|If you think this looks confusing, just watch the show…|
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, Ep. 1 - "Those Lined Up Before the Horizon"
[The Anime Network] [Crunchyroll]
To fully describe or decipher what Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is all about or what is going on in its first episode is, quite seriously, an act in futility. "Futile" in the sense that trying to wad through the streams of clunky exposition and its even clunkier premise is perhaps not worth the enduring headache you'll experience attempting such a feat.
The overall gist of Horizon (if I got this straight) is that mankind, once an advanced, space-faring race, has been on the decline after periods of war and, as such, have tried to relive history in hopes of recapturing its glory days. As a result, they have selected individuals to war on their behalf and take control of the inhabitable Earth and the dimensions they themselves reside in. However, they seem to be stuck in a continuous loop of destruction and revival, and it is no different with this generation, whose end is soon approaching.
In true anime form, the combatants all attend academies, though these are located on a massive ship hovering over the planet's surface, like everything else in civilization. The majority of the episode is spent on a teacher turning a payback visit to someone who kicked her out of her home into an exercise of "catch", where her ward is tasked with trying to land a blow on her before she reaches her destination (with five free absences as reward). It's essentially an excuse to showcase the massive, garish cast of characters and their various powers, but at least director Manabu Ono and Sunrise did a very good job animating it. And in spite of how vapid the whole thing is in terms of storytelling, it was honestly enjoyable for the most part and was the best part of the episode (then again, it basically took up the whole thing), although a big reason for that was Miyuki Sawashiro playing the teacher, who is always good for a listen.
But, there should be a problem when such an extended chase-and-fight sequence of minimum weight is the only good part, and there is. Save the teacher, who, seiyuu aside, was the only real interesting and likable character, the other characters largely felt like a collection of (empty) anime archetypes (and to be honest, the "cool, super-skilled" teacher's sort of one, too). Go ahead, name one: you'll likely to find it among the group of bizarre fighters (and yes, even a mildly-offensive Arabic one). Of course, there are a bevy of buxom babes with insanely large busts (jiggle motion and SFX included for the biggest ones), which belies one of Horizon's biggest problems: an uncomfortable, if not flippant, air of sexism. Groping and touching are nothing new in anime and can make for some decent laughs when done right, but in Horizon, it's treated as an afterthought, as if the girls should take it like its nothing. This happens near the end between the teacher and the male main character, who's positioned boldly as the perv type, who gropes her breasts like it's second nature. I guess the viewer is supposed to laugh at that (including him getting punched through multiple walls), but it bothered me more than humored me, especially after such stuff was tossed around so laxly amongst the characters earlier.
All of this, mind you, is bookended by narration of the show's massively convoluted premise, which the characters ungainly shed light on in the first few minutes with expository talk akin to an out-loud reading of paragraphs from some thick guidebook (then again, a lot of the dialogue sounds artificial and awkward). This inherent convolution is found everywhere, in its premise, in its character designs, and even in the fighting and attacks. And yet, the characters themselves are painfully one-note and unremarkable. It's as if the story is too ambitious and otaku-centric for its own good. Those who read the novel series Horizon is based on say there's more to it than meets the eye, and I really hope so. I am hard-pressed to find a reason why Sunrise and the producers would throw so much behind the show if they did not think it would be a good one. In fact, there is a good show beneath all of the bulk and antics--and with better, more fulfilling characters. Too bad this is what we're stuck with--at least, through this first episode…