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Star Wars Rebels Premiere Screening Afterthoughts

Howdy, folks! Duke here. Just finished my second day at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto (at the time when I started writing this, at least), and I got to see something pretty special today. No, I’m not talking about the Matt Smith panel (including special bonus wedding proposal by one of the fans to his ladyfriend), although that was pretty magical. But no, what I saw and wanted to talk about while it’s still fresh in my mind is Star Wars Rebels.

 

Star Wars Rebels is the next Star Wars animated series, using the same CGI animation as the previous (and very popular) series Clone Wars. But whereas that series focused on the Clone Wars (duh) and was set to take place between episodes two and three, the new Rebels series is set five years before A New Hope. It features the Galactic Empire at the very height of its power. The Jedi lay defeated, the emperor reigns supreme, and entire planets are at the mercy of the bad guys. This is before the rebels were really a thing, before they were organized and working together for a common cause of freeing the galaxy from the Empire’s clutches. This is before the loss of Alderaan, before Luke Skywalker takes up his father’s old lightsaber, and before the important Battle of Yavin. That last bit might not sound as impressive, but in the Star Wars universe, the timeline is generally measured in terms of BBY and ABY, respectively Before the Battle of Yavin and After the Battle of Yavin. It’s a big enough even that the ENTIRE timeline is measured by it, and here in Rebels it has yet to occur. For reference, Phantom Menace took place 32 years Before the Battle of Yavin, and Chewbacca dies 25 years After the Battle of Yavin. Or died, now that the expanded universe canon beyond the original trilogy has been considered wiped clean. And since it’s now been made officially not canon, I didn’t technically spoil it for anybody! Ha! But that is a whole separate, rambly discussion.

 

Okay, that may have sounded like a bunch of random words and ramblings, but what I’m really trying to say here is that this series is set in a very important time. It’s set right before the rebellion really kicks off, before Luke Skywalker becomes a total badass (and maybe kisses his sister a little on the way) and before the Death Star blows anything up. This is all leading up to A New Hope, which for most of us was (hopefully) our very first Star Wars film.

 

I was lucky enough to get into a preview screening of Star Wars Rebels today. I was in line for over an hour and a half, and apparently the line stretched all the way outside the building itself, so a lot of people didn’t get a chance to get in, since the theater room could only hold so many people. Thankfully, those people only have to wait a little over a month before the series itself will begin airing. But as I happened to see the preview today, which was more or less the contents of the first two episodes, both of which will be airing together in October, I wanted to give you my impressions of it now.

 

As you have probably gathered from this article so far, I’m a pretty big fan of the Star Wars series. I was super excited to hear about this project, and have been following it since the announcement, watching videos and introductions of some of the characters as they came up. So I was PSYCHED when I saw this on the schedule for today. This was the one thing for the entire convention that I absolutely could not miss. So let’s talk about it. I don’t have any pictures or videos or anything, as it was a preview screening and they were pretty serious about keeping it under wraps (lots of security guys around, not that I would have tried taking pictures or videos regardless), so you’ll just have to use your imagination for this one.

 

To be general about the screening, I loved it. The script had a good combination of action and humour, which melded together very well. It’s fairly similar to the Clone Wars series in that regard, which had a mix of heavy subject matter relating to military occupations and enormous battles, but seamlessly blended in humour (mostly relating to Anakin’s padawan trainee, Ahsoka). Rebels seems to use the same humour, but again mixed in against a backdrop of Imperial occupation (not much has changed, only who the bad guys are), abuse of authority, and the ever-present danger of being against a powerful enemy.

 

I won’t get into the plot of the show, as I don’t want to delve into spoiler territory, but for the first two episodes it’s pretty interesting. It goes into places and situations I didn’t expect it to, at least not yet. It has a good mix of action and comedy, while still getting the characters properly introduced. Some parts of the dialogue admittedly came off as a bit heavy-handed and cliche, but I’m willing to forgive that as it had a lot of characters and ideas to bring up, and only a limited time with which to do it, AND cram in as much awesome as they could.

