Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon Revisited
May 25, 2012 6 Comments
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon was a series that many people either ignored or dismissed as ridiculous, with an incomprehensible plot to anyone who had not read the light novels upon which it is based. I quite enjoyed this series, but I am also suggested that it was little more than a guilty pleasure, yet again quoting the idea of a plot that did not make much sense along with other elements that at the time may have felt forced. However, I was curious to see if my views of the series while holding an element of truth were perhaps heavily influenced by the wider opinion of this series when it aired. I decided to revisit it, watch it again and see whether or not it was still a guilty pleasure, and generally speaking I think that the series is substantially better that I and many others initially suggested. I also think that there was a substantial element of cultural fundamentalism in the dismissal of this series as just another light novel adaptation, as if adapting a light novel automatically means that the series will be bad.
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon introduces a fascinating world with highly detailed belief system, social structures and political spheres of influence. It is a world that incorporates elements of the Sengoku Era, with other elements of a post apocalyptic world, religious symbolism and a belief structure that is based around a text so strict that any deviation is viewed as being blasphemous and potentially fatal. The world itself is very colourful and also fascinating, bringing together elements of the feudal system under the Tokugawa Shogunate and Sengoku Era, along with ideas of free will and religious oppression. It is a world that is ruled over by those who created it in the first place, one where the original inhabitants of Japan are forced to live as refugees above their own country on the city state of Musashi.
The world is also highly advanced with fascinating and beguiling technology that looks both old fashioned, while also futuristic, with weird and wonderful elements. The technology itself also has a curious religious element to it, with ideas to do with offerings for powers and control over those powers. It appears to be taking the concept of religion in technology to a more literal conclusion, suggesting that religion and technology can, and in this case are, one and the same. In a way, one of the strengths of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is the lack of explanation when it comes to this technology, instead leave it as merely another part of this futuristic world.
Too many series have significant amounts of exposition, with explanations surrounding the discovery and use of various technologies and gadgets. There are times when simply leaving them as part of the world, adding another visual element to the series adds significantly more than trying to explain the inner-workings of each individual component. With this in mind, the action and fighting in this series incorporates elements of magical realism, with the idea that there are many ways to fight and win; through physical prowess, economics, politics, and even oratory. Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon underlines the need to have skilful orators, politicians, tacticians as well as powerful warriors in order to win a fight, lack any one of these and you will lose not only the fight, but potentially your life.
At its heart, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is a tale about pain, love and forgiveness, where the main characters take the duty of transforming the world onto their shoulders despite overwhelming odds. The central characters are fascinating, especially Toori, a character who may play the fool, but it far from being a fool. He has the charisma and ability of a true leader, someone who inspires everyone they meet, someone who people will follow no matter what the cost. He is able to go unnoticed by the greater powers in the world of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon largely due to his personality. Leaders such as the pope dismiss him as a fickle, silly high school boy with no knowledge or understanding of the real world, which is essentially part of his genius.
He is the last person that anyone would expect to start a revolution, that he is able to not only convince those that are close to him, but also convince critics through an impressive use of oratory skills combined with a sharp intellect and keen mind further demonstrates his prowess as a leader. But at the same time, Toori never loses the key character elements that make him so much fun to watch, even when he is engaged in a fascinating and intense debate with the pope, he still maintains his crazy personality. It is this mix of his serious and tragic past, alongside his happy-go-lucky personality that make Toori such an interesting character to watch, while also providing his decisions with a certain gravitas that may have been lacking where it not for his complicated relationship with his own past and present.
But more than this, he is willing to put his life on the line for those that follow him, unlike the pope and other leaders he continuously gambles and plays with his own life as if it were nothing. This is once again an element of his character that may be overlooked, his inability to fully forgive himself for killing Horizon. His actions and use of his own mind, body as a catalyst to power up those that follow him can in a sense be viewed as his penance for the crime that he has committed. This in stark contrast to his bubbly personality, and it is almost impossible to think that such a happy character with all the abilities of a leader can think of his own life in that way.
In Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon the central premise is that of rejecting the status quo, and deciding that the only way to truly live is to do things yourself. Toori loves Horizon and rejects the notion that she will bring about the next apocalypse; instead he suggests that such fear is merely used as propaganda by the church in order to maintain its power over the world. While there are clear links made to certain elements of both Christian and Japanese religious beliefs, there are other ways to look at key elements of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. The idea that those on Musashi must make offerings to their guardian deity in order to receive power is a fascinating way to use elements of the animist traditions and beliefs of Japan.
There are also potential links to be made between Horizon and the Greek Myth of Pandora’s Box, with the deadly sins armaments representing the evil things that have escaped into the world. They are weapons and are therefore tools of destruction and death, however, Toori sees what others cannot, he sees hope; the hope that there is the possibility of a better world for Musashi and what was once Japan. He is therefore rejecting the common held belief of those around him, and instead suggesting that the testament is not necessary to maintain their current way of life. This belief and attitude is incredibly dangerous, and also frightening for the Testament Union who have ruled over what was once Japan.
To the Testament Union, Musashi represents a potential threat, with its ability to essentially travel freely without hindrance providing the students and all those who live on board the ship a certain amount of freedom that none of the other states have. However, it is heavily controlled by the Testament Union, further demonstrating their wish to control and regulate Musashi so that it cannot gain the power needed to be a true, free city state. It is this political element that can be so fascinating to watch in Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, signifying the Union’s need for absolute control. Only through absolute control and regulation over the people that they govern can the Union truly maintain its power, that the Testament abruptly ends is a direct challenge to their powerbase and authority.
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is a fascinating series, and while there are still certain problems largely due to the way it has been adapted from a substantial light novel to a series of only 13 episodes, there is far more to it than meets the eye. The way the political, social and religious are all bound together demonstrates this series ability to have a complicated plot with many elements that can be viewed at numerous levels. It is possible to sit and enjoy it, as a bit of fun, but at the same time, there are other parts that can be explored in greater detail and depth. It is a story with many influences, and many ways of viewing it, but I feel that when I effectively dismissed it as a guilty pleasure I had been substantially influenced by the current consensus of the show. It is far from a guilty pleasure and has more to it than at first meets the eye; furthermore, while the story may be incomprehensible at first, it is at its heart a simple story of love, loss, and the wish to have a better life.
The series is still, however, flawed, largely due to the length and the amount of source material that it tried to work through in a limited amount of time. It is a highly convoluted series; with certain plot points being glossed over, and others not getting enough explanation. The series runs at such a breakneck pace that there are times when you have barely begun to watch certain points before they are over and we have moved onto the next key aspect of the story and plot. This may partly be the fault of the source material being incredibly complex, however, it is also symptomatic of its 13-episode length. Such series rarely have enough time or space to really get into character and story development.
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is a series that feels and plays like it should be 24/6 episodes long rather than a single season, giving it enough time to really get into the character and plot development. However, while the plot is clearly convoluted, and certain elements to do with the story and the characters are not truly explored, that does not mean that this series is bad. I feel that by watching it for a second time I have come to appreciate the story and the world that the original author created. There is a lot going on, and his vision of a post-apocalyptic world that is both oppressive, while also being incredibly green and beautiful shines through.
The political subplot adds a further aspect of depth to this story, with the notion that while Musashi may be a flying city state, it is not truly free, and is instead consistently harassed and controlled by other powers who fear it. There are certain Machiavellian aspects to this story, and the power of the individual city-states, along with the constant political shuffling, not only within the Testament Union, but also within Musashi itself helps to demonstrate the complex and powerful nature of Toori’s decision. What I particularly liked about this aspect of the series was the way in which the plot managed to match the Machiavellian politics of this world with a romance that is condemned by the other powers as heretical and dangerous. Toori is a brilliant, and in a sense, devious character, one who decides to fight the world for the one he loves and drags everyone else along for the ride due to the power of his personality and the charisma that he embodies.