"Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere" is a very difficult anime to describe.
It synthesizes humor, action, and romance together into a series where each element is an irreplaceable part of the dynamic and story. Because it combines many different elements together at once it can easily bewilder the viewer and leave them in a position where they have little clue of where it is going. For some this may be a significant flaw and hold back their enjoyment while for others it may pave the way for an interesting and unpredictable story. This is definitely not an anime for everybody.
The story begins in a distant and somewhat bleak future. Humanity previously ascended into space but was forced back to Earth after fighting and warring beyond their limit, only to find Earth itself in an equally devastated condition. With Japan the only hospitable and habitable area remaining on Earth, humanity is split into the Harmonic Divine States where each administrative district is ruled by an individual country. It's then that humanity uses the Testament, a book detailing the events of past human civilization, as a guide to regaining their former glory by the means of reenacting human history. Unfortunately for the Far East—originally Japan itself— conditions are less than ideal as they are forced out of the country by the other ruling nations. A sizable portion of the Japanese refugees flee to the flying city ship "Musashi", which is where the story of the anime takes place.
"Horizon" boasts an interesting and unique array of characters, ranging wildly in terms of personality, appearance, and gender. Most notably is the protagonist Aoi Tori, a happy-go-lucky and heavily perverted teenager holding a strong preoccupation with erotic games and a propensity to grope the tender regions of the females around him. On paper this likely makes him seem a very annoying character but in the actual show his interactions with the characters are nothing short of hilarious and as the series progresses he develops into a genuinely likable character. His perversion is not so much a running gag as it is a defining and inherent part of his personality, one which makes him stand out more than any other character in the series. In a medium where bland self-insert protagonists are the mainstay, it’s a really great and refreshing thing to be able to see a protagonist with his own personality and a likable one to boot. It’s this behavior that also conflicts and contrasts well with the object of his affections, Horizon, a girl that he sets out at the beginning of the series with the objective of confessing his feelings to. Their relationship by the end of the series comes across as very endearing and heartwarming, something that would never be expected at first given the nature of his personality.
Dozens of other interesting and likable characters fill the rest of the story and create a sense of camaraderie. Most of the more important characters receive significant character development in proportion to the length of the anime, such as Suzu and her relationship and crush on Tori, and Tori's older sister Kimi and the past surrounding their relationship. Giving all of the characters sufficient screentime and developing them to any significant extent is difficult given the short length of the anime, but Sunrise does a good job of helping the audience at least feel connected to most of the characters on-screen with their own individual plights and teamwork as a group.
Unfortunately, the anime begins with very slow and inconsistent pacing which may initially put off viewers. Sunrise has personally admitted to the difficulty of adapting the early parts of the novel and it really shows in the first three episodes. While they aren't by any means bad episodes, they are definitely slow-paced and it takes a while for the anime to actually take off and set its feet into what makes it such an entertaining anime in the first place. After these episodes, Horizon really begins to shine and show what it does best, and that is the engaging action sequences and comedy between the characters. It’s a silly and lighthearted series where the characters fool and mess around in even the most climactic sequences but it never feels forced or out of place and the serious moments never fail to deliver either. These comedic traits in the characters are an inherent part of their personality and to remove that would likely lead to them feeling out of character and for the tone of the anime to sharply contrast in itself.
And for that reason, people that are expecting the anime to be serious and dramatic throughout are likely in for a world of disappointment. This isn't necessarily thought-provoking and there isn't an abundance of thematic depth to be found, but it’s rather simply an entertaining and amusing anime. If that’s something that you aren't personally fine with then you would be doing yourself a favor by avoiding the series.
Perhaps the largest flaw can be attributed to the complex and sometimes convoluted story. Aside from passing mentions and a few minutes of infodump during the credits of the first episode, the audience isn't left with much idea of the setting for the entire duration of the series. To have even a basic grasp of what is going on with the story it’s nearly mandatory to spend time online reading up on and researching the series. For a visual medium and an adaptation where reading the source material should not be a requirement, this is a massive detriment to the series. There’s no doubt that it would have been hard to convey all the details of the setting but I can’t help but feel like Sunrise could have done something a little more, even spending just a fraction of an episode to explain the basics to the audience. There’s some great worldbuilding here but it’s hampered by a convoluted and confusing presentation.
One thing that Sunrise should be commended for is the fantastic music used in the anime and the application of these tracks. A few of them in particular verge on stunning and they stand out almost immediately; and with the use of some tracks during the climax they essentially become a defining aspect of the series itself, being as irreplaceable as the characters and the setting. Whatever your disposition towards the anime, it’s nigh impossible to criticize the music.
Ultimately, the most important question in determining whether or not this anime is for you is quite simply this— do you enjoy silliness and are you willing to accept a story that you may not fully understand? While it’s certainly flawed in some significant ways, "Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere" is still a very entertaining anime that stands out from its competitors and has some fairly interesting details going for it. It’s unlikely that it will make its way onto your list of favorites or become something you remember for years and years to pass, but for what it is, it’s an engrossing and sometimes compelling series that should at least be given a try beyond the mostly lackluster and non-representative introductory episodes.
It's just unfortunate that so many people will choose to disregard a potentially great title based upon the first episodes.