 

And let’s talk about the characters for a minute. Right off the bat we have a good mix of characters. Three of them are seemingly human (although one is a Mandalorian, part of a warrior culture that accepts a multitude of different races), one is a Twi’lek, one is a Lasat (a fairly underutilized race in the Star Wars universe), and one is your standard quirky droid. These shows are pretty much required to have at least one quirky droid character. I think it might be in their contracts. I mean, even Clone Wars had a quirky droid character for a bit, voiced by David Tennant himself! It also had a lot of R2-D2 with his beeping and booping, but his quirkiness is a level all on its own. The droid bit can be easily overplayed to the point of being a bit irritating, but I feel they struck a good balance with this one. The Rebels droid is known as “C1-10P” or Chopper for short, and is an astromech droid (similar to R2-D2), but made up of spare parts. And he is adorable.

 

So that’s what KIND of characters we have in Rebels, but who are they? We’ll go into that next, with my personal feelings about them thus far, since I don’t want to go into any plot details.

 

EzraIn this picture, you can even see his energy slingshot. Which could have been awful if overused, but it wasn’t.

 

Ezra Bridger, voiced by Taylor Gray, is an orphan who lives on an Outer Rim world known as Lothal. Fairly out of the way, the planet has still managed to attract the attention of the Empire by being rich in minerals needed for TIE Fighter production. It’s unclear what exactly happened to his parents, but it seems to imply that it had something to do with the Imperials. He manages to get by on his own by stealing what he needs to survive. Sort of a Space-Aladdin, but instead of a monkey, he seems to have rudimentary force sensitivity, not that he knows what it is or what to do with it. Ezra seems to be the main character in the show, as Ahsoka was to Clone Wars. He’s the odd man (or kid) out, the one just discovering the idea of the rebels and opposing the Empire, so we get to experience it all through him as he dives head first into a new and dangerous world. He also has some sort of energy slingshot on his wrist, which I know some people were a bit hesitant about. It could have easily become an irritating gimmick for the character, but over the two-part series premiere, I think I only saw him use the thing about three times. It was a load off my mind, as that could have gotten a bit tedious.

 

KananHe’s got the stoic look of a Jedi. But his eyebrows seem pretty angry. I blame the Empire.

 

The next big character, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. is Kanan Jarrus. A former Jedi and one of the few known survivors of Order 66, which wiped out the vast majority of the Jedi Order in one fell, treacherous swoop. He’s the leader of this little band of rebels, and he’s traded his lightsaber for a more subtle blaster, at least for now. He’s a smooth guy who is doing his part to put the hurt on the galactic organization that tore his world apart. Very, very interested in finding out a bit more of his back story and seeing what makes this character tick.

 

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Here’s Zeb, looking like he’s ready to cause some trouble to any Imperials he happens to come across. That’s a large gun for a large man.

 

Next up is Zeb Orrelios, voiced by the always awesome Steve Blum. Blum was also present at the convention, and even helped introduce the preview screening. That man’s voice could melt carbonite. Zeb seems to be your standard muscle character, the sort of Chewbacca of the group. In fact, Zeb’s look was apparently inspired by the original concept art for Chewbacca. So that’s pretty cool. But unlike the Wookie, when Zeb talks, we can actually understand what he says. Zeb is a Lasat, a large and muscular race that has barely popped up in the Star Wars world. In fact, the only other notable Lasat I could find information on was a bounty hunter named “Puggles” that only appeared once, in a Star Wars Roleplaying adventure that was released in 1988. I have no doubt that Zeb will do better than Puggles, as he already seems like an interesting character with a bit of depth to him.

 

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Hera getting her piloting on. Plus bonus Chopper!

