It’s my turn in the anime blogging roster to cover the latest episode of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere. The idea was that, since Horizon barely makes sense even when paying attention to every little detail of every single episode, it would be fun to see what someone’s reaction would be to watching a random episode from season 2 with little to no experience of the franchise. Thing is, now that I’m here on episode 10 of season 2, I feel judging Horizon by these standards is unfair. I have to do a like-for-like comparison. With that in mind, for this review I also decided to watch the latest episode of…
I’ve never watched the Naruto anime. My dad, bless him, bought me some of the manga back when I first started getting into anime, and I thought it was all right. It was a bit slow but the characters were likeable and it had a goofy sense of humour. However since we’re on Naruto Shippuden episode 278, I think it’s safe to say the story has progressed a bit beyond Training With Kakashi. With Horizon, I’ve seen 2 episodes of the first season, so if anything Horizon has the upper hand in this contest already, as I have proportionally more experience with the franchise than Naruto.
So. Episode 10 of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere Season 2 vs Episode 278 of Naruto Shippuden. Let’s do this.
1: Did I like the character designs?
Horizon loses points straight off the bat for the characters having no noses. Then it gains all those points straight back again for the non-human character designs being completely batshit crazy. There’s a big wolf dude and some faceless ninja wearing a cap and these creatures who had human bodies but had pink bowling balls attached to their chests and some sort of parasitic growth emerging from the top of their heads. What rather put me off was, despite their exterior body parts and clothing looking crazy and different, all the faces of the human characters looked the same (ie no noses). Naruto actually took me by surprise in this regard. There is a universal style governing the world and how the characters look, but they also have different faces. You know you’ve got proper character designs when they could all be wearing the same clothes and you’d still be able to tell them apart. One strange thing about the Naruto character designs were their eyes looked kinda dead. Not sure if the mangaka has something against pupils, but I found myself, unlike the noses thing, rather liking the look. When your entire story is based around killing machine ninjas, looking dead inside seems like a good fit.
2: Could I understand what was going on in the battles?
Probably indicative of its family-friendly timeslot on TV, Naruto seems made to be easy to jump straight into. Almost too much so. I mean, I’m not someone who needs everything explained in each little detail, so Naruto got on my nerves a bit here. OK, the dude can copy that other dude because he absorbed some of his Chakra. That’s not that difficult to understand. You don’t have to go into a 2-3 minute explanation while slowly panning over you pinning the dude down. So when Horizon throws out one-line explanations for its battles, that’s a big welcome. For example, the woman with those growths on her chest has a powerful shield because her magic requires her to make a sacrifice, but that sacrifice can be her fashion sense. Which is why she’s wearing terrible clothes. That’s fucking great! It does bring up the question why doesn’t everyone convert to that magic though, because they all clearly have about the same level of fashion taste as she has.
3: Did I care about the characters?
Horizon? God no. They might as well not have had any characters for all I got to know them. They either spouted technobabble, explained a move they were performing, or spouted some psuedo intellectual shit about Shakespeare. Actual emotions weren’t on display here, especially since the cast of roughly 3015052600 characters got about a 5-10 seconds each on screen. You’d think Naruto, with its phenomenal length, would have a much wider cast, and maybe they do. But they also had the sense to keep the episode focused on a small group who were important to the plot. They had emotions and goals and dreams. You know, like us humans have. Sure, they’d occasionally jump to a character who had no relevance to the current episode plot for them to say a few lines, but even those short segments showed them having emotions. Enough for me to kinda care about what they were thinking about and what was going on in their lives. Although one of the characters they jumped to was Hinata, who was thinking about how much she loved Naruto. Wasn’t she in love with Naruto back at the start of the story? And on that note, they also established Sakura loves Sasuke, which I’m pretty sure was originally established around about chapter 2. Have the characters not moved on since then and found someone else, because clearly those crushes hasn’t worked out for either of them. And besides, wouldn’t the audience already know this? I only jumped in this episode so it didn’t bug me, but surely people watching the show already know this and don’t need it repeated to them?
4: How much of the lore interested me?
One of the things that fans of Horizon love is how deep and detailed the lore to the world is, and I get that. I get the appeal of a lore incredibly deep that you have to dig to discover all the various nuances. Thing is, there doesn’t appear to be any consistency in the lore I saw on display here. There was one human dude with dog ears. Why? Fucked if I know, he’s just there. This was my problem with Hunter X Hunter too. As funny as the character designs are, there’s no overarching theme to the world that drives everything. With Naruto, there’s a clear world being built here. It’s still kinda crazy, because it’s a world of goddam ninjas, but the ninja shit that goes on in that world appears to make sense in context. Nothing in Horizon makes sense in any context. You know what? I actually want to know why these guys are so worried about Itachi, particularly since earlier in this episode showed him injured and being carried by a dude with a magical eye. Why are they at war? How are you supposed to have a pitched battle when you’re all ninjas?