The second half of Log Horizon has one weak patch towards the end, but still delivers a strong finish that had me cheering at the news of a second season.
The Story Arcs
The 2nd half contains several story/character arcs, one of which was a major mistake in my opinion.
The parallel arcs of the negotiations with the People of the Land, and the training exercise for the junior players eventually merge into the Return of the Goblin King event.
Before the game became real, this event would be regularly disrupted by adventurers as it offered significant rewards for relatively low risk.
Once the world became real, the adventurers were too busy surviving and reviving Akihabara to intervene in the Return of the Goblin King.
The subsequent defeat of the Goblins then transitions into a festival arc in Akihabara that sets up the second season. This arc has several problems with it but I’ll mostly talk about that in context of the characters.
There is a supporting arc scattered throughout of introducing new magics to the world, but I’m not going to talk about that much (if at all).
Minori and the Kids
For much of the second half the continuing development of the junior players, and in particular Minori, provided many of my favourite moments. Minori’s development from the frightened middle schooler held captive by Hamelin into the effective battle leader was a thing of beauty to watch.
The pacing of it across the episodes was just right, and Minori rapidly became one of my favourite characters in Log Horizon. Character development as rich, and as carefully planned, as Minori’s simply doesn’t happen enough, and needs to be treasured when it does happen.
The other characters in the group – Isuzu, Rudy, Tohya, and Serara – also have their moments but Minori is clearly the standout in this group.
Then Minori falls in love with Shiroe during the festival arc as Log Horizon veers towards a harem anime.
I do see the reasons for why this was done. The series strongly implies that Minori’s life was heavily limited by Tohya’s disability in the real world. The romance elements were one way of showing that Minori is now accepting Tohya’s independence, and moving on to her own life.
Fair enough, and Tohya gets a really nice moment as the understanding brother towards the end of this.
But why did it have to be Shiroe?
The Log Horizon script writers have a demonstrated ability to effectively handle Loads and Loads of Characters. So why didn’t they add one more junior player to Minori’s group and direct her romantic interests there?
That would have preserved the platonic, respect based, master-apprentice relationship between Shiroe and Minori. I think that would have been much better storytelling, and far more interesting to watch than the creepy age difference.
Not that Shiroe noticed. More on that later.
Crusty and Lenessia
These two are hilarious to watch. The ease with which Crusty reads Lenessia, and her vast repertoire of dirty looks in Crusty’s direction, are simply priceless.
To be fair though Lenessia does have her moments of reading Crusty far more perceptively than I think anyone realises.
As for Crusty in a real fight? There’s a reason D.D.D is a combat guild, and Crusty does love his work. Possibly a bit too much (see earlier comment re Lenessia’s clarity of vision).
Lenessia also gets some decent character development from the spoiled, lazy girl, into someone definitely worthy of respect. As beta couples go, this is a fun pair to watch.
With all the other things going on, Shiroe ends up stepping back from being the lead character. Log Horizon becomes more and more of an ensemble as it progresses, and it speaks to the skill of the scriptwriters that they managed this as well as they did.
For all that Shiroe has matured from the isolated shut-in of the early episodes, there is still a lot of it left in his character. This manifests in an almost obsessive focus on researching the world and, to an extent, ignoring how he is seen outside the Log Horizon Guild. It could also be argued that Shiroe is also ignoring the members of Log Horizon, but to a much lesser extent.
So it doesn’t surprise me how utterly clueless Shiroe is when Akatsuki, then Minori, and even Henrietta, start crushing on him almost as badly as Soujiro’s fangirls.
This is within his established character but it did contribute to the problems of the festival arc, especially as far as Akatsuki is concerned.
On the other hand it does make Shiroe’s dabbling in new types of magic more convincing…
To write this review I rewatched the 2nd half in a marathon over the weekend, and then slept on it overnight.
Doing so produced the character focus for this review, and also identified the key question for the 2nd half of Log Horizon: why is Akatsuki still so heavily invested in role-playing as a ninja?
Most of the characters in Log Horizon are, at least by the 2nd half, more or less their real life personas with the adventurer abilities added. There are a few minor exceptions: Henrietta is trying to hide her real name of Umeko, and I doubt that Crusty is using his real name.
But for the most part it isn’t hard to see (for example) Shiroe, Nyanta, Henrietta, MInori, Isuzu, or Naotsugu acting in very similar way back in the real world.
Akatsuki? Not so much. Her persona as the loyal ninja is a façade, and the woman behind it is still a mystery.
Akatsuki is unable or unwilling to break out of the role as she also falls for Shiroe. To me this speaks of a young woman with problems she was dealing with through gaming.
It doesn’t help that no-one has noticed in universe, and that there are no counsellors to help her even if anyone did notice. So whatever those problems are, they are probably festering away behind the shell.
This is the final reason that the harem elements of the festival arc annoyed me: Akatsuki has enough problems snaring Shiroe without having to contend with rivals.
Shiroe and Akatsuki are clearly intended to be a pair in both the opening and closing credits, but it isn’t going to happen until Akatsuki’s problems get dealt with and Shiroe gets whacked with enough of a Clue By Four to really notice Akatsuki.
I will briefly mention that the final episode would be unforgiveable without the announcement of the second season of Log Horizon. The finale deliberately introduces new elements that will be major plot arcs, and doing so without a follow-up coming would have incited screams of rage across the internet.
As it is, the finale established just how much story is left in Log Horizon and had me cheering at the announcement.
Despite that one weak patch Log Horizon Season 1 remains one of the best anime of 2013, and is likely to be a strong contender for the best anime of 2014.
Thoroughly recommended, and thoroughly rewatchable. In fact I recommend rewatching it at least once – there’s a lot of subtle foreshadowing going on in early episodes, and the infodumps of one episode are often timed to become relevant an episode or two later.
The final point is that whilst I initially disliked the opening credits, I do quite like them now. So here is the OP in all its spoileriffic glory:
 Not that Soujiro is any better. The West Wind Brigade is a running gag in the 2nd half, and always good for a laugh.
 I’m not going to say any more than that. This is intended to be a minor spoilers post, and discussing that would be a major spoiler.
 Partial exception for Minori in that Tohya’s independence has affected her character.