An apparent fan favorite that suffers from so many failings I begin to question my faith in humanity.
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. And 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? Who and what is the HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?
No audio anomalies noticed while I was watching the series. Though, admittedly, I do not have a surround sound stereo system and simply watch things through the built in dual speakers on my TV. The loud actions were delivered clearly, the dialogue could be heard throughout the show, and the music was mixed in decently. There were a couple of moments where the music mix got a little out of hand and it started to drown out sound effects and voices but it wasn’t too bad.
The video presentation here is extremely soft. Viewed upscaled via my Blu-Ray player, the whole series just looks soft and unremarkable. There are no blaring colors and the line art of the show all but disappears. I do not think this is a particularly beautiful show to begin with, but it is a shame that the video presentation of these DVDs remove almost all of the appeal that the animation could offer. Especially towards the end of the series where a lot of action and weird magical powers come out and just start blowing everything to smithereens. It looks gorgeous, this DVD does not.
Boobs and panties and magic. That is all. Extremely unappealing.
Here we get the standard Sentai Filmworks menu design: a simple image to the right of the screen, and an extremely intrusive, block menus selection that occupies the entire left side of the screen. There’s a beauty in its simplicity as the menu is not overly busy and brash, but it’s just so blocky and plain.
Sentai loads the set with all the inconsequential bonus features you could imagine. We have Japanese promos, Japanese commercials, clean opening and closing animation, Sentai trailers, and the short Omake animation features: Far East Enlightening Lecture. None of these features are great, the majority are extremely standard, and there’s just not anything to offer viewers aside from the Lecture shorts. Those are good fun for fans of the series as each short goes into a bit more detail about the various aspects of the series. Bonus points must be given though for actually including something besides just their own trailers and the clean OP/ED.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I don’t even know where to begin; what a mess!
I’ll start with the look of the show. At first glance from commercials and the DVD box art, one would assume Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is another in the long line of “boobie” shows that seem to flood the anime market. However, from a visual perspective, it is much more disappointing than that. In regards to the fanservice aspect, yes, the majority of the female characters have grotesquely deformed breasts that are oversized for the sake of being oversized. But the way the character animation moves, they don’t give off any kind of sexual nature. They are just really big and deformed looking. Not once did I ever see a scene that portrayed the fanservice as a way to titillate the viewer. They were just…there. On top of the size and shape of the breasts, all the characters had the embarrassing CG blushing on the tops of their breasts…even when they had clothes on covering them!! So what is the purpose of these character inflections? They are just a poor design choice that does nothing to the positive or negative. Next, the actual character designs of the show. The male characters, what relative few there were, each had a relatively distinct design to them so you could always tell them apart. The female characters however, all look exactly the same! Completely devoid of any sort of facial feature or shade of uniqueness to distinguish them from one another. The lone exception being this one character who I have no idea what her name was, I’ll get to that later, and that’s only because she had two different colored eyes. Elsewise, there is absolutely no way of identifying who is who in this show. Unless of course you laboriously keep an itemized checklist of each of the girls names alongside their hair color, most of which is simply a slightly different shade of the same color categorized in a few different groups, and their breast size. Maybe that’s the show! That’s the whole purpose behind its existence! Lord knows that everything is completely interchangeable anyway.
Next, let’s look at the glaring issue revolving around the shows multitudes of characters. There are multiple series in existence that display an extremely large cast of characters, and while some handle the ensemble better than others, I have never seen a show that mishandled them as badly as this one. Starting within the first few minutes of episode one and continuing without pause until the end of episode 13, the series forecasts each and every single one of its billion characters at least once per episode. Each cutaway moves quickly and you begin to feel like a pinball just bouncing around in this glass chamber of nearly identical faces. The first few episodes take the approach as if to focus on a single character to allow us to get to know them and become accustomed to everyone. However, every episode has so much jam-packed inside its miniscule 20 minute runtime that this is never the case and I was constantly left feeling as if I had no idea which character started the episode and which one the episode was really about. The extremely bland character designs do only to encourage this confusion but it is truly the fact that it tries to toggle between everyone, no matter how little, even non-existent, importance they have; that leaves the characters awash in a colorful blur. The show wants us to feel as if everyone is important and the fact is, there’s probably one, three, maybe four people that actually are important to the story. This is why I can’t remember multi-colored eye girls’ name. She ended up not being important and the scarcity of which the side characters have their names telegraphed makes them just another face…with a grotesquely deformed figure.