This next character was my favourite from the initial list, and it’s Hera Syndulla, voiced by Vanessa Marshall. I will admit to being completely biased in my selection of her as my favourite, as I just love Twi’leks to death. Seriously, the two best races in all of the Star Wars world are the Twi’leks and the Chiss. Hera is the pilot of the rebel ship, and also seems to be the caring, matriarchal figure aboard the ship, keeping the crew in line with more kindness than discipline. There wasn’t TOO much of her in the screening, so I don’t have much else to say here, but I really want to see more Hera in the series. And not just because of her lekku.

 

Then there’s the droid that I mentioned, Chopper. Not too much to talk about here, since he didn’t have a major role in what I saw. He does, however, have little arms that come out of his head, which he uses to gesticulate wildly whenever something happens around him. Again, quirky droid character. But he seems fun, and it’s just foolish to fly a ship through space without an astromech droid aboard. And seriously, just think of all of the gifs that are going to pop up on the internet of his little robot arms flailing around wildly.

 

Sabine 

She is as colourful as she is dangerous. If you’re an Imperial, anyway.

 

Last up in the main characters (at least, the good guys), is Sabine Wren, voiced by Tiya Sircar. She’s the Mandalorian of the crew, which I mentioned earlier. For all intents and purposes, she’s human, but the Mandalorians are a clan-based society brought together by a culture of honor, pride, and beating people up. If you’re a Star Wars fan and if you’ve played just about any of the video games, there’s a VERY good chance that you’ve run into Mandalorians before. This one in particular likes flashy colours and explosions. I’m not sure which she likes more, to be frank. I liked this character as soon as I saw her, and not just because Mandalorian is pretty much synonymous with badass.

 

Then there’s the enemies, of course. Haven’t seen too many of them so far, aside from Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau. And he’s not even the big bad of the series (who is apparently voiced by Jason Isaacs). I mean, they’re going to be dealing with a former Jedi, after all. Gonna have to call in the big guns for that. Or big lightsabers.

 

Speaking of big guns, the wikipedia page indicates that we might be seeing (or hearing, at least) Anthony Daniels reprising his role of C-3PO, and Billy Dee Williams back as Lando Calrissian! Granted, not the most accurate source, but I’m going to hold out hope anyway.

 

That’s just about all I can go into here without dipping into spoiler territory, which I really want to avoid. Because I want you to experience this for yourself on October 3rd when the two-part premiere will be airing. If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re going to check it out. Which you definitely should. I know I’ll be watching it again!

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Kataron’s Visual Novel Playhouse #4: Katawa Shoujo

Howdy, folks. Visual Novel time again! And this time, we’re here to talk about Katawa Shoujo.

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Logo! I really don’t know what else to say about this image.

This particular Visual Novel has a fair amount of controversy surrounding it, for multiple reasons. First off, the name itself had a bit of trouble. Katawa Shoujo translates roughly to Disability Girl, although apparently Katawa ends up being translated a little more harshly than that, so it comes out as Cripple Girl. Either way sounds bad, I know. But it sort of works for the context of the game. In this game, you play as Hisao Nakai, a character who has arrhythmia, which means that his heart doesn’t work properly and may beat faster or slower than it should. Either one is bad. He ends up at a school that focuses on helping disabled teenagers become productive members of society.

 

So…You probably either knew all this coming into this discussion, or you’re just putting the pieces together now. Either way, yes, the game is about you romancing one of five different girls with varying physical disabilities. And yes, that’s kind of a risque subject to go to for making a VN, but given where it came from…

 

This project all came about from a single piece of art that popped up on 4chan some years back. It was drawn by a doujinshi artist, someone who self-publishes their own work. So manga and stuff, drawn by the artist, and then they handle all the other aspects too, instead of being part of a big company that does it all. That bit’s not super important to the idea, but more knowledge is better than less. At any rate, this image popped up on 4chan’s /a/ board, and it got people talking. And before you go any further, you should probably be aware that despite its reputation, not ALL of 4chan is a festering cesspit full of awful images and terrible people. Granted, that’s there, but those folk, generally referring to themselves as /b/tards, tend to hang out on 4chan’s “random” message board, also referred to as /b/. The rest of the boards have their own set purpose, varying from wallpapers and backgrounds, television and film, gaming, and just all manner of pornography. But usually when you hear 4chan referenced, people are talking specifically about /b/ and those who dwell within it.

