Shiroe has a high-level character in the popular MMORPG Elder Tales, but when the twelfth expansion pack comes out, something goes wrong. Thirty thousand players all over Japan are suddenly stuck in the bodies of their characters in the online world of Elder Tales. They can’t get back to reality or contact anyone there, and even those who die come right back to life, just like in the game. People are confused and desperate, and the world of Elder Tales begins to fall into chaos.
Shiroe’s character—now Shiroe himself—is an Enchanter. He’s teamed up with two players he used to game with: big, cheerful Guardian fighter Naotsugu and reserved, deadly Assassin Akatsuki. At first they just want to figure out what’s happening like everybody else, but now they have a quest: a friend of a friend is trapped in a faraway town and she’s too low-level to fend for herself, so Shiroe and his friends volunteer to make the journey to bring her to safety.
Video game players should feel right at home in this universe. Geographically, the world of Elder Tales is a replica of our world in which all distances are scaled to half the size; technologically, it seems to be a standard medieval fantasy world. There’s plenty of swordplay and magic, all with a distinctly video game flavor: people fight using established techniques which follow a known set of rules. For instance, when Naotsugu uses his defensive Castle of Stone ability, his opponent gloats that he won’t be able to use it again for ten minutes, by which time their combat will surely be over. Characters fall into different classes, like Swashbuckler or Druid, each of which has a list of standard abilities. In between chapters, there are explanatory details about the world of Elder Tales and the specs for its character classes. These pages can be a little difficult to read, as they use a font with such thin lines that the letters almost disappear in places, but the rest of the book is perfectly clear.
Shiroe is a powerful mage, but there’s a lot more to his character. On the outside, he’s a calm, collected man of few words; on the inside, he’s insecure, worrying that he’s a self-serving coward who has dragged his friends into a dangerous venture. He’s very, very skilled at Elder Tales, which gives him formidable power now that he’s stuck in the game world, but he’s also relatable with good intentions. In one funny example, Shiroe admits that walking feels a little weird for him in the Elder Tales world because he made his character taller than he is in real life.
The art is detailed with a sense of depth, thanks to a rich variety of shading levels. It’s full of lush landscapes and elaborately costumed fantasy characters, ranging from humans to elf-eared people to anthropomorphic animals. Most are attractive, as one might expect, given that they’re actually avatars designed by the players. There is, however, surprisingly little sexy fanservice and nothing more suggestive than a low-cut top. Coupled with its lack of gory violence, the absence of swearing, and the impermanent nature of death in the game, this makes Log Horizon a good pick for readers who like stories on the gentle side without losing any intelligence or complexity. Based on a series of light novels, Log Horizon will intrigue fantasy fans and MMORPG players alike.
Log Horizon, vol. 1
by Mamare Touno and Shoji Masuda
Art by Kazuhiro Hara
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Teen