Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere Episodes 1 and 2 – Dumbstruck

Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere Episodes 1 and 2 – Dumbstruck

Thus far it’s been a very promising fall season. We’ve had great shows, good shows, decent shows, and shows that are perhaps on the way to faceplanting but are alright for now. What we haven’t had is anything that’s just plain awful. This is actually sort of disappointing to me as a reviewer, because writing fiercely negative reviews is one of the more fun parts of the job.

Well, I am disappointed no longer. I said yesterday that Sunrise was giving us three new shows this season, and this one, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, is the only one which isn’t an original series. Still, Sunrise thought so highly of the original light novel series that not only did they adapt it to the small screen, but they greenlit a thirteen episode sequel season before the first episode of this season even aired. They clearly have a lot of confidence in this property, and after seeing it, I have not the slightest idea as to why. The show is a complete trainwreck from beginning to end.

Any series which can only explain its setting in the context of a class report is off to a bad start. Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is just such a series, but it can’t even do that right

We can start off with the needlessly convoluted and indecipherable plot. Here’s how one anime site attempted to summarize it:

In the far future, humans abandon the devastated Earth and move to the upper world Tenjo. But Tenjo and the law of causation collapse in a war and humans return to the Earth, which has turned into an inhabitable planet except for Shinshu area.

Shinshu is too small to accommodate all the humans, so they duplicate the area and create Juso Sekai in a parallel world. In order to rebuild Tenjo and the law of causation, the returned humans start reproduction of the history from B.C. 10,000. When the reproduction proceeds to A.D. 1413, a war breaks out in Shinshu and Juso Sekai falls onto the original world.

The humans living in Juso Sekai lose their land and invade the original world. People in Shinshu surrender and the land is divided by the invaders from Juso Sekai. They try to resume the history reproduction from A.D. 1457, but the update of the history terminates in A.D. 1648. A rumor of apocalypse begins to spread the world.

I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the description. So I read it a couple more times. No dice. Then I watched the premiere, which had some of the most heavy-handed, “tell, not show” plot exposition I’ve witnessed, with characters helpfully parroting out key parts of the back story on cue. Then I went back to the description to compare notes. And it still doesn’t make sense—not just in the obvious way of not making sense, but also in the “What does any of this have to do with what we are seeing on the screen?” sort of sense.

What does recreating history have to do with demons running the Yakuza? Just asking that question makes me feel stupid

Of course, the premiere wasn’t all that interested in the plot anyway. It focused on watching a P.E. teacher lead her class of students through the streets of the floating city ship Musashi, with each using faux supernatural (really technology based) attacks against her and failing, only to have the main character show up to class at the last minute to grope the teacher’s breasts. Oh, and he was late to class because he was buying an ero game. And he’s about to ask out his dead girlfriend (who may or may not really be be dead).

It was only in the second episode that I began to divine the original author’s intentions. Basically, he wanted a cool sci-fi setting (like a city ship), while still maintaining an aesthetic of feudal Japan (hence the recreation of history). He wanted a conquered Japanese people (for a liberation story) while still having the show set in high school (thus the rule imposed by the invading powers that only “students” can hold political or military office, and the restriction of graduating by age 18 that applies on Musashi citizens only, to keep the adults of Musashi from having any official power).

The serial groper and general pervert? Tori Aoi, the president of the student council, and thus, as far as I can tell, of Musashi itself. It’s implied he got the job because he was a worthless excuse for a human being, so at least one part of the story makes sense

The author wanted, in short, a bunch of completely unrelated items in his setting, a laundry list of “cool stuff” and sundry perversions, and then just concocted a crazy storyline until he managed to fit all of them in. And the result is a mess, which shows all the narrative discipline one would expect from a show that puts tired high school cliches, bizarre character concepts and designs, and the most juvenile of boob obsessions above basic story telling techniques and an interesting or sympathetic cast. I think the reason for making the setting so overwhelmingly complex is to hide how bereft the story is of real ingenuity and merit.

The show does try to break out of that mold somewhat in the second episode, by introducing the student council vice president, Masazumi Honda. A relative newcomer to Musashi, she’s endured no shortage of tragedy in her life, as her family was exiled from their old home and her mother “spirited away”—your guess is as good as mine what that means. This is only after her parents, in an doomed attempt to curry favor with their feudal lord, gave her a mastectomy as a prelude to a full sex change operation, mercifully canceled after the exile. Apparently making her male would enhance her chances of success in their bizarre court system, psychological damage to their daughter be damned.

Masazumi is good friends with P-01s, a biodroid which bears an uncanny similarity to Horizon, Tori’s dead love interest

It’s a story meant to induce sympathy, and I suppose it works as well as it can. But like every other aspect of the story, it’s told rather than shown. Even worse, the tale is just as incomprehensible as the rest of the world’s history; I hear what happens to her, but can’t put together the why. With such a clumsy recollection of the tragedy, the ability to emphasize with Masazumi’s plight is limited. I’d also have more feeling for Masazumi if I didn’t suspect that her tragic upbringing was just there to explain why she, unlike just about every other girl in this universe, isn’t at least a C-cup.

What we are left with, then, is a series which is equal parts nonsense and fanservice, with only the occasional heavy-handed attempt to pull on the audience’s heartstrings. Even if the plot of the show does start making sense, the backstory will forever remain too complex to be conveyed in an organic fashion, necessitating ham-fisted narration techniques to get even the most elementary elements across. And the “regular” plot is far too concerned with asinine anime silliness to successfully make the transition when the show finally decides it wants to be serious.

As a rule, I refuse to take seriously any show where a character has breasts as large as her head. Horizon has several such girls

So Horizon isn’t going to work as a drama, even though that’s obviously where the series will eventually want to go. But it’s not that effective as a comedy either, with just about all the gags recycled cliches decades old, only made more crass and explicit. The character designs are more offensive than innovative, with a horrid Indian stereotype being the most “unique” of the lot.

The best sign I wasn’t going to find anything of value of the series was during the battle chase of the first episode. It’s meant to provide an introduction to everyone in the class and their respective fighting styles, but despite a reasonably well-animated battle sequence, I just wasn’t feeling it. I spent more time trying to identify the voice actors than paying attention to the action, which is just about the ultimate sign I’m disengaged from a production.

This seemingly minor character on the right, for example, is voiced by Mai Nakahara, one of my favorite voice actresses. Given this is her only new role for this season, I think she might need a better agent

I don’t know why you, dear reader, watch anime, or what you are looking for in a series. So, if you are content with boob grabbing, occasionally pretty visuals, and/or Minori Chihara singing, I suppose you’ll do alright with Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. If you’re looking for engaging narrative, stirring drama, genuinely funny comedy, or just something that won’t turn your brain to mush, it’s time to move along.

Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is being streamed by The Anime Network. (Edit: And now on Crunchyroll.) I’m providing a link out of a sense of obligation, not because I think you should watch it.

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