Aura: Koga Maryuin's Last War
Ichiro Sato, who had been an extreme fantasy fan, finds his appetite for the strange again whetted when he meets a staff-carrying girl he's told is named Ryoko Sato (but she INSISTS on being called The Researcher, and says she's on a magical mission from another world.) How he reacts to her is one thing, but how his classmates feel about her might be quite another. (The fact that the two leads have the same family name is a coincidence by the way; they're not related.)
"If there's anything out of the ordinary, I want to see it" - Ichiro
Well, the Researcher (or Ryoko, who Ichiro's school's administration insists she actually is) certainly is out of the ordinary, but there are social consequences for standing out too much, especially for a girl who shows up at Ichiro's school in a wizard's robe, and carrying a rather large staff. Students who might want to violate other rules- say, smoking in the halls, for example- might feel resentful if the school allows Ryoko/Researcher to get away with not wearing the prescribed school uniform; and because he goes out of his way to help and support this oddball, poor Ichiro suffers ostracism-by-association at best, and overt violence at worst. I loved this show because it was NOT what you might normally expect. Other shows with characters who claim they aren't human- Kevin Spacey's movie K-PAX for example- try to please all sides by deliberately keeping the "truth" of their character ambiguous, but Aura is pretty clear about what the reality is. (OK, that brief business at the beginning of the show may seem like pure misdirection, but it DOES relate to the reality of one of the show's characters, as we'll see later.)
In fact, everything in the show ultimately relates to the issue of how peers and society treat their more eccentric members. The show has some thoughtful points to make on this issue, and makes them effectively. For me the most interesting character here is Ichiro himself, and if Ryoko senses something of herself in him- well, she's exactly right. For his own past gives him reasons to both sympathize with her AND to shun her, and perhaps he can only be with her, in the end, by embracing his past rather than trying to hide it, or run away from it. In the meantime, he tries his best to defend her against actual abuse and violence (instigated mainly at the behest of the show's chief villainess, one Yumina Oshima), and also tries to discourage her attempts to, as she puts it, "return to the other world" (which is apparently Ryokospeak for committing suicide.) Ichiro is a fairly decent character on the whole, generous, kind, and loyal up to a point- that point being his own social self-preservation- and maybe he'll even find a way to transcend that, in time.
There are some side characters I wish I'd seen a bit more of, though since the show remains laser-targeted on Ichiro and Ryoko, they just don't get much room to shine. There's the cheerful, diminutive Kobato; there are a few other classmates who, it turns out, can easily slip into Ryoko territory themselves; and there's the sly Dorisen-sensei, who thinks Ichiro is the ideal person to look after Ryoko, and is not averse to using blackmail to make that happen. There are also the two female members of Ichiro's family, his nervous mom and his ill-tempered older sister, both of whom seem a bit overly concerned with what Ichiro's up to- and especially when Ryoko enters the picture.
There are a lot of shows with kooky characters, but there aren't so many that realistically explore the social stigma that goes along with being THIS different, and how it can extend to those who dare befriend them as well. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Contains nudity, a brutal fistfight, and references to suicide. Sometimes things are not easy when you're THIS different. Better for older teens and adults.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Aura: Koga Maryuin's Last War © 2013 AIC ASTA
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