Title: Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere (Horizon On The Middle of Nowhere, Kyokaisen-jo no Horaizon, Horizon On The Borderline) [series 1 & 2]
Genre: sci-fi, ecchi, comedy/parody, fantasy, action
Series Creator: Minoru Kawakami (original Light Novel)
Series Director: Manabu Ono
Series length: Two 13 episode series
Original Airing dates: Series 1: 2011; series 2: 2013
Reviewed format: Blu-ray release through Madman
“In the far future, humans abandon a devastated Earth and travel to outer space. However, due to an unknown phenomenon that prevents them from traveling into space, humanity returns to Earth only to find it inhospitable except for Japan. To accommodate the entire human population, pocket dimensions are created around Japan to house the populace. In order to find a way to return to outer space, the humans begin reenacting human history according to the Holy Book Testament. But in the year 1413 of the Testament Era, the nations of the pocket dimensions invade and conquer Japan, dividing the territory into feudal fiefdoms and forcing the original inhabitants of Japan to leave. It is now the year 1648 of the Testament Era, the refugees of Japan now live in the city ship Musashi, where it constantly travels around Japan while being watched by the Testament Union, the authority that runs the re-enactment of history. However, rumors of an apocalypse and war begins to spread when the Testament stops revealing what happens next after 1648. Taking advantage of this situation, Tori Aoi, head of Musashi Ariadust Academy’s Supreme Federation and President of the student council, leads his classmates to use this opportunity to regain their homeland.”
On paper, Horizon In The Middle of Nowhere (wrongly called Horizon On The Middle of Nowhere on the blu-rays that I have), is a series that I should utter despise because it is full of beyond hypersexualised Fan Service, sexual molestation, strong nationalistic sentiments & revisionist history. Yet this is one of my favourite series of the past decade. In fact, I’ve watched both series over 4 times & purchased the blu-rays as soon as they were available.
The first thing you will notice & have to get past when watching this series is a pretty big thing to get past. That is to say: Oppai. Breasts. Bosoms. As a critic greater than I has already said: Stonking Great Tits!
The majority of the female characters do have Mammoth Jugs & those that don’t have emphasis on other body parts or jokes made about their lack of bust.
Yet I couldn’t hate the series for that because it is so over the top & outrageous that their bodies couldn’t really be sexualised despite some of the animators best efforts. & the hyersexualisation plays strongly into the humour & male characters are punished for their perverted habits (especially the central protagonist Aoi Tori). Everything is so beyond the Proverbial Eleven that I refuse to take any of it seriously & that’s pretty much the intention of the series as a whole. For all the seriousness of it, it’s still immensely silly & that’s why I love it.
At first the plot & background is very dense & hard to get through, with tons of unique phrases & ideas thrown at you without explanation but if you ride it out & accept what they’re saying most of the terms are explained in the end (or the subbers put in dodgy explanations on the top of the screen). A lot of these terms are mixes of various languages, with lots of Japanese-English thrown in (especially Tori’s non sequiturs) But also consist of a bastardised Latin & Classical Greek from old religious terminology. Again, it’s easy to pick up on what these mean in the subbed versions but the English dub is so poorly handled that it will all go over your head in that version.
Despite the denseness of terms & narrative history (all hang ups from its Light Novel origins), the series itself is fairly light & fast paced. That is not to say that it lack impacts but is light in terms of movement, with lots of flitting & jumps but without the confusion that happens in so many other series. In fact, there are many running gags that go across both series. The humour is very much character based & there are lots of characters to look at.
Usually this would be a negative in any series but each character is so clearly defined in terms of appearance & personality that you never get confused over who is who, what their roles & abilities are & what are their quirks & relationships to others within the cast. There are lots of fast gags based upon characters reactions to each other -such as dealing with Tori’s apparent stupidity or the rest of the cast calling Shirojiro a scumbag because of his obsession with money. Even though you don’t get to spend a lot of time with many of the characters, when you get character development it is handled exceptionally well.
The greatest example of this is the central protagonist Aoi Tori, given the nickname “Impossible” by the Testament Union because they believe him to be utterly useless -which is why they gave him a position of great authority within the City-State of Musashi. Yet Tori is the perfect example of an Ironic character (based upon the classic Eiron model) because, despite his surface of utter stupidity, he displays a deep level of cunning, understanding & ability that means he can overcome his opponents in the least likely of ways -such as tricking Honda Masazumi (also called Seijun by her classmates) into arguing for his side during a debate battle. Even at first his goals seem shallow -to confuse his love to the girl whose death he blames on himself- but he actually has deep, long term goals that he’s ben building up to for years & was given the catalyst to chase when events larger then himself occurred -such as the Lord of Mikawa decides to disregard the Historical Recreation Program & bring about chaos so people can break free of ideology & fight the oncoming apocalypse. In fact, Tori is a great example of Confucius’ idea of the Superior Man who draws great people to his side.
This is actually a strong positivist theme within the series: that a person cannot achieve anything alone & must rely on those with talent & practised ability in order to reach their noble goals. This is something that Tori not only excels at by having loyal friends with unique abilities but he also has absolute faith in them & their abilities, vowing to take “everything that is Impossible” onto himself so people can achieve their heart’s desires. To this end Tori makes a Shinto spiritual contract where he can supply anyone fighting on his side with 1/4 of Musashi’s ether (mana) reserves, giving them basically unlimited energy, but the price he pays for it is if he is sad for just a moment he will be killed. Yet he takes this burden on for his friends & to reach the one that he loves & who stands parallel to him.
