A subplot doesn't make this the strongest volume of the bunch.
Title: Log Horizon
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Publisher: Enterbrain (JP), Yen Press (U.S)
Creator: Mamare Touno
Illustrator: Kazuhiro Hara
Translator: Taylor Engel
Original Release Date: June 20, 2017
Review copies provided by Yen Press.
After the series’ last two-part installment, Log Horizon has fully given in to its multi-POV tendencies. This book has an uneven split with 3/4ths of it being with the younger cast of Log Horizon on their first big quest and the last 1/4th concerning the troubling player-city to the west, Minami.
The parts of the story following the younger cast’s (Minori, Touya, Isuzu, Rudy, and Serara) journey is the more interesting chunk by far. The meta-politics, which occupy a large chunk of the story as a whole and were previously some of the more interesting bits of the story, bored me this time around. I’ve said before that I was excited to see how the really big behind the scenes stories in Log Horizon would play out (like how the characters ended up in this game/other world etc) but that’s not really what the meta-plot were about this time. In fact, from having seen the anime I can even say that the few small bits of the meta-plot that came up were related to the younger cast, not connected with the b-plot I found so dull!
One larger conflict that did come up in this volume, which didn’t bore me, was the growing divide between Adventurers who are finding contentment in their new lives and those who desperately want to return. The story hasn’t really touched on the concept of suicide before, a given since Adventurer’s constant revivals mean that there is no death for them, but this volume gets close by introducing a group of characters who fight in a frenzy, hoping for death since they’ve discovered that each time they die they can see a bit of their old lives. This is tragic since the last two volumes established that the memories people re-visit on the Moon while waiting for revival are then lost to them. Touya in particular takes umbrage to this line of thinking, especially given the troubles he faced on Earth in his old life as a wheelchair-user.
That’s a pretty minor plot point though, although it’s indirectly connected to the b-plot in this volume: the growing divide between Minami’s festering influence and the general mindset of the Akiba adventurers. I’m having a really hard understanding the feelings on the Minami side of the equation; I think many of the characters are motivated purely by the idea of gaining power and control which is a conflict I always struggle to understand in fiction. But I still think this could have been handled better; the confrontation between Nyanta and one of the People of the Earth suffered from confusing character motivations and goals so the entire scene fell flat for me. Plus there are some characters who I thought were turncoats, but now I’m not sure and frankly I just couldn’t wait to get back to the other characters.
Which isn’t to say that the a-plot was smooth sailing either. As the cover indicates, Isuzu was the shining star of this volume and Mamare Touno tries to connect Isuzu’s inner conflict over her musical skills and musical future which somewhat misses the mark. Isuzu’s internal part of the conflict is interesting but her overall realization is “rather anime” which means “I’m not sure if these emotions made more sense to the original Japanese audience or if it was incomprehensible to them too.” Which is a shame; Touno has written interesting character conflicts that play into the larger world before and overall, as much as it pains me to say this about a story about the younger cast, this was not one of Log Horizon’s stronger volumes.