Shangri-La Frontier Episode #1 Review: A Refreshing Low-Stakes Adventure With Amazing Animation


Shangri-La Frontier Episode #1 Review: A Refreshing Low-Stakes Adventure With Amazing Animation

Shangri-La Frontier is one of many new anime airing in the fall 2023 season on Crunchyroll. Episode #1 puts it off to a great start, and here’s why.

Shangri-La Frontier is one of the newest anime to air in Fall 2023 on Crunchyroll, and it’s already off to an amazing start. The anime stars Rakuro Hizutome, a boy who makes a hobby out of playing notoriously terrible VRMMO games so he can master them despite their various flaws and glitches. One day, Rakuro decides to play an actual good game for the first time in ages, the world-renowned Shangri-La Frontier, and through the avatar Sunraku, he finds himself ecstatic over getting to play a game without any flaws, especially since his experience with “trash games” allows him to play on a different level than the average player.



There’s only one episode of Shangri-La Frontier out so far, but just from that, it’s shaping up to be a great addition to the Fall 2023 lineup. The basic premise of a VRMMO game might not be that unique after all this time, but the cast and overall presentation, at least from the series premiere, add a lot of life to it and help it stand out against its contemporaries. It’s unknown what direction the series will go in, but at the very least, Shangri-La Frontier episode #1 has a lot to offer people looking for a new anime to watch.

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Shangri-La Frontier Doesn’t Have Any Stakes, And That’s Why It’s Fun

One of the biggest selling points for Shangri-La Frontier is that the show doesn’t appear to have any stakes to speak of. In VRMMO anime, most notably Sword Art Online, there’s usually some aspect of the game that presents a danger to people that the protagonist has to put a stop to, most often finding a way to save everyone after they become trapped in the game. Shangri-La Frontier, however, seems to be entirely about Sunraku and the rest of the cast playing through the game, meaning that it can focus solely on delivering a good time without being bogged down by story beats that are plenty overdone by now.

That idea of giving the series no real stakes works as well as it does, of course, thanks to Sunraku’s characterization. Sunraku is depicted as someone just looking to have a good time, no matter how much work he has to put into something to make it happen, something that would be harder to pull off in a more serious show than this one. It’s through Sunraku’s personality that Shangri-La Frontier’s easygoing atmosphere can shine, and thanks to that it’s able to stand out so well against its contemporaries. The idea that Sunraku became good at mastering bad (and thus more difficult) games is also an interesting new spin on the overused trope of the overpowered protagonist so common in isekai settings. It roots the main character’s abilities in effort rather than in mere luck, which is quite refreshing.

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Shangri-La Frontier’s Animation & Direction Are Among The Best Of Fall 2023


Another major selling point of Shangri-La Frontier is the stellar animation and direction it’s boasting. Every scene in episode #1 features incredibly fluid animation accompanied by impeccable art and choreography, so from start to finish, it’s one of the best anime to watch this season in terms of pure visual aesthetic. Series director Toshiyuki Kubooka is known for working on anime like Gunbuster, Giant Robo, and Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, so with that sort of pedigree, it’s no wonder that the anime would have such great animation right out of the gate.

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Beyond the animation, the overall direction of Shangri-La Frontier is plenty commendable. The lighting and composition always do wonders to make every scene—whether it’s in the game or real life—come alive, and the boisterous score courtesy of Ryūichi Takada, Kuniyuki Takahashi, and Keiichi Hirokawa enhances the mood to great effect whenever it starts playing. If there’s anything to take away from Shangri-La Frontier episode #1, it’s that the team behind it has put a lot of effort into making its presentation as great as possible, and with such a winning premise backing it up, it’s bound to be one of the biggest hits of the Fall 2023 season.

Shangri-La Frontier releases new episodes on Sundays on Crunchyroll.

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