I am terribly torn about Aria The Scarlet Ammo. It’s a fun anime with tons of great action and laughs. The problem lies in the fact that the story is really weak. And when I say really weak, I mean it. Aria The Scarlet Ammo is based off of a series of light novels and covers the first three books in the series. While at it’s core the concept is fairly generic (a high school for detectives, because in Japan, there is a high school for everything), it’s execution is well done. Not well done in a “God, this is amazing sense”, more like “God, this is entertaining”. And Aria will appeal to those looking for flash and entertainment over substance. Hopefully this review will shed some light on this fun, yet broken, ride.
The story of Aria The Scarlet Ammo is very basic. Kinji Tohyama goes to a school for butei, or as we like to call them detectives, and he ends up being targeted by the Butei Killer who tries to take him down by attaching a bomb to his bicycle and sending killer segways with machine guns attached to them after him. As you can tell, this anime doesn’t take itself very seriously. He meets a pink haired girl named Aria and together they go on wonderful adventures in order to clear the name of Aria’s mother, who has been sentenced to jail for thousands of years because she has apparently been pinned with the murders of every person in the world. The mother part is never fully explained and makes no sense whatsoever. As the series progresses we meet Shirayuki, a girl in love with Kinji and jealous of Aria; Riko, an insane girl who seems to do a lot of sexual advances on Kinji; and Reki, a rather quiet sniper girl. The show is divided into three story arcs over the course of it’s twelve episodes, four episodes dedicated to each book.
The story, as you can tell, is not too good. It’s like a summer blockbuster film in that it has a very loose plot that is just there to provide for tons of action and adventure. And Aria does deliver in the action and adventure department, but for those wishing to have something to think about or wishing for a more story driven adventure, this isn’t where you want to go. It’s like the Transformers of anime, only with less explosions, less giant robots, and less Shia Lebouf.
There’s this subplot about Kinji’s brother that we never hear much about, and something about an ex girlfriend or something that is hinted at during episode eleven, and shown in episode twelve. The problem is, these things are not resolved and in order to get the resolution I’ll have to read the books which you can read a translated version of thanks to some fans, but it is not the tightest translation and the books read more like a script trying to be a novel.
The animation of the show is beautiful and you can tell that most of the production funds went into the animation (though the story was already in the book, so they didn’t need to fund writers as much I guess). The animation is perhaps one of the shows strongest suits. From the beautiful backgrounds to the well drawn characters and fluid action scenes, the animation is great.
The sound is good. The opening is a typical J-pop piece but it’s not at all bad. The ending song is also typical, nothing stands out there. The voice actors are good and add to the comedy and few emotions displayed throughout the series. The sound is another good point of the series, but there has been better music in anime before.
I’m going to get flak for this, but I enjoyed all the characters. They were not totally fleshed out, but they each had their own quirks and silly things about them that made them more likeable despite some of the genericism. Kinji is a very typical anime male surrounded by a bunch of girls, he’s bashful and denies everything concerning romance. His quirk is the fact that when he pops a boner, he goes into Hysteria Mode, when he is super suave and can fight like crazy. It’s a silly idea, but I thought it was quirky and funny. Aria is Kinji’s main love interest and she’s the great great grand-daughter of Sherlock Holmes. She is searching for a Watson and finds Kinji. She’s a slave driver and comes across as bitchy but she is scared of lightning and thunder and I guess she’s a typical teenage girl if you gave a bashful teenage girl two pistols.
Shirayuki is in love with Kinji and is a priestess who can do crazy stuff with her sword. She’s very bashful yet is always trying to bed Kinji. She’s always fighting Aria and when Shirayuki interacts with Aria, it’s always funny.
Riko is the great great grand-daughter of Arsene Lupin and she has this weird quirk where she can use her hair as a weapon. It’s stupid, sure, but it doesn’t not fit in with the rest of the series. She’s the only character that you can feel any sympathy for because of a childhood problem we learn later on, and she also is the only character that has any sort of development. It’s not a lot, but there is some.
Reki is a quiet sniper girl. She has very few lines and doesn’t do too much in the series, though I would have liked to see her more. She was the only truly badass character in the entire series. The rest were kind of badass, but they also came across as funny and silly so it negated the badassery.
There are three bad guys in the series. One of them I’ve already described. The other two are not well developed at all, and are just bad guys. Nothing much to them, just something to shoot at.
Aria the Scarlet Ammo is, in movie terms, a popcorn movie. It’s got little substance, but a lot of flash. It looks good, it has great action, but it’s bad guys aren’t that exciting and the characters are all there to be complete opposites of each other and provide comedic relief and some tension during fight scenes. That’s not to say it’s not good. I loved it. I liked all the characters in some way or other, I liked the action sequences; everything but the story.
It’s frivolous fun. It contains a lot of juvenile humor concerning boobs and boners, it has that typical anime thing where we get lots of shots of thighs and cleavage for no reason but fan service, and it has fun action sequences. It’s fun. It’s not something for the guy looking for story, it’s not something for the girl looking for meaningful action and romance. It’s frivolous fun that, if gone into with the right mindset, can be a good way to blow a few hours. If you go in expecting something with tons of substance, then you’ll be disappointed.
As I’ve said before, it’s tough to rate different types of anime on the same scale. This is not something I want to rate on the same scale as Ghost in the Shell because they cater to two different audiences and are two completely different types of anime.
I’m giving Aria The Scarlet Ammo an entertaining 8 out of ten, but if you’re looking for substance, I’ll give it a dull and exploitative 4 out of ten.
I hope for another season maybe next summer? I’ll take this over those crappy Michael Bay transformers movies.