 

So the image popped up, this one right above here. And that…inspired people, I guess? They came together, and quickly, and ended up forming a makeshift production company, called Four Leaf Studios, naming themselves after the four leaf logo of 4chan. And they worked. For five years, they worked at this game. When it was finally released, it was free, controversial, and a huge hit.

 

A game which translates to “Cripple Girl”, by a company of folks from 4chan, wherein you meet and date girls with physical disabilities. And you can sleep with them. What could go wrong, right? People were all set up to hate this game. But that’s when things ended up taking a turn that not many people expected. The game was…good. The game was VERY good. And today we’re going to talk about why.

 

 

To start things off, this game is mechanically beautiful. Even disregarding all of the content, the game is BUILT fantastically. I was particularly pleased when I accidentally skipped over something in the text of the game, and scrolled back up to see what it was. I expected the game to do what most other VN’s I’ve played have done, and let me see a text log of whatever was said. Instead, it simply rewound the game by one screen and showed me what was happening. So not only do I see the text, I also see the character with whatever expression they had when they said the text, and I miss nothing. AND if you scroll up and down really quickly, you can make the characters look like they’re dancing. Not that I wasted my time on that…more than a couple times.

 

So mechanically? Impressive off the bat. The soundtrack? Forty-six different songs of varied emotions and length, most of them quite good. In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I write this.

 

But the best part, the best part by FAR, were the characters and the story. Each route can be quite a bit different, ranging in both content and length, as well as interactivity, but each route is worth the time and effort. Well, mostly. And probably the most impressive feat in the game was how well they handled the subject of the disabilities. It was all handled with a respect I would have not thought possible coming from 4chan. Most companies wouldn’t touch subject like this, but these folks disregarded the stigma and went for it with gusto, and ended up crafting a world of interesting and unique characters.

 

And as mentioned briefly earlier, you CAN sleep with the girls of Katawa Shoujo. There are sex scenes in the game. Which can be weird. But they’re handled pretty well, some of them are even relevant story-wise, and there’s an option in the options menu to turn the sex scenes off. So if that sort of thing bugs you, you can enjoy the story of the games without the boobies.

 

So let’s talk about the ladies of Katawa Shoujo, the five (plus one) major characters of the five different routes in the game.

 

katawashoujocharactersFrom left to right: Lilly, Hanako, Rin, Shizune, and Emi. Adorableness abounds.

 

First up, to clear up any confusion about the plus one bit there, is the Student Council President, Shizune Hakamichi. She may be deaf and mute, but she’s still the President. With her best friend and fellow council member, Misha as her translator, co-conspirator, and minion, Shizune manages to rule the school and keep things going. She can be a bit of a hardass when it comes to doing things “the right way”, and getting work done above all else, but she also has a playful side. And by playful, I mean she will whoop your butt at Risk or any other game, and will also force you to wager on the outcome. Not for money, but you may end up owing her a favour or two. Watch out for her, she’s easily the most manipulative of the game’s heroines.

 

Next up is Lilly Satou, the blind class rep from across the hall, and mortal enemy of Shizune. A former student council member herself, Lilly prefers a more laid-back approach to management, rather than Shizune’s slave-driver method. Whereas Shizune is rarely seen without Misha, Lilly travels everywhere with her friend Hanako Ikezawa. But unlike Misha, Hanako has her own route, so we’ll be discussing her in a few paragraphs. Lilly doesn’t rely so much on Hanako as Shizune does Misha, but in this case Lilly tends to end up in a motherly role for those she meets. She’s kind, caring, and patient. All qualities that befit a mother. She’s also a prim and proper lady, coming from a wealthy foreign family. Hers was also my favourite route in the game, all things considered.

