Last season we revealed the deep symbolism in Queen’s Blade: Rebellion. This time, we’ll explain the intricacies and depth of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. I’m joined by returning fellow colloquiumers Emperor J, SnippetTee, John Sato, redball, and Foshizzel. We also have a new participant, AbsoluteZero255, so please join me in welcoming him. Also, from now on all Colloquium posts will be cross-posted at our new site (but don’t worry, you can still find them here too).
I still haven’t a fucking clue what this show is about!… I never, ever want to experience this kind of brain melting confusion ever again! — Caraniel
draggle: After finishing an episode of Horizon, many people tend to come out a bit confused. That is, I believe, understandable. The show is based on a series of novels which begins with a prologue of nearly a thousand pages. There are countless characters, with more and more introduced every episode. And the mechanics of the show are unbelievably complex, with many competing factions, each with their own characters, ships, armaments, and special powers.
Anyone could get caught up in the details and lost, so Caraniel’s confusion is understandable. We hope that, as we did with Queen’s Blade, these posts will serve as a guide to those seeking to understand the complex and multifaceted world of Kyokai Senjou no Horizon.
First of all, understanding Horizon becomes much simpler when we understand that the characters are all performing a reenactment of history of the sake of saving the world. So for those confused about who was fighting in the opening battle, it was the Spanish and the Japanese, in the time when Spain was constructing their Grand Armada for the purpose of invading England. Part of the historical recreation has been messed up, which is why the Japanese are travelling through Spain and England.
Emperor J: Horizon is most definitely a show that appeals to those who crave action. It sets a pace not unlike someone trying to lead a marathon for a few seconds at the beginning just to say they could. The need to cram in source material into these episodes ends up making them look like they are sprinting through the episodes.
The story of the second season kicks off as the main cast, who are representing Japan in a sort of futuristic recreation of the history of humanity stumble into the war between England and Spain. These characters all know they are doing this in the belief that doing so will save humanity. So I wonder how it must be to be in the Spanish contingent knowing that the armada that is being built up will end up being humiliated by England?
Horizon doesn’t even bother acknowledging that level of thought, fortunately. Instead, we get treated to a fight against the Spanish, then a fight against the English. All the while, Tori, our constantly smiling hero, wears absolutely nothing.
There are also some further curiosities in this telling of revisionist history. Why do the Spanish play baseball in the first place? Why did the creators feel the need to combine the poet Ben Jonson with a disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to create their version of the poet? Why does the version of MacBeth seem so different from the real version? (thankfully there are no trees trying to kill people in real theatre)
All of those questions once again miss the point. The real depth of this show comes from the support characters. And no better example of that comes Kimi providing an illustration of the level of support she needs to Tomo. That is why Horizon’s fans continue to turn out and watch this series on a weekly basis.
AbsoluteZero255: In my opinion, Horizon appears to make no sense simply because it is offering a kind of experience never seen before in anime. I think that the members of Horizon’s audience are supposed to, in their bewilderment, try to make sense of the show by trying to think of the plot themselves. Although there is a definite plot, that is not the important thing. The important thing, in the end, is each audience member’s individual interpretation of the show.
I support my point with some good evidence. Why is it that the animation, music, voice acting, and overall direction of the show is amazing, but the story direction and character designs don’t make any sense? It must be that they put in significant effort, but towards what? Exactly what Horizon is — something meant to be interpreted by each member of the audience individually.
Battles are easy enough to understand. Despite weird after-effects that don’t make much sense, the spells and special moves used are rather straightforward, and also extremely creative (I especially loved the poetry battle thing). What’s harder to understand are the dialogue scenes between a few characters, as the conversations usually reference certain plot events that one wouldn’t even remember. There are usually comedic antics during these scenes, though, so they’re still quite entertaining.
So, as I try and offer my own explanation of Horizon’s plot, I will mainly be explaining the scenes that are harder to explain, namely the dialogue-heavy scenes. Actually, I’ll mainly be focussing on one in particular.
The scene I’d like to focus on is the scene in Episode 1 in which Malga Naruze in the middle of issuing an important announcement, is interrupted by a very naive guy, Azuma, and ends up almost explaining to him how sex works. Now, this is a strange turn of events, but because she stopped her duties to explain this, I can deduce that the naive guy is someone incredibly important.
The fact that he is incredibly important yet does not know the first thing about sex indicates that he is important because of some quality about him rather than anything that she can do. He must have a magical power of some sort. I’d say that he has the power to distract anyone from anything with his naivety.
After he gains a basic grasp of sex (not really) he goes to talk to another character, and using what basic knowledge he has, talks about sex in a very inappropriate tone. I still have no idea why this happened, but I can presume that the purpose of this scene was foreshadowing. There will be an important plot point in which this person learns more about sex and eventually conceives a child that will destroy the universe or something else calamitous. It’s really my only plausible explanation for the entire matter. What I’m trying to say is, any explanation of any of Horizon’s scenes are good, because the point of Horizon is to provide the audience an opportunity to interpret the plot themselves.
SnippetTee: As for me, discerning is the first step to symbolically interpret an idea and that’s something I’m lacking despite the fact that I re-watched the first two episodes of Horizon. I tried so hard to activate every brain cell that I have but unfortunately the only thing that I can think of is that this show is featuring the Olympic spirit—considering its timing and sports imageries. Most importantly, I noticed that Horizon was strongly eliciting the battle of nations—España, Britain, Japan and the US. Hence, I guess this show is trying to predict who will get the most number of medals on the ongoing Olympic Games.
