The main male protagonist.
After more than 3 months of inactivity, this blog suddenly comes to life with the review of the two seasons of the Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. This review would have come 2 months early, but when I am midway through the second season, the hard disk that contains this anime (and about 50 other anime titles that has finished its run) decided to fail without giving any chance for me to salvage its contents. Fortunately, anime titles that haven’t finished their runs, like all the 2013 titles I’ve decided to download like Hataraku Maou-sama and Maouyuu Maou Yuusha, are stored in another hard disk. Therefore, the plan to have 10 contenders for the upcoming ‘Anime of the Year 2013’ audition is still on track then; I don’t want to have only four as it is in the last year’s audition. Only last week I found myself the effort to actually download the second season of this anime back so that I can finally finish and write this review.
Apparently, some time in the far future, mankind ascended to the heavens and become gods. Then, some time after ascension to the heavens, mankind was dumped back to Earth for reasons unknown (or maybe I just forgot about it). Apparently, mankind pre-heaven-ascension is a very poor keeper of recorded history, therefore they have to recreate back history so that they will have a clue on how to get back to the heavens. Unfortunately for the major players of reenacted history, one darned Japanese person doesn’t read the script and decided to bring forward Armageddon instead, throwing a monkey wrench into mankind’s ‘Get Back to Heavens’ operation.
In the hindsight after watching 2 season of this anime, one thing that really stands out to me is that the storyline has a very slow pacing for an action title. At the rate the story is going, if this anime has follow-up seasons, it will take at least another 100 episodes (to add to the 26 episodes already aired) for all of the Armaments of Deadly Sins to be collected. And I am being conservative here, because 150 episodes is a real possibility. Plus, if the next season only has 13 episodes, I’m willing to bet that the main title protagonist’s group will not get another one of the Armaments of Deadly Sins thingy.
Because of this slow pacing, which is just one of several negative aspects this anime has, I will skip at least the next two seasons (or maybe three) before I watched the continuation of this series again. This is assuming that each seasons has 13 episodes. This kind of pacing has no place in an action title, and is more normal in a drawn-out romance manga titles instead like I”s.
If the pacing of the storyline is a drawback for this anime, the storyline itself is actually quite good; a positive aspect of this anime. What impressed me about the storyline is that there are actually some depth in it; the intense debates between the re-enacted history’s factions can easily rivals the intense battles between them. The mixture of humor, drama and romance are done largely well, although it can do with some more improvements with the latter. Despite the slow pacing, the story flows nicely. There are huge amount of fan-service here, kinda like the ones seen in Dragonaut : The Resonance and Seikon no Qwaser, if you know what I mean. But do not bother with a Blu-ray version of this anime, because, if what I seen in the first season is any indication, there is virtually no difference between TV version and Blu-ray version when it comes to depictions of certain ‘steamy’ scenes.
Character management is also one of this series’ weaknesses. The huge amount of characters this anime has, which is large for me even for a 26-episode series, means that character developments for very many of the characters here are compromised. Let just take a look at the main male protagonist and the main title female protagonist. For the former, he has a decent character development in the first season and even have a power-up, but was relegated to a nudist comic-relief secondary character status in the second season. Even the Musashi’s ambassador (the girl that has super hearing) to England has a slightly better character development overall compared to him. Seriously, as of the end of second season, his untapped greatness remains untapped. For the sake of this anime, the writer must push him back to the forefront so that he can do things like what he has done near the end of the first season.
As for the main title female protagonist, her character development is glacial, apart from the power-ups she got from obtaining the Armaments of Deadly Sins. Just like the main male protagonist, she also has been relegated to secondary character status in the second season. Actually, you can already say that even for half of the first season. She is not as bad as Index in terms of visibility, but not too far away either. The best I can hope from her is for her subjects to get more of those armament things.
