Yen Press’s attempts to release more light novels are a welcome change to publishers just constantly releasing manga, as manga is not the only print medium anime fans are interested in.
Having released several titles based in the world of gaming such as Sword Art Online and Accel World, it is not surprising that they now have released both the original novel and the manga version of Log Horizon by Mamare Touno, with illustrations by Kazuhiro Hara. With these two print versions and the anime all released in Britain at around the same time, it gives British fans a good opportunity to judge all three formats.
The first novel, The Beginning of Another World, covers the events that are later adapted in the anime as the first four episodes. The whole of the first volume of the manga is based on the first novel too. For those not familiar with any of these versions, the story is set in the MMORRP Elder Tales, a fantasy world based on our own world, albeit reduced to half its actual size. Following the 12th expansion pack over 30,000 real-life Japanese players found themselves stuck in the game. They are unable to log out, food here has no taste to it, and even if you die you just get reincarnated. There is no escape for anyone.
The central character, Shiroe, player one of the weaker character types but is respected for his tactical abilities, which have earned him the nickname of “Machiavelli-with-glasses.” After finding himself in a virtual fantasy version of his hometown of Akihabara he meets up with an old friend Naotsugu, who is a defensive player; and Akatsuki, a female attacking player who swears loyalty to Shiroe after he gets rid of her cumbersome male avatar.
After getting accustomed to their new environment (but still not being able to cope with the bland food), the trio are called upon by the head of one of the game’s many guilds, Marielle, who asks for Shiroe and his friends to travel up to the north to rescue one the members of her guild, a young girl called Serana. Shiroe agrees to take up the job, and so he and his friends take the perilous trip.
The main plus points of the novel is that it helps to establish the world of Elder Tales better than the adaptations. You learn more about the creation of the game, how it is played, the development of the world and so on. If you want to truly immerse yourself in this Elder Tales then the novel may well be the best way to do it. It is also often easier to read than the manga. The manga sometimes displays background information on black pages and uses a white font which can be hard to read.
The novel also uses some different terms to describe things that appear in the anime. For example, in the novel and the manga the term used to define the event in which everyone got trapped in the game is the “Catastrophe”, but in the anime it is called somewhat more dramatically the “Apocalypse”. Shiroe is also referred to as “Machiavelli-with-glasses” rather than the more generic sounding “Villain-with-glasses”. Both the novel and the manga tell the story more directly than the anime too.
If the novel does have a downside, it’s that some of the more comic moments tend to get a bit lost on the page. The more slapstick moments such as when Marielle constantly tries to hug everyone, or when Akatsuki attacks Naotsugu for his perverted behaviour are funnier when they are acted out on screen or depicted in graphic art than they are in just plain text.
Overall, the novel does feel better than the manga. It is hard to judge whether either are better than the anime yet however as it deals with events that occur in later volumes of both printed versions.