Anime about video games are some of my favorites, from Recovery of an MMO Junkie to Bofuri, there is something about capturing a video game world without going full isekai that’s extremely endearing, especially because of my own love of gaming. Anime fans can add Shangri-La Frontier to the list. Directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, with composition and script by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, and is animated by studio C2C.
Shangri-La Frontier follows Rakuro Hizutome, a high schooler who loves video games. More specifically, he loves dedicating his time to beating trash video games littered with bugs and nearly unplayable for most people. It’s a point of pride as he runs through a stack of trash games on his VR headset, venturing where few others do. But when he gets a challenge from his local video game store owner to try something “god-tier” instead, he decides to take on the titular Shangri-La Frontier, pulled in by a poster alone.
Easily impressed by his character creator and not experiencing game-breaking bugs like his not registering, Rakuro is enamored with the game immediately. Having had to get innovative to create games in the past because of their flaws, Shangri-La Frontier Episode 1 shows how that’s allowed him to adjust to the new game’s mechanics. Choosing to invest his money in high-level weapons and not armor, Rakuro plays with no equipment other than his dual blades and a blue bird mask because playing without clothes in a game is, well, a little embarrassing for him. At the same time, a girl in his class is trying her hardest to learn about his hobbies and connect with him.
As a whole, Shangri-La Frontier Episode 1 is an engaging set-up episode that quickly gets you up to speed on who Rakuro is as a character through the way he chooses to play games and which ones he’s chosen. This episode also shows the animation style and designs audiences can expect from the series moving forward. While there aren’t many creatures, the ones present are fantastically animated and designed, thanks to monster designs from Yoshirio Nagamori, Hiroyuki Taiga, Emi Kono, and Hiroshi Arisawa for studio C2C.
This episode doesn’t go too far into the world of Shangri-La Frontier—partly because Rakuro is a guy of my own heart by skipping the introduction to the game—but what we do see is the lush environment and fantasy elements that will come into play. But the best part about it is that in an overly saturated isekai genre, this series doesn’t go there, which allows it to be interesting and unique.
Shangri-La Frontier is an anime about playing video games in a video game and ultimately captures the player element in a great way, offering explanations for choices that make sense for those who have played before. In fact, while the tech used in the anime differs from what we have today, the concepts and mechanics are entirely informed by the gripes and joys you find in gaming. Shangri-La Frontier Episode 1 captures being a gamer in such a weird way that it really succeeds in showing audiences all of the little things that can make this hobby intriguing and even endearing. Rakuro may be a weird lead, but he’s one that will be fun to watch.
Shangri-La Frontier Episode 1
Shangri-La Frontier Episode 1 captures being a gamer in such a weird way that it really succeeds in showing audiences all of the little things that can make this hobby intriguing and even endearing. Rakuro may be a weird lead, but he’s one that will be fun to watch.