain (JP), Yen Press (U.S)
Creator: Mamare Touno
Illustrator: Kazuhiro Hara
Translator: Taylor Engel
Original Release Date: October 31, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press.

The past few volumes of Log Horizon have been experimenting with having different parties of characters take the lead. Volume 9 however makes what is still a very bold move — telling a story without a single, previously established character playing a main role in it. When I was first introduced to Log Horizon I had wondered if Kanami, the former head of the Debauchery Tea Party, would become involved in the current story since she had been brought up in passing so much, but I never expected that she would appear like this.

“Like this” is a road trip-style story focusing on completely new characters, including Leonardo (an American player), Kanami, and an actual NPC Elias. Previously Log Horizon has only dealt with more generic People of the Land NPCs, not anyone who was well-known in “Elder Tales” before the Catastrophe and Elias was important enough to be featured on the game’s box art! He and Leonardo do provide some interesting information about how the Catastrophe unfolded outside of Japan (from their two accounts, it appears that Japan is by far the most stable server) but these are merely interesting tidbits, as exploring how the rest of the world is handling this new world isn’t the main point of this volume.

Like the volume title says, Kanami has come from the European server and she is currently fighting her way east to Japan for a couple of reasons. One reason might be to get back in touch with her old friends in the Debauchery Tea Party (cross-communication between servers isn’t possible) but the second reason is yet another interesting detail; observant readers have wondered if the latest update to “Elder Tales” caused everyone to be dragged into the game (the timing alone is suspect) and it turns out that this new update was only implemented in Japan. No one else can go above the old level-cap of 90, so Kanami and Elias suspect that if there are any answers to be found to the Catastrophe that they’ll be found in the eastern-most server of the game.

All of this does dovetail nicely with other worldbuilding tidbits dropped in volume 8 and it’s encouraging to see that Mamare Touno does seem intent on explaining how the entire Catastrophe occurred. Not every isekai series requires a detailed explanation of the mechanics of the travel between worlds but the Catastrophe has been such a central part of Log Horizon‘s story in every way that to cop out of explaining it would be a disservice to the fans.

Truth be told, there isn’t a lot of story in Log Horizon volume 9. It’s an overly-long side story that I wish had been made a short story instead. I wish that some scenes had been cut and others condensed — the climatic end of volume battle certainly could have been — since it is a bit frustrating to be so far away from the main characters and the “meat” of the story for so long. If I am remembering correctly, the anime did in fact reduce this story to a single episode (essentially to explain what “genius” monsters are and to let the viewer know that yes Kanami actually is around) and I feel that that was a very smart move.

Volume 9 isn’t written any worse or better than your average Log Horizon volume, but since it has to introduce and develop an entirely new cast, while the reader can just feel the tension in the background about the changes the world is going through it drags a bit at times. Hopefully volume 10 will pick back up and answer a few other questions that the story has let hang for too long.