This all leads up to the biggest issue with the series. WHAT THE EVER LIVING FUCK WAS GOING ON!? As you may have been able to gather from my discussion on the handling of the characters, the constantly moving nature of the show also translates in its attempt at telling a story. Here’s what I was able to gather:
Humanity left Earth long ago, failed at life in space and were forced to return to Earth. The geniuses that were running things decided that the best way to get back out into to space was to follow a history book, called the Testament, to the letter from the beginning. Seeing as how that history got them into space the first time around this is obviously a fool proof plan. Humans, and aliens, being the ignorant scum that they are, end up going through Japanese history and begin recreating the Sengoku Era. Only Japan is inhabitable on Earth now so…the whole world is conglomerated on this tiny island with each province being a different country?? I don’t know. Anyway, the flying ship Musashi is one of the territories under control by the…Testament Union??…and they have a school. The Chancellor of Musashi and Student Council President is this dude name Tori who not only is a milquetoast anime guy, but he’s also a blithering idiot. I’m fairly certain that if tested, he would be found to suffer from multiple cases of mental retardation.
I’ll pause here. Why the fuck is he the Chancellor of this “nation” let alone the Council President? He is literally the most incompetent character I have ever seen in an anime. Every single character knows he’s a worthless idiot, they go out of their way to appease his infantile intellect (seriously, at numerous points they just humor him to make him shut up and go away), and they seem to go on with the daily business as if he isn’t there. Okay, that last bit sounds fine. Ignore the figurehead and run the show like normal. Then why in the hell do they let him begin making decisions and set the fate of the nation later on in the series!? AHHH!!!
Back to the story, so there’s this girl named Horizon who died ten years prior. Everyone loved her and mourned her passing. The Grand Moron goes around saying he’s going to confess his love to her, bless his simple heart, and no one bats an eye. Turns out that there’s this robot girl that works at the cafe and she was imbued with the soul of Horizon. Why or how? I have no idea. I don’t know if they did explain this or not, it just is. All of a sudden some crazy guy, who isn’t introduced…he just appears, starts going on and on about bringing about the end of the world and then blows up…a place. I have no idea what this place was or where it was located. I just know it wasn’t on the ship Musashi. After this act of terrorism, the Pope captures the robot girl (now everyone suddenly knew that she had Horizon’s soul??) and sentences her to capital punishment for her crimes of…existing?? The Pope rambles some shit about him wanting to kill her just because it would follow the Testament and thus must be done so they can eventually get back to space. Whatever. This is like, episode 6 or 7 at this point and I’ve long since stopped caring about trying to figure out what’s happening and why. Then there’s a feud between Musashi and the school…but this is about where I learned that the school was on Musashi and then I became completely lost because I had no clue as to why a faction, called the Musashi Knights for those keeping score, was suddenly challenging the school to some brawls to settle…something. Anyway, Tori steps up after all this…stuff…and declares that he will save Horizon because what the Pope is doing is not cool. Okay, that makes sense. Then there’s a crazy debate that happens between Tori and one of the nameless girls (only distinguishable because she wanted to be a guy and thus already had her breasts surgically removed) and then between said nameless girl and the Pope. No idea what they were babbling about as they spoke at lightening speed and what was obviously not plain English. Anyway, so begins a war to free Horizon.
