Shangri-La Frontier has quickly become one of my favorite series for the Fall anime season, and that’s thanks to how it represents falling in love with a new game. Animated by C2C and based on the lite novel by Katarina as well as the manga written by Katarina and illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji, Shangri-La Frontier is directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka and written by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu. Last episode, Rakuro Hizutome (Yuma Uchida)—Sunraku in-game—found a giant Black Wolf in the night and was set to fight after spending the daytime changing out his gear. And, of course, Rei Saiga (Azumi Waki)—Psyger-0 in-game—was still looking for him. Now in Shangri-La Frontier Episode 3, “Black Wolf Nihgtslayer,” Sunraku finds a new purpose in SLF (what the characters call the titular MMO they’re playing).
Shangri-La Frontier Episode 3 is all centered on Lycagon the Nightslayer, a Unique monster that Sunraku wound up in front of at the end of the last episodes. This isn’t just a high-level monster. No, it’s the only one of its kind in their entire world. While Sunraku lands 200 critical damage hits on the Lycagon, it’s no use, and he’s left with one HP after only one hit.
While the previous episodes show Sunraku falling in love with the game, now, in Shangri-La Frontier Episode 3, he has a purpose. Eschewing the final boss and the main scenario quests, Sunraku’s one and only goal in SLF is to defeat Lycagon the Nightslayer. Now that he carries its curse that changes how NPCs respond to him, he can’t equip armor to his legs or chest, and shockingly enough, he’s gotten a lot of experience points even though he didn’t win.
After dumping a lot of those points into luck and making himself a glass canon (a high-damage character that dies in one hit from an enemy), he winds up exploring areas way beyond his level when the little Vorpal Bunny in a suit leads him into Rabituza, the bunny world of SLF, and one of the unique quests that don’t always reveal themselves to players.
Sangri-La Frontier does a lot of work when it comes to action but also to worldbuilding. We get to learn about clans like the one that Psyger-0 and her sister belong to, called the Lycagon Nightslayer Clan, whose main purpose is to defeat one of the Seven Colossi, the unique monsters that populate the game and only appear once. And, of course, Psyger-0 is in one of these guilds dedicated to killing the same unique monster as Sunraku.
One of the standout elements of Shangri-La Frontier that continues in Episode 3 is its ability to visualize and explain in-game concepts to the general audience through two players, one a boyfriend who knows the game and the other a girlfriend just learning. While she learns, so do we. At the same, however, the exposition is used to teach us about SLF-specific mechanics and lore. At the same time, C2C trusts the watchers to understand the basics of MMO gameplay, allowing the story to progress without constant explanatory sequences.
On that note, Shangri-La Frontier also captures key game mechanics like weapons and gear losing durability, respawning, and player UI exceptionally well. By thoughtfully crafting those elements into the action combat, monster, and character design, Shangri-La Episode 3 captures elements of playing a game without ever breaking the narrative immersion of watching Sunraku play through SLF.
Additionally, Sunraku can tie his time playing trash games to his love of this new S-tier game. They taught him to have a patient mind, an unbreakable spirit, and to use cool-headed judgment at the worst of times. Video games are the heart of this anime series, and the excitement that is captured is expert.
Shangri-La Frontier Episode 3 is another great installment for the series. It further builds out SLF, using Sunraku to explore it and teach us. The only issue is that at three episodes in, the fact that Saiga has yet to meet Hizutome is a letdown.
Shangri-La Frontier Episode 3 — "Black Wolf Nightslayer"
Shangri-La Frontier Episode 3 is another great for the series. It further builds out SLF, using Sunraku to explore it and teach us. The only issue is that at three episodes in, the fact that Saiga has yet to meet Hizutome is a letdown.