 

Then there’s Emi Ibarazaki, the most energetic and outgoing of the game’s characters. She’s missing both her legs just below the knees, after getting into a nasty car crash years earlier. She doesn’t let that stop her, or even slow her down, and has since mastered her prosthetic legs to the point that she can run track with them. She refers to herself as “the fastest thing on no legs”, and this is no lie. She can lap your character with ease. Although to be fair, your character DOES have a heart disorder. Emi spends all of time either hanging out with her friend Rin, or running at the track. She can be a bit of an airhead at times, and isn’t the brighest of the game’s characters, but makes up for that with heart. And also cuteness.

 

Rin Tezuka is up next. Assigned the room next to Emi because they were deemed suitable for one another, Rin is an artist who spends most of her time staring blankly at clouds or other inanimate objects, and then painting strange and beautiful pieces of art. She also doesn’t have any arms, so she does all of her artwork with her feet. She’s probably the strangest character in the game, rivaling even the dude who lives across the hall from you (who believes that feminists are moments away from launching an all out attack on men everywhere and taking over the world). Her route is the most complicated of them, because interacting with her is just…difficult. She doesn’t say much, stares blankly a lot, and is just generally a strange person. Not my favourite route, but interesting if nothing else.

 

And last up is Hanako Ikezawa. A shy girl who literally flees from you the first time you talk to her, Hanako’s only friend in the school is Lilly. Not just her only friend, but pretty much the only person she doesn’t actively run away from. She can be tricky to befriend, but once you get your foot in the figurative door, things get easier. She suffers from burns down the right side of her body, face, arm, torso. She was in a house fire when she was much younger. Which is one of the main reasons she hangs out with Lilly. She’s blind, so to her, Hanako is just another student, another friend.

 

All right. So those are the five heroines of the game, the five different routes you can go through, the five different ladies you can date. Some of the routes are awesome, some of them are just…confusing. Each route had its own different writer, so each story has its own distinct feel to it. And honestly? That’s a pretty good way of handling it, to make the routes more unique, instead of just more of the same.

 

The routes vary in length, time period covered, and interactivity. Some of the routes have a number of choices you can make to determine your eventual end. One of the routes has only one choice separating the good end from the bad end. In my opinion, either method is acceptable. Some people would like more choices, but personally I’m in it for the story, and as long as I’m interested, I’m having a good time. Although more choices can make you more invested in the outcome, as you’ve played a larger hand in making it happen.

 

The game is divided into four acts, in each route. The first act is shared by all five routes, the next three acts are unique for each character as you get to know them and experience their story. Act one is always the same, and will be the determining factor in which route you get locked into. There are a lot of choices in this act, as there are a lot of things that go differently depending on which girls you try to befriend. And there’s always the chance you’ll just mess things up and end the game drinking on the roof with the crazy dude across the hall.

 

I won’t go into the different routes in this write-up (that’s going to be coming up next time), but overall they were quite enjoyable. And again, surprisingly respectful to the characters and their disabilities. Each route was written by a different person, which gives them all a much more unique feel to them. Plus each route has its own supporting characters, some popping up briefly in other routes and some never seen outside of one route in particular. Except Kenji, that dude is just…everywhere.

 

katawakenjiYou and me, Kenji. WE DON’T NEED ANYBODY.

 

So that’s it for now, that’s what I know about Katawa Shoujo. Well, aside from the contents of the various routes. That will be a whole different thing, to keep this one here relatively spoiler-free. If you’re interested at all in Katawa Shoujo, you should check it out. It’s completely free on their website. And again, the options allow you to turn off any sort of adult content, so there’s no need to worry about that if that’s not your cup of tea. It’s a damn fine game, and even now (a couple months after I played it), the soundtrack still evokes all sorts of emotions in me. Good ones, bad ones, and whatever ones you feel when Rin’s on screen. Still not sure.

