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Andrew Osmond can’t believe his eyes…

The saga of the good flying city Musashi continues in the second helping of Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere… and now it’s coming to England! If you’ve seen the first series of this epic fantasy-comedy-bonkers-mishmash, you’ll know this will be a very strange take on Blighty. Horizon is the show whose previous adversaries included a Pope-President served by a demon Galileo, part and parcel of a world of big robots, witches, demons, slimeballs, succubi and Shinto priestesses. So is it surprising that the new heavies include a Fairy Queen Elizabeth, a werewolf Francis Drake and a magic girl Shakespeare who can summon Macbeth’s Birnam Wood? Not to mention the small matter of an airborne Spanish Armada…

All the nations of Horizon’s world are busy re-enacting our past history (and no, this isn’t explained any more than it was in the first series, but you don’t watch Horizon expecting the background to make sense!). Following the rescue of the girl Horizon by her mad-as-a-hatter defender Tori, Musashi makes its way to English shores, with rival nations buzzing round the city like hornets. As before, the big robots contend with the girls’ bigger busts. (Wags have made the joke that Horizon puts viewers in mind of a basketball anime, just because of the character designs.) A major character this time is the ninja-boy Tenzo, voiced by Japanese actor Daisuke Ono (Sebastian in Black Butler). The upstanding masked lad goes through a touching romcom arc, naughtier than what they could get away with on Naruto.

As for England itself… well, as with so much of Horizon, you have to just go with it, or you’ll be reduced to a gibbering wreck. Anyone looking to take offence can start with the fact that England is identified with Britain (i.e. Scotland and Wales and Ireland are apparently just parts of England, though the characters never reach them). There’s a subplot involving a condemned-to-die queen, “Bloody Mary,” who conflates two very different British monarchs, Mary I and Mary, Queen of Scots. You could rant at such historical carelessness, or reflect that a series as mad as Horizon has more justification for remoulding history than, say, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Horizon’s most groanworthy bit of reinvention must be its portrayal of Ben Jonson, esteemed Jacobean poet and playwright, who’s drawn as a glamorous black athlete, because… Oh, you work it out.

Then again, we may all know who Shakespeare, Drake and Jonson were, but how many of us know about  (deep breath) Robert Dudley, William Cecil (envisioned as a monstrous Humpty Dumpty), Nicholas Bacon, Charles Howard, Francis Walshingham, John Hawkins (turned into a zero-gravity swimming champion), Thomas Cavendish, Christopher Hatton (a Jack Skellington-like baddie) and Grace O’Malley? It’d be lunatic to treat Horizon as a teaching aid, but the show’s thieving of the names of historical personages who are little taught in British schools will surely steer some viewers to the actual history. It’s similar to the way that a certain Miyazaki SF film helped Europeans remember a mythical bit-player, princess Nausicaa.

Britain has been portrayed plenty of times before in anime – most lavishly in Katsuhiro Otomo’s steampunk Steamboy, which found room for a “Rover’s Return” pub in its Manchester scenes. One of the most bizarre recent Britains (yes, even more than Horizon!) was in Strike Witches, set in a parallel world where attractive young women dispensed with wearing skirts or trousers. We’ll soon see an anime trip to Blighty in the new K-ON! film, but let’s end with a nod to one of this summer’s TV shows in Japan. Kin-iro Mosaic is a super-cute show about the friendship between a British and a Japanese girl. Click here to see how a Cotswolds farmhouse was reinterpreted through an anime studio’s eyes…

Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere 2 is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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