Absolute Duo Review

This is review number four hundred and forty three. This anime is part of the Winter 2015 lineup, and it’s called Absolute Duo. It’s a twelve episode anime about a guy and his harem. Wait, he is in a duