Monday, September 24, 2012

Aria the Scarlet Ammo Review: Death of a Genre?

If you've been hanging out in the anime fandom for at least a few years, there's a type of show that you've most definitely heard of (and have likely seen).  As the story begins, a standard-issue male high school student meets a girl.  This girl is short-statured, shorter-tempered, and has light-coloured hair (usually blonde, very light brown, or a gentle shade of pink).  Her chest is flat.  She comes from a rich family, leading her to treat most other people as if they were beneath her; as a result of this, she has few friends, if any.  Her elegant background is betrayed by her attitude towards others and her clumsiness/sloppiness.

Oh, and she's also voiced by Kugimiya Rie

At their first meeting, our Main Character will learn that the Girl is involved in some manner of fantastic occurrence.  Circumstances will reveal that the Main Character is now also tied to the abnormal events, forcing him and the Girl to live in close proximity.  Despite their initial inability to get along, the two will overcome their circumstances and eventually admit love for each other.

As one may have guessed from the title, I am describing Aria the Scarlet Ammo.  I am also describing Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, To aru Majutsu no Index, Lotte no Omocha, and to a lesser extent Hayate the Combat Butler and Toradora!.  There are likely many more anime that utilize this formula, as well as countless light novels and manga who are aiming to be the next smash-hit by using the same successful formula.

Actually, that assessment may not be completely right.  Maybe it would be better to include Aria the Scarlet Ammo in that final category...

True to formula, Aria begins with the Main Character, henceforth to be known as "Kinji", riding his bicycle to school, daunted by the fact that somebody has attached a bomb to his bicylce, which will detonate if he drops below a certain speed.  An uzi mounted on a Segway ensures that he does not abandon the bike.  Our formulaic female for this show is named Aria, and she rescues Kinji by parachuting from a nearby roof, destroying the Segway and pulling Kinji off of the bike.

That's right; It the weirdest adaptation of Speed you've yet to see
While Aria clearly isn't going for points in plot originality, they at least make an effort at coming up with a unique setting, even if it doesn't carry the story as far as it could.  The world of Aria features a class of people known as Butei.  These people function as a form of international police, accepting Quests in exchange for payment.  A butei has jurisdiction in every nation, allowing them to secure whatever help they need in order to complete their Quest.

In a slight departure from the formula, both of the main characters in Aria the Scarlet Ammo are part of this organization.  Aria is an accomplished Butei, while Kinji is a trainee who has been considering quitting in favour of a different career path.  Though he isn't particularly useful on his own, Kinji has an alternate personality that makes him a master at Butei, but which only emerges when he becomes sexually aroused.

Unfortunately, while it is rather hard to find aspects of Aria that are unique, original, or particularly well-done, there are quite a few places where it could be criticized.  The existence of supernatural abilities comes out of nowhere at the end of the first arc, something which could have easily been set up earlier, given that Kinji's childhood friend possesses such power.  Fight scenes are good but not excellent, and one would expect that JC staff could have at least put a bit more effort into the fights of a show that is basically about people who fight.

The genre of shows that Aria is following in the wake of are frequently known for the presence of fanservice.  Aria is rather light on such content when compared with some of its competitors, which makes the decision to use increasingly-popular light-beam censors rather odd.  I know that plenty of people consider fanservice to break the tension/immersion/whatever (I can relate, having experienced that feeling at least a few times), but to me, responding to anything moderately objectionable by blocking out a quarter of the screen is much more immersion breaking.

Using steam to censor Aria as she emerges from the bath is a good idea.  Blotting out a good portion of the screen: Significantly less so.

Overall, I have to wonder if the non-success of Aria the Scarlet Ammo, combined with the recent ending of both Zero no Tsukaima and Shakugan no Shana, should be taken as a sign that the rich-loli-tsundere-magical-girlfriend genre is dying out.  True, any popular trend will have less-impressive imitators glutting the market long before the people with good ideas have been tapped dry, but this was from J.C.Staff.  Say what you will about the company, but the fact that they were the producer behind the majority of the other series in this genre makes me think that we might have run out of ideas in this vein.

Then again, maybe not.  I've seen mostly negative reception to this series, but there seem to be at least a few people who support it.  I thought that Shakugan no Shana was an average series and Zero no Tsukaima was below that, but both manage to have a good-sized fanbase.  Maybe this series is just suffering from the same thing, but with a larger number of people.  Maybe it'll get better once I watch the second half.

No comments:

Post a Comment