Shangri-La Frontier

Title:Shangri-La Frontier
Shangri-La Frontier Kusoge Hunter, Kamige ni Idoman to su
Keywords: , , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - C2C
WAKI Azumi
Rakuro Hizutome has a strange fascination with poor quality, bug-ridden video games known as 'trash games'. He has even come to be known as 'The Trash Game Hunter'. Mana Iwamaki, owner of the game shop that Rakuro frequents, suggests he try a non-trash game for once. She suggests 'Shangri-La Frontier', a highly popular, fully immersive VR game. Rakuro gives the game a chance and is astonished at what is possible in cutting edge games nowadays. Meanwhile, Rei Saiga, a classmate who has a secret crush on Rakuro, hopes to get closer to him by playing the game as well.

25 episodes
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent Stretch [series:4731#628]
(All episodes watched):

Some shows just feel like fun, even if you can't explain exactly why. I soon sensed that this show was going somewhere, but for once I had little idea where. I just knew I was enjoying it. I was grinning as I watched Rakuro perform his set-up of his character 'Sunraku' (he uses the same name in every game he plays). Even him figuring out how this game works and how to best play it was fun. He chooses a ridiculous looking getup with a bird mask to hide his identity. Also fun were his fights with a goblin and a murderous 'Vorpal Rabbit'. Will he identify faults within even this much beloved game? Otherwise, why go into such detail of his experiences with trash games? What will Rei try to do within the game? Why are we informed of 'genius programmer' Tsukuyo Tsukuri, the founder of Utopia Entertainment Software, the maker of SLF? This is looking like fun. It was the sort of show for which I was anxious to download any additional episodes that were available ASAP.

In episode two Rakuro mainly just plays the game and steadily advances, despite getting temporarily killed. Rei is looking for him but he is moving so rapidly that she has fallen far behind. And there is a scene of a supercomputer running at some dark facility, which suggests that some sort of 'bug' will emerge even in this highly acclaimed game. Fun, but not as much as episode one, I thought. Still, I noticed during episode three that although we are basically watching someone else play a game, the story is fun and entertaining as Sunraku talks himself through the game. He encounters a 'unique monster', a one-of-a-kind beast and while he's unable to defeat it he finds the experience exhilarating and vows that someday he will. He finds that the creature has put curse of some sort on him which will handicap him in the future--it reminds him of the infuriating bugs in trash games. Then he encounters a strange alternate world, 'Rabituza', of (vorpal?) rabbits, most of whom are as cute as Easter Bunnies but their leader, 'Vash', is definitely not. Sunraku takes on a ally, 'Emul', who is Vash's daughter and while very cute is not to be trifled with.

I had wondered when the two additional fighting girls who we see in the opening sequence and illustration above would appear, and in episode four we meet one of them who (in the real world) hears about what Rakuro has been doing and decides to try SLF herself. This person is notorious as a player killer, and comes after Sunraku, but he gets some unexpected help. Sunraku undergoes a demanding training program run by Vash, and a good deal of time goes into highly animated fights with various bizarre opponents. Then he and Emul head out adventuring again, to the 'Prismatic Grotto'. It was becoming increasingly clear that this would be a two-season show, since there was no sign of an impending climax, but that was fine since it remained fun to watch. The show goes into interesting and amusing detail about the game while also sketching out a longterm plot. For now it's Sunraku and Emul against the player killer 'Pencilgon' who has joined an already existing group of PKers, 'Ashura Kai'. The OP sequence suggests that Pencilgon (and another girl) will wind up as their allies, however.

In episode ten the blond girl who we've been seeing in the OP sequence since the beginning finally appears. This is 'Katzo', a professional gamer who once teamed up with Sunraku to launch a raid against Pencilgon in another game. Pencilgon doesn't seem to take it personally, though, and proposes that the three of them go after an Original Monster, 'Wethermon the Tankguard', that she knows of in SLF. This will be an extremely dangerous mission and Emul had better not take part, since we learn that in SLF when an NPC gets killed it never revives. I enjoyed a fair amount of time spent in the real world, where Rei and Rakuro happen to meet. In episode 11 Vash learns of the big gamble Sunraku is about to take, and has to be convinced to give it his blessing. He finally does, and creates a special weapon for Sunraku.