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Duke Watches: Space☆Dandy

Howdy, folks. Duke here again, with more anime-watching goodness!

 

This time around, the series I’ve chosen to consume is Space Dandy. I’d heard about this one well before it actually came out, as the director of this particular anime is the same gentleman who brought us such delights as Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. So even before it got going, it had a lot to live up to, and a lot of hype. And when it ended up coming out, it definitely got some criticism from viewers for not being what they expected. They wanted something more along the lines of the previous shows, with more of an overarching and possibly serious plot. If you want an epic adventure of science fiction with a serious and far-reaching story, then this is NOT the anime for you. If you want to see a dude run around in space and get up to mischief, with absolutely NO effort at continuity or seriousness, then this is something you might be interested in checking out.

 

The first episode came as a bit of a shock to me, as I (like many others) was expecting something more in line with the previous shows. However, once I was able to shed my assumptions and take the show for what it was rather than what it might have been, I found myself having a good time.

 

But be warned, the humour of the series might not be for everybody. If you’re not okay with crude humour and animated boobs EVERYWHERE, then you should probably watch something else. The series spends a lot of time hanging around a “breastaurant” simply called “BooBies” (picture Hooters but with aliens also in skimpy outfits). They meet one of the crew there (a customer, not a busty employee), and the FIRST thing the main character goes into after the opening of the first episode is how boobs aren’t everything, butts are important too. If that’s the sort of humour you can get behind (no pun intended), then you will probably enjoy the show. If that’s not your cup of tea, then ah well. No harm done, just watch something else instead.

 

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There’s more than meets the eye to Dandy’s Spaceship. Or at least, there was in one episode.

 

All right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the series. The show has three main characters. Dandy, an incompetent alien hunter with a penchant for scantily clad women. QT, an incompetent and outdated robot that (somewhat) functions as Dandy’s sidekick and pilot. And Meow, the incompetent cat-like alien that they meet in episode one who becomes their companion. Sensing a pattern here? That’s right, whereas Cowboy Bebop had a crew of hardened bounty hunters with all sorts of skills, and Samurai Champloo focused on a couple of skilled warriors, the main characters of this show are idiots. Just complete morons. Their job is to find new aliens and bring them in to be registered. Undiscovered alien species are worth a lot of money, if you’re the first one to bring one in and claim the reward.

 

That’s all you really need to get into the show. I can’t really discuss the plot, as each episode is entirely stand-alone. The first episode introduces a new character, Meow, but aside from that every single episode is completely independent of every other episode. So much so that despite the fact that it always says “to be continued” at the end of the show, when the next episode starts all is forgotten. Character died in the last episode? Eh, whatever, don’t sweat the details. Planet blew up? I don’t remember that, might as well just go on with the show. Characters get left behind or infected with horrible viruses? Whoa man, don’t get so bogged down in trivial stuff. Just go to the next episode. So obviously, given that there is NO continuity whatsoever, a higher plot is kind of out of the question. Instead, each episode is an adventure within itself, where the crew goes out and screws something up.

 

They really go all over the place with their episodes. I mean, there’s a zombie episode. I won’t go into any details, because it’s better that way, but it was hilarious. I may be biased because of my unhealthy love for all things zombie, but I stand by it. It’s a well-built world, too. Apparently each different alien species was created by a different artist, so there is a LOT of variety when it comes to the various aliens you’ll run across in the show.
With that said, some of the episodes are better than the others. Episode five, for instance, is in my opinion the high point of the entire series. Dandy learns about life and love, and that maybe money isn’t the most important thing. Plus there’s one PARTICULARLY FANTASTIC montage scene, complete with awesome music. Does it make any difference whatsoever when they get to the next episode, where aliens are waging a war about underpants versus vests? Nope! It’s completely ridiculous, but I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, there’s only one episode that didn’t do it for me, one involving giant sentient plants. Aside from that, I had a blast with the assorted adventures of Dandy and his crew.

