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Shangri-La Frontier Episode #09 Anime Review

4 min read
Shangri-La Frontier is a series full of characters and stories that could get so much more mileage if the series was interested in anything but Sunraku solo grinding
©Katarina, Ryosuke Fuji, KODANSHA/Shangri-La Frontier” Production Committee.

24/7 gaming: the secret of inhuman beauty

What They Say:
“A Dazzling Sea of Trees”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shangri-La Frontier likes to tease us with interesting content. More about Amane, aka Pencilgon, as a character outside of Sunraku’s perspective? Yes please. But alas, it’s limited to the brief, fleeting minutes before the opening, with another slight tease in the throwaway gag short at the end. The idea that she’s an extremely gorgeous, successful, and popular model is obviously meant to juxtapose stereotypes about gamers, which is appreciated, at least in theory. However, there is a certain point at which we have to weigh the real-world implications of someone playing video games for such a high percentage of their life that they essentially function as an NPC in at least two games with the reality of what a model whose body has to fit an exact mold at all times must do to maintain that. No matter how you slice it, those two extremes aren’t going to add up. Clearly we’re not meant to think about that and are just supposed to accept it all as anime logic, and I guess with that frame of mind, it’s a fun gimmick. At any rate, Amane does have potential to be an interesting character. She just needs more of an opportunity to shine.

Speaking of which, the other (human) girl in Sunraku’s (gaming) life makes her move in this episode, right where we left off last time. Psyger-0 strikes an even more imposing figure than Pencilgon, but of course we know that she couldn’t be any more different on the inside, as she’s actually the sweet, shy, smitten Rei who has been trying to get Sunraku’s attention all along. Like Amane, I’d love to get to know Rei more, or even spend some time watching her in the game without the constant focus of Sunraku. Unfortunately, in this case, Rei’s character, no matter the context, has always existed as nothing more than the perfect lovestruck wife material, so obsessed with our oblivious protagonist that it defines her entire character. It’s a tired trope at best, and really kills the hope for something more from the most prominent female character in the series. Maybe that will change eventually, but for her most significant appearance yet, this was perhaps her weakest, essentially being unceremoniously rejected, still celebrating over any amount of interaction, and just as quickly brushed aside for more Sunraku antics.

As such, we continue the Sunraku and Emul Show, bringing us into a sparkly forest for most of the episode. As has been the case with an increasing percent of the series, it seems like the episode manages to pass without anything actually happening. It really feels more like a commercial for a game that doesn’t exist than anything else, showcasing how stunning and immersive it is but doing little for its narrative. We cover the same ground as always: Sunraku is smart and good at games, so he comes up with a way to exploit the situation and get it to work to his advantage in ways that probably weren’t intended. It harkens back to the strategies he was forced to employ in trash games that had no good solution, but yeah, we get it by now. For our only real character, he’s really not that interesting.

In Summary:
Shangri-La Frontier is a series full of characters and stories that could get so much more mileage if the series was interested in anything but Sunraku solo grinding through mostly non-story based video game mechanics. I want an Amanes spinoff. I want a Rei spinoff, provided she can think of anything but Sunraku. I want to see these characters as real people occasionally. I’d even take Sunraku with some regular character interaction, or a glimpse at the main story of the game. I’m not getting any of that for now, though. Instead, episodes like this tease what could be and then pull it away only to say “Hey, remember how cool Sunraku is for treating this good game like a bad guy?” It’s very pretty, and makes me feel like this could be a very fun game to play. But watching the Sunraku playthrough is not nearly as interesting as a shockingly uneventful 24 minutes of television needs to be.

Grade: D+

Streamed By: Crunchyroll