Colloquium: Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 5 + 6

The depth and creativity of Horizon makes it a much more challenging beast to analyze than Queen’s Blade, and our intrepid colloquiumers are dropping out like flies. This week we’re down to only the most rugged and foolhardy crew of bloggers: redball, John Sato, draggle, and Foshizzel (who provided pictures).

redball: In episodes 5 and 6 of Horizon we find most of our cast embroiled in battles in multiple dimensions, while the hero Tori and heroine Horizon are on a date. As always in Horizon, we must not take these events at face value. While it may seem tempting to believe that the battles themselves represent the ebb and flow of the date’s success, I believe that instead these seeming independent events are tied together in order to teach us about dualism.

That every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and sue all helps and advantages of war — Thomas Hobbes

Simply put, dualism is the existence of opposing forces acting on a single body. Much like Horizon, dualism has many interpretations and can be applied to multiple disciplines. The primary disciplines of dualism are moral, mind-body, and physical. All of these are referenced in these episodes.

The first hint of this topic happens during Christopher Hatton’s initial attack on Masazumi. Hatton takes hold of Masazumi to ensure that the attack will strike true. She notes that he is also in the line of fire, but by that time another body had come to take possession of his head. This is mind-body dualism at play. Hatton’s soul is not part of his body, but a separate entity that coexists with his physical being.

Later, during the conversation between Malga Naruze and the werewolf Drake. The two discuss the circumstances leading Drake to eat his own wife. They speak of using pain to induce pleasure, and of the necessity to kill or be killed, which are instances of moral duality. Opposing forces influence our lives constantly.

We are shown hints of physical dualism in the note left for Tori by his sister. The note gives instructions to push and pull when needed, left intentionally vague. This points to Taoism and the concept of yin and yang. Horizon and Tori need to be synchronous, yet oppositional forces in order to have a successful date.

Horizon’s dilemma brings us back to moral dualism again. The artifacts that give her life and restore her emotions also bring her pain and suffering, for she is not able to experience positive emotions. Not only that, but Horizon worries that any amount of bond formed with Tori will bring more suffering.

Finally, at the end of episode six we are shown the ultimate dualistic force in this arc: the Double Bloody Mary. Our duck-billed ninja friend has been following around a benevolent Mary Stewart, keeping a close watch on her to assess the capabilities of his enemy. He is then confronted by her twin sister, who is obviously the malignant personality of the twins. The episode ends at this point, but we can assume that we will see a great clash of opposing forces soon.

John Sato: There are more instances of dualism in these two episodes than two sets of colloquiumers could hope to cover in a single post, so rather than taking a broader view, I have decided to hone in on a microcosm of dualism, the fight between Nate Mitotsudaira and F. Walsinham. This fight scene is the very picture of dualism. For instance, Walsingham is apparently a doll, yet shows very human reactions to stimuli as shown through symbolism. Similarly, gravity quite clearly exists in the dimension they fight in, and yet Nate is able to run along the sides of building walls with ease, suggesting a separate gravity field inside the pre-existing one. There are additional examples, but the most interesting one is when we remember what I determined the show was about back in the first colloquium: kids exploring sexuality.

Surprisingly enough, however, this entire fight scene was not actually a symbolic sex scene, like the fights in Queen’s Blade. Rather, the two characters’ attraction towards each other grows over the course of the fight, takes off in full when Nate is pierced by Walsingham’s attacks, and ends in a spectacular mashing together of the two combatants’ flesh. Using the last of her strength, Nate uses her chains to hug Walsingham close to her, at which point the water fountain they are above erupts in a massive explosion engulfing them both. I doubt I need to explain what this symbolizes (and Walsingham’s clear participation in this event shows the human reactions I mentioned earlier), but it does bring up another concept of dualism; love in the midst of, or even through, fighting. Even as they hate and inflict bodily harm upon each other, they are loving and driving each other towards a mutual climax. This also ties in interestingly to the conversation between Naruze and the werewolf that Redball brought up earlier, though an examination is far beyond the scope of my brief addition.

I also find the way Mitotsudaira’s fight represents the show as a whole quite interesting. The series is chock full of dualism (e.g. episodes will often cut directly from intense fight scenes to several minute long dialogue sequences, and sometimes will make the transition without even changing scenes), the most striking example being the way it tells a story through conventional means and also through symbolic ones. If the experiences of The Classiest Anime writers are anything to go by, these two things are opposites, practically unable to exist together. And yet, Horizon manages to pull it off at times, reaffirming itself as a series truly worthy of the title Classy.

draggle: Redball and John Sato make excellent points about dualism. However, there are two topics which Horizon explores that are especially fascinating because they do not take a dualistic approach. Specifically, I am referring to the divide between matter and spirit, and the distinction between past and present.

In this episode, the characters are drawn to do battle in a separate dimension. I think it would be fair to say that this alternative dimension is a spiritual world. After all, we don’t see too many armies of undead skeletons in the physical world. What kind of perspective does Horizon take on the divide between the spirit and the flesh?

Jesus said, “If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.”
— The Gospel of Thomas, saying 29

In the West, we tend to inherit Plato’s theory of forms with its sharp division between the real world and the perfect archetypal Forms, and apply the same sharp division to the worlds of the spirit and the world of the flesh. There is a  sharp contrast between the spirit and the flesh. Religions such as gnosticism take this theory to its logical conclusion, anti-somatism, and treat matter with contempt and derision. Mainstream Christianity takes a more nuanced approach with respect for both the flesh and the spirit, but still maintains a sharp contrast between the spirit and the flesh.

However, in Japan this Platonic division simply does not exist. The spiritual world and the physical world intermingle. The gods are gods of the land, of the forests and the waters and the mountains. The world of the spirit and the world of the flesh are indivisible. Horizon takes the same approach as Japan itself. It’s not clear where the spiritual world ends or begins. Wounds in the world of the spirit become wounds in the physical world, and vice-versa. The flesh affects the spirit and the spirit affects the flesh. They are not in opposition, but in harmony. Horizon’s approach to matter and spirit are non-dualistic.

The second division I’d like to explore is the division between the past and future. Typically, these are seen as utterly separate. Time moves in a straight line, and the past affects the future, but the future doesn’t affect the past. They are often seen as being in opposition (to an extent) as well: do we dwell on the past or live in hope for the future? Classy shows like [C] explore this deep dualistic conflict more fully.

But in Horizon no clear division exists. Since the present age is repeating the past age, there is no longer a clear delineation between the past and the future. Time moves in circles, a cycle. The past causes the future, and the future causes the past. Causal relationships can now move in both directions. Horizon takes a syncretic rather than dualistic approach to both time and the relationship between matter and spirit.

redball: These two episodes show Horizon at its best. While many complain that Horizon has too much going on at once, a closer inspection shows that it is able to use this complexity to show many different aspects of any topic it covers. While John and I focused on the dualism in these episodes, Draggle points out that the converse is deftly incorporated into the plot. This is likely done to show the clashing of cultures between Japan and Britain. As always, Horizon provides no lack of thought-provoking material.

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