I really am trying to not become one of those cynical anime watchers who think the best has already come and never will again, but you’re really trying my resolve this year Japan. Hidan no Aria was a show that for whatever reason I had a great deal of excitement and anticipation for. I was won over by the early pre-production artwork without knowing really anything at all about what it was going to be about or the source materials. When I learned the seiyuu cast and the plot synopsis I was pretty sure what I was going to be in store for. In that sense I probably shouldn't have been disappointed at all.
What Hidan no Aria gives us as a premise is about as generic and played as it comes. A high school boy... sigh why is it I always have to start it with that? Anyway he goes to Butai High School, a place where Japan teaches its youngsters to be assassins, thieves, and super powered shrine maidens. It’s like any other anime high school except the students all carry guns and katanas. No seriously it’s just like every other high school. So from there our hero, Kinji, suitably useless and powerless Japanese male gets involved right off the bat with the more dangerous female classmates who either want his body or him dead or more often both. Of course Kinji is able to tap into a hidden power of his own called "Hysteria Mode" which he enters from being sexually aroused. Really I'm serious here. I can't make this stuff up. Further nonsense ensues from this point and I honestly couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it from the beginning.
As with most anime of this type it likes to throw out tons of nonsensical and contradictory terminology and other assorted garbage. While in the beginning it doesn't seem like that much of a stretch it really starts to take a turn for the bizarre after a few episodes. That’s when we start having characters assigned names from other fictional and totally unrelated content. Such as Sherlock Holmes, Lupin IV, Jeane of Arc, and Dracula? It’s a mishmash of themes that have absolutely nothing in common with each other and make no sense when even applied to the story. It’s almost like the author of the story just picked random names from a library shelf and jammed them into his story as if they applied some sort of deeper meaning to it. The names don’t even have any bearing on how the characters act either. Jeane of Arc has ice powers, Dracula is a werewolf, and Holmes is a gun totting, dual katana wielding loli. Wuh? This only further confuses an already pointless and directionless story which doesn't seem to stick to one theme for more than a few episodes before meandering off into another direction. All in all it’s bad... REALLY BAD. Perhaps the worst excuse for a story I have seen in anything to date.
That brings us to the characters which really don’t far much better. Our hero Kinji is barely worth mentioning. Seriously when are they going to just stop giving the guys in anime names or even bother drawing on faces on them anymore? Just go ahead and give in to the otaku pervs and just complete the fantasy by having replacing them with faceless stick figures to allow them to complete their 2D on screen fantasy.
As for the girls the results are bad, even for a harem. Other than Aria the other girls are pretty much unmentionable. Aria is your standard loli tsundere. She says all of the things you would expect of her archetype and is performed brilliant by the undisputed seiyuu queen of this type, Rie Kugimiya. As much of a completely uninspired character or even acting performance that makes Aria up, it is Kugimiya that makes this series even remotely palatable to watch. Sure we have seen her do this role dozens of times before but I for one really never grow tired of it. In that sense it is a thoroughly Kugimiya type performance that is right in her wheel house and one that she completely hits out of the park. The real question is how many people are, unlike me, totally sick and tired of it?
J.C. Staff is usually pretty solid with their animation and production values and that doesn't really change here. But a lot like Kugimiya, I suspect a great many viewers are becoming weary of seeing the same damn thing over and over again. It would be nice to see them try to stretch themselves sometimes and be unafraid to take some risks. The one thing that really did stand out to me was how utterly silly the various girls hid their weapons. Take Aria, who is a tiny girl with an impossibly short skirt yet somehow manages to hid 2 enormous pistols under it and yet not be constantly seen when she is not drawing them. In addition to the even more ridiculous dual katanas she hides, under her blouse. It seems Aria's clothes are a lot like Doctor Who's TARDIS: bigger inside than it appears from the outside. Not that this is the first time anime has played with physics before but this really seemed to stretch the realm of believability.
From an acting and sound standpoint, Hidan no Aria is very good. As mentioned I think Rie Kugimiya was in her element and delivered a very enjoyable performance. The rest of the cast played their parts as expected. The music was pretty exciting and good. I especially enjoyed May'n Scarlet Ballet.
I actually found a great amount of this series to be amusing, mostly because I am a Kugimiya fangirl. As nonsensical and clichéd as everything about this anime was there was plenty of amusement to be found in watching the characters act this way. But at the same time I am fully aware that pretty much everything else about this show is terrible. For that reason I can’t recommend it to anyone.