It would appear that the villains this season aren’t just called “geniuses” for show. The one the Adventurers are currently up against, Eirenus, certainly has launched a more devious plan than previous Geniuses, and one that takes direct advantage of the game systems designed to aid lower-level players. All of that time spent last week explaining the “teacher system” that the older Log Horizon members have been using to train up the younger was leading up to the big reveal this week: that not only did Eirenus turn Akiba into an instance dungeon, but he also perverted the teacher system in order to drop all high-level players down to level thirty-five. Given that most of them were in the nineties as far as levels go (or at least the “most of them” who form the main cast), that’s a substantial reduction, and it stands to really screw up their chances of fighting Eirenus with anything resembling success.
This all seems to be in service of what we’ve been hinting at and gearing up for since the second half of season two: the strategic development of Minori’s group of younger Adventurers as a team in their own right. Minori’s crush on Shiroe notwithstanding, she’s been learning eagerly from him, trying very hard to make a place and a role for herself in Akiba now that it’s become her apparently permanent home, and, arguably, doesn’t have to devote as much time and energy worrying about Toya, who is thriving. That left her at slightly loose ends for a while, and when she started to study with Shiroe, she seemed to find new purpose within the guild and her new life. The transformation of Akiba into a dungeon is Minori’s chance to prove that she hasn’t just been mooning over her teacher, but actively learning from him, because even with Akatsuki (who had lowered her level with the teacher system prior to Eirenus’ actions) there with the rest of the younger members, she’s still the one with the best knowledge and strategy on hand. In other words, she’s best prepared to become the leader.
That’s going to be much more of a factor next week, though. Right now the focus is on figuring out what’s going on, and there’s a real trial-and-error element to it for most of the Adventurers. What’s interesting is that Eirenus doesn’t immediately drop everyone’s levels, which absolutely indicates malice aforethought, because it’s lulling them into a false sense of power and security. The level drop also doesn’t kick in until they’ve used their weapons (which correlate to their levels) or skills to kill a monster – when Isaac dashes a goblin to the ground, nothing happens, because that’s not necessarily a level-based attack. It’s the first successful weapon or skill-based kill that does it, triggering a chime and visual effect similar to what happens when the teacher system is engaged. Basically, Eirenus gives them a freebie and then strikes hard.
The good news? Dying gets you out of the weird, labyrinthine hell that Akiba has become. (Although we do know that dying isn’t free, so there’s that issue.) But as the D3 ladies explain to Reyneshia, just because they’re out of it now doesn’t mean that they won’t wake up tomorrow right back where they started, because most instances have a timed element about when you can retry them. That means that the only real way to put an end to this is to defeat Mr. Dark Cernunnos Eirenus himself, and with the usual players down to level thirty-five, that’s a lot of dying, which no one can really afford. And that’s not even taking into account the way that the repeated disappearance of every single Adventurer in Akiba is going to play havoc with the fragile new alliance between Adventurers and People of the Land. Reyneshia will only be able to do so much.
So that leaves Minori and her party in the hot seat. It’s time for them to fully come into their own. What that will mean isn’t entirely clear yet beyond “Minori becomes mini-Shiroe,” but Rudy and Isuzu may need to work a few things out and those Mofur sisters could be a problem, because they are trouble magnets. But however it plays out, I’m looking forward to seeing the younger Log Horizon members shine.