Given the early descriptions of Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero as being a "what if" scenario for what RPG heroes do once they beat the big bad guy, one would assume that it's another of the increasingly popular (for the last couple of seasons at least) "videogame anime", a sort of meta series about games, sci-fi, tropes, or even parody.
That's not what Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero is. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but as of episode two it's also kind of icky, and I'd rather not watch any more of it.
But first, let's get to the "not what it is" part. It is not a videogame anime, at least not in the sense of something like .hack, Accel World, or Sword Art Online. If anything it's probably closest to Shining Hearts ~Bread of Happiness~, which was a direct adaptation of an actual videogame.
Like Shining Hearts, Aesthetica takes itself seriously and doesn't even mention videogames. Its twist isn't so much to do with videogames as the fantasy worlds they offer us to inhabit. Aesthetica takes the "inhabit" part literally, for there exists an alternate dimension that kids get spirited away into to become heroes and defeat evil lords.
See, there are the two code words: "Hero" and "Evil Lord" (or "Demon Lord"). The Yuusha/Maou duo is shorthand for Dragon Quest, which in turn is shorthand for "videogames" to most Japanese, in the same way that Space Invaders is for most westerners above the age of fourteen. In all likelihood those two words are what lead to previewers to assume that this was a videogame anime to begin with.
Anyway, kids get transported to magical hero land, and the ones that do come back, namely our former hero Akatsuki, get enrolled in Babel, a government school set up to teach and/or regulate kids who return from magical hero land? Why would they need to be taught/regulated? It seems that kids returning from magical hero land keep everything they learned there, including magic powers and high levels. They're superheroes.
But that's just prelude, because this is basically a school-battle action show. Akatsuki has escaped his fantasy world by defeating a battalion of Valkyries in maid outfits, and taken with him the pink-haired Myuu, daughter of the Evil Lord Akatsuki defeated. Now they're both students and do battle with other students, who have powers of their own.
Frankly, the only way I see this becoming interesting is if the show gets more meta than it seems willing to. If Akatsuki got his powers from fantasy hero land, where did everyone else? Is there a special fantasy hero land for everyone? If it's just one land (like an MMORPG), why didn't he see anyone else there? Aesthetica would do well to do takes on the different kinds of fantasy hero lands we see in the myriad JRPGs that populate the space. So many of them have radically different worlds, that all still end up feeling strangely familiar. The show should play with that. As they say in prison, "What were you in [fantasy hero land] for?"
It's too bad that I'll never see if it gets better than that, because I'm about to get to the "it's kind of icky and I'd rather not watch any more of it" part of this writeup.
Aesthetica is a boobs anime. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Boobs anime have their place, and Aesthetica isn't as blatant (or hilariously over-the-top) about it as Queen's Blade, Highschool of the Dead or any number of boobs anime with fantasy/action trappings. In fact, there's something funny about how one of Akatsuki's skills is apparently to relieve a woman of her underwear while she's wearing it and without her noticing. How else did you expect him to beat the Valkyries in maid outfits?
Rather, I do have a problem with one scene that makes me think that this might be too much boobs anime for me. Ready for spoilers?
OK, Akatsuki, Myuu (who's played by Yoko Hisaka doing her best impression of Yui Horie), and another student named Kuzuha head to the gym storage room and encounter two girls having inappropriate (and uncensored) relations. That's fine, so far, so boobs anime. After shower scenes, fondling and general other perversions, it's fairly minor.
Cue embarrassment, and one girl leaves, closing the door behind her. Like all anime gym storage rooms, the door only closes from one side, however, and the four are trapped until class is over. Unfortunately, Kuzuha has to go do Number One. So, since he can't ignore a girl in tears, Akatsuki decides to help her out by making it less embarrassing for her to unavoidably do her business in front of everyone.
How does he help poor Kuzuha? By using his magic kung-fu hands to make the other two girls have to do Number One as well. And guess what? They all do Number One. In the gym storage room. If she can't have dignity, no one can.
Yeah, as of episode two Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero is kind of icky, and I'd rather not watch any more of it.
[The show streams (Ha ha, get it?! "Streams"! It's a pee joke!) on FUNimation]
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