Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anime Review: Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon season 1

The first season of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere) is mostly based on the prologue of a long fantasy novel series by Kawakami Minoru. (From what I've heard, it moves beyond the prologue at the very end.) I'm going to be lazy and quote Wikipedia's description of Horizon's world:
In the far future, humans abandon a devastated Earth and traveled to outer space. However, due to unknown phenomenon that prevents them from traveling into space, humanity returns to Earth only to find it inhospitable except for Japan. To accommodate the entire human population, pocket dimensions are created around Japan to house in the populace. In order to find a way to return to outer space, the humans began reenacting human history according to the Holy Book Testament. But in the year 1413 of the Testament Era, the nations of the pocket dimensions invade and conquer Japan, dividing the territory into feudal fiefdoms and forcing the original inhabitants of Japan to leave. It is now the year 1648 of the Testament Era, the refugees of Japan now live in the city ship Musashi, where it constantly travels around Japan while being watched by the Testament Union, the authority that runs the re-enactment of history. However, rumors of an apocalypse and war begins to spread when the Testament stops revealing what happens next after 1648.
Yup. In the first episode, we meet a group of high school students from the upper class of Musashi, who all have random super-powers and abilities (including two witches, a half-dragon- although I couldn't tell he was a half-dragon until I looked at his Wikipedia description-, a cyborg, an incubus who doesn't act like an incubus at all, and a talking blob). The fantasy elements don't really gel with the sci-fi elements (see: To Aru Majutsu no Index for an example of how to integrate fantasy elements into a sci-fi setting in a way that makes sense), but I can make it work by imagining the world of Horizon as the futuristic version of an alternate fantasy world- kind of like what the world of Koihime Musou is to ancient China. That doesn't change the fact that Kawakami Minoru's method of writing seems to be "I'll just pull whatever I feel like out of my ass as I go along," but it makes the story's sloppiness easier to swallow. The basic concept for the setting is interesting, and the story throws out some fun fantasy ideas- like Musashi's inhabitants being able to do battle using spells provided by Musashi's central shrine in exchange for offerings- but put it all together in this series and it's a mess.

For the first four or five episodes, we see a single day play out from the perspectives of just about everyone in the show, culminating in the insane leader of Musashi setting off a nuclear reactor (or the Horizon equivalent, whatever), killing himself in the process. Before he dies, he broadcasts to everyone that the android P-01s has some WMD technology that nobody thought Musashi had inside of her, blah, blah, blah, she's now his successor, so she has to take the blame after he dies by committing suicide. Why does he want her to commit suicide? Who the hell knows? (Cue a pissed off Horizon fan commenting to tell me that it's OBVIOUSLY because blah blah blah. I don't care.) The doofusy protagonist Aoi Toori, He of the Habit of Groping Women Before Being Punched Away, doesn't want P-01s to commit suicide because she resembles Horizon, the girl he loves who died in an accident when they were kids- and it turns out that, somehow, P-01s has Horizon's soul and emotions, but not her memories.

Long story short, Musashi declares war on Italia, the country that has taken away Horizon to make her commit suicide. They invade to save her and bring her back to Musashi. This series becomes more entertaining from this point forward. Of course, the characters each get the chance to show off their fighting skills, including the show's established yuri couple, Margot Knight and Malga Naruze. Margot is cheerful and blonde and bubbly and Malga is quiet and dark-haired, and while we don't know much about them as people (aside from the fact that they jointly run a goods transporting business), they are cute together. And thankfully, Toori never hits on or or lays a finger on either of them. (Sad that I need to note that.) They're the only reason I'm watching this thing.

Of course they save Horizon and Toori confesses his love to her in a way that ends with him accidentally declaring that he'll literally conquer the world for her. The characters return to Musashi, we last see Malga and Margot snuggling in each other's arms, and all seems right with the world until Italia invades, dun dun dun.

With good execution, this series could have easily been quite fun. The setting is potentially interesting, the fights are slickly animated, and there are some moments of enjoyable chemistry among the cast as a group. But just about every time I find myself enjoying a scene (like Masazumi's debate with the Pope), this show reminds me that it was written by and for man-children (or, for those who get the reference, like it was written by Girls With Slingshots' Tyler- "Boooobies!"). The only thing that I can really laud Horizon for is its being the only anime of 2011 to have a happily-in-love yuri couple.

Story: Heeheehee
Art: Sunrise gave this show a good budget. The characters are well-rendered, but the actual character designs stink, especially for the large-breasted women.
Overall: D+


Anonymous said...

The interesting part isn't the audience you think it's for, but who actually enjoys it.

Over 30% females.

Something to consider :)

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- Most of Nanoha's fanbase is male. Its intended demographic is, as with Horizon, male otaku. I enjoy it plenty, as do a lot of women. Is over 30% of Horizon's audience female? If so (source?), power to them. I still think it's a craptastic mess of a show encasing a teeny tiny nugget of gold (Margot and Malga).

Anonymous said...

Character designs "stink"? Oh well, people are entitled to their opinion. I for one, thought that they were well designed to the extent they are one of the best character designs I have ever seen from anime. I enjoy how they actually have a representative uniform, their social status is also reflected by the uniforms they wear. Nice to see them wearing practical clothing as well and not seeing women in skirts or skimpy clothing. And the big boobs, I believe that builds character and later on in the second season, it does. But even initially, I could get a grasp on a character's personality by their bodily features. When you know who the characters are (more in depth later on) their design is greatly justified. Sure, I'm still a bit put off by the incubus and the curry guy but oh well, when you write a fiction, you just gotta have fun with it. And it is apparent that the writer both managed to pull off a great story (once you see more of it) and have a really fun time with it.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- "practical clothing" Yup, nothing easier to wear than clingy, skintight body suits. Funny how the female characters get leotards (excepting Masazumi) and what appear to be either shiny elastic pants or shiny tights while the guys get shirts, jackets and normal pants. The only truly non-male gazey article of clothing I've seen worn by a woman in Horizon is the track jacket Byakko's pilot wore (along with a leotard and shiny red tights- so much easier to put on than a t-shirt and track pants) in season 2 episode 1.

"not seeing women in...skimpy clothing" Kimi aside, we get enough boob and butt close-ups (again with that clingy, skintight clothing!) and shots of the female cast naked to make your argument moot. (As an aside, not aimed at you, Anon- someone reading this comment might say, "But Horizon's male lead, Toori, is naked a lot! It's equal opportunity." Nope. His nudity is presented as slapstick. It's pretty obvious that Toori isn't meant to turn on anyone. The female nudity in Horizon, on the other hand, is presented in a way clearly meant to be read as titillating.)

"And the big boobs, I believe that builds character and later on in the second season, it does."

Thanks for this gem, especially. I am watching the second season, and I disagree (as I do with your other opinions about Horizon). The big boobs in Horizon are just service, and you're deluded if you're crediting the show with imparting them with a deeper meaning. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I have enjoyed shows that include service- but I'm not deluded enough to interpret the service in them (say, the bathing and showering in Lagrange) as more than pandering.