Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II and the politics of religion
July 25, 2012 1 Comment
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon was a fascinating series, one that mixed notions of the dangers of religion with a futuristic post-apocalyptic setting where Japan resembled the Sengoku Era. As a series it was fundamentally about how religion can be used and twisted for political ends, with the character of Horizon viewed as being dangerous to the maintenance of the Testament and therefore sentenced to death. We see notions of the power of city-states, but also how they can be feared as much as revered, with the idea that certain areas of the world need to be controlled if the Testament Union is to be taken seriously. The central city state of Musashi as the last home of the Japanese and therefore the symbol of their continuation is tightly controlled by the Testament Union, who see it as a way with which they can produce excellent leaders, while also maintaining a strong grip over the power within the middle east.
We have this idea within Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon that everything has to be kept to the Testament, a mysterious manuscript that appears to foretell all over human history. And yet when the end of this book draws near we see the Testament Union, along with those states that are closely allied with it begin to worry. Their only reason for existence is to make sure that history plays out as it is written, but to be confronted with the end of their role and existence scares them. Within this series we see Toori question the existence of the Testament, suggesting that you do not need this book or history to live and survive. His ideas are as radical as they are scary; he is implying that the Testament Union was never needed and that the Testament itself is not as important as people think. Furthermore he denounces the rules and regulations placed upon Musashi, he, along with several others at Musashi Ariadust Academy begin to think about independence and the ability to govern their country themselves.
Toori is driven by his desire to pay for his past mistakes and sins, and by doing so bring back the one that he loved. In the last the girl he loves was killed, and he views it as an indelible sin, one that he can never truly pay for. However, Horizon was reborn, with her soul becoming a part of the cybernetic doll P-01, but she is incomplete, with her emotions scattered across Japan in the form of the Deadly Sins Armaments. Toori’s and therefore Musashi’s quest is to retrieve these emotions and rebuild Japan as it used to be. He is therefore directly going against the Testament Union, and his bid to collect all the Deadly Sins Armaments is viewed as being a threat to the future of humanity.
These Deadly Sins Armaments are both physical, but also metaphorical representations of the deadly sins, but at the same time they can be viewed as being connected to the Greek myth of Pandora and Pandora’s box. Horizon is therefore Pandora, the first woman who was created in order to bring about calamity and discord in the house of man, her existence is one that upsets the world’s balance and brings about destruction. In Greek mythology Pandora was given a beautiful container by Zeus, one that she was not meant to open under any circumstances. But, impelled by the curiosity that the gods have given her, Pandora opened it, and all the evil contained therein escaped and spread across the earth. She hastened to close the container, but the entire contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom, this was the Spirit of Hope Elipis. Between them Toori and horizon have opened up the world to fear and hatred, and by attaining one of the Deadly Sins Armaments Horizon cries for the first time, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders.
The hope within Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is tied into collecting all of Horizons emotions and thus changing the future that was set down in the Testament. Musashi has been controlled and repressed by the Testament Union that has used its overwhelming support and military strength to maintain its power and influence. The hope that we see in Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon then is that there is a future for Musashi and for Japan, something that we see in how these students act. What has been so fascinating about this series though is how this is wrapped up in this post-apocalyptic future where Japan is the only land left. This mythology and religious subtext takes place within the backdrop of the Sengoku Era where Japan is divided up into city-states who defend their territory vehemently.
The Deadly Sins Armaments are therefore signs of the prestige of a city-state, showing their power, and demonstrating their ties to the existing power structure, while also being something to fear. It is precisely because of their destructive power that they are feared, which also explains why Toori’s mission to retrieve them all poses a significant threat to the current balance of power. Toori’s decision, along with his rescue of Horizon has already upset this delicate balance of power though, and we therefore see the Testament Union along with Tres Espana attempt to silence him and Musashi while simultaneously demonstrating their power to the wider world. Musashi as the symbol of hope and of the Japanese is therefore considered to be too dangerous to be left alone, thus Tres Espana’s involvement is quite clear.
We see Musashi battling Tres Espana, a group with significant military power, along with controlling three Deadly sins Armaments. Their attempts to defeat Musashi is in part due to the need to silence Toori and destroy Horizon, while also being personal, with Gin Tachibana attempting to take revenge on Musashi for her husband losing his honour and his place amongst the elite of Tres Espana. Here we see the introduction of notions to do with honour along with purity and pollution into the narrative, ideas that are still in part fundamental to Japanese society, although they are not as visible as they once were. To Gin Tachibana, the only way to get back her husbands honour is to destroy those who stole it, the attack on Musashi can therefore be viewed as both for the greater good, while also ultimately selfish. Musashi does escape Tres Espana for now, although it seems clear that they will reappear due to the nature of the grudge that Gin Tachibana holds.
The introduction of England and its Fairy Queen poses a somewhat problematic situation for Musashi, and they are caught between the hostile force of Tres Espana and the distrustful force of England. However, as we soon learn, Tres Espana are building an armada in order to bring England to heel. We are therefore seeing the idea that any state that is viewed to be either dangerous, or out of line can be subject to extreme and perhaps unjustified punishment. What is fascinating however, are the complexities within the plot and within Tres Espana itself. While as an organisation and a state it appears to be little more than a convenient army for the Testament Union, there are certain complications that have so far escaped our notice. We see certain influential and powerful characters within Tres Espana holding onto complicated feelings of regret and perhaps pain at the thought of more warfare. The war brought about by Musashi’s existence and Toori’s decision to go against Testament is clearly not wanted by many, and yet they still continue to serve. That these opposing ideas exist perhaps helps to demonstrate the power that the Testament has over those who live in Japan, along with the fear that is embodied within the Deadly Sins Armaments.
As a series it continues to bring together these fascinating elements of politics, religion and also Japanese society, creating a story that is unique as it is complex. Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is in part carried by the excellent character of Toori, someone who is so cool and at home with himself that he is happy to waltz around the enemies ship while naked. What makes Toori so brilliant as a character is his complexity however; while he may seem frivolous and stupid, he is far more complicated than that. He is someone who carries more sin than anyone else, and has made a contract to use unlimited power at the expense of being constantly happy. Such a contract, one that means death if he is sad suggests that he has decided to use his life to atone for the sins of his past, and to help those around him. His frivolous and ridiculous nature is in a way a very good act, one that gives others the impression of someone who is easily controlled.
While Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon got off to a good start however, it still has numerous problems. It is still a highly convoluted plot, and while there are intricacies and fascinating little elements all around you while you watch, with an almost finite number of ways to read this series, it can be quite difficult to keep up with what is happening on screen. The symbolism, while fascinating, can get overbearing and often throw you off from the story, something that would put people off the series. However, having said that, this series is still incredibly entertaining, and it appears to be pushing towards a fascinating conclusion, one that should bring together all these elements of politics, culture, religion and society. What is wonderful about Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is the numerous ways with which you can read into the series, with multiple levels of meaning in each scene.
Ultimately your understanding of the finer points rests on your knowledge of the periods and ideas that we are presented with in this series. For example, you do need to have some knowledge of the Sengoku Era, along with an understanding of all the wars that were started due to religious reasons, thus knowing the terrible nature of religion as a driving force behind warfare and violence. It is perfectly possible to enjoy this series on a superficial level, but it is just that, superficial, with no real depth or understanding, thus losing a certain aspect of this particular anime. Unfortunately, these multiple layers of meaning also make this series an indelible and convoluted mess at times, where so much is packed into a single scene, or even a single phrase that much of it is lost on even the most informed viewer. It is still an intelligent and well made series, although one that might ultimately suffer from its short length.