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Horizon In The Middle Of Nowhere Season 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Thirteen episodes of utterly beautiful nonsense.

What They Say:
When humans came down from the sky they brought with them the Testament, the guide to the path they must follow if they wish to return to the skies again. Now, in a strange world where only the islands of Japan are inhabitable, the nations of the world vie for power and protect the portions of Japan that they have claimed. Each is armed with its own ultimate weapon: a Roysmoi Opro, an Armor of Deadly Sins.

But there may be a far greater threat to mankind than the Roysomi Opro, for the Testament ends abruptly, and it is now the last year. Is this the end of humanity, or can Tori Aoi and his fellow students from the aerial metropolitan ship Musashi somehow affect the course of destiny?

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is definitely well done as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show has a strong blend of dialogue and action, action that goes pretty big at times, and it handles it quite well. With it being just a forward soundstage design, it works it quite well as there’s a good sense of placement and depth with the way the attacks go, resulting in some very fun scenes. The dynamic is strong and the mix captures it well. The series also handles the dialogue very well, which is important since there’s a lot of characters talking at a time and plenty of back and forth material. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1..78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, which is also where all the extras are. With animation from Sunrise, the series has a very, very strong visual design to it with a lot of fluid animation and detail that really is quite impressive. The bitrate for it is naturally all over the map at times, dealing with the static scenes well while hitting up to the max bandwidth on some of the big high impact scenes with things happening. The color design for the show is very good as well and the transfer captures it quite beautifully throughout, though there are scenes where there is some source banding going on that doesn’t devolve into a lot of blocking and noise. There’s a whole lot to like with this series with how it looks and the transfer is pretty much a strong payoff for it.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is quite good as we get a standard size Blu-ray case which ties in very well with the artwork here. The front cover gives us Horizon in a provocative pose with her hair flowing in the wind that definitely is eye-catching. With a mix of blues and whites for the background, it all ties together well with her character artwork and the detail of it. The logo along the top is kept simple but effective and there’s a good color balance with it in how it blends things. The front cover is definitely very eye-catching with how it stands out without being garish. The back cover is a bit darker though, as it does night time shades of blue along the top that turns to white as it gets further down. The top half has a good summary of the premise that’s fairly easy to read and there’s a good mix of shots from the show and character artwork that shows off its fun side and action side. The discs extras are clearly listed and we get the standard heavy chunk of production information. The technical grid along the bottom is clean and easy to read with the black text on white background that covers everything accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is very nicely done as it works the main static image well with different pieces of character artwork along the right which is set against a background of blues and whites similar to the front cover that all goes towards the obvious horizon. The colors look great here and the detail stands out really well. The navigation is all along the left as we get the episode numbers and titles aligned vertically that are clear and easy to read while also doubling as a pop-up menu. Language selection is a breeze and the extras on the second disc flow well. The disc defaults to English with sign/song subtitles rather than our players’ language presets.

Extras:
The extras for this release are all on the second disc and it’s largely filled with familiar pieces. We get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a collection of commercials and the original promos for the series. We also get a five minute extra that’s done similar to a visual novel game in which two of the characters describe the way the Musashi ship is actually eight ships and the way they all carry different functions. It’s cute but feels like it goes on for just a bit too long.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is a thirteen episode first season series based on the light novels of the same name by Minoru Kawakami. The light novels began in 2008 and, as of this writing, have eleven volumes out so far and several manga spinoff adaptations covering different things. The anime incarnation has gotten two seasons produced from Sunrise, the first of which is here that aired during the fall 2011 season. Back when that began simulcast, I had attempted to watch it, but the first half of the first episode felt like so much information at one time and such a large cast that I ended up skipping in favor of a hopeful, eventual home video release.

It didn’t help.

Like a lot of Sunrise shows, there’s something really grand in the scale here for this series. Taking place in some far flung future, we’re shown an Earth where humanity had left it quite some time ago and migrated to space, but ended up coming back to Earth for reasons left unstated. Unfortunately, when mankind came back, the planet had grown feral and inhospitable, leaving only the area of Japan, now known as the Far East, as the place to go. Setting up various floating ships, pocket dimension locations where people lived inside and other means, it was decided to figure out what happened in the past that not only caused them to leave but also to not be able to fully expand and migrate into space.

