Aria: The Scarlet Ammo is not what I was expecting it to be.
At first glance, it looked as though Aria was going to be another anime series with a loli touting guns and a hopeless male protagonist. I was content with just shutting my brain off and enjoying the generic ride.
Instead what I found was something else entirely.
Aria: The Scarlet Ammo [DVD/BD]
Studio: J.C. Staff
Licensed by: Funimation
Release Date: 10/13/2012
In the near future, armed mercenary-like figures called Butei help the law enforcement keep the peace. Butei schools are established all across the world, designed to train young students in various fields such as weapons proficiency and stealth. Kinji Toyama is one such student, though he'd rather not be. For reasons he keeps close to himself, Kinji does his best to maintain a low profile, hoping to one day part from the ways of the Butei. One morning on the way to school, he comes under attack by a gun attached to a segway (what) and is subsequently saved by a small girl who drops out of the sky. It looks like leaving his Butei career just got a whole lot harder!
What the above synopsis doesn't tell you, is that Aria is not content with just being a show about girls with guns. No. Instead, original light novel scribe Chugaku Akamatsu decided that he wanted to write a Sherlock Holmes story. Literally. You see, the main female character, Aria, is actually a descendant of the great Holmes himself! As it turns out, every villain in the series is actually a famous character from literature, even if it doesn't make any sense within the world of the show. I would have been perfectly fine with watching an otherwise underwhelming action/romcom, but alas, we can't always get what we want. Aria is a mess of ideas and inconsistent world building that never comes together.
I realize that many of these TV anime series that are based on light novels rarely have conclusive endings, but Aria: The Scarlet Ammo doesn't even try to wrap things up. If I hadn't run out of discs to watch, I would have had no way of knowing that the series actually ended.
It's unfortunate, as the main character isn't all that bad. Kinji Toyama is initially pretty likable, and he's not completely clueless when it comes to women. In fact, he spends most of the series actively (and successfully) rejecting the various girls' approaches, which was a nice breath of fresh air. His insistent whining about being a Butei does begin to grate fairly quickly however, especially because his reasons for wanting to quit fall apart halfway through the series.
The female cast fairs much worse, with Aria being the biggest offender. I understand that tsundere characters are popular, but if the series heroine is completely unlikable, there's a problem. She's mean, unreasonable, and lacks basic social qualities that would allow her to function in the real world. It's hard to believe Aria's supposed to be some S-rank Butei when she can't even talk to another coworker without threatening to shoot them dead. Shirayuki Hotogi, Kinji's childhood friend, is in some ways just as bad. She spends 90% of her screen time throwing herself at him and poorly masking her feelings. Anytime she and Aria share the screen, ridiculous fights over Kinji ensue. Sorry J.C. Staff, those were never funny.
It's not all bad: the artwork and animation are generally pretty consistent. Action choreography is weak on the whole and there's nothing you haven't seen before, but there are some decent sequences that help make the whole thing go down a bit easier. Character designs on the other hand are weak, as it's pretty much a 'best of' list of anime tropes with a Rie Kugimiya voiced loli leading the charge. I actually preferred the English language dub in this case; Luci Christian clearly had a blast playing the sexually charged Riko, and it shines through in her performance.
Considering the sea of quality anime releases in 2012, I see no reason why someone would want to spent nearly $65.00 on Aria: The Scarlet Ammo. If you're looking for an action/adventure series, there were plenty of great shows that hit DVD/BD last year. There is nothing exceptional about this show, and as a result I cannot in good faith recommend you spend your hard earned dollars on it.
Aria: The Scarlet Ammo hits with all the oomph of a firecracker.
4.0 – Subpar. Though not offensively bad, this one is just plainly poor. It’ll find dogged defenders, but just can’t appeal to anyone outside that deluded circle.