This individual is the titular Horizon, whose soul was placed into the Automated Doll P-01s after her accidental death as a child. Being an Automated Doll (a form of gynoid) Horizon lacks proper emotions, mainly because they are all locked away in the series Macguffen, The Armaments of Mortal (Deadly) Sin, & her logical emotional stance of matters drives a lot of the humour & drama or both series. This is because she does what she believes is best for the good of al rather than what her personal desire dictates, which stands her in parallel (a strange debating style within the series) with Tori, who wants to restore her to her full self regardless of the consequences (basically sparking a world war).
I do wish that I had more time to talk about the other characters but that will drag this critique out a fair whack. The majority of them get their time to shine, even if it is a single episode, but many have a chance to develop over the course of both series. The 2nd series mainly focuses on the ninja Tenzo, who is obsessed with busty blondes but is ultimately loyal & helpful towards his friends (& was one of Tori’s 1st followers due to Tori’s abilities to twist Tenzo’s personal perversions to suit his [Tori’s] needs). His arc is about him coming to realise that he has personal desires outside of his service to others & that he must follow his heart to save the one whom he loves. Other characters such as Suzu also get time to develop. She seems at first to be the typically timid stammering one whom everyone has to protect but she goes beyond that trope. Despite being blind, her other senses have been enhanced, giving her the ability to notice things before other people. She is also hopelessly in love with Tori but wants to see him happy with Horizon but its her love & devotion that allows Tori to be able to love & care for her back, putting his upmost trust in her when she lacks it herself.
Other great characters include Tori’s loud, arrogant, abusive older sister Kimi -who may just be the most powerful character in the entire series & yet the kindest despite the abuse she doles out. The part wolf knight Nate “Argenté Loup” Mitotsudaira, who is also hopeless devoted to (& possibly in love with) Tori but does her upmost to serve him as she sees him as “her king”. Even the homeroom teacher Oriotorai Makiko (stupidly translated officially as Mrs O for some bizarre reason) is given a bit of screen time after her rampage in the 1st episode but not enough time is given to her deeper connection with all the mysteries within the series.
The enemies are also rendered interestingly. Not simply being cardboard cutout evil, they each have their own motivations & wishes to live up to the Re-enactments of History & being able to live up to their Inherited Names (people in this future take on the names & actions of historical figures in order to be as close to the original history as possible).
Unfortunately this does lead to my major issue with the series.
That is trying to place Japan as centrally important to global history & the ones with the power to save the world & future.
There is no doubt that Japan has some incredible history with incredible figures but it was (& in some ways still is) an isolationist nation who rejects foreign influence as much as it -as an extreme consumerist nation- craves them.
One of the main messages behind much of the series is to put Japan at the centre of world history, as an influencer & major player as well as saviour where in fact it had no role what so ever in these events. This happens with every form of national media (such as the US’ obsession with them saving the universe & now them as being the conquered underdog fighting against oppression for Apple Pie or some shit like that).
For me, this is annoying because I am programmed to pick up on agenda in media, so it kept slapping me in the face whenever they talked about it because it just plays to so many cultural superiorism tropes & traits. Again, this isn’t unique to Japan but once you study it academically it sticks out like the proverbial in a nunnery.
Though enough of the negatives.
Amongst the other positives are great action sequences, that both play with & parody Shonen fight scene tropes. Such as the fist fighter Noriki (one of the good guys) saying “If you knew that why did you explain it?” whenever an opponent expounds on one of his techniques.
The action sequences are also fast paced without being confusing. You are always aware of who is doing what on screen. Even in the hectic ariel battles -which themselves are parodying Macross style missile-hell swarms- are clean in terms of defining the actions involved.
Also, once again, we must address the elephant (or Mammoth Jugs) in the room.
This is pretty much the first anime series that I saw that stuck a huge pair of tits on not only one mecha but two. Also, all the female clothing is designed to show off breasts, hips, arse & public mound in ways that few other series dare to but it’s odd in the fact that they are just out there. There are no explicit panty shots or flashing teases, they were just out there. This isn’t a good thing but does numb one to what they are watching. At least in balance, from my tainted male perspective, it does balance out with the majority of the 2nd series having Tori running around entirely naked with no justified or explained reason. Yet that all plays into the humour & lots of gags revolve around peoples’ reactions to a naked Tori literally appearing out of nowhere.
In the end, there are far too many positives to outweigh potential criticism from me.
Except for one.
One veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery big one (bigger than the boobs in the series).
& that is the lack of a 3rd series.
It may seem utterly petty but the ending of the 2nd series sets up for future series, by flashing to various new characters observing the ongoing conflicts & by the Automated Doll of Musashi saying that people should get ready for a continuing journey.
Because of strong sales of the DVDs/Blu-rays & the ongoing nature of the Light Novels, there is a very strong chance of more series to come -especially given enough of a gap between the different media forms that they aren’t have to chuck a Bleach or Naruto & put in entirely new stories with no relation to the main plot whatsoever!
If they do make a series, that would be bloody marvellous! If not, these two collection are still worth the watch.
Great pace, excellent characters & stupidly outloud laughing funny, please give it a chance.