Log Horizon V
By Mamare Touno
Does anybody know what time is it? Why festival time of course! I mean when you've established a government, created an economy, won a war and made peace with the neighbors? Why wouldn't you throw a party? And that is what the 5th installment of the Log Horizon series focuses on, the first Autumn Festival of Akiba and the consequences there of. In case you haven't read the reviews on the last 4 books, let me cover the basics. The game of Elder Tales is the most popular MMO in the world, using a fantasy setting on a half sized world map, it's played in almost every nation on the planet. So when the creators of Elder Tales announces a new expansion, people flock to be online during the release. This turns unfortunate as everyone who was online for the release wakes up to find themselves within the world of Elder Tales. It gets even stranger as the world becomes real, with the NPCs during into real people with their own feelings, thoughts, and desires. Lucky for our heroes, everyone who did trasition over did so with their in game abilities and gear, meaning that they still have access to all their firepower and the ability to respawn. That doesn't make battle any the less terrifying, or death any less painful however. As 30,000 people hovered on the brink of despair and panic, our hero Shiroe uses his brains and his friends and every other resource he can to get everyone organized and give them a reason to keep going on with their lives. Shiroe ain't the only person pursuing his goals in this brand new world however and not all of these people are as benevolent as he is.
The book opens with the Autumn festival about the begin and that means marketplaces, special foods, events and parties! It also means manuevers of the romantic kind. Honestly these days I tend to wince when I run across romantic plot lines. Most writers simply don't seem to do them well, or engage in some really cringe worthy relationships (If I started listing authors who did that, we'd be here all day, feel free to insert your favorite one here and we'll keep moving). There are the special snowflakes that do both of course, but thankfully Mamare Touno avoids that despite playing with fire. I'll get to that in a moment but first I want to talk about the actual conflict the book. Which is a group of People of the Earth (the natives of the world who were NPCs when this thing was a video game) are deliberately trying to cause a fuss in the festival as a sort of underhanded social/economic attack. Shiroe needs to marshal his allies and organize them while not letting the regular adventurers and People of the Earth know that this is even happening to maintain confidence in the government and ensure that the festival goes off without a hitch. Additionally he has to make sure that their best ally the Princess Raynesia doesn't get hit in this attack either, which may be easier said than done. It's in this bit that I run one of the reasons I enjoy reading works from other nations, because it's always so interesting to see how people see themselves as opposed to how you see them. For example when Shiroe notes that trying to undermine confidence in the government is a silly tactic because gosh darn it the adventurers are all Japanese and as such are to cynical to have any such confidence... Well I almost laughed my head off.
Like most of my readers, I'm an American but as a Marine I spent time in Japan (specifically Okinawa which has some cultural differences from the rest of Japan but is fairly culturally Japanese... (Just think the differences between say Florida and Louisiana as an example). By my standards the Japanese had an extreme high trust (one could say nearly disturbingly high) trust in their government, then again I'm from right north of Texas, where a number of citizens lose their minds when a routine military exercise occurs... You know what? Let me get back to the romance plot…
A big subplot of this novel is a love triangle of sorts, in where Akatsuki and Minori have started competing for Shiroe's attention and love. This of course leads to a lot embarrassment and confusion for Shiroe, who doesn't seem to have learned to decline things gracefully or deal with awkward social situations. I have to admit I'm not huge fan of this sub plot, partially because I'm honestly kind of done with love triangles. Let's be honest most of them are poorly done, take up to much time and used as a cheap way to inject unneeded drama into a plot (I'm looking at you, just about every bloody X Men writer ever who thought I wanted a poorly done soap opera in my superhero comic!). It doesn't help that some writers seem to think they're a requirement for any group with more then 2 girls or 3 guys. This love triangle is made extra awkward by the fact that Minori isn't even in high school and Shiroe and Akatsuki are both graduate students (or were before being transported to a medieval fantasy world). Thankfully, Mr. Touno never lets it get creepy, Minori's feelings for Shiroe are a to be blunt about it a student crush on a gifted and kind teacher. Shiroe for his own part makes it clear by the end of the book that while he sees Minori as a protege and gifted student and... that's it. Of course Shiroe's relationship with Akatsuki remains stalled due to both of them having the social skills of drunken mice, not to mention that Shiroe is dense enough to qualify as some new type of black hole. I got to be honest and say it's kinda aggravating. Can we just have two people be attracted to each other and then have one of them ask the other one out? Not every time, but you know... Try it out once! Just to see if we like it?
Lastly we have new villain revealed at the end of the story that Shiroe of course already knows about. This really flopped for me, not the new villain who is an adventurer not unlike Shiroe who pulled her own adventurer city together, organized a government and made peace with the locals. It's just Shiroe knows all about her and her city without having made any efforts on screen. It's a cheap way to make him look smart without giving the reader a chance to follow along and it's very tell don't show. Additionally not a lot of time is devoted to what should be a major reveal. So there's not a development going on here either. I found it disappointing.
Log Horizon Volume V is an alright book, but it doesn't deliver on being a slice of life or on being a good transition from one plot arc to the next. In fact it's frankly the weakest novel in the series so far. That said it isn't terrible and avoids a lot of the major pit falls of it's genre and plots here. It just doesn't do anything beyond dodge those pitfalls and give us a lack luster transition. Because of that Log Horizon Volume V by Mamare Touno gets a C. There are worse ways to kill an hour or two but there are also a lot better.