It’s here that the really curious decision is made in that, using the Testament, they’ll all basically re-enact known history from the beginning in real time. That puts the series in Testament Year 1648, which essentially places it in the midst of the Warring States period. But one where it’s a strange mix of future science fiction, unusual characters, seeming magic and a slew of different factions and forces that are in motion. To make matters worse, the fourth episode introduces someone that decides he’s going to muck everything up by destroying the world and challenging everyone else to figure out how to stop it. It’s a small piece of the puzzle overall, but one that shows the unusual way in which the world operates.

This sets the stage for the two main forces, one being the small semi-independent Musashi ship that has a hundred thousand residents on it, and the larger Testament Union that is adhering to the role they have to play in which they re-enact everything. There’s a lot of really intriguing visuals with it all as we get the “modern” day Japan feeling to it with its cityscapes, the futuristic aspect of the ship itself but also the classic interior building designs that gives it that kind of natural and earthy feeling but also a sense of refinement. There are also some amusing bits that come into play in the social aspect of the series as well, such as adult visual novel games and some Detroit Metal City style manga as well. It’s playing a lot of different concepts in one place and generally pulls it off, but some of it is just so disjointed that you can’t really imagine how it all came together in a natural form.

With a convoluted, disjointed and not altogether clear background and general story concept, what Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere needs now is characters. And because of the extensive number of characters in the books, it appears that most of them make at least a token appearance here and get a few lines throughout. It makes for a huge cast that comes and goes so fast that it’s near impossible to remember who is who, who is related to who and what their connections are as it progresses. Even who is part of the academy that becomes the focus of the series and those who aren’t feels like it’s blurred heavily once the class decides to go to war with the Testament Union over the main thrust of the show. That being saving one emotionless doll named Horizon.

For me, the characters are a huge weak point but also an amazing source of potential. The opening episode gives us a standard chase scene where everyone is trying to get a hit on the teach in order to show how skilled they are and that means rapid fire introductions to them and their abilities. It’s visually pleasing and there are so many tantalizing bits to them. But in reality, you really do come down to just latching onto a couple of them in order for the story to make some amount of sense, particularly since so many attacks and styles used come across as things pulled out of thin air just to look stylish rather than having anything meaningful about it. In principal though, the series is really about two characters. The doll and the school chancellor student, Tori Aoi. Tori is a hilarious character in that he’s an utter goof in so many ways and just lives his life in order to enjoy it. The whole season can be summed up in his attempt to try and tell Horizon that he loves her and wants to be with her, something everyone is encouraging him to do. But because of the incident in Mikawa that throws everything off balance, she gets whisked away as a captive (a whole lot of stuff about some Deadly Armor Sins that makes no real point in this season) and Tori has to get everyone to help go after her.

Except that going after her will result in war between the two main sides, put lots of people at risk and threaten the very balance of the world. It does play it large, but it does it with such aplomb and style that you really have to admire it. One whole episode is devoted to a parley between Tori’s group and various others they want to bring to their cause and it’s just exceedingly well done in the banter and dialogue as well as the matches. Doing things in “parallel” is truly fascinating to watch and it reveals enough about all involved, but it’s when it’s done by Tori that it goes to a whole other level. And his later parallel with Horizon herself is a thing of utter beauty, both in worlds and in visuals. So much of this season is about just getting to know the basics of the characters and then setting up the mechanics of going after Horizon that it feels so overwhelmingly complicated.

In Summary:
The complication part of it and the expansive cast is definitely a problem for me with the show, but I’m also hugely conflicted about the show. While those aspects are problematic, there’s also some real beauty to all of this. The animation is stellar, the character designs are great (outside of a couple of far too chesty girls) and the action is spectacular even if it feels nonsensical and without any grounding in consistency. I adore the intensity and energy of the show and the way it blends the seriousness and humor and even a lot of the story elements. But there’s just this real, honest problem I had in truly connecting with it and feeling like I actually understood the world setting, which is very important here, and connecting with any of the characters outside of Tori. And even that was tenuous. But this is a show that definitely sticks with you and really captures the imagination and it’s one that I’m thrilled got the high definition treatment since what Sunrise has produced here is just gorgeous. Few series really make me feel like I’m in this much of a bind and I can easily see myself revisiting it soon.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Promos, Japanese Commercials, Far East Engineering Lecture

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 6th, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78;1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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