Aside from that, I would also say that the messed up historical and literary fictions “symbolically” turned this series into something silly but dark. It became so emblematic that it felt like it’s so impossible to decipher the plot. Why does Shakespeare exist? Who knows…? Perhaps it will be never known.
John Sato: I applaud my comrades for their efforts in explaining the plot. Draggle and Emperor J looked at it attempting to use the logic of the Horizon-verse, a daunting task to say the least. Absolute Zero created a plot, as perhaps the series meant us to do. However, we wouldn’t be blogging Horizon if it weren’t a classy show. This definition means it supports many different interpretations of the story, including the staple of our colloquiums, a symbolic one. This is what I, following in Snippettee’s footsteps, will be attempting. For reference, I saw only the first episode of the first season, and gave up then since I knew I would be unable to analyze it without help (which I now have). With that out of the way, onto my interpretation.
The first episode begins with a large ship taking off, and our hero Tori (naked) and two companions following him. Already, symbolism has kicked the real plot off. Tori and his unusual nudity clearly represent raw, unfiltered sexual deviancy, making him the hero for minority rights. He is led by his comrades, one an absurdly buxom young lady and an effeminate man, further hammering in the idea that Tori is accepting of all types of relationships, and even happily allows others to lead in them. The ship taking off (which Tori & Co. are boarding) is a clear symbol of the great life journey Tori is about to go on as he defends himself from society attempting to make him return to restrictive “sexual normality.” Barely half a minute in and Horizon has already shown us that it is a very progressive work and will be chronicling a harrowing adventure for our young protagonist.
After the OP, we are immediately thrust into the fight between the Spanish and the Japanese that Draggle mentioned. I believe that such outside information is unnecessary, however, when the viewer realizes that this whole fight is cleverly hidden satire on the current sports industry. The Spanish fighters all seem to be from various sports clubs, especially the baseball club. It begins with the character that uses money defeating most of the club players, showing how hard work and effort is no match in the face of teams that buy out all star players. Then, the character with money is beaten by the characters with better technology, implying that the future stars of baseball will be the ones with the most technologically advanced equipment. The show flawlessly switches to the track team side of things, where it becomes apparent that this sport too shall be dominated by better technology. It also serves as a social satire as well, subtly commenting on a world where track sports are raced with large robots and no longer with legs.
Moving along, the show journeys inside the ship and returns to its other plot. The effeminate man from earlier and another buxom woman, this one with wings, have an awkward, misguided conversation about sex, showing just how inexperienced these characters are concerning this sensitive topic. Cutting back to the fight outside, we see the symbolically rich fight between several characters, who I assume we know everything about from the first season. Everything is chaos. These fights, as elegantly yet plainly suggested by the dialogue, are in fact sex scenes, much like in Queen’s Blade: Rebellion. Everybody’s sexual preferences are running rampant, from imagery spawned by spears to threesomes with bondage to subjecting one’s partner to raw self-analysis. There is discord everywhere, and no one can stop it. No one except our protagonist Tori, which makes sense. Being representative of all sexual deviancy, he embraces both sides, boldly declaring his presence. He polarizes the fight, allowing its members to at least go towards the action’s climax in synch with members from their own sides. Even as the battle closes and the Japanese leave, however, bonds formed amidst the chaos, as evidenced by two characters, Futayo Honda and Gin Tachibana. With this, Horizon shows us its true colors. Through its symbolism, this series is, in fact, a tale of relationships and acceptance of others’ deviant habits. At times tragic, at times heartwarming, it promises to be the most compelling drama of the season, fully earning its spot here on Classy with only two thirds of an episode.
redball: As you can see our writers have honed in on different aspects of the series. I believe they all have excellent points.
Draggle points out the historical context of these opening episodes, and I agree with him about the general timeframe. Interestingly, it was during that same timeframe that the Tokugawa Shogunate expelled foreigners, especially Christian missionaries, from most of Japan. First the foreigners were limited to port cities, but later they would be banned outside of certain ports in Nagasaki. Only the Protestant Dutch were allowed to remain for trade. The Shogunate did not shut foreigners out completely because it was interested in their advanced seafaring technology.
Emperor J does well to point out another layer of the show: the blending of history from different eras. Horizon focuses not only on the larger events in history, but on historical figures. This focus even delves into minutia with the likes of Ben Johnson. To fully grasp Horizon requires a multidisciplinary knowledge of history.
Az introduces the complexity of inaccuracy to our understanding of the show. Horizon is not only an artistic interpretation, but it is an inaccurate one. This means our grasp of art and history must be firm or we will not be able to spot the inaccuracies. Perhaps it is best to ignore minor errors in the historical reenactments for this very reason.
SnippetTee brings current events into the picture. It is true that we must view Horizon through a lens of now. Certainly there is an Olympic spirit to the show and the nature of competition between the nations.
Finally, John Sato brings us to the interpretation of imagery. Horizon is rich in its use of symbolism. Think about this for a moment: Battles between larger forces are symbolic of of large scale cultural interactions. Battles between historical characters are symbolic of their interactions. However, we’ve established that Horizon mixes old with new, and history with current events. Likewise, various battles also show sexual symbolism. One of my favorite ways that Horizon clarifies its intent in this area is the gender typing of its mecha, which clearly have female anatomy.
This is what makes Horizon special. This is a show with multiple layers. Think of it as an onion. You begin to peel back the layers of the onion to get to the pungent, yet sweet center. Only when you’ve gotten past the rough exterior, and only when you are well versed in the culinary language, can you turn that onion into a fine meal. There will be tears along the way, but the process must start somewhere. Ours begins here.