Nothing’s original. Everything’s a rift on something that came before. All that shit we’ve heard zillions of times over. You either accept that things borrow from other things or you turn into some asshat that can’t enjoy a damn thing. The catch is that some shows do a better job of making you forget about the things it’s stealing from, and that ability to make you forget about the origin of its shtick is often one way to judge whether a series is gonna be particularly memorable.
If that’s the case, neither Guilty Crown nor Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon are gonna be particularly memorable. But at least they do some shit right.
Guilty Crown steals from Code Geass (the most obvious source), Ghost in the Shell, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Macross, and plenty of other shows in the first episode alone. Japan’s occupied by foreign powers, robots with cloaking devices and cute little four legged robots are running about, and pop singers fighting the “good fight” have weapons drawn out of their chests so they can revolutionize Japan or some shit. The problem isn’t that Guilty Crown is messing around with all of these references– the problem is that the whole thing didn’t come together smooth enough to make me not notice until after the fact. Instead of being wrapped up in this near future scenario, getting into the action and intrigue and all that, I spent the episode saying “Hey, I know where that comes from!” Blame it on the fact that the lead character is your generic teenager audience surrogate who stumbles across everything only to become a participant when he’s granted super powers by Chemical X or some shit. Or you can blame it on the awkward pacing of the episode. Or you can blame it on the way the music doesn’t quite synch with what’s transpiring, only to abruptly cut out like a scene out of a 70’s grindhouse flick.
There’s something “off” about the first episode of Guilty Crown, and it caused all of it’s “influences” to become glaringly obvious to the point of distraction. That isn’t to say that it was bad, but it was decidedly awkward in execution and didn’t really mesh together. It’s damn pretty and has my interest so far, but it ain’t all that just yet.
You can say the same thing for Horizon. Instead of rifting on half of the popular series to air over the past 30 years, Horizon opts to steal from every JRPG made since Dragon Warrior.
Horizon has the same sort of convoluted, laughable backstory as 99% of all console RPGs. Something about heaven and earth colliding and mingling and going to war and blahblahblah now it’s the future and peeps have space ships or something. All of the characters wear the same sort of gravity-defying, cosplay-ready outfits that might look good when converted into 8-bit pixels on the NES but look hilariously gaudy when thrust into an anime. The characters seem to be divided into “classes” not unlike an RPG, with warrior types and thief types and magic using types and racist stereotype types. There’s even slimes!
Horizon is every single console RPG ever made smashed into one anime, and much like Guilty Crown all of those influences are right there in the open. Horizon makes no real attempt to make any of this shit it’s own. It’s just a hodge podge of “cool stuff” strung together. And the actual plot of the damn thing is so banal when compared to all the worldbuilding going on in the background– it’s slice of life aboard a floating monolith.
What makes Horizon watchable is all of the crazy bits going on in said background. You got slimes and robots and an incubus hanging out in this classroom with no explanation other than some inferences that they might be from heaven. The characters fight in a very RPG-like way, with little attempt to “translate” attacks into something a little more anime-friendly. And in the second episode one of the supporting characters went off on a serious monologue about how she was nearly forced to have a sex change in order to further her family’s political potential. The catch is that said monologue was all a set-up to explain why she has such a small chest, and the whole thing ended with a breast joke. Those are the sort of hilarious touches that make generic shit like this amusing. It doesn’t make Horizon particularly good, but it’s sure as hell a lot more watchable than half the series currently airing, since it counters its banality with craziness.