In episodes 12-14 Sunraku, Pencilgon and Katzo train and do their homework before taking on Wethermon. In another game, 'BERG', Sunraku practices some useful moves and meets a newcomer who challenges him. Could this actually be Rei? A major update of SLF is coming and everyone is on edge. Episode '14.5' is a summary of events up to this point, but even if you have a firm grasp on where things stand it's fun to watch as the characters make wisecracks about what has happened and each other. In episode 15 Ashura Kai comes under attack after being exposed by Pencilgon, and she, Sunraku and Katzo use the new moon opportunity to venture into the realm of Wethermon and challenge him. The theory is that Wethergon is basically invincible but if one just survives for a certain amount of time an opportunity will appear. The team uses a host of expensive magical items to revive themselves each time they get killed and thus draw out the fight. The battle rages onwards and onwards in episodes 16 and 17. Does Wethermon have any vulnerabilities? This is much better than the usual fight-of-the-week anime stuff but no battle can remain exciting indefinitely. A decision is finally reached in episode 18, but I was mildly frustrated that just what had turned the tables remained unclear to anyone who wasn't familiar with games of this sort (something about intentionally giving up almost all of your strength points?).

The game system announces to everyone in Shangri-La what these three have accomplished, which draws a lot of attention and some jealousy. Again we see the supercomputer that runs this game humming along, but why is not clear. Will it malfunction at some point, leading to a Sword Art Online sort of situation? In episode 20 we see that the people at Omega Animation, maker of SLF, are shocked and angry that a trio of players managed to defeat a character that they had considered virtually invulnerable. It seems that they had a longterm plot in mind for SLF and it has been thrown into chaos now. I was not all that amused by the squabbling creator and producer of SLF; the way they took their frustrations out on the subordinate seemed ugly rather than funny to me. Episode 21 doesn't expand on what is going on at Omega, it is all about Sunraku, Oikatzo and Pencilgon taking stock of the booty they have won, forming a formal team, 'Wolffang', and Pencilgon explaining how she dodged the confiscation of her stuff as a result of being a Player Killer. It was becoming increasingly obvious that two seasons would not be the entirety of Shangri-La Frontier. Pencilgon floats an idea for their next goal, but some re-equipping and leveling up is required first. Sunraku, Emul and the expert Rabbit blacksmith Bilac (Emul's sister) head out to search for relics in a zombie infested zone, the Valley of Ancient Souls (or something like that). They take on a 'Humming Lich' then take a break in their mission. Sunraku has been strongly advised to leave a group of giant scorpions in the valley alone, but cannot resist the temptation to test his skills against them. In a sort of comical episode he beats his ghead against a wall in an attenpt to acquire what must be an extremely rare artifact (I was sure he'd go to Bilac to show off his haul, only to be told that the stuff was worthless, but that didn't happen). Bilac is obliged to contact 'Aramys', an intermediary to an expert jeweler, and a person she hates. I wasn't sure if the flamboyantly flamboyant Aramys (as in The Three Musketeers?) was a good idea or not. And Sunraku learns just how much of a difference beating Wethermon has made for him in everyday affairs. And we are reminded that Rei Saiga still exists.

And there the first installment of SLF ends. It has been announced at ANN that after a six month break it will resume in October 2024. Reviewers there seemed to feel the show had wandered away from its original premise and become a disappointment. Why is there so much emphasis on Sunraku's previous life as an afficianado of 'trash games' when he's playing a highly acclaimed one that as far as we know has not malfunctioned? And why is the background plot (involving the company that controls SLF) moving so slowly? I was also impatient for that story to get going, but I thought Sunraku's exploits remain fairly amusing and entertaining, so I won't complain too much. In October re-reading this page should be a handy reminder of how things got to be where they are.

Last updated Saturday, April 06 2024. Created Wednesday, October 18 2023.

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