Review – Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – The anime that makes less sense the more of it you watch
January 5, 2012 6 Comments
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (Horizon in the middle of nowhere) probably takes the top spot in the worst adaptations of 2011, it makes about as much sense as a chocolate hammer, and it was also a show that I enjoyed immensely. Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is adapted from the immensely popular light novel series written by Minoru Kawakami and illustrated by Satoyasu. There are currently 8 novels in circulation and they are about 1-2 inches thick each.
You will have to bear with me while I explain the plot because it is a very complex story and one that never seems to make it into the series properly. First off, this series only tells the story form novels 1a and 1b, and apparently everything happens over a 36-hour time span. The story is set in the future when other countries have conquered Japan and divided it up into feudal territories or kingdoms.
Now for the plot, something that is incredibly complex and not really explained in the series, to the point where the majority of this has been taken from wikis.
In the distant future, Earth has been devastated and its inhabitants seek a new home in the heavens. However, constant warfare forces humans to return to the Earth, which has turned into an uninhabitable planet except for a certain areas called the Divine States (formally Japan).
The Divine States are too small to accommodate all the humans, so they duplicate the area and created the Harmonic Divine States. In order to retrace their steps and rediscover their journey to the heavens, the returned humans began to reproduce history from the year 10,000BC, using a mysterious history book called Testament.
History reproduction proceeds smoothly until A.D. 1413, when a war broke out in the Divine States, which causes the Harmonic divine States to crash onto the original world. The people of the Divine States surrender and the invaders from the Harmonic Divine States divide the country up. They try to resume the reproduction of history from A.D. 1457, but the update of history terminates in A.D. 1648. A rumour of apocalypse begins to spread throughout the world.
The anime takes place after these events, the year is 1648 (who’d have thought it!) of the Testament Era, and the refugees of Japan now live in the city ship Musashi. Musashi constantly travels around Japan, while being watched by the Testament Union, the authority that runs the re-enactment of history. However, due to the rumors of an apocalypse, war begins to spread throughout the Divine States and the Testament Union has to stop its re-enactments due there being nothing written after 1648.
Taking advantage of this situation, Toori Aoi, head of Musashi Ariadust Academy’s Surpeme Federation and President of the student council, leads his fellow classmates to use this opportunity to regain their homeland.
Now there is already a problem here, the plot is so unbelievably complex, and so little of it is even explained in the anime that your pretty much lost from the very beginning with little clue as to what’s going on or why. The story is essentially about Toori’s wish to regain his homeland and save Horizon, the automaton that just happens to look exactly like (and have the soul of) the girl he loves. To me it is a love story set in a world that has lost the fine thread of history that t was so desperately following.
Unfortunately most of this is just me seeing what I like about the series because I didn’t understand half of what was being said or what was going on. Now I think there are two major issues here; firstly there is an issue with the script and how the series has been adapted from the light novels; secondly there is an issue with the light novels themselves.
I don’t think the scriptwriters have provided us with a good adaptation of the series; they appear to have left out significant chunks of the story, and crammed too much into each episode. Partly this is because of the series length, Horizon is quite simply too short for a story as complex as this one is. Nearly 4 inches of light novel appear to have been condensed, largely unsuccessfully into 13 episodes, which often means that there is so much scene setting and introductions that there is little chance to work out what is going on.
Now the second fault as I mentioned is with the novels themselves. I have managed to read most of 1a and my god is it hard going. Minoru Kawakami has created an astounding world, incredibly complex universe and thrown in some interesting ideas to do with religion. However, I feel that it is far too complex; it is as if Kawakami has used every single idea that has come into his head for the novels, there is easily enough ideas for a second parallel series about other characters. And therein lies the major problem; Minoru Kawakami has produced a light novel series that is almost impossible to properly adapt. There is too much going on, too many phrases and too much back-story to fit into a 13 episode anime series.