 

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Dandy doesn’t spend any time worrying about what’s going on. He just does things. Awesome things.

What I was expecting most, when I first heard about this series, was an awesome soundtrack. Cowboy Bebop had some amazing jazz to it. Samurai Champloo had some awesome hip hop music. But I found Space Dandy’s style of music a bit harder to define. It’s best to do with examples. Rest assured, however, the music in this show is up to par. It’s what I was most expecting from this series, and I did not walk away disappointed. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack over and over again, and can’t wait for the next season of the show to see what else I’ll get to listen to.

 

Other than that, there’s unfortunately not much to say about this show. There’s only thirteen episodes so far, and with each episode being completely stand-alone, there’s no real plot to discuss. By now, you should have somewhat of an idea whether the show is for you. It’s easy to pick up, since you don’t have to remember any plot. This one is available for stream through Funimation’s website, so it’s free to check out. The second season will be starting this summer, with more crazy adventures in space. There’s no telling what they’re going to screw up next time.

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Duke Watches: Log Horizon

Howdy, folks. Duke here. It’s time to talk about anime again! This time around it’s Log Horizon, a recent series. Spoiler alert, it was awesome.

 

So this anime is another video game one, wherein players are trapped in an MMO. This may sound VERY familiar to you, and yes, it’s a premise that’s been used before. Sword Art Online being the one that comes to mind right away, but to a lesser extent it’s similar to the dot-hack series (if I recall correctly, in the first iteration of that series it was only ONE character trapped in the game, whereas the two others it’s all players). But while the series may not be breaking new ground, I found it to be VASTLY superior, especially to Sword Art Online. SAO was an interesting concept, and started off interesting, but quickly got muddled up with a romantic subplot which became more of a main plot as the series went on. It ended up dragging the show down, especially after they added the child thing. At least, in my opinion.

After Sword Art Online, I was hesitant to check the show out, but a friend had mentioned multiple times about how good it was. So I ended up folding and watching the entire thing in a couple of sittings. And I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

 

loghorizongriffonHere’s one of the characters just being awesome.

 

As mentioned, the show is about an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game in which the players become trapped after the release of a new expansion pack. Whereas there were more justifications for how this happened in Sword Art Online, this series doesn’t really dwell on it. In SAO, there were virtual reality headset things that allowed the players to experience it, but I don’t recall anything like that in Log Horizon. So it leaves open the question of exactly how they got trapped in the game, what’s happening to their real-life bodies (presuming they weren’t transported in whole into the game somehow), and other similar questions. But honestly? I couldn’t care less about the justifications. Whatever plot device they would use to make it work is entirely irrelevant to me as a viewer, I just want to see what goes on while they’re in the game.

 

The game itself is pretty cool, too. If given the option to play the game of Sword Art Online or Log Horizon, I would take Log Horizon in a second. Their game features a really interesting map that’s actually just a partially ruined version of Japan. So players find themselves in a place that is both familiar and not, all at the same time. A very neat world, even before you get into the overall mechanics of it. I mean, in any sort of realistic sense, it’s completely unfeasible to build such a huge world based on the real one and keep things both true to reality and interesting as a game. But since getting bogged down in details like that runs counter to my enjoyment of a show, I’m not going to care about the realism of it.

 

At this point I’m going to note that I have played a lot of MMO’s in the past. Particularly World of Warcraft, in which I was in a raiding and roleplaying guild (Kingship of the East on the Emerald Dream server, if you’re curious) before I got burned out and couldn’t bring myself to keep playing. Which can happen if you’re raiding three nights a week for an entire expansion. There were a lot of times in the show where I could clearly see the influence of games in the design and direction of what was going on. As a gamer, I loved all that stuff, and it was nice to see that they understood a fair bit about how the games worked. Seems like an obvious thing when writing something like that, but if you mess it up, people notice.

