Plot Summary: In a distant future, Japan is divided into feudal territories, which have been conquered and are ruled by outside countries. The flying city-ship Musashi, which holds the remnants of the Japanese, is being targeted and has no choice but to keep its people safe by going to war. With the fate of the world resting on its hands, the students of Musashi may hold the key to victory. (ANN)
Ten years ago a little boy, Toori Aoi, had a friend, a cute little girl called Horizon Ariadust. Both were involved in an accident and Horizon was killed. Toori (Jun Fukuyama/Josh Grelle) is now the pervy president of the student council of the Ariadust Student Academy of Musashi – and yet, because of his undying love for dead Horizon, he is also the unlikely hero of this tale. I think…
Anyhoo, it turns out that Horizon’s soul is still residing in the body of an android-style doll called P-01s who works at a cafÉ. In her body is concealed the Armour of Mortal Sins which controls all the other powerful weapons (which were made from her emotions?) – so when the Testament Union abduct P-01s/Horizon and threaten to force her to commit suicide to extract the weapon from her body, obviously Toori and his student friends take on the enemy to save her. Cue many battles of all different types, but most involving impossibly large-bosomed lady warriors.
So there is a story struggling to get out, buried somewhere amongst the frantic confusion of characters, all rushing around for some reason or other, spouting archaic language and info-dumps that serve no useful purpose other than to further complicate matters. (Oh – and did I mention there are also ‘footnotes’ in English, added in an attempt to explain what the translation of the archaic terms mean. You’ll have to pause the action to read them. They probably won’t help any.)
Have you ever watched an anime series and wondered if you’ve somehow failed to grasp some basic underlying logic that makes the whole show click? I’ve notched up more than a few series in my time but never before have I felt quite so baffled as I have with this one. Whether using the subtitles and/or the English dub, the end result is still the same: WTF is going on?
My research revealed that Horizon is based on an (ongoing) series of light novels by Minoru Kawakami (twelve so far and counting!) These come with comprehensive and (useful) glossaries to the rather complicated world set-up, character guides, etc. which – if bundled in with the series – would have proved helpful in trying to understand what the hell is supposed to be happening. I can only conclude that this series was developed for viewers who have already read the novels. As they haven’t been licensed to be translated and published in English, we’re at a serious disadvantage here. Because Kawakami-sensei has created a complex/complicated (take your pick!) science-fictional world where a knowledge of Japanese history and the Warring States period is – I think? – a distinct advantage (although the Thirty Years War is also referenced and the actual year being re-enacted is 1648.) The best UK parallel I can come up with is: imagine in the far-distant future the British Isles is sailing through the atmosphere on vast air ships whilst various ruling families re-enact the English Civil War.
And then there’s the vast – oh, far too vast – cast of characters. Magic, history, and technology co-exist here in a confusing mixture that screams ‘genre grab-bag’ rather than any cohesive – comprehensible – system. Who are all these people? We have winged witches rubbing shoulders with fighting maid dolls, mechas, knights and samurai (mostly female.) The Ariadust Academy also includes several gag characters: a naked incubus, a big talking ball of jelly, a curry-obsessed Indian, Hassan (an unnecessary and unpleasant piece of racial stereotyping) and an overweight shota fan. Several characters possess little magical avatars (as in Baka and Test) whose functions here are far from clear. And don’t even get me started on the subject of Masazumi Honda, the girl who is supposed to be undergoing surgery to change her gender so that she can be the heir; if this is the far future and the technology supports flying city ships, surely a rich and powerful family can bio-engineer themselves a male heir?
The sub text is very close to the US dub – and I found it useful (though not enlightening enough) to run it over the dub. The dialogue makes use of words invented for the novels including the affirmatives “Jud” (“Judge” in the dub) and “Tes” (I guess from Testament?)
On the music front, the lively, catchy Opening Theme “TERMINATED” is sung by Minori Chihara who also plays Horizon. Two Ending Songs alternate: “Pieces” by -Side Ariadust- AiRI (with cute animation) and the more soulful “Stardust Melodia” by -Side Horizon- Ceui. The soundtrack is by Tatsuya Katou, with strong echoes of John Williams’s Star Wars and Danny Elfman’s Nightmare Before Christmas (have some fun listening out for those passages – it beats trying to make sense of the story.)
Extras include textless Opening and Closing songs, the Far East Enlightening Lecture (it’s not very enlightening) and Japanese promo videos and trailers.
If you’re a fan of fan service and girls fighting, there have been other series recently released that probably deliver much better value in terms of story and characters. For what it’s worth, the fights are well animated and a lot of money and resource must have gone into creating this series. But I’m at a loss to know why. And this is only the First Season – there’s a second still to come.
To Be Continued.