I think that’s what was going on?? Those are of course the broad strokes over the course of the first 10 episodes of this 13 episode series. If I was watching and reviewing this show week to week during the simulcast, I would have nothing to say. Each episode just moves. There is no purpose and no point. We bounce from character to character and all of a sudden stuff starts happening and we have no idea who these people are, what their affiliations are, or why they’re doing what they’re doing. We just bear witness to the events that unfold on screen and eventually an extremely small and minor event happens and we know where we stand. I’m certain that there is an extremely rich story going on here that is seriously extremely ambitious and grand in scale (not being sarcastic, I’m really serious) but the anime as it stands does not maintain a proper workflow to allow for everything to unfold naturally with the proper amount of attention spent on the crucial components. After I finished the series, I watched the “Lecture” bonus features. That is the only reason I was able to tell you the tidbit about Musashi being a territory and the small bit about the various nations. THE ONLY REASON! I’m actually quite sad that there wasn’t more than the one Lecture bonus because I was looking forward to actually understanding everything.
That’s really what it comes down to in the end. I actually wanted to like the show. There is a big history to the series that I’m sure is extremely fascinating and the mix of magic, super powers, and whatever else the fuck was going on through the series that allowed for the pretty nicely animated, and entertaining, fight scenes to occur. It’s just bogged down by complete incompetence on literally every single level of planning and design that the series went through. I don’t understand the powers, the politics, who’s who, or what’s what. I did actually like watching the show for exactly two episodes though. Episodes 10 and 11. These episodes were the war between the Pope and Musashi. No plot whatsoever, it didn’t matter if you had no idea who was who…it was just battle after battle. It’s a nicely animated show, aside from the weird figures of the women (the purpose of that still doesn’t make sense), and the extremely bland character designs. Everything is very fluid and there was obviously a pretty decent budget. That’s why when everyone was fighting and I simply did not care about anything anymore I was able to enjoy the show for a good 40 minutes. Then episode 12 happened and my head just exploded because there was more talking about completely obscure things and the war was stopped because Tori convinced Horizon to enroll in the school. I’ll stop there for a second. HOW THE FUCK DOES HER ENROLLING IN YOUR SHITTY SCHOOL HAVE ANY BEARING ON WHAT THE POPE’S MISSION WAS TO WHERE EVERYTHING JUST GOES AWAY!? WHAT THE HELL MAN!? Going back, yes that happens and then there’s a couple of things that happen in the last episode but they just happen and exist. Whatever. It all leads to an after credits coda during the last episode where some faction (again not sure which one and honestly I thought these guys were on the “good” side from how they interacted earlier…whatever) is pissed because some guy will lose his rank and the girl he was always around vows to take vengeance and thus attacks Musashi causing another war. See how it just steamrolls!? I’d say this was a big ball of wasted potential but it never attempted to build up that potential. It’s just a lot of perceived possibility hidden behind a completely incompetent show that we wish we weren’t watching. Maybe that’s where the perception of potential comes from? We have to hope and pray that we arent’ watching something as completely piss poor as we actually are watching. We have to hope and believe, as humans do, in a better tomorrow.
Unfortunately I do not get a better tomorrow as I have the second season awaiting my eyes. I hope the second season is able to rein in all of the wild elements that ran rampant throughout this set and make something at least halfway decent. I really do hope that, more for myself and my sanity than for the merits of the show itself. I’ve seen online in multiple places that this show is quite the fan favorite. I recall it selling like gangbusters in Japan upon its home video release. I have to believe that all the fans of this show read the light novels of which it is based upon and thus know what’s happening and can simply brush to the side the mess that is this adaptation. That they don’t need the series to be coherent or make characters that are actually characters despite occupying a ton of screen time. That has to be it. It just cannot imagine legions of fans were grown based solely around this anime that provides no actual fanservice, and very few action scenes mired in stuff. Sorry guys.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Japanese Commercials, Shorts, Textless Opening and Closing Song
Content Grade: D-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 6th, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony BRAVIA KDL55EX720 55-Inch 1080p 3D LED HDTV, Sony BDP-S580 Blu-Ray Player via HDMI cable set to Auto.