Anime Review: Absolute Duo (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 27.03.2017

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Absolute Duo (UK Rating: 15)

Stop me if you've heard this one: it's about a school filled with students who have magical abilities and battle each other! How about a protagonist male student with a special ability that sets him apart, surrounded by a gaggle of buxom beauties that are falling all over themselves to be with him for some strange reason? Absolute Duo seems to be made up of so many familiar elements, but can it combine them into something new or will this just be yet another entry in a vast sea of disappointing titles? This full season release from Funimation, via Anime Limited, is available now and contains 12 episodes in dual audio, along with the regular Funi bonus features: two episodes of commentary, opening and closing songs without credits, promotional videos, and trailers.

Being set in a school is always a quick way to pour tons of exposition into the audience, with the teachers explaining the world and the special aspects of the story to both the school and the viewers, at the same time. That's certainly the case here with Koryu academy, as the series spends considerable time forcing plenty of terminology and world-building. Students here are known as Exceeds, human beings that are enhanced by a nano-machine known as "Lukifur," allowing them to take their "Soul-Power" and manifest it as a "Blaze." A Blaze is manifested as a type of weapon - swords, spears, axes, and other such items, although some Exceeds known as "Irregulars" and can summon forth stranger weapons, such as the protagonist of the show, a new student named Tor, who can summon a shield. Every student at Koryu Academy is required to pair up with another student in the hope of one day developing into the titular "Absolute Duo." Tor finds himself partnered up with a beautiful young foreign princess named Julie, and soon enough the story develops into an action/harem/romance/comedy/ecchi… thing.

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The first half of the show is centred round the day-to-day lives of the class as they take part in some rituals to grow stronger, along with introducing an extended cast of other students. These students all battle against each other, with the stand out winners gaining "Rite of Sublimation," a method of powering up their Blaze abilities. Then, suddenly, around halfway through the series, a new student is introduced and a ton of new story threads branch off after her introduction. This new classmate is a British exchange student (with a horrendous accent in the dub) and is a special "Exception" Exceed named Lilith. Her Exception ability allows her to manifest her Blaze as a complex Rifle weapon. As is often the case in these types of anime, the story suddenly tries to get a bit more serious as it builds to its finale. A rival organisation, known as the Rebels, suddenly begin to attack, and later on shadowy leaders of other organisations - each with a name more silly and over the top than the last - gather, each with the hope of developing "Absolute Duo," the ultimate level of power for the Blaze weapons.

If that brief overview sounds a bit scattered, it's not half as hodgepodge as the series. At its core, this is an ecchi harem series that mashes together some slice of life school elements, some shonen battle elements, and plenty of risqué moments. The result is a mess that is absolutely overflowing with predictable plot points, clichés, and tropes. The cast is one of the worst offenders. As each character is introduced over the course of the show, you could tick them off a list of character traits one by one for harem bingo. Tor is, sadly, the usual generic ecchi harem protagonist. Randomly overpowered, surrounded by women throwing themselves at him and, of course, idiotic in his responses to their advances, blushing and ignoring as the gorgeous girls flirt with him, or even literally running away when waking up covered in a pair of naked girls… It's a very strange trope that is far too overused. The rest of the cast is a lesson in ecchi archetypes. Julie is the innocent perfect princess who is oblivious to how sexual some of her actions are; Miyabi is the dopey, shy, busty girl who believes in true love; Tomoe is the straight-laced girl who yells at the protagonist and often finds herself in compromising situations.


 
This adaptation was produced by studio 8-Bit, which previously produced a number of series that will give an idea of what to expect: series like Infinite Stratos, Walkure Romanze and the recent Busou Shinki. Yes, this is ecchi and proud, although certainly light-hearted, nothing like Highschool DxD or To Love-Ru. Unlike some of the recent series reviewed here at Cubed3, which are not fan-service shows, merely containing fan-service elements, this is very much a fan-service show and it revels in it. This is often preferable to be honest, since at least the audience knows what it's getting and may even watch for that very reason. The problem with excessive fan-service added to a regular show is it can detract from the show and, of course, put off potential viewers from experiencing a good story just because they have no interest in such things. Absolute Duo has plenty of the familiar aspects of ecchi series. The uniforms are positively skin-tight and there are plenty of long-lingering shots on certain areas, the ladies adjust gym shorts, squeeze their arms together in front of them, and so on. Everything an ecchi fan expects and hopes for. 8-Bit does a slapdash job on the art, too, with horrendous CG-armoured soldiers later on that clunk along like something from the '90s, silly transformation sequences when the students summon their Blaze that belong in Pretty Cure, and just general mediocrity.

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Absolute Duo is a horrendous pile up of the same old story points, the same old characters, and the same tired jokes. It does nothing to set it apart from the mass amount of other identical series out there and is utterly forgettable. That being said, there is certainly an audience for this kind of series - there has to be, since there are at least three of these shows a season - so if you're a fan, this may be right up your street.

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