Shangri-La Frontier – Episode 1

By: ThatNerdyBoliviane October 2, 20230 Comments
Rakurou exploring his surroundings in the game

What’s it about? In a world where VR (Virtual Reality) games are now mainstream, Hizutome Rakurou loves playing bad games and has earned the nickname “Trash-Game Hunter.”  Eventually, feeling burnt out, he decides to try a popular game called Shangri-La Frontier and is reminded that playing good games is fun too.

I didn’t know much about this series, except that the protagonist has a bird head and it takes place in a fantasy world.  Imagine to my surprise, that it actually takes place in a game and our protagonist is just a normal teenager that loves gaming a lot.  I’ll admit, it’s a bit disappointing that this show isn’t a straight up fantasy or at least an isekai, because the world of Shangri-La Frontier is interesting plus the visuals are gorgeous.  The action sequences are really cool and it’s easy to get lost in the setting alone. The landscapes and creatures are so vibrant and detailed that it makes me wonder if the show deserves to look this good.  

The problem with this premiere is that it doesn’t offer us any incentive as to why we should be interested in Rakurou’s story.  Aside from being an energetic and nerdy teenager, there isn’t anything compelling about him.  It honestly seems like the show wants to simply capture the genuine excitement gamers feel when starting a new game.  That’s fine, but it doesn’t offer hints that there’ll be any high stakes worth waiting for.  While that might sound fun to some viewers, the question then becomes, “can this concept keep us engaged for an entire season?”

real world Rakurou happy he beat a bad VR game

Thankfully, the few women characters introduced weren’t objectified and it’s nice seeing them get along outside of their relationship with the protagonist.  Saiga Rei’s crush on Rakurou is cute and harmless, but since she’s the main girl, there’s always the concern that her crush will become her entire personality.  Hopefully, she develops interests and bonds outside of her feelings for Rakurou—that way there’s at least one character we can root for.  Apart from that, the series mostly relies on its comedic gags about all the glitches and problems bad VR games have and why it’s fun for gamers to overcome those challenges.  It definitely speaks to a particular demographic of gamers that enjoy bad video games, other than that, there’s no originality to be found and doesn’t try to add anything new to the existing anime genre about VR.  

Even though it wasn’t intentional, this series reminds me of countless of male power fantasy stories, but the difference is Rakurou can leave his fantasy world anytime without fatal consequences.  While shows like Sword Art Online have been critiqued for years, at least it tries to do something different, otherwise it wouldn’t have such a dedicated fanbase. That’s not to say that Shangri-La Frontier doesn’t have potential, it’s just difficult to imagine what that could be.  It’s not the most groundbreaking show of the season and time will tell if it’s worthy of nice animation.  

Rakurou fighting a cool rabbit in the VR game
This warrior bunny had no business being so cool and mighty!

There’s A LOT of anime coming out this season so I probably won’t watch this any further, but if a few of our readers will continue watching the series, I’m curious to hear from you lovely folks how things will progress from here.

About the Author : ThatNerdyBoliviane

ThatNerdyBoliviane was originally born in New York City and essentially lived there until the age of 17 when they had to move to Toronto for reasons. They are currently struggling to survive in this weird-ass world that does not celebrate awesomeness enough. They self identify as Queer Quechua (Mestize) Bolivian-American and are involved with social justice work of all kinds. Aside from that, they are an avid lover of anime, manga, cartoons, (on rare occasion live-action TV shows if it’s good), and having amazing discussions with other folks about nerdy things. You can visit their blog Home to my Bitter Thoughts or follow them on Twitter @LizzieVisitante.

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