Hidan no Aria – 01
J.C. Staff is back with the Toradora duo of Majima Junji and Kugimiya Rie in their latest light novel/manga adaptation, except this time we have a bunch of armed detectives in training known as “Butei” (Busou + Tantei). As I described in the Spring 2011 Preview, the attention to detail with the Butei specializations and the weaponry they use is one of the highlights of this series. What I didn’t mention then was how the lowly rank E protagonist Tooyama Kinji is actually a rank S Butei in disguise due to his Hysteria Savant Syndrome, a.k.a. “Hysteria Mode”. Supposedly a genetic condition, when Kinji gets sexually aroused — even if it’s by rank S Kanzaki H. Aria’s unbelievably soft A-cup breasts in a push-up bra — he turns into a “mega playboy” with superhuman judgement and reflexes. The end result is an extremely suave change in personality, which comes off incredibly lame with Kinji cutting the cheese pretty thick on everything he says to girls, but extremely enjoyable to me as a longtime fan of DNA².
I suspect most readers will be too young to have read/watched Katsura Masakazu’s early 1990s series, but the similarities in the main protagonists are uncanny. In DNA², Momonari Junta is literally a “Mega Playboy” when he transforms, winning over every girl who basks in his good looks and chivalry, and causing a severe population problem in the future with his children, his children’s children, and so on. Much like Kinji’s Hysteria Mode, it’s completely absurd and activates involuntarily, but when you throw in a “DNA Operator” from the future and the fact that Junta has a condition where he throws up when he’s sexually aroused, you get one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time. (Puking anime yay.) In Hidan no Aria, the time-travelling DNA Operators and population problem are replaced by Butei and the criminals out to kill them before they graduate, but most of the same appeal remains intact.
While the production is fairly top-notch and there’s reason to believe this will turn out to be a relatively good series, I’m inclined to call it a guilty pleasure of mine since there’s very little it can do wrong in my eyes. I’m more than willing to overlook how Aria’s short skirt can defy gravity while she’s dangling upside-down just because it looked cool. Some of the best fan-service came from Kinji innocently slamming into what’s arguably the best airbag in the world, and winding up in the always precarious north-south position. The two female support characters introduced thus far, childhood friend/model student Hotogi Shirayuki (Takahashi Mikako) and “big-busted loli” otaku Mine Riko (Ise Mariya), served as great polar opposites in making Kinji’s desire to keep his Hysteria Mode under wraps even more difficult, be it wearing lacy black underwear or sharing wild sexual delusions with the entire class. You can never go wrong with Ise Mariya in these wacky breast-hugging roles either. I just love the goth frill accents Riko’s added to her own uniform too.
Story notwithstanding, the real question is how bearable Kugimiya Rie will be in another outspoken, lolita-type role. There’s definitely a heavy dose of all things Rie from Aria as she goes all out with her signature tsundere voice, but the difference from characters like Shana is that Kinji can sit her down and leave her humming and hawing as he takes care of business. Had it not been for his Hysteria Mode, there’s a good chance that this series would’ve gone down an all-too-similar path of an elite heroine dragging an unwilling male protagonist along for the ride. However, with Kinji’s god mode to balance out his unwillingness and most of all, to keep Aria’s haughty attitude in check, it’s a whole different “beast” of a high school romantic comedy. The gun-touting, knife-swinging armed detective premise simply serves as a distinguishing aspect to make all the quirky scenarios work. And work they do, if this first episode is any indication of things to come.
At the moment, I’m so sold on the character interactions and wanting to see more of the all-mighty Kugimiya Rie tsundere brought to her knees that the plot is completely secondary. I still want the progression to be somewhat sensible and have its climactic moments, but my tolerance level is pretty high for blunders along the way simply because I enjoyed this first showing even more than I thought I would. That’s coming from someone who was looking at Hidan no Aria to be the replacement for Infinite Stratos too, which as most people will know, was my favorite new show last season.
Eat your heart out SHAFT. J.C. Staff’s countering with some extremely tantalizing jailbait of their own this season. Fresh off of Yumekui Merry, they’re now masters of the midriff too.