Log Horizon II – Episode 10

God damn. This episode nailed it. The entire thing was one long, rousing speech from friggin’ William Massachusetts, laying out his philosophy on games and basically entire life story. And it was inspiring stuff! This is the kind of stuff SAO continuously tinkers with, but isn’t really self-aware enough to intelligently engage – here, the validity of virtual realities is established in strident terms through the degree to which William has invested in and learned from them. The sense of isolation and other-ness he feels in the real world is honestly exactly the kind of thing that prompts stuff like GamerGate (I almost felt tempted to offer some kind of “this is an unhealthy place to be, this can lead to very destructive attitudes” disclaimer to my ANN post), but the base emotions themselves are very earnest and understandable. This episode was basically a self-contained essay on the psychology of gaming, framed as a rousing call to arms. It was a hell of a thing.

Here’s the full ANN post. Jumbled, breathless notes below:

Log Horizon

Looks like this episode might focus on morale. Starting with William Massachusetts reflecting on their loss

“The game has abandoned us.” Everyone reflecting on losing the one thing they were good at, if raids are now impossible. Touching back on one of the most interesting points from the first season – Shiroe’s comment that the difficulty now will be finding purpose in their lives, purpose within the game. William’s guild found it in what they’d always done, but now that’s being taken away

Oh damn, now William’s hearing the voices of people in his old life who mocked his hobby. Again tying it to their real identities – and this one’s sharp, since being in a top raiding guild really does require a massive time commitment

“What am I supposed to say? If I were to console them, it’d be lies.”

“I guess we can go back to Susukino and be a good peacekeeping guild.”

“That might be the smart way to live.”

William sees that as capitulating, as becoming no different from the people who mocked him for his hobby, his passion

“We’re idiots who wasted our time on something as pointless as a game.” If William gives up here, he sees that as making all the time he committed to this game pointless. He was proud of his hobby because he saw it as a valid identity – if he’s no longer able to raid, it was no identity at all, just a way to pass the time

“We love games. We chose this.”

“There are some things you just can’t give up.”

“We may be maggots, losers who got beat… but I won’t let anyone, not even God, tell me it was a waste.”

“So what if it’s just bits on a server? They matter. I’ve decided they matter. And I’ve decided that they’re wonderful, glorious things!” William, you are knocking it out of the goddamn park. This is a better plea for games as identity than SAO managed in forty episodes. Of course they’re “just games,” but that doesn’t make your conviction or investment any less real. You decide they matter

“The idiots who think God decided everything that matters would never understand.” Man, he is promoting such a convincing core gamer perspective. It’s brilliant – obviously it’s a limited view, and kind of inherently self-focused, but it’d have to be. The show is absolutely selling his emotions as real and valid, selling his entire worldview

“We chose to be here! I won’t let anyone insult that.”

“We’ll scream and charge at it like children!” So great

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a toy, or it’s all fake. We think it’s amazing. We’ve decided to spend our time on it. So it’s real!”

“People who know how to live in harmony with others can have anything, so they can live their lives that way. Do you have anything that lets you shine in the real world? I don’t! Not a single thing! I’ve never told anyone. I couldn’t. But you guys are my friends. Without the game, I wasn’t able to make friends. I’m so lame… I’m pathetic. But I’ve made it this far because I have the game. I can understand your feelings because I had the game. (That’s a big one – games provide a common language for many people who otherwise have real trouble communicating.) When I’m playing, I can tell that one of you wants healing, or one guy who’s posted in the back wants to be in the front. (Games as a way to create common sympathies, to be able to acknowledge each other’s needs in a very parsable way. This is brilliant stuff.) Or that someone’s tired, but they forced themselves to log on anyway.”

Elder Tale has taught me many things. I’m self-righteous. Uncaring. Uncooperative. I give up too easily. I can’t read moods. I don’t try to get involved with other people. That’s what I was told for so long, I started to refuse to be with others. But in Elder Tale, even someone like me was able to connect with others a little.

Elder Tale taught him compromise, sympathy, compassion

Even admitting that when he learned he was trapped here, he was actually kind of happy

“More importantly, I was happy to be with all of you.”

“Odds are we’ll lose. But we can’t just run. There are some things you can’t just accept.”

“If you take this from us, what’s left?” Such a poignant, proud desperation to his words

“If I stop raiding, can I make friends? Can I laugh and say, ‘yeah, that was a waste of time’? Screw that crap!”

William considers his decision to leave the Round Table the “time he ran,” and regrets it

He sees Shiroe’s victory in creating Akihabara as his inspiration

“Because we’re gamers, damn it!”

Shiroe’s finally up – “If my guild was hurting, could I cheer them up with honest words like that?” And so he decides to be honest about the meaning of this raid

2 thoughts on “Log Horizon II – Episode 10

  1. This moment has been a long time coming for this show, and I was pretty worried with how Log Horizon would handle it. This is a show that just merrily chugs along with all episodes essentially getting binned into the “pretty good” category, but when you spend a whole episode focused on personal philosophy and identity, “pretty good” comes across sterile.

    I’m so happy this was not the case for this episode. I agree that his philosophy can very naturally lead into some unhealthy territory, but the foundation was there. We got to see how William made Elder Tale his reality. This is so important for what the show was trying to do; I sympathized with his struggle to find friends. It isn’t necessarily a good out for him, but it was the one he chose and his speech rang true because of it. This is real to him, we know why it is real to him, and his frustration at his world breaking down were just as real. I think it isn’t unreasonable to say that Log Horizon successfully did what SAO II was trying to do in its first arc in a single episode. Okay, I guess that’s a bit unfair because the second season of Log Horizon has been working towards this moment for a while, but take that SAO! My only hope is that Shiroe and the rest of William’s guild are able to convince William that the likable qualities that he brings into Elder Tale are part of him and the real world will appreciate him in the same way if he opens up to others. I think the intimate reality-game relationship Log Horizon has built up would be able to pull it off well.

    It’s pretty funny actually, my friends from high school just picked up WoW again and our first raid was last week. Man, when we took down that 2nd boss we were all so excited and screaming into vent like we just won the lottery. It’s amazing how the effort that you put into moving around some 1s and 0s can feel so worthwhile, and I think William was able to get that sensation across which is no small feat. Bravo Log Horizon!

    • Honestly, I don’t think it’s that unfair a comparison – and not just because SAO’s pretty bad at articulating its points, but also because I don’t think Log Horizon has done the most thoughtful work in building to this moment, either. The episode didn’t need any help – it sold its passion and philosophy single-handedly. What an episode.

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