It's more Log Horizon! Yay! Recommended, obviously.
It's another show about computer game players trapped in a computer game world. What's different here is that it's by the author of Maoyu, so Shiroe and his friends are primarily interested in trying to build up an urban civilisation and maintain cordial diplomatic relationships with the in-game locals. They're not looking for a fight. (Well, most of them, anyway. The original was a sword-and-sorcery game, so some of the players were originally there for the monster-bashing.) On the contrary, war with the People of the Land is something Shiroe is very, very keen to avoid.
It still has fights, mind you. It has massive fights, in fact. The season's first half sends Shiroe and a couple of his friends off to fight a game campaign so daunting that getting killed over and over again is actually part of their expected strategy. One thing I liked is that this specifically feels like game combat, with tactics that would be ridiculous in real life but are exactly the kinds of things you do in a computer game. There's analysis of how to fight an end-of-level boss. Furthermore, the show's also aware of the other side of the coin, which is that there can't be anything more terrifying for a monster than a party of gamers. Nothing stops them. You can kill them a hundred times and they'll keep coming back, learning from every defeat until they eventually get you.
Meanwhile Crusty is leading a bunch of other fighters elsewhere on a further campaign. It's tough in fantasy Akihabara.
There's an astonishing pair of episodes near the end of the first half, in which the main characters dissect their personal failings as anti-social game-playing nerds. Shiroe, in real life, is kind of pathetic. His mildly autistic traits and his tendency to push other people away are standard traits in a Light Novel Hero, for the sake of target audience identification, but they're also being put under the microscope. The following episode, though, takes a musclehead combat-happy lunk and just about destroyed me with how he strips down his own failings and then uses them to inspire his comrades.
I think Season 2 lacks a little unity, compared with Season 1. It starts from a point of greater stability and then goes off in more disparate directions, with less focus in its chosen heroes. There's Shiroe's party, Crusty's party and the folks back home. Then we get a story arc for the kiddies, who'd been neglected in the first half. (I approve. Minori, Touya, Serara, Isuzu and Rundelhaus are a fundamental part of this series. They're not as badass as the adults, but this show isn't trying to be Conan the Barbarian. I'd argue that its weaker characters are more important than its big heroes, actually.)
All kinds of surprising people pull story focus. Shiroe sends Isaac to be a teacher (which he finds annoying) and he ends up acquiring a nine-year-old follower. Admittedly this nine-year-old happens to be a royal heir, but that's still the last thing Isaac would have chosen. He's a musclebrain. He likes fights and he's obnoxious. This is really good... and he's far from the only second-tier character to step into the spotlight like this.
I liked all that. Mamare Touno's exploring his cast, not just the headline heroes, and fleshing them out. He's also adding some new ones, such as Tetra (goofy relief and egomaniac), Kanami (a living legend to everyone else), Leonardo (who's based his game avatar on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Roe 2 (I couldn't believe I only worked her out halfway).
It also makes the finale all the more awesome, when everyone's teaming up again at last. Akihabara is under siege.
I think this is slightly less effective than Season 1, but not significantly. It's Season 2. It's exploring and splitting things off. Some favourite characters get less focus than you'd expect (e.g. Shiroe!), but on the other hand we get big character arcs for people who'd previously been underused (e.g. Akatsuki). Besides, Shiroe's still cool when he finally acts. I loved the way he identifies disturbing things about the worldbuilding and fixes them, even though the thing he's changing had been giving a big advantage to him and the other players. This series isn't taking its status quo for granted or trying to tread dramatic water, but instead is constantly examining itself, exploiting its weak points and showing us why everything might be about to fall apart.
The romantic stuff's pretty much the same as before. It's still obvious who'll end up with who, even to the characters themselves, but that side of things is only rarely the point of a scene or an episode. (An exception is the Valentine's Day ep.13, which is sweet and funny.)
The show's also capable of being a bit dark, both in terms of what happens (heroes can fail big-time) and characters' psychology (the Odyssea Knights, eyaaaagh). The differences between adventurers and the People of the Land can be an eye-opener too. The show's still basically light and entertaining, mind you, but it's not fluff. It's intelligent.
I want a Season 3. The finale is setting one up loud and clear, although fortunately not in a frustrating cliffhanger way. I'm not aware of any third season in the pipeline, but the light novels are still ongoing and I'm sure they're good. I'm fond of these characters and I want to see where things go for them next. More, please!