OP: 「Absolute Soul」 by Suzuki Konomi
「焔牙(ブレイズ)」 (Homura Kiba (Bureizu))
I didn’t come in with high expectations, so I wasn’t that disappointed. I was still disappointed, though.
Before We Begin: Disclaimer
Before I launch into the review, let me preface something: I’m going to beat this show up a bit. If you enjoyed it, don’t let me stop you from watching it. Seriously. In this case, I’m burdened by great experience with the genre, so when I see Absolute Duo make the same mistakes I’ve seen a hundred times before—mistakes that are not crippling in and of themselves, but become so after endless repition—it turns me off. This show is all right so far. It’s decent. If it were earlier in my magical-fantasy-action-harem watching career, I’d probably like it more—just as I do with old shows that are probably exactly this good.
But that’s not where I am. So it’s getting a beating. If you enjoyed the first episode, continue reading at your own peril.
Fantasy Battle High School #4,732
As I said in the preview, Absolute Duo sticks largely to genre conventions. It’s a magical high school, the students fight each other, there’s a ton of technobabble, the main character is somehow different, and he inexplicably attracts cute girls despite flinching away from them in fear when they do sexy things, on purpose or not. (Not, in this case.) It’s tried and true. It’s average. It is what it is.
What disappointed me about this premiere is that everything felt like a slight downgrade from the manga I peeked at. Perhaps that keeps it closer to the original light novels, but light novels aren’t generally known for their writing prowess (exceptions notwithstanding), so it could have used some sprucing up. It’s little things like main character Kokonoe Tooru (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) (Note: Some translaters have been translating his name to Thor. It’s not. It’s Tooru, which just sounds like Thor in Japanese.) meeting Nagakura Imari (Tomatsu Haruka) outside the school, so we have a cute girl inexplicably introducing herself to him, when instead they could have easily started talking because they were seated next to each other at the assembly. Also, the animation is a bit shoddy all around. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying that hard.
Infodump Problems: Show, Don’t Tell
Another thing is Absolute Duo’s exposition problem, in that there’s too damn much of it. It’s not bad that they use all these terms—Blaze, Luciful, the Duo system, Irregular … though that last one brings back memories of a recent adaptation failure—it’s just that I don’t give a shit. Later on, I may give a shit. Explaining why nobody got hurt is cool (if convenient), and justifying how they can pull off all those crazy moves (with drugs—erh, Luciful, apparently) is fine too. But until we are introduced to the characters and develop a connection to them, who cares?
This is the old problem of telling instead of showing, which is an understandable mistake to make. Few writers are immune from slipping up on it occasionally, myself included. Yet I can’t help but wish the anime took a chance to improve on the source material rather than just copy it over. They don’t have to explain all these terms in the first episode, nor name all these characters, when I’ve already forgotten the names of every character who didn’t get in a conversation. Until Tooru and Julie are more than stereotypes, leave out as much as you can. Say “If you lose, we’ll take away your powers,” but don’t throw out another term until it’s necessary. Otherwise it becomes a lecture, and that’s not a good time.
Most of my other problems with the story are minor quibbles, though they add up. For example: The Duo system is a transparent way to get Tooru and Julie Sigtuna (Yamamoto Nozomi) in the same room; they lurch into exposition suddenly and transparently; I don’t like Horie Yui in the principal role; Usa-sensei (Tamura Yukari) was funny at first, but became way over done quickly; and Tooru’s little shield looks silly. I mean, I understand wanting to make the weapons look cool, but it’s such a small shield, and it has holes in it. Guh!
Probably my biggest problem is something that flew by, but was devastating from a character perspective. Tooru is fighting Imari, she asks if he’s willing to admit defeat, and he says he is. Wait, what? They’re hinting at this big trauma, but his determination isn’t even enough to take him past the first hurtle until something else intervenes (the flying axe + Imari herself urging him to take it seriously). That plus Tooru refusing to teach Julie the punch attack because a girl’s body couldn’t handle it—they’re going to need to justify that heavily, otherwise I’m just going to keep screaming “Try giving birth you shitty kid!”—and it’s the small things that are destroying it for me. Which they needed to get right to elevate the average premise over its peers.
There are no current plans to blog this show. If I decide to keep watching it, you can always check in with me on twitter, or maybe tell me if it picks up. Until then, I’ll see you next post.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The premise is all right, but the execution is below average. Meh #abso_duo 01
- It’s convenient how Blaze can only hurt souls, not the body. (Though that doesn’t sound any better.) Dog Days did it better.
I wrote a book! My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info) My personal site has also moved. Last four posts: Lessons from the Dresden Files: All alone, Mind meld, Interview with Little Red Reviewer, & Sneak Peek: Wage Slave Rebellion prologue.
ED: 「Believe×Believe」 by Yamamoto Nozomi