Aria the Scarlet Ammo
The story takes place in Tokyo Butei High School, a special school where armed detectives - "Butei" - are trained to use weapons. Kinji Tooyama is a second-year-student who has a special ability, but he keeps it a secret to maintain an ordinary, peaceful life. However, when he finds himself in a bombing on the way to school, he encounters H. Aria Kanzaki, the most powerful S-Rank Butei student in Assault Studies.
I really like animé; more so than most animé fans it seems. I am usually the first to fight its corner, jumping in with verbal fists flying to its defense while many other fans half-heartedly scratch their heads, laugh embarrassed and tell animés detractors that they may have a point. I am no otaku, I am definitely not just here for the moé, but I still see animé as one of our best hopes for intelligent, mature television based entertainment even if at only the odd occasion. It might be because, for the most part, I do not like television programs all that much. What reason, you may ask? It is simple. There are too many shows out there like Aria the Scarlet Ammo.
If clichés were squares of cloth then Aria the Scarlet Ammo would be a quilt that the Women's Institute would be envious of. Bland male protagonist, check; flat-chested, angry female lead who overreacts to the slightest provocation or misunderstanding, check; childhood friend, check; mysterious, quiet girl, check; over-use of the words 'hentai' and 'baka' because they are funny apparently, check; the liberal raping of great ideas by great writers of the past in the most useless and wasteful manner, triple-check. The fact that Rie Kugimiya voices Aria in all her tsundere lolita glory only adds to my yawns and chagrin - to be honest, it's a miracle that I made it through even one episode of this let alone twelve. Maybe I had hope that it would get better. If I did then I was stupid.
In truth, I thought this show might actually be quite fun for a minute. The whole stupidity of the premise with licensed gun-wielding teenagers, exploding bicycles, etc would not take away from enjoyable action scenes or badass characters if it just had them. I could have even tolerated Aria if she was not so obviously and shamelessly a copy and paste of previous Rie Kugimiya characters like Louise from Familiar of Zero (She even calls Kinji her 'slave' of all things for absolutely NO reason other than that is what Louise calls her equally bland male lead). To be honest, Aria is the closest thing to a parody of a typical Rie character we have until some visionary director gets her to voice an angry kitten in a crisp packet. Aria lacks any real depth, has mood swings that would get normal people put into a psychiatric ward and is just generally annoying in every way imaginable, though you probably do not need to imagine. You have already seen it.
I can say that Kinji is a better character than Aria, thank goodness; however, my standards are not low enough to say that he is good. The shame is that my standards are not that high in reality, I do not expect every action comedy lead to have the charm and depth of Lawrence Kraft or Fakir (Spice & Wolf and Princess Tutu, respectively) but a little charm and a little depth, please. Kinji's stand out moments that get him off the bottom of the barrel are when he goes into what the show calls 'Hysteria Mode' where he goes from reluctant, useless goon to a bishounen superman in the blink of an eye with all the dashingly chauvinistic tendencies to match. In short bursts, and probably only in short bursts, Kinji's hysteria personality is actually quite entertaining and fun to watch even if it does not make up for the lack of personality he normally suffers. It is overall still not a terribly original idea (I have given up on getting originality from Aria the Scarlet Ammo) but it is the closest thing to well done that the series has so I will give it that.
In respect to the aesthetics of the show, there is not much on which to make comment. The music is passable and so is the art for the most part. The backgrounds are lackluster and the character designs are definitely not the best. The animation is adequate and the action scenes are not completely dull but little more than that.
The comedy is the harem-type with lots of misunderstandings, suggestive situations and cat-fights to make us laugh (or not). Kinji does something stupid, Aria gets obnoxious about it, childhood friend turns up and then things blow up (literally in this show) and Kinji ends up leaping from his balcony to safety (which is fairly amusing actually) and his room is wrecked. I never really took to the mix of harem antics and action story lines that have been prevalent for a long time (Tenchi Muyo had this set-up), but it does not seem too out of place and the show even manages to weave the two aspects of action and romantic comedy together without too much incongruence. The plot never really gets up to much (on top of getting even more stupid; remember what I said about raping the classics), the show does not seem to have any real internal consistency and often seems to interject plot elements at a whim - so the comedy is all we are really left with. It is not enough by a long shot.
Overall, a Frankenstein's monster of all the worst aspects of all the Rie Kugimiya action series without most of the charm. Tired, awkward and painful but, worst of all, pointless. Pick any other Rie Kugimiya action comedy and you will have a better show than this - even Kinji's rather cool 'Hysteria Mode' moments cannot validate this show's existence to me. Overall, there are much worse shows out there but few less necessary than this one.
Add two stars if you seriously cannot get enough of watching Rie Kugimiya voiced tsundere lolitas go over the top at bland male love interests and you have watched every other example available. If so, you are welcome to it. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: Teens and above. Most of the female characters end up in their underwear at some point, there are plenty of fight scenes, and traumatic back stories but nothing too terrible. Throw in a couple of typical suggestive moments included for 'comedy' and that is about it.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-release Fansub
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Aria the Scarlet Ammo © 2011 Chugaku Akamatsu, MEDIA FACTORY/Tokyo Vo-High School of Detective Armed
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