Lacking Context in the Middle of Nowhere

世界金融危機While fighting off the temptation to express my opinion on Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (short version: A good first episode without 20 seconds that makes it troubling if not ruining it entirely), I remembered that I was invited in to write something on Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II. There’s actually a little bit of back story before I get into this post for real.

Introduction

Back in July, as a result of a stupid wager on the Aniblog Tourney I ended up at Otakon. I went to a panel on sexism in anime, actually this one to be exact. Uncomfortably, I had made some purchases prior to this that made me feel like a terrible person for having attended this panel. Actually that’s the same feeling I’ve been having for most of the time since Kaibutsu-kun aired, but I digress slightly. The title character of Horizon came up as an example of an archetype of a character that is empty and can only be satisfied by the male protagonist who is there to allow the viewer to self-insert to gain a level of control over that character. Of course, that may be reading it entirely wrong, but that’s just going from memory.

Surprisingly, the chat on Horizon continued later that night at the local Hard Rock Cafe between repeated rounds of very large alcoholic beverages. The_Patches continued to talk about the show after having watched the 2nd episode and written on it. He made a very compelling case that there was something inherently interesting about Horizon’s concept. That trying to recover history by trying to re-enact it could be a fun experience stuck with me.

As I further delve off topic from the episode, I have to think that this is an interesting time that humanity is living through. Most of my adult life has been taken up with a terrorist attack, global military action in response that continues to this day, a couple Presidential elections here in America and financial dealings that have resulted in my general feeling that this current era is probably what the 1970s felt like.

In a better world, would people want to relive the current era? I think the prospect of going back to the 17th century seems a lot more appealing than going back to the Great Depression for instance. I generally have an opinion that the earlier period seems more appealing because of advances in the study of history and technology in general. There just isn’t as much source material from 16th century, so it’s easier for certain narratives to dominate. The English beating Spain’s Great Armada makes a great story. The underdog wins because conditions allowed it to happen. It’s an enlightening story out of a time filled with religious persecution.

I think children in the 1970s probably dreamed of designing stuff like this, now not so much.

Modern history, on the other hand, captures all that is terrible with the world. You can’t help but think that Humanity Has Declined as technology has allowed history to be measure in minutes. New documentation of an event is released in the morning, and by the time dinner comes around it’s already been packaged and re-packaged again for consumption for certain constituencies; some more fervent than others. From where I’m sitting, it can feel like I’m experiencing a different version of modern history than the one that’s been created for me by the media. It all just feels like a work of fiction.

So to go revisit earlier in this post, those events of global terrorism and the recession haven’t had a direct measurable impact on me (the latter more than the former obviously), but I have to keep those ideas in mind constantly. My very nature and the fact I studied history makes two minor opinions, but the only impact I can have is by marking a sheet of paper in a certain spot to elect someone to represent me at various levels of government. That somehow my 1/3 millionth of an electorate to determine 5/269ths of the voting pool for this nation’s highest office is important. The reality is that I matter as much to the history of the present day as a random subsistence farmer did in the mid-17th century.

So to wrap up the introduction to this post succinctly. The 17th century sound fun because of all of the stories that have been filtered through time. Modern history sucks because we know everything about what’s happening, but it allows me to watch Horizon. So on to the episode.

Thoughts As I Watched

I’m quickly thrown into the middle of a naval battle on the 5th of June, 1648 in English waters between England, Spain and a Japanese fleet. Well, that seems a bit off, but what the hell is happening? Something about victory conditions to clear this Armada battle. What happened to simply destroying the other fleet?

Anyway, there’s no time to think about that, as I have to watch this transformation sequence involving Malga and Margot if my notes are correct. At least the mechanical design porn allows me to take a bit of a breather, 100 seconds into the episode.

Then comes the naming of attacks, which are probably familiar to fans of the series. It’s just one of those indoctrinating types of features that endears it to fans at the same time. Just like the fact that Malga likes having Margot’s dream-like bosom pushed up against her face. In the middle of a dogfight against multiple fighters. There are other things like that too, like Juana blushing at talking to Felipe that only a fan would see and truly understand why that is happening.

This is followed by a few lines about Musashi’s difficult position in the battle because they can’t run away as it would show a sign of weakness. So they have to try to win conventionally. The scene then quickly transitions to Adele, who is running out of ideas after narrowly avoiding a kamikaze attack. Then proposing to take the battle 3-dimensional by backflipping the entire carrier, which sounds both ridiculous and fun at the same time.

All of this leads to a final clash between Horizon and Juana with one of those clash of beam duals that goes back and forth. At this point, I can’t help but think that the backflip was completely unnecessary. Horizon and Tori were already on the deck and ready to go, why couldn’t they just start then?

This whole thing goes on for over 5 minutes, because Horizon has to obtain greed in order to make her attack work. Oh, but she had greed all along? Also, I was a bit disappointed that she feels the need to apologize in advance for having the audacity to have her own desires which could make Tori’s life more difficult.

