Anime Reporter embarks on the voyage that is series two of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere (Kyōkaisen-jō no Horaizon in Japanese), Manabu Ono’s anime adaptation of Minoru Kawakami’s light novel series.
Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere takes place in the distant future, a time when the earth has been all but destroyed and humanity is forced to leave the planet, only to find that this is inexplicably prevented by mysterious phenomena. Forced to return to Japan, the only remaining inhabitable area, the earth’s population is moved into several pocket dimensions located around Japan. As a means of trying to gain the ability to return to outer space, the entire planet sets about re-enacting the major events of human history as laid out in the holy book Testament, with people and armies playing the parts of corresponding historical figures. Some time into this arrangement, the inhabitants of the pocket dimensions rebel and Japan is soon divided into regions ruled by the powers of several different nations including Japan itself (known as the Far East), Spain and Portugal (Tres Espana), England and many others.
Set over two hundred years later, the anime focuses on the events surrounding Musashi, a ship of the Far East and its inhabitants, in particular the students of the Musashi Ariadust Academy. In particular, the plot focuses on student Tori (voiced by Jun Fukuyama of Blue Exorcist and Deadman Wonderland in Japanese and Josh Grelle from Soul Eater and Toriko in English), a clumsy and foolish lad who can’t seem to go more than ten minutes while wearing clothes regardless of any solemnity or gravity of a given situation. Tori professes to his classmates his undying love for his childhood friend Horizon and his plan to tell her how he feels and his intentions are met with the appropriate reaction given Horizon’s death years earlier. As chance would have it, a robot soon comes onto the scene bearing an uncanny likeness to Horizon (voiced by Hyoka’s Minori Chihara in Japanese and Penguindrum’s Emily Neves in English) and who is revealed to be Horizon herself, reborn. If the plot seems overly complicated thus far, it doesn’t bode well as magic, fairies, military battles waged with technological broomstick and baseball bats feature intimately through the series, not to mention a set of ungodly powerful weapons each powered by one of Horizon’s missing emotions. Needless to say, Tori sets out to claim each of these weapons and restore his lady love’s emotion, which also fits conveniently into plans to declare the Musashi its own nation and save the world from the looming apocalypse, overcoming many of the world’s governments to do so. Not bad for someone who can’t be counted on to wear pants and who warrants their own orange censorship logo more often than not.
The series undoubtedly tries to juggle a lot of different themes and genres within one package and it would be impossible to say that storylines never seem unnecessarily complicated. It could also not be said however, that Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere falls short of great storytelling. Characters are likeable and distinct, (with perhaps some obvious physical elements of female characters being rather similar as a rule, not to mention one particularly painful caricature of a turban-clad Indian man obsessed with curry and a rather questionable appearance) and Manabu Ono manages to keep several elements of plot moving forward simultaneously with minimal strain on entertainment. The only truly tedious part of the narrative is perhaps in diplomatic discussions which are narrated as if they were fever-pitched battles of wits but which are often far more drawn out than they perhaps should have been. Battles scenes and characters interactions are handled fantastically and despite the large population of the Musashi, characters are given time to develop amid the weighty conflicts and high stakes. Unfortunately, the narrative contains so many different elements of anime that it all too often feels less like something new and more like the splicing of some radically different shows we’ve seen before.
In terms of animation, there is one element which cannot escape mention; breasts the approximate size and shape of bowling balls. These are everywhere, with only the occasional female character being able to see her feet with any ease. Intermittently, these gargantuan orbs are the source of jokes or character discussion, but more often than not they simply serve as fairly unsubtle light-bulbs to draw in any male and/or seemingly moth-like fans who aren’t sold on the complicated storyline. Battles are portrayed as action packed and intense, both between battleships and individual characters and CGI effects blend sweetly with more traditional animation. Characters are lively and their animation feels sleek and smooth. In particular, the ninja character Tenzo Crossunite ( voiced by Samurai 7’s Daisuke Ono in Japanese and Mike Yager in English) has a bold and impressive character design, instantly recognisable as an anime ninja while retaining clear elements of youth and futuristic apparel.
The voice acting throughout series 2 is one of the let-downs of the series. While the Japanese cast remains more or less intact and continues to portray characters with emotion and life, the cast changed significantly for the English dub of the second series and the resulting performances feel a little lifeless and unengaged. For anyone who watched the English dub of season 1, it is perhaps best to switch to the subtitled version of the second instalment.
All in all, Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere walks a strange line between dystopian fantasy epic and goofy animated entertainment. Characters are often solemn and determined while somehow tolerating a streaking simpleton as their leader. Moments after life and death battles, jokes on par with Master Roshi’s mission to peek at ladies showering may follow and the humour does manage to play on the sexual without becoming overly graphic or offensive. Usually.
While some will undoubtedly find a comfortable place in between the slapstick comedy and heavily-political storyline, many could feel alienated by either side of the line.
But seriously, it can’t be overemphasised how ridiculously breast-heavy this show is. Even the robots.
Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Manga Entertainment.
For a closer look at Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere, you can check out the
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75%- Worth watching.
“A bursting blend of battleships, bureaucracy, and bowling-ball breasts.”