This anime need more episodes for another reason related to character roster management: some of the characters in this anime served virtually no purpose (not even as comic relief) but got some notable screen time in it. An example of this is the disabled girl that plays nanny to the Emperor’s son and also the ghost girl from Musashi’s academy. Maybe in the future, she will be at least as important as the main title female protagonist (ho ho ho), but she isn’t for now, and the writer has to rectify this in the next few seasons of this anime.
The best character in this anime so far is the pretty boy has has the sex-change surgery (and has very good planning and debating skills). The main male protagonist could have had joined him if not for being relegated to the sidelines in the second season. The perverted ninja, girl with super hearing, the wielder of Slicing Dragonfly and also the samurai lady are also some character of this anime that is worth looking out for.
The ending is predictably non-existent, in anticipation for more seasons. I have not heard about new ones though as of writing. Therefore some of the loose ends in the plot will be ignored for now. I kinda hope that new season(s) will have more episodes in it though, so that the pacing can be streamlined compared to what I’ve seen in this first two seasons.
In general, character designs is overly bland, especially for male characters. Surprisingly, the abundance of big breasts and inappropriate body proportions in this anime doesn’t put me off unlike what Dragonaut: The Resonance has done, but instead the humongous hair that some of the female characters has sometimes make me wondered how much shampoo she will use when bathing. Lack of black hairs in this anime taking place in a very distant future of Earth is forgivable, I don’t think they know that Japanese in the Middle Ages uniformly has black hair. After all, people in this anime has problems keeping accurate recorded history.
Voice acting in his anime is just about average overall, but there are some excellent voice acting gigs in this series: the main male protagonist, his older sister, the aforementioned pretty boy above and the uptight lady samurai. More reason really to put the main male protagonist as the focal point of this anime in future season(s).
Amongst the various OP/ED themes this anime has, only the OP theme of the first season and also the first ED theme of the same season are decent. All themes in the second season and also the second ED theme of the first season isn’t really good. The OST is flawless, but I do have a reservation of the music that plays in certain battles scenes that I don’t want to mention here.
This anime employs the blurry animation technique which means automatic 1-point deduction from the final rating. Apart from that, the animation quality in this anime is decent. Plus, integration with CGI animation is good too. Choreography of action scenes is excellent, they are better than, for example, both Accel World and Sword Art Online. The director should have done something about the slow pacing that did not fit the shounen genre this anime belongs under, but he didn’t, and this really shows in his unimaginative overall work.
6 out of 10. The two seasons of this anime are supposed to compete against Tiger and Bunny and also Another for this blog’s ‘Anime of the Year 2011 and 2012’ respectively, but both of them failed. The next anime I will review next is going to be the third Evangelion reboot movie. I wonder how far astray it has gone from the original TV series.
It is a bit surprising to read Horizon described as being “slow”, though it’s easy to understand your point about measuring the acquisition of “deadly sins” (it’s been only about one per season, hasn’t it?). And I share your puzzlement about the wheelchair-bound girl and her role in the over-all series — she’s given sufficient prominence that perhaps she will be a semi-major character in some future season.
I view the series as more of an ensemble effort — there are actually several “major characters” or protagonists, and the series, I think, does a good job of developing them all, though it does so in a curious directorial choice (one that I think works surprisingly well) — each character is given a few minutes each episode, with scenes broken by jump-cuts so that a scene may stretch across one or two episodes, emphasizing the simultaneity of events.
I think the acquisition of the “deadly sins” is primarily a frame on which to hang many sub-stories: the first season was about Masazumi’s (the student council vice-president, orator, sex-change character) development almost as much as Tori and Horizon’s; the second season was about the red-scarf ninja and Mary. The plot also exists at least partly to provide an excuse to tour the world, playing with ideas, characters, and showing off their marvellous, magical technology.
Finally, the show repays reviewing. This is an important criterion for me: I like shows that reveal something new with each viewing, and Horizon does that, with word-play, clever technology, and humor. That said, I thought the second season was weaker than the first — no doubt a good deal of the novelty had worn off, and not much was done to make up for that fact. Also, I think they could have done more with the historical setting in the second season than they did.