Even that scene is pretty pointless as it takes the intervention of Mary Stuart to ultimately decide the battle. There was a moment, though, where Felipe had to put himself back in the right historical context by referring to Mary as Tudor that he had simply forgotten. And so we move on to the epilogue.

Everything here just screams sequel hook. Couples pairing up like mad as though it were the end of a school festival or something. Maybe it’s like the ending to The Return of the Jedi except with more eroge and a concert. Without knowing anything about these characters pasts, it just feels rather sentimental. The hug between Gin and Mineshige just feels emotionally manipulative, but without any context I’ll just let it go.

The scene with Mary and Tenzo, however, is an entirely different story. I think I get the point in their setup. What would happen if you had a perverted character who was used to being rejected unexpectedly having someone respond positively to him. It’s really about making him as uncomfortable as possible. So they are put in the same room. Conveniently, she can only sleep naked. All the while, he is uncomfortable as hell and gets defensive against her unknowingly perverted advances. Yet, in the end he is still happy about where his relationship with her is. Maybe there’s more to this show than I thought.

Finally, there’s the end conversation between Horizon and Tori. There’s one line in particular that screams foreshadowing. She says in order to save the world, she must experience the ultimate loss. Plus, Tori dodges the question of whether he will cry when it does happen to her. Yeah, I think I know where this is heading. Horizon can’t even use her new found greed on anything beyond wanting everyone to be happy. I don’t see how it’s going to be any different between the two of them.

Conclusion

So what did I make of this particular final episode? It’s completely transitional in nature. There’s going to be a 3rd season whether anyone wants to stop it or not. It wasn’t particularly terrible nor was it brilliant either. It reminds me of small debates I have had in the comments of recent posts over Dog Days‘s 2nd season.

“It can’t be measured on it’s own” “It tells a complete story” “I watch it because it allows me to escape” “Who cares? We get to view cute girls with a variety of body types of which at least one will appeal to everyone.” Yeah, this seems like it all may apply to Horizon as well, but I haven’t watched enough of it to give a real genuine appeal. On that basis, all I can say is that I watched an episode with lots of database elements, high production value and lots of action. A lot of that felt like wasted effort, but given the money to spend on a final episode, one must spend.

It wasn’t as though I was being thrown into the middle of a chaotic battle with no idea what to do, like this episode and concept would suggest. Nor was it like going back and reliving the sadness and depression of the present. It’s just a cast of characters having fun in a world where seemingly nothing is impossible.

In this modern world of economic troubles, maybe what Horizon brings to the table is a chance to escape. To relive a time when the impossible was possible in our youth. Or to remember those adolescent urges of old one more time while also fitting it into the context of studying history. Maybe there’s more to the Horizon universe than I thought going in…

So to one final question. Does this episode make me want to go back and watch more? Not really, even as it is incredibly classy.

6 thoughts on “Lacking Context in the Middle of Nowhere

  1. I’m one of Horizon’s greater partisans (as should be obvious), but I think you did a fair assessment here. Considering that you were thrown into the concluding episode of the series, an episode that explicitly paralleled the concluding episode of the original series, you got an awful lot out of it, and avoided the temptation to just reduce it down to “lol boobs”.

    A lot of what goes on in this show is formalism, the battles are theater, to a great extent. Thats why certain illogical things happen, since they are “recreating” history, via a strange, worldwide (world in this case being Japan, but whatever) LARP that has in many ways gotten completely out of hand.

    • I agree on the fairness of the assessment. This post was a reasonable approach to what was basically an unreasonable undertaking.

      I think Horizon builds its emotional impact in tiny bits of character development that are simply spread to thinly in a single episode, but which have a cumulative effect. For example, that scene with the witches was a reconciliation and reaffirmation — a character who has been in a funk the entire season finally overcame her lack of confidence in a recent episode, and her scene here is the final payoff. But in isolation? The scene is colorful and flashy, but nothing to get excited about.

      • On top of that, those two aren’t just a couple, not “anime lesbians”, they are the most explicitly together pair in the entire main cast. They are, literally, lovers. Their positions when docked together drives home the intimacy of their relationship.

        Similar things can be said for almost all the characters. Adele’s growth from just being a wall in season 1 to commanding Musashi in battle at the end of season 2. The show is filled with the, as you said, small bits of development that all pile up into a larger whole.

        This project was interesting, it had more misses than hits, but its hits (this post, and Vuc’s) were pretty good.

    • Having watched only final episodes of shows in the past, I have an idea about being thrown into something. If this episode deserved the “lol tits” angle, I would have gone that way. It seems like the issue has more to do with character designs.

  2. I wonder if every major era in history seems like shit to the people who live in it, even though every era advances in some way. It also makes me wonder what was the shittiest civilization that made someone feel some jealous form of nostalgia because they hated their own time. Someone had to admire a really crap time in history, right?

    • I’d say the early Middle Ages were pretty shitty, there was probably some noble later who later wished to go back to the good old days of Barbarian rape and pillageing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s