Two raids, two sets of game mechanics to conquer.
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: November 15, 2016 and March 21, 2017
Review copies provided by Yen Press.
In the anime adaptation of Log Horizon, volumes six and seven mark the start of the second season and the anime alternates episodes between the simultaneous stories. The light novels however are much more separate and can be read some time apart without losing the story thread (unlike the series’ earlier two-part installment). The upside to these two relatively different stories is that the novels are able to establish Akatsuki as a co-protagonist for at least a short while and bring in even more points of view, the downside is that not all of these points of view are interesting to read.
Sadly, for me the downside to this was that Akatsuki was one of the points of view that I didn’t like as much. As an outside observer, it’s clear that Akatsuki has self-esteem and confidence issues going and even the side characters seem to have caught on (they’re not very good at interventions, however). Akatsuki herself hasn’t realized this so she is stuck in a rather miserable rut, not making any progress either with her personal relationships or in developing a new “Overskill” technique (unlike other, high level players) which makes her small amount of eventual progress more frustrating instead of less. She’s a very introspective character, even more than Shiroe, and I wonder if this is something that is more relatable and understandable to a Japanese reader than an American reader (due to both culture and language, not that there are any noticeable mis-translations or muddy patches here).
Shiroe and Akatsuki aren’t in the same place for these two stories and that is part of what is prompting Akatsuki’s despair. Deprived of her usual responsibilities, Akatsuki has been charged with helping to protect Princess Raynesia, whose tea parties show Akatsuki how socially inept she still is. Akatsuki’s unintentional self-wallowing comes into even sharper contrast with Raynesia, who is once again a point of view character, and someone else who struggles also with her purpose in life. Like Akatsuki, Raynesia been more thrust into a situation rather than making an active choice, but unlike Akatsuki, Raynesia does have some of the background needed to reflect on her situation more constructively. So when Akiba is beset by a series of impossible murders, Raynesiais able to pull together the negotiations in order to turn the tables and capture the murderer while Akatsuki’s high point comes from working in her first raid. It is good development for the two of them and while the story has several instances with even more points of view, for me Akatsuki’s thoughts and actions alone aren’t enough to carry a story.
I’m also not very fond of Nureha, who appeared at the end of volume five and is very briefly a point of view character in volume seven. Like most of the Log Horizon characters, Nureha is a very internal person but Nureha appears to have been through some real world abuse which has completely twisted how she views “Elder Tales” and her position of power is starting to significantly influence the world. But this isn’t her focus novel so the story shifts quickly back to Shiroe who has, in some ways, triggered this entire plot by being too obtuse. Like Akatsuki, Shiroe’s main character flaw is failing to reach out to others, but this time I’m torn between saying “yes you SHOULD’VE told the characters you were going on a raid with what exactly you were trying to accomplish”, which seems to be what the book is saying, and “no, explaining how in-game mechanics transfers to an actual process in worrying, explicit detail isn’t for the best” which is what Shiroe did in the first place! Despite being an exposition-heavy series, Log Horizon is surprisingly good at not letting world-building interfere with the plot but this time I fear that the story’s themes interfered with how the characters progressed from point A to point B.
I did have one comment about the translation, what on Earth was Naotsugu’s verbal tic in the original Japanese? Naotsugu has always spoken casually but in this volume he ends a lot of his sentences with “city” and while I can see where this was going in theory, I’m hard pressed to think of a single, natural-sounding example in English. Log Horizon suffers from several characters with verbal tics and many of them are far more noticeable than English-language tics so this was always going to be a challenge. Hopefully this is something Naotsugu outgrows before the next volume!