 

The characters in the show? To be frank, I’ve seen better, but they serve their purpose and remain to be entertaining. The main character ends up not being some crazy overpowered dual-wielding warrior, and instead is just a smart dude. He’s not the guy in the raid tanking or topping the damage charts, he’s the one giving the orders while still maintaining his own role. The voice in your ear that you follow unconditionally, because you know that they know what they’re talking about. I like this type of main character more, the smart kind rather than the strong kind. Things tend to get solved in a more interesting way with them.
Add to that his two main companions, a female ninja who serves the main character after he does her a favour in the first episode. She starts off as a male character, playing the opposite of her usual gender to avoid the…attention that can be given to female characters in games like that. Which is funny, because in my experience it’s generally the other way around, with male players playing as female characters. I saw a LOT of that in World of Warcraft. I always found roleplaying as the opposite gender to be weird, but I’m not gonna judge. So the main character has his ninja companion, and then another dude from back in his raiding days, a heavily armoured tanking character who also happens to be hilariously perverted. Add to this a very fatherly cat-man who is always ready to give advice or slash things up with rapiers, and you make up the main cast. There are others, of course, but they come in later and tend to take side roles in the show.

 

loghorizoncharactersHere we have the main cast of characters. The four I mentioned, plus some others that join along the way.

 

So that’s the characters and general backstory as to what’s going on. Where the show really shines, however, is the plot. And no, not THAT kind of plot, you perverts. The story. The story!

 

In fact, it was my friend’s brief description of some of the story that convinced me to finally give the show a shot. In Log Horizon, it’s not all about fighting monsters and such. That’s DEFINITELY a part of it, and it comes into play regularly, but it’s usually because of other plot points. We end up getting stories about things like in-game stalking, whether NPC characters have rights, exploitation of lower level characters by the more powerful ones, giving lower level characters the tools and skills needed to get by in what is now not just a game but their very lives. Add to that kingdoms of NPC’s, the idea of quests and rewards, and what players can do (good or bad) when left to their own devices, and we have a good idea of what we’ll come across in the show. Diplomatic relations with NPC cities and people, as well as guild politics and intrigue? Oh, yes please.

 

And while there IS some romance subplot, it stays just that. Subplot. It pops up every now and then, but it doesn’t envelop the entire show and drag it down into a mess of ridiculous nonsense. It’s really easy to do romance subplot wrong, but I found myself enjoying it with this show. It manages to stay funny, and it doesn’t interfere with the regular plot of the series. It can be a little weird at times, but since it stays in the realm of humour, I found it okay.

 

I won’t lie, I haven’t exactly been subtle about my digs in this against Sword Art Online. Some may find it inappropriate to draw so many comparisons between the two shows, as SAO has a much more heavy focus on romance, so the story ends up being quite different. But given that they’re both shows about players getting trapped in an MMO, it’s going to be obvious that connections will be drawn between them. They both go about their stories in COMPLETELY different ways. And I’m not saying that there’s a right way or a wrong way. I am saying, however, that I have no interest in the next season of Sword Art Online, but find myself waiting with eager anticipation for more Log Horizon. Just sayin’.

 

loghorizonglassesBut I mean, in terms of glasses being pushed up noses, Log Horizon comes out WAY ahead. If that’s your standard for measuring anime.

 

So obviously, personally, I loved it. The whole damn thing. It may not be your cup of tea, but if you like the idea of some of the story points I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, you really should check it out. It would probably appeal to you more if you’re more familiar with MMO’s and such, but either way it has some cool ideas. And the whole thing is up on Crunchyroll right now, so you don’t even have to be a dirty pirate to enjoy it. Plus the next season will be coming up this Fall! They’ve already introduced the world, the main cast of characters, and given us an idea of what’s going on. So now we have the set-up out of the way, hopefully the next season will have even more fun and intrigue.