Log Horizon: The Better Written Sword Art Online

I’ll be honest, When I’m deciding what shows I would consider good, as opposed to a show that I just happen to enjoy, I generally tend to reward more points to a show that has more in-depth writing than one with huge flashy action scenes. That’s not to say that shows with flashy action scenes are bad, or that those shows can’t also have good writing or interesting ideas. I think a lot of the Fate series makes that point well. My point is that a show needs more than two characters trying to beat each other to death in order to be considered good. This is where the debate between Log Horizon and Sword Art Online comes in.

Log Horizon in a lot of ways borrows elements of Sword Art Online’s premise, although at that point it would also be fair to say that Sword Art Online borrows a lot from the .hack franchise’s premise. Both of the show’s start out in familiar situations in their respective first episodes. A male protagonist who plays a lot of video games suddenly gets sucked into a world based on a game he’s playing and can’t get out. However, even though the show’s start in similar places, the show’s both take radically different approaches.


Sword Art Online vs Log Horizon. Source: TheMarySue.com


Sword Art Online is quick to focus on Kirito and the people around him, with the first couple of episodes actually remaining quite tragic. Kirito is trapped in a world he can’t escape from with a bunch of people he doesn’t know. Not only that, he is hated by a lot of people for simply having been a beta tester and thereby having a stronger character. A lot of this focus is quickly replaced by a focus on Kirito and gang’s quest to get out of the game. Kirito meets a lot of female companions and the show quickly turns into Kirito’s Not so Happy Harem Time with fighting. 

This shift away from unique character development is ultimately what leads to the show’s lackluster finish. Full disclosure, I am not the biggest fan of SAO, if you couldn’t already tell, but even I would admit its strength are indeed strong. The show’s animation is extremely detailed and its musical score is impressive to be sure, but as I said at the beginning, a showy presentation can only do so much for a show’s quality.

Log Horizon, while admittedly losing out on things like animation and musical score, does what Sword Art Online tried and failed to do: write an interesting story and build an interesting world. Log Horizon chooses to focus on its characters in the beginning and stay focused on developing those characters throughout the entire series. Log Horizon’s main character Shiroe, in comparison with Kirito, has a distinct personality (an intelligent, sensible leader who knows how to engage in Diplomacy and work behind the scenes to achieve his goals). Kirito comes off most of the time as a typical shonen protagonist who thinks that he can achieve anything he wants by just believing hard enough.

Screenshot 2017-11-07 01.30.40

Log Horizon’s writing also speaks for itself in the way it uses details to build its world from the ground up. It is explained in the first episode that world that the characters are in a world like the one they knew as Elder Tale, but not Elder Tale itself. Many of the world’s rules function the same way as in the game, but some details like the types of monsters in specific locations have changed, and also the way that they travel to other parts of the game (mainly through the transportation gates) no longer works. This hints to us that the world they are now is not necessarily what they think it is.

The show also differs in how the characters feel about the world they are in. While almost all of the characters in Sword Art Online agree that breaking out is the immediate focus, Shiroe takes a much more pragmatic approach. He, of course, is worried about getting back to the real world, but he also feels that there needs to be a sense of order in their new world for the time being. In order to accomplish this goal, Shiroe sets up a council with the leaders of the group’s largest guilds and hammers at a plan to cooperate and keep the people happy. Parts of this plan include trading agreements for different clans, organizing what is effectively a standing army, and also solving the problem of food not tasting like everything.

One criticism that is fairly leveled at the show’s story is the arc during the first part of the show where Shiroe and company go and rescue a little girl from a guild of thieves. Most of this arc does very little in terms of the overall story except for introducing us to two new characters. However, what the show presents in those first few episodes is enough to keep us interested. It explains the basics of combat in an MMORPG setting, as well as explaining the class system, all stuff that while boring to someone who has experience with desktop MMOs like this, is vital to someone who doesn’t. Sword Art Online, meanwhile, does very little in establishing much of anything when it comes to rules in its own world, and often times resorts to Deus ex Machina plot explanations of “Kirito is a beta tester, therefore he is invincible to all damage ever.”


Source: Sword Art Online Wiki


Not every show can be perfect. In Fact, most shows won’t excel at everything. There is always going to be something a show could have improved on and made itself better. Log Horizon, while certainly having its flaws, is unmistakably a much better-written show than Sword Art Online.

What do you guys think? Am I right? Am I wrong? Is Asuna worst girl? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now, Friendos!


16 thoughts on “Log Horizon: The Better Written Sword Art Online”

  1. If I’m honest, I didn’t even finish Log Horizon. I found it really dull and I didn’t like any of the characters we met early on. That isn’t saying it was bad, because you are right in that it is well written and put together. But it didn’t interest me. SAO on the other hand may not have been as well written, but I found it highly entertaining and I quite enjoyed Kirito, Klein and Asuna as a cast. I think the two, while linked due to both being about being stuck in games, were trying to accomplish very different things and they appeal to different audiences so it probably isn’t whether one is better than the other, more what you want out of your stuck in a game story that will determine whether you like one more than the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I certainly think that’s true, but it doesn’t really make up for the fact that SAO kind of just gives up on writing a narratively coherent story after a while. I enjoyed the elements that SAO did well, with action being one of them, but it didn’t really live up to the hype.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nothing ever does live up to the hype so judging it against its hype isn’t really fair to the show. Not saying you should have liked it, because I know it won’t work for everyone and that there are some issues with it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s fair. And it’s not even that I don’t like the show, it’s that I find the writing to be a bit simplistic, to say the least. Still plenty to enjoy.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I agree with you on the writing. Particularly in the second and third arcs. It just isn’t good enough and they really are relying on you just being into the show at the point to keep you watching.


  2. There is a fan theory that the author is writing about a type of AI. The players are copies of people, and don’t know it. They were trapped on a server that’s been rebooted at some point in the far distant future, possibly by aliens or AI that have lost touch with humans and rebooted this server to try and understand what we were, thus the strange AI tendencies of the NPCs, and the strange communication with the moon-deaths in season 2, which is poorly explained, but this would make sense of it. So they aren’t people stuck in the game. They are self-aware AI copies of people, and their loss of memories when dead, their loss of self and personality, makes more sense as a kind of software corruption. Still just a theory, but its the kind that a good author would write.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your writing but I kind of felt like the article on the whole was a bit obvious in terms of what you are saying. SAO is not at all the best written thing out there and Log Horizon is clearly the winner in that category. Still, you did offer perspective into other categories and ideas for your own personal preference that I did find interesting.

    I enjoy SAO, it gets better over time with a few choice exceptions, but I know it is littered with problems. Log Horizon was fantastic through and through but I am a bit disappointed that we probably won’t see a third season for it due to legal reasons. Either way, both shows were improvements on .Hack if you ask me xD

    Thanks for sharing and happy to see ya in the Blog Party group 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem, sorry if I came off as harsh or something. Wasn’t intending. I always feel a bit bad when I leave a comment like that. I do think your writing is really good though and look forward to reading more stuff from ya 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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