horizon in the middle of nowhere episode 6 was bad and you should feel bad

Well, I too got recruited to watch and write about a random episode of Horizon. I accidentally watched episode 5 by accident since I just went and watched the most recent episode on the date it was supposed to have aired without realizing that the Olympics had pushed it back a few days. So I am actually doing double duty and talking about both episode 5 and my assigned episode, episode 6. This also meant that I ended up with a little more background than I expected to have. Previously, my online background was the very first episode (which I promptly forgot everything from except that it had an incredibly exposition dump over the end credits to barely scratch the surface of the premise), and a few glances at Wikipedia and TV Tropes solely to say “lolololol this is nonsense lolololol.”

nobody cares

Let’s compare Horizon to another backstory-filled franchise. When the first episode of Total Eclipse aired, I mentioned that it was more or less pointless to watch unless one was already well acquainted with the franchise combined with how it it’s not exactly reasonable to expect something as entrenched in its source material as a spinoff of an spinoff of a sequel to a spinoff to a porn game. But even for those without familiarity with the series, the questions that it caused were more regarding filling in background details, like “Why are they using mecha and not airplanes?” rather than “No seriously, what is going on here?” Even the n00biest of n00bs was able to figure out that it was a show about mankind being pushed to the brink of extinction in a war against evil aliens.

Now yes, I do recognize that I’m randomly watching an episode of Horizon without watching the previous 17 episodes. Despite that, I can still make the following critiques about episode 5:

1) Each scene for the first 15 minutes or so of the episode featured a completely different characters from the others, with no apparent connection between scenes. Over the entire episode, only I believe 3 sets of those characters appeared a second time. While I may not be familiar with the characters, their designs are at least striking enough that I can visually differentiate between them.
2) When I attempted to look up information about these characters in a wiki, I realized that many of them were never actually addressed by name at any point in the episode. I found this especially weird since one generally addresses people by name in Japanese rather than using pronouns so I expected to constantly hear people’s names.
3) Many of these scenes consisted purely of characters speaking in series-specific jargon that was arcane to the point where I couldn’t figure out any kind of context for any of it.
4) When not speaking in jargon, the purpose behind the dialogue still managed to be completely incomprehensibe
5) The other scenes were action scenes with at best no buildup whatsoever and at worst resumed in media res

I got even spergier with episode 6 and took notes on each scene.

1) There were 18 scenes in the episode (not counting the cold open, which was a 20 second montage from the previous week), coming in at just under 21 minutes
2) Almost every scene consisted of exactly two characters talking and/or fighting
3) The median scene was only 49 seconds long. 10 were under a minute. One was 6 seconds
4) The fight scenes resumed right in the middle of where we left off from episode 5 (which again, were not exactly ending at natural stopping points), lasted for roughly 30 seconds, the often ended again fairly arbitrarily

In the interest of fairness, I sat down and watched a random episode from season two of Game of Thrones. Now yes, I have read all of the books and watched every episode of the show, but I still felt that I could apply a similar set of critiques to that episode as well.

1) Nearly every character was identified in some way, and of the ones that weren’t they generally were not for a good reason (such as being in disguise)
2) There was next to no jargon
3) Scenes had varied setups
4) There were fewer characters in a 50 minute episode than in the 20 minutes of Horizon 05 (22 vs. 27 by my count)
5) There were 9 scenes in 50 minutes rather than 18 in 20. The 4th scene was just beginning when Game of Thrones was 20 minutes in and the 18th scene of Horizon episode 6 was ending.

That’s a lot of discussions of length (or shortness, depending on the perspective.) The sheer pagelength of the series (9,000 pages and growing) reminds me less of lengthy epics like Wheel of Time (11,000) or A Song of Ice and Fire (4,500) and more of terrible fanfiction like Fallout Equestria, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, or Trial by Tenderness. As long as WoT and ASoI&F are, remember that those having been going on for decades. Horizon has managed that many pages in less than 4 years. Want another size comparison? I found out that I watched the wrong episode when I saw ExecutiveOtaku’s post. One of commenters linked to an introductory guide to the franchise. It was 50,000 words long.

Two of these are terrible fanworks. One of these is a series of published novels:

We sat up that night and discuss ideas on how to develope [sic] a new one. What we came up with was grim. We theorized that when you send an object through time, it does not create a new timeline that overrides the current like we had originally thought.

When the object enters the timestream, time begins to correct itself. Let me use this example: Imagine four balls on the edge of a cliff. Say a direct copy of the ball nearest the cliff is sent to the back of the line of balls and takes the place of the first ball. The formerly first ball becomes the second, the second becomes the third, and the fourth falls off the cliff.

