Episode 20 – Shangri-La Frontier

I feel like an idiot. I have a terrible habit of overanalyzing things. Combined with my previous experiences with stories that revolve around virtual worlds, I could’ve sworn they were setting up some dark reveal about the world of Shangri-La Frontier. It didn’t help that all of the cryptic foreshadowing revolving around Weatherman and Setsuna led me to think that these characters were maybe real people who were transported to a virtual world. You can make fun of me all you want, but I think it’s reasonable to assume at least that the series was going to pull the rug out from under us to make the stakes seem much more dramatic than they were, which is ironic considering that one of the things I liked about the show when it started was that it didn’t seem like there were any stakes.

Imagine my surprise when this episode screams in your face for ten minutes that Shangri-La Frontier is just a video game. It is an incredibly advanced, state-of-the-art video game with NPCs with exceptionally detailed backstories and behavioral patterns. This is revealed not as a dramatic plot point but rather as a consequence of the main characters’ actions. They are such outliers to what you would expect from typical gamers in this world that they beat a boss who wasn’t expected to be confronted for a decade in the game. That’s almost as ridiculous as expecting this game to be updated and expanded upon for the next ten years. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get a game DLC that has improved its life expectancy over four years. Now, the game company that developed Shangri-La Frontier is scrambling to figure out what to do. I find it extremely funny, and my whiplash aside, I have to give this series a lot of props going in this direction.

The foundation for the show has never really changed; it’s about the appealing adventure of playing an intense video game. This isn’t a story about dramatic outside forces affecting what happens to people inside a video game, but rather, it seems to be the opposite; it’s about people who are such oddities that they end up inadvertently affecting the real world with their crazy antics inside this video game. There are multiple different directions the story can go regarding how the game developers choose to approach Shangri-La Frontier now that things are occurring outside of the intended order. I’m curious how the AI itself within the game will respond to some of these dramatic, world-changing actions. I hope it doesn’t take an entire season to reach the next exciting plot point.

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Shangri-La Frontier is currently streaming on
Crunchyroll.