Review for Horizon On The Middle Of Nowhere - Series 1
You probably won’t believe me, but the process of reviewing for me has a narrative. When it comes to anime series, especially as they are released these days as 13 episode collections, I usually watch two episodes a night when I’m reviewing them. Over the subsequent week, the pieces of the review fall together. I start these introductory paragraphs after watching the first two episodes, hoping to get some feel of the show, some idea of what to expect. By the fourth episode, I hope to have enough to summarise where the series is going for the synopsis, have some idea of who the main characters are. That harks back to when I used to review single volume discs. By the time I reach halfway through the series, I hope to have enough to fill in the video and audio aspects of the review, and then as the series ends, I take a look at the extras and finally hit the conclusion.
It’s a useful and efficient approach, especially when I have more than one review simmering at a time. Except this time I’ve been caught out. My first two episodes of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere have left me with a whopping great pile of WTF! to get to grips with. I have no idea what this series is at this point, leading me to begin the review with the drivel I have just spouted instead of something relevant. According to my schedule, I should have enough to fashion a series synopsis by tomorrow, and I’m truly worried that I’ll be reduced to cutting and pasting the PR bumf instead, hoping that it will make more sense.
Anyway, at this point I’m halfway through watching the series, and I’m still none the wiser. It is time for a judicious cut and paste from the PR, safe in the knowledge that it at least makes more sense than I ever could about the show.
In the far future, the world has been devastated with the sole exception of the Divine States - the islands of modern Japan. A parallel world was created to help house humanity's teeming billions, but now Earth's nations have returned to claim their own slice of the one surviving land.
Above them float the islands' original inhabitants in the mighty ship city of Musashi, where the students of the Ariadust Academy prepare to go to war to reclaim their lost homeland. Right now, though, pervy student council president Aoi Tori is more concerned with P-01s, a snack store android who looks suspiciously similar to his former - and supposedly long dead – girlfriend...
Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere’s first season is presented across two DVD discs from Manga Entertainment, spanning 13 episodes.
1. Those Lined Up Before The Horizon
2. Innocents at the Table
3. Shortstops in Town
4. Covert Ops Under the Night Sky
5. Graduates Under the Moon
6. Advocate at the Confession Grounds
7. Musashi’s Knights
8. Ruler of the Land
9. The Summit’s Flower
10. The Trumpeter at the Start Line
11. Musashi’s Mr. Impossible
12. Opposition Against Crossing Over the Parallel Lines
13. Those Lined Up Above the Horizon
Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer on these discs, and the image comes across well, It’s clear and sharp, with minimal visible compression artefacts and aliasing, despite some frenetic action sequences. Colour reproduction is strong and consistent, and it all brings across the anime as good as it’s going to get on DVD. It’s a far future anime with a visually inventive mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and that is reflected in the character and world designs. The animation is fluid, and the quality of the character designs isn’t compromised when things get hectic on screen. It’s certainly a striking show.
Audio comes in DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese form. I went with the original language track as always and was presented with a fairly generic set of voice actor performances, getting the clichéd characters down to a tee. I managed about three minutes of the English dub and thereafter endeavoured to forget it as quickly as possible. The audio does enough to bring the action across well, and the sound design is of the quality you’ll have come to expect from modern anime shows. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of error, although you’ll need a fast finger on the pause button to keep up with the translation notes. I almost felt nostalgic for the ADV vidnotes at one point.
The discs present their contents with static menu screens, while there are jacket pictures to look at when the discs are at rest in compatible players. This is a Sentai licensed show in the US, and as usual, Sentai are apt to maintain the original language credit sequences and follow them with a translated English language credit reel. However Manga’s masters are sourced from Madman in Australia, (hence two DVD discs, instead of three), and Madman have chosen to omit the translated credit reels for their release.
As for extras, they are on disc 2.
