Label: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 8th July 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Release Type: DVD
Ever had one of those days where your morning gets off to a really bad start? Maybe you lost track of time and accidentally missed your bus? So you decide to take a bike to school and your ride is interrupted by a phone call which tells you there is a bomb attached to your bike. Then it’s explained that if you stop or slow down the bomb will explode. As you turn around and check your bike you discover that not only was the information relayed to you via the phone true, there is also a machine gun on a segway chasing you to make sure you can’t jump of the bike or disarm the bomb. You think all hope is lost until you look up and see a gun wielding girl parachuting from the sky who offers her assistance. This is exactly the predicament that Kinji Touyama finds himself ,and is in fact how Aria the Scarlet Ammo opens.
Most people would be rather traumatised by this ordeal, but Kinji is used to this kind of situation as he is a Butei. A Butei is special kind of detective who receives special training in high school and are allowed to capture criminals. The training involves learning different skills with regards to combat, espionage, intelligence gathering and various other facets of criminology and detective work.
Even though Kinji is an experienced Butei in his second year of high school, he wants to give up this kind of life and is about to transfer out of the school due to circumstances surrounding the public’s treatment of Butei during a ship hijacking that cost his older brother his life. This plan is put on hold for the time being due to the aforementioned girl falling from the sky. Her name is Aria and she wants Kinji to be her partner in order to solve a case that will help prove her mother’s innocence and bring the real culprit to justice.
Aria decides that Kinji is the perfect partner after witnessing his skills and hearing that he got an S-Rank on his school entrance exam. However, Kinji is currently ranked as an E-Rank Butei. The reason for this is due to Kinji having a genetic condition called Hysteria Savant Syndrom (Often shortened to HSS or Hysteria Mode). Hysteria mode is a superpowered mode Kinji can enter that makes his skills, strength, speed, deduction and intelligence far greater than they are usually. There is one problem though. In order to activate Hysteria mode, Kinji must be sexually aroused in some way. Kinji tries to avoid situations that can activate his Hysteria mode as it makes him more cocky and stuck up. He gets really embarrassed by how he acts and by the things he says in that mode but is necessary in order to provide assistance to Aria in the case he has decided to be her partner on.
From the introduction to the series and the circumstances involving the activation of Kinji’s Hysteria mode, you’d think this anime would be an action harem comedy with ecchi moments dotted around for plot convenient purposes. And you’d be right. That is exactly the kind of show Aria is.
Aria starts things off with action and big set pieces with an escalating scale in intensity. Things start out with a bomb on a bike, then move up to a bus and then a plane. In a way Aria is like the anime version of Speed in some places, where a bomb is planted on a piece of transport and slowing down will kill the passengers. Don’t worry though there are several other kinds of action scenes that will keep action fans happy. As stated previously Butei are trained in various forms of combat but mostly all the fights involve guns or swords. The uniforms the characters wear are bulletproof so the only way that guns do damage is do to attacks at point blank range. From this the fights between two characters who use guns take on a style that looks like it’s been lifted straight from Equilibrium. Also a few characters mix in knives and swords into their fighting style as it is part of the Butei code of conduct to carry at least one type of gun and one bladed weapon for self defence. This mixes things up a few times where characters will pull out blades at close range if their gun attacks aren’t working.
From this you’d think that using guns and blades would give the fights a bit of realism or at least put everyone on an equal footing where the fight is won by who is most skilled in their respective discipline. Unfortunately you’d be wrong. Aria introduces a paranormal type of fighting that very few of the Butei possess. These superpowered characters are part of an evil orginisation that opposes Butei.
From this it is also learned within the series that several of the characters are descendants of famous fictional detectives, thieves and historical figures. For example one character is the descendant of Sherlock Holmes, while another is a descendant of Lupin the Third. The concept is brought up but never fully explained as having any impact on a character’s traits or being of any benefit to them other than using their family name. At times it’s even joked about how unremarkable these characters are compared to their ancestors and commented that they won’t surpass them. The motivation for one of these characters to surpass their ancestor is the driving point behind one of the story arcs within the series but the whole descendants of famous characters angles doesn’t really provide anything substantial within the current scope the anime has set out.
As well as all the action, Aria frequently slips into several harem comedy cliches. This mainly revolves around all the girls that Kinji interacts with. All these girls are Butei so have some skills in different areas and personalities to match. There is the tsundere lead girl Aria who when she gets mad starts shooting her guns at Kinji and various other girls who are flirting with him, there’s the clingy jealous girl who carries a sword and is totally devoted to Kinji, there is also the flirtatious intelligence gatherer who Kinji does not take seriously half the time due to her advances seeming too playful and not genuine.
While most of the comedy from the series comes from the girls fighting over Kinji, they all quickly escalate into gun/sword fights between them. Thus making all of these interactions a tedious affair where the viewer will be spending more time guessing who will shoot first during these interactions. In that regard this makes none of the characters all that interesting as they are mostly cliches used to fill each of the necessary roles in a harem to provide conflict. That being said though. The action scenes are entertaining but not very memorable and feel like they are more of an homage to scenes from other types of action films.
Aria feels like a hollywood blockbuster type of anime. Full of explosions and action that is an entertaining ride while your experiencing it but will not stay with you for too long after watching it.