Now there are issues with this series, but I did say that I enjoyed it, which actually surprised even me. The artwork is very nice, incredibly detailed backgrounds with some nice fight scenes and brilliant looking backgrounds. There are a large variety of building designs, some European and many quite ancient looking Japanese deigns. The ships are also a big element of the show, especially Musashi that apparently consists of 8 separate ships. They all have quite unique designs and are striking to look at. It is similar to steampunk in the way that the designs mix older styles of clothing and buildings with futuristic elements.
The costumes that every character wears are also detailed and the main case all have unique looking clothes. There are a wide variety of character designs, although one in particular came across as quite racist; there is what appears to be an ‘Indian’ (someone from India) who wears a turban, has massive lips and carries a plate of curry everywhere (why I shall never know). The women are drawn in a classic hourglass shape, with quite exaggerated chests in most cases – Massive breasts basically – quite-thin hips, and overly exaggerated hairstyles. The hair really did stand out for me; with the craziest ‘drill’ hairstyle I’ve ever seen, even beating Iori Flamehearts hair (Ladies vs Butlers).
There are so many characters in this series that it is almost impossible to keep up with them all. Actually after the first few episodes I realised that apart from a handful of characters I largely ignored the rest as they seemed to be in supporting roles and not essential to the overall plot. The main characters are Toori Aoi and Horizon Ariadust aka P-01, however there are several other characters that are significant. We have Toori’s sister Kimi Aoi, Tomo Asama, Masazumi Hond and Futyao Honda, all of whom play quite important roles over the course of the series.
Toori is an interesting character who apparently blames himself for Horizons death, and appears to have made some sort of promise never to cry again. He is always smiling and takes every opportunity to strip; the majority of the comedy centres on him. Horizon is the automaton P-01 and is central to the story; she is constantly singing a single song, reminiscent of Macross and a few other similar shows. She is the love interest in the series and clearly harbours feelings for Toori despite being a robot. The other characters are important in their own respect although they still make up part of a supporting cast that is simply too big to go into more detail.
I enjoyed this series, it is the very definition of a guilty pleasure, especially because the series itself was pretty bad. I found myself largely ignoring the bigger plot points and focussing on what to me was essentially a romance between Toori and Horizon, one that has the potential to change for the world forever. Toori was a treat to watch, constantly coming out with great one-liners and causing everyone else on Musashi, along with their enemy’s endless headaches with his random thoughts, speeches and tomfoolery. He also has what is quite possibly the best line in the entire series, saying to Horizon ‘sorry I couldn’t make you horny’.
There are some interesting elements to do with the recreation or re-writing of history, along with ideas of religion and sin in the story as well if you know where to look. Various weapons, apparently representing the emotions, and therefore sins of Horizon are also scattered across the world, and apparently whoever possesses them all will have the power to rule the world. The idea of fighting against groups who appear to represent the catholic church – there is a character called the pop – along with history apparently being recorded in the ‘Testament’ are all interesting ideas that are sadly lost in this series.
In the end it’s a nicely animated guilty pleasure. A series that makes no sense, and has so much going on that if you were to seriously try to work out everything about the story it would give you a migraine. There is a second series due out in April however, which suggests that Sunrise were laying the foundations with this series. They were introducing us to the concept and essentially using the series as a prologue for what could be an interesting series about Toori and the residents of Musashi reclaiming their homeland from what appear to be entirely repressive forces. This is not surprising to me because the light novels have been immensely popular in Japan, and regardless of what we might think of the series it has sold well in its home country, and made enough money to justify a second season. An interesting fact about Horizon – so far it has outsold Guilty Crown in Blu-Ray Discs – which says a lot more about guilty Crown than it does about horizon I feel. I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone, but I think that if you are able to overlook certain elements of the story then the show does have quite a bit going for it and should be enjoyable in some way.
A final word on the sources that I’ve sued to write this review; I had to use several wikis in order to get my facts about the stories plot for this review. They are: