After 30,000 Japanese gamers are trapped in the video game Elder Tales, they must adapt and survive in this new world because if you die in the game, you die in real.... wait that’s not right.

Much to their surprise and panic, the players of long-running online role-playing game Elder Tales wake up to find themselves trapped within the video game with no option for escape. After being reunited with his friends Naotsugu and Akatsuki, veteran gamer Shiroe sets out to discover this new world they find themselves trapped in.

MMO fans as well as people who love immersing themselves in a fully-developed world will find a lot to love about Log Horizon.

Log Horizon succeeds at creating an incredibly rich and immersive world that manages to feels both fantastical while remaining startlingly realistic. Author Mamare Touno clearly put a great deal of effort into creating a setting that will appeal to fans of role-playing games and this shows in his detailed elaborations of things such as the expansive class system in Elder Tales. These descriptions never felt overwhelming and each element of the world was introduced and built upon at an enjoyable pace. In addition, Touno did a great job creating a society within the game that feels very real by addressing the various societal issues faced by players, adding a lot of depth to the setting. The amount of detail included in the world was impressive to me and really helped to immerse me into the story, making me excited to see what further stories will take place in this world.

The amount of detail included in describing the game systems extended to the battle scenes, which featured extensive tactical explanations of what was taking place. One of the highlights of this volume was a battle between Shiroe and his companions and a gang of player-killing bandits. Shiroe’s analysis of his own strategy compared to the strategy of his opponents during the fight kept things exciting and the thorough description of the skills being used made sure I was never unclear on what was going on. This approach raised my appreciation for each of the battle scenes because I always had a clear understanding of why certain events took place, and this is most apparent in the final battle of the volume when we get an exhaustive explanation of the winning strategy.

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One of the real highlights of this volume is the sense of adventure Touno captured in the second half of the volume. This was exemplified in a scene where Shiroe realizes that they were the first people to ever travel from Akiba to Susukino and see an overhead view of the city. I really enjoyed how that scene expressed the feeling of adventuring through an uncharted world and it really drew me further into the story.

Yen Press did a great job with this release as the stylistic design of the book itself is excellent. The cover and back design are particularly striking and a nice coloured pull-out (part of which is pictured above) is included as well. I found the between-chapter character profiles as well as the class appendix at the back of the book to be a helpful touch to the volume that will be a useful tool of reference for me in the future.

Although one of the greatest strengths of Log Horizon is the rich world created by Touno’s description, it is also one of the biggest problems I had with this volume. Much of the volume is spent building and describing the world, and as a result not a lot actually happens in the main story. The pacing feels slow in general and it feels at times that Touno could have been more economical in his descriptions as well with how many times they are repeated. This became a frequent problem and it felt like the book never really built up any sort of momentum until right at the end, becoming a bit of a slog to read through at times as I would wonder when they would finally get to the action. I’m hopeful that this problem will remain confined to this volume and that the emphasis on world-building here will allow the story to proceed faster in the future.

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The characters in Log Horizon Vol. 1 never really make a memorable impact and their development clearly takes a back seat in favour of world-building. While this does not cripple the book by any means, a deeper exploration of the characters would have done a lot to engage me more with the story. At this point, most of the characters only show surface level depth, ranging from the unremarkable (Shiroe, Akatsuki) to the occasionally cringe-worthy (Marielle). Shiroe’s inner monologue is occasionally interesting, but this is primarily for the engaging observations he makes about Elder Tales rather than any notable character traits. Now that the world has been adequately set up, I really hope that Touno goes into greater depth with the characters that populate Elder Tales.

The character interactions in Log Horizon Vol. 1 are generally enjoyable, and the banter Shiroe, Naotsugu and Akatsuki add a sense of fun to an otherwise serious story. However, Touno really stumbles in all of the interactions the group has with Marielle, a guild leader they are friendly with. This dialogue almost always involve discussing Marielle’s figure as she tries to seduce Naotsugu (at numerous points she offers to let Naotsugu cop a feel of her self-described “fatty growths”) and go on for far too long, adding nothing while taking away from actual story progression. It’s difficult to understand why page space was devoted to this when it could have been spent developing the other characters in a more meaningful way, and this is a disappointing aspect of this volume.

Log Horizon Vol. 1 is an intriguing start to the series, providing a rich and developed world for readers to become immersed in. This becomes a double-edged sword as pacing of this volume suffers due to the heavy emphasis Touno makes on building the world of Elder Tales, and the characters are also not developed as well as they could have been because of this. While this volume is held back because of these pacing issues and some really questionable character choices, Touno succeeds in creating a sense of adventure that made me want to see more of the world and its inhabitants.

What do our scores mean?

Log Horizon Vol. 1 - The Beginning of Another World was published by Yen Press on April 21st, 2015. Authored by Mamare Touno and illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara the series is currently ongoing and published by Enterbrain. The series has receive a two season anime adaption and volume 2 will be published in English on July 21st, 2015.

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*Copy provided for Taykobon by publisher.

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