Time works the same way.

■ Flow of History
○ Former Earth Age:People abandoned the Earth, which had a deteriorating environment.

○ People returned from space to the Divine States as Gods.

○ The environment of Earth had over-recovered, becoming unforgiving, and many returns lead to the occurence of problems with the ground.

○ The Harmonic World was created in Differed-Space, and each country decided to move there. However, only the people of the Divine states decided to remain in the Real World.

Why is there always an outcome of such historical events?

History is a series of events which have shaped the world over. Some events are good, while some are bad. While some may be either proud or shamed because of those events, what more people worry about is the outcome. The outcome of the series of events in relation to the group of people they affect is a way that shapes them, and the outcome cannot be explicitly written down in such history,l if not spoon-fed. It has to be analyzed and researched, constantly and constantly. And while some may like the outcome of the history, some just want to correct it. Or try to.

Some of these people who correct outcomes of past events, if they are capable, are called, time-travelers and analysts.

Horizon may be one of the purest examples that I’ve seen yet in professionally-produced media of what I like to call troperfication. In troperfication, one takes art/texts/works/media products/whatever you want to call them, throws them into a machine that breaks them down into their base components, and then measures the value of these works based on the number of these components (or as they erroneously call them, tropes) that are present. When I watch a scene in Horizon, or read any kind of information about the show, I get this at full blast. Nothing in the show is there because the setting, characters, themes, story, artistic vision, or literary ambition demands it. The question is never “Why should this be there?” It’s always “Why the fuck SHOULDN’T this be there”. Why the fuck shouldn’t there be werewolves? Why the fuck shouldn’t they be re-enacting history? Why the fuck shouldn’t Toori always run around naked? Why the fuck shouldn’t that character whose name I didn’t catch randomly shoot lemons with blades in them?

Because more equals better automatically, so go forth and fill up more pages with more completely random crap. I mean seriously, almost Wheel of Time Length in less than a quarter of the time!

PS: If you read this series or hell, any light novel series on Baka-Tsuki, for the love of god get off the internet and read a real book.

About jpmeyer

Every once and a while, I'll write something about those Japanese porno Pokemans cartoons that are STRAIGHT FROM JAPAN but AREN'T KIDS' STUFF. Just not today.
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26 Responses to horizon in the middle of nowhere episode 6 was bad and you should feel bad

  1. omo says:

    The real question is: is this more worthwhile than Touhou meta-fandom?

  2. dm00 says:

    Shorter jpmeyer: I didn’t expect to appreciate this series, so I missed its value.

    I didn’t read any of the background material until after I’d developed an appreciation for the series by watching it through once, so I don’t think you’re correct that one does have to be steeped in the background to appreciate the layers of puns, the visual creativity, and the occasionally brilliant action scenes. But then, I tend to like series that make me work to get at some of their deeper rewards.

    I have to admit that I missed a lot of the humor on the first viewing (and I also originally wrote it off as fan-servicey otaku-bait), and I only stuck with it because someone whose taste I trust began to speak highly of the series.

    What you dismiss as “tropification”, I think, is more accurately described as “allusions”. The series is full of allusions — not just to anime/manga (and I suppose light novels), but also to literature (I think the choice of “Much ado about nothing” at the beginning of episode five is not accidental), history (it’s not for nothing that Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s puppetmaster, is portrayed in this series as a puppet), and games played with language (there are at least two bilingual puns lurking in the series, I suspect there are more).

    The series reminds me of nothing so much as Nadesico, though with higher energy and much more subtle jokes (as well as a lot of extremely broad and baudy humor (where Nadesico had ditzy Yurika standing in the way of appreciation, Horizon has some questionable choices in character design)). Though unlike Nadesico, I don’t know that there is much of a message underneath all the frenetic activity. But the series isn’t done yet, and the true depth of Nadesico wasn’t apparent only 2/3rds of the way through the series, either.

    • omo says:

      I think calling it allusions is just another way to say the same thing as calling it a bunch of tropes (which is the wrong word, but anyway). It does not quite explain why those allusions need to be there. I think for the British arc in season 2, there’s a bit of a cultural tourism going on, which is kind of neat.

      The problem I have with you comparing it with Nadesico is that the allusions it makes actually ties in to the main theme about, say, propaganda through hot-blooded media to the masses, etc. There is a degree of consistency in the setting for Horizon that makes historic re-enactment sensible (to the degree that they merely decreed it in S1E1), but there is no reason for the viewer to care why people are the way they are.