You get the textless opening, 21 minutes worth of textless closings (not chaptered by the way), the Far East Lightening Lecture which lasts 5 minutes, and offers a teensy bit of background about the show (If you want enough background to actually fathom Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere, you’ll need another ten DVDs of extras), 2 minutes worth of Japanese promos, and 10 minutes worth of Japanese Commercials.
What utter fanwank! I know I’ve complained about anime that are put together by committee before, shows that look deliberately designed to cater for the mainstream male otaku fanbase, with stock characters and stock situations, but in Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere, they’ve literally crammed everything in, in an attempt to have their cake and eat it. The result is a discordant, incomprehensible mess, more a chore to endure rather than a piece of entertainment.
Let’s make it sci-fi. We’ll set in way in the future, so far in fact that humanity ascended to a higher state, and then for some reason got kicked out and had to find room on Earth to live there again, which was a bit of a hassle for the people who stayed behind, and got the choice bit of land. For whatever reason, humanity needs to get back on track again, and pointlessly that means recreating history, so despite it being set in the future, they’ve actually recreated the nation states of old, and are having loads of feudal battles.
Like I said, it’s in the future, so we got giant robots, mecha, massive floating ships, and laser beams and stuff. What is it that Clarke bloke said? “Any technology sufficiently advanced will be indistinguishable from magic” Oh yeah, so let’s throw in some angels, and demons, and witches, and a guy with a bucket on his head, and give them magic spells to cast to fire their weapons and raise their forcefields. Got to keep the RPG crowd happy... Better chuck in some slimes then. Ooh and loads and loads and loads of cute girls, so many that we can’t even remember which ones are which. And they’ll all have ginormous boobs for the main character to grope, except the flat-chested ones, because we need to do the flat-chested stock anime joke. And the androgynous one who can’t make up his or her mind if she or he is a boy or a girl. Remember the witches? Better make them lesbians, just in case. Oh, of course, we have to set it in a high school. But let’s have the high school on a giant ship floating over Japan. Ooh, ooh, and let’s actually have the school’s student council the actual, like actual government! Oh boy! I may need to change my underwear this is gonna be so good!
So what is Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere actually about? Let me quote from Aoi Tori in episode 12... “Shinto, Buddhism, Catholic, Protestant, Mlasi, Anglican Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Dunhi, Oat, techno-magic, swordplay, martial arts, gun-slinging, cavalrymen, mechanic shells, Gods of War, mechanical beasts, phoenixes, dragons, aerial warships, humans, different beings, civilians, knights, musketeers, samurai, ninja, warriors, kings, nobles, sovereigns, dynasts, emperors, popes, Far East, K.P.A. Italia, Tres Espagna, Hexagone Francaise, England, Soviet Russia, P.A. O.D.A., Qing Dynasty, Union of India, money, rights, negotiation, politics, public opinion, armed forces, info, Divine Weapons, Armors of Deadly Sins, Testament Armament, Five Great Peaks, Eight Great Dragon Kings, Supreme Federation, Student Council, men, women, and those who are neither, young, old, dead, living, emotions, logic, everything experienced...”
What’s it really about? This boy, Aoi Tori, grew up with this girl Horizon. Horizon died, which made Aoi sad, but Horizon came back to life as an android, which made Aoi happy. Aoi was going to propose to Horizon the android, but some politics happened and she was kidnapped. Aoi has to rescue her. All the other crap is to distract the audience from just how vacuous the story is. The distraction must have worked, as Season 2 of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere is due in a couple of months.
One or two ideas might have been appealing, but cramming so much in just invites disinterest. On top of that the sheer character overload means that you never know just who is who in this show. The sad thing is that there are one or two moments, particularly where Aoi is interacting with others, and especially with Horizon, that the dialogue and the emotions manage to engage the viewer. The climax of episode 12 for example is a moment that really works. That this show comes from Studio Sunrise, the people behind Cowboy Bebop and Code Geass is all the more disappointing.
The big debate for Manga Entertainment was whether to call it the translated Japanese name of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere, or the US title of Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. The real debate should have been whether to release it at all. An utterly deflating and unrewarding waste of time.