I’m a huge manga fan. Over the years, I’ve read countless manga, as you can see on my list of the best manga of all time, the best horror manga or the most disturbing manga. In this article, however, I want to talk specifically about The Horizon manga.
The Horizon is a short manga I discovered about a year ago, but it has become one of my absolute favorites.
It’s a sad, depressing, sometimes utterly heartbreaking manga. Yet, it’s not a horror manga. No, it’s one of the most emotional and deep works I’ve ever read.
In this article, I want to discuss the various elements of this manga and shed light on why I think it’s such a great work.
Table of Contents
The Horizon starts with a little boy and his mother. There’s chaos, panic and war, as we soon learn. Within moments, the fleeing people we see in the first panels are reduced to nothing but lifeless bodies.
Before long, the boy stumbles upon his mother’s body. Shell-shocked and stunted, he begins to walk. First through the ruined, derelict remains of the city and then down the road, simply walking.
After he spends the night on a school bus at the side of the road, he meets a little girl. From then on, the two of them travel together, always onwards towards the horizon. Over the course of the manga, they encounter various other people.
The Horizon manga is set in a torn, derelict world. We don’t know what exactly happened, but it’s clear that it’s war, a war that still seems to go on.
It’s a dark and unforgiving world that showcases war and its aftermath. We see empty roads, ruined cities and encounter traumatized people, people who are lost and broken because of what they saw.
The world’s a brutal place and we learn that right from the start, but also during our characters’ many encounters with other people.
Over the course of the manga, we witness the brutality of the world in a multitude of ways. We witness explosions, fighting, dead bodies and even infectious diseases.
And yet, the death and gore are never glamorized. It’s always shocking, always there to make us feel and to showcase in how terrible a state the world is in.
Even until the end, we never learn how the world became this way, but we don’t need to. This story is about a boy and a girl who are trying to survive. All we need to know is that the world’s ended to understand their suffering.
The Horizon manga tells the story of two characters, a little boy and a little girl.
As they continue on their way, they meet multiple characters. Some are traumatized victims of war, others are soldiers or people who’ve found their own meaning in this terrible world, like the man in the suit.
Many other manga feature young characters or children to get an emotional reaction from their readers, even though the story could very well be about adults.
The Horizon manga, however, feels genuine in what it does. It’s a story specifically about children and about how they experience the horrors of war. It tells the story from their perspective, shows us their understanding of it and what their thoughts are. The Horizon manga never feels cheap or like cheating because we all know that scenarios like that are a sad reality in our world. It showcases how terrible things such as war can affect those who are most vulnerable.
The art in The Horizon manga fits the story extremely well. It’s dark and gritty, at times sketchy and simplistic, at others detailed.
What’s interesting is the omission of dialogues in earlier parts. In the first chapters, the manga relies almost entirely on narration, exposition and the art to tell its story. It succeeds fantastically even without the use of words.
The manga’s atmosphere is extremely strong, and it’s in huge parts because of the art. There are many panels that show nothing but our two characters on long empty roads or in giant empty meadows. This reliance on empty spaces, on scarce colors, and our characters only appearing as tiny dots in a corner really helps to showcase how lost and alone they are.
There’s an underlying feeling of sadness to this manga, to the world it’s set in, one that’s almost nihilistic. This is especially noticeable in the other people our characters encounter and their design. Many of them are traumatized and truly look like it. They have wild eyes, empty faces or appear endlessly tired.
Another interesting aspect is that The Horizon manga is almost entirely held in black-and-white. Yet, there are a select few pages that are in full color. This element is only used when our characters are happy, when the world seems nice for just a moment. It’s nothing short of beautiful.
While The Horizon manga is a work about traumatized, shell-shocked and broken people, it’s still full of heavy emotions.
Many times, these emotions are showcased by the art alone. This is most prevalent when a character spirals out of control. We see their eyes growing wide and see them scream in terror. As they do, the art becomes sketchier, simpler, but also more jagged and wild. The more a character’s mental state deteriorates, the more the art does. It fully serves to show the emotions characters feel. This combination of emotions and art makes The Horizon such a fantastic work.
It’s not merely that, however, as with a story such as this, there’s bound to be powerful emotions. It’s not just bystanders, but also our main characters who often show powerful emotions, especially when they are trying to understand war and the state the world is in.
The most emotionally heave segment apart from the ending, however, has to be the backstory of the little girl. It’s as sad as it is fantastic.
The Horizon manga is a tragedy. It’s a depressing, almost bleak work full of sadness. Still, it also showcases some deeper themes. It’s heavy with topics such as fear, being lost, hopelessness and futility. It shows the darkest of human existence. And yet, there are a few select moments that also show happiness and hope.
When we encounter the man in the suit, we wonder what it means to be good and what it means to be bad. Who even is good and who’s bad in a world such as this? Can a distinction such as this even be made?
The man in the suit talks about killing all the men with guns to make the world a better place. Similarly to the little girl, we too, beg the question if can ever make the world a better place by killing. It’s a moral dilemma.
The chapters with the man in the suit are a discussion of the human condition. We always believe to be in the right, we rationalize our deeds, especially in times of war or those that follow it.
The backstory of the little girl we witness in the second half of The Horizon manga is another sad and depressing part. Here, too, we witness how people handle the situation they are in.
The world’s ended and has become a hopeless place. Is it futile to even try to go on? Does it matter at all if you survive if there’s nothing out there? It shows in perfect detail how different people handle this knowledge and what they’ll do.
Many sad and depressing manga fail for a one simple reason. They descend into misery porn, throwing their characters into a worse and worse events. The Horizon manga is sad and depressing, but it never fully descends into misery porn territory. The sadness, the emotions and the events depicted never feel gratuitous, glamorized or exploitive. No, they simply showcase what’s happening.
One reason The Horizon manga succeeds so well at what it does is because of its length. At only twenty-one chapters, it’s a rather short work, but I feel it’s the perfect length. If it would’ve been any longer, the gloomy atmosphere would’ve been dragged out. We would’ve gotten used to it. And thus, the emotional impact of the story would’ve been weakened.
What I came to like truly about The Horizon manga was the ending. As sad and depressing a work as it is, it ends on a positive note. It shows that as long as there’s love, there’s always hope, even in a world such as this.
Overall, The Horizon manga is a hidden little gem. It’s a fantastically dark, depressing and sad tale, but one that’s truly beautiful.
Read it, it’s a masterpiece.