      I think a much, much better example to make JP’s point is to compare it with Fate/Zero. There are reasons why, say, Saber is a girl. It ties into the story and the motivation for the grail and all that, plus parallel themes about other heroes, etc. Maybe there’s reason why to expect the same for Shakespeare being a girl too, but somehow I don’t expect them to explain that.

    • dm00 says:

      You’re wrong to confuse allusions and (not-)tropes. Unless it is there as a sort of (tropical) in-joke easter-egg, the author is using an allusion as a sort of shorthand for the alluded-to work, saying, “think about these events in the context of the alluded-to”. I think in this case, “Much ado about nothing” centers on a debate between two characters who “have no interest” in a romance. It’s not a perfect fit, but such a debate is going on, these episodes, between Horizon and Toori.

      As to your point about “Shakespeare-chan”: it may be part of the theme of the series.

      This most recent episode has me forming the theory that the over-riding theme of this season (and perhaps of the series as a whole) is one of loss and redemption — the conversation between Toori and Horizon suggests that, at least. If it is in fact a theme for the entire series, then Toori’s loss of Horizon and his efforts to redeem her parallel Mankind’s loss of a liveable Earth and their effort (through this Testament business) at redemption.

      With this episode, it looks like Shakespeare may be a woman in order for her, Toussaint, and the dead third orphan in their past to explore another path of loss, regret, and redemption.

      Now, if you were to ask why Walsingham or Dudley are women, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s something as prosaic as a desire for gender-parity in the principle cast.

      There’s also the whole kamikakushi business, which recurs every few episodes (someone disappears, and a mysterious graffito is left behind). Another aspect of the loss theme, perhaps? That’s a possibility, anyway. It’s too early to be certain. I gather there’s still a lot of tale to tell.

    • omo says:

      I don’t know if it is wrong or not to be confused, but I think if anything, Horizon anime certainly greatly compounds the odds of such a thing happening to the degree that it is probably fair to consider it a major flaw.

      Then there’s the issue of allusions and tropes. Again, sure, Much Ado about Nothing is actually a fitting thing, if, say, theses are school children (I guess they are!) putting on a play, not actually the dimensionally gender-bent version of Shakespeare unleashing a reality marble. The trope is not “Much Ado about Nothing” but how it’s happening. The allusion here has to do with, say, Everything Since Fate/Stay night than Shakespeare.

  3. Taka says:

    “Why the fuck shouldn’t there be werewolves? Why the fuck shouldn’t they be re-enacting history? Why the fuck shouldn’t Toori always run around naked? Why the fuck shouldn’t that character whose name I didn’t catch randomly shoot lemons with blades in them?”

    That all sounds awesome. I couldn’t get around the exposition dump though. If it were just a series of funny/random set pieces with no overarching plot I might be more inclined to watch it. I like shit like that…which is why I liked Qwaser and Manyuu Hikenchou who pretty much just run with whatever crazy idea pops into the creators heads.

  4. dm00 says:

    “Why the fuck shouldn’t there be a hookah-smoking caterpillar? Why the fuck shouldn’t walrus and carpenter tuck the oysters into their bed? Why the fuck shouldn’t the Hatter be mad?”

    “Why the fuck shouldn’t they chase the white whale? Why the fuck shouldn’t a coffin serve as a lifeboat?”

    “Why the fuck shouldn’t they wait for Godot?”

    I’m wondering about the lemons-with-blades, myself. I expect it will be a forehead-slapping moment when I figure it out or (more likely) come across an explanation.

    • You can’t really help but to be impressed by the amount of effort Kawakami puts in his work though.

      There is a significant barrier of entry to Horizon, yes, but it’s worth it after you take the craziness in stride.

    • Dynellen says:

      One of the stalls Neito, the chains user, tossed at her enemy earlier had those. She’s a half-werewolf with keen nose so the smell of them will distract her and the acid will hurt like hell in her wounds.

    • BluWacky says:

      While I appreciate you’re being absurd, I really don’t think you can use Waiting for Godot or Moby Dick as examples here. They have absurd premises but not “absurd” executions in the same way that Horizon does.

      Essentially, Horizon doesn’t really make sense, whereas other absurdist/fantastical stories do. Ahab is driven by mad vengeance to chase the whale; while Vladimir and Estragon can’t remember why they’re waiting for Godot, that’s part of the point of the whole play.

      I appreciate that Horizon works if you’re fully steeped in its lore, have read the novels etc. And what are most anime adaptations if not promo material for the original source, which inevitably sells better and is cheaper to produce? But sometimes it’s nice to feel like you’re not being excluded from enjoying a show just because you haven’t read a 50,000 word introduction.

    • omo says:

      I thought the imagery in Alice was to make things sufficiently absurd so the political and social criticism don’t get picked up.

      I thought they explained why they should/shouldn’t chase the whale in the book. It’s been a very long time so I don’t remember.

      Isn’t Waiting for Godot an Absurdist fiction?

      I’m not sure if any of those explanation applies to Horizon.

    • dm00 says:

      @BluWacky: I enjoyed the series tremendously without reading the 50,000 word introduction first (I did turn to it afterwards, but that was mostly because I wanted to immerse myself more in the series, not because I thought it was necessary to enjoy it). Yes, you do have to realize that you need a bit of patience before enough information accumulates to tie everything together, but I think the series works — as Kurogane says, “it’s worth it after you take the craziness in stride”.

      I chose my examples because they all have explanations, just as many of the “Why the fuck….”s in jpmeyer’s rant (I’m taking it on faith that some of them will be explained, but the series has given me evidence that justifies that faith). You just have to be patient, and maybe willing to work for them a little.

      I think there’s a contradiction in simultaneously complaining: “these things have no explanation, they’re just there!” and “there’s a 50,000 word exegesis explaining why all this stuff is there!” What’s the nature of these combined complaints that there’s both no explanation and too much explanation?

      I disagree that the series doesn’t make sense. There’s stuff that i don’t understand yet, there’s stuff that’s simply a surprising and novel approach to furthering the plot, but it makes sense. I view the series as a fantastic puzzle box full of tantalizing hints and surprising cleverness. It remains to be seen if there’s any deeper meaning underneath the puns and clever visuals. Will it be just a delightful puzzle, with subsequent viewings only revealing another bit of the mechanism, or will it have something else to say about life? I don’t know yet. (I’m beginning to suspect the series is ultimately going to be about loss, regret and redemption.)

  5. Anonymouse says:

    >Watches 4 episodes of a series that is a sequel to a previous long running LN series
    >Complains that he doesn’t understand it, doesn’t understand the characters or their significance
    >Talks about it like he’s an expert, links to show in a completely different genre in a completely different style from a completely different continent to justify his weak argument

    While we’re at it let’s just throw Dickens and Tolstoy out the window too, that shit is for gay niggers.

    • omo says:

      I think you are on to something. Like, there’s 11 other people who are posting this stuff. Maybe you should check it out o.o

  6. r042 says:

    Damn, a Zybourne Clock reference. Had almost forgotten about that. I’m now getting a bit nervous about my contribution to this, the bar has been set pretty high.

  7. A Day Without Me says:

    The header image I can see right now really bothers me. Its from that Please Teacher clone. The woman is touching the video camera’s lens with one finger on the glass, and i find that seriously, terribly, awfully troubling.

  8. jpmeyer says:

    I love all you guys.

  9. Di Gi Kazune says:

    Refresh my memory about this show again: is it the wannabe H show with TnA? Seriously not keeping track of anything this mid-year.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Naw, I think that one’s uh Estetica? There was peeing in it. And girls’ clothes explode a lot.

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  11. foomafoo says:

    not sure if troll but all the LNs in Baka-Tsuki? It irks me when there’s this elitism of what literature and a novel should be just so it will be called a /real/ book, if there’s actually any.

    • jpmeyer says:

      My main beef is with how horribly translated the Baka-Tsuki ones are. The English-translated Haruhi light novels published by Little Brown for example doesn’t have that ‘I. What. These guys…even at a time like this!” writing.

  12. Mushyrulez says:

    I saw a recent (non-satirical) post on Horizon celebrating how all its plotholes are filled, how nothing is left unexplained, etc. It seems to me the author adds so many details and explanation solely to patch possible plotholes, rather than for artistic merit; yet, people still appreciate these things.

    Perhaps Horizon’s real merit lies in its world, rather than its (ha ha ha) plot or direction. You can’t deny that Horizon’s world is damn well fleshed out, no matter how inane it seems.

    • dm00 says:

      aps Horizon’s real merit lies in its world, rather than its (ha ha ha) plot or direction. You can’t deny that Horizon’s world is damn well fleshed out

      I think the direction is pretty good, too — the way the complex world is introduced by giving four perspectives on the same day, for example, or the witches’ battle and its aftermath in the tenth episode, was particularly masterful.

      Another count in its favor is the way it subverts the inane shounen-fight scenes through novel approaches (debates, comedy-of-manners double-binds, trade-negotiations as warfare (or worship), etc.).

      I keep coming back to this topic because I made the same mistake many of you are — writing the series off as fan-service fluff. It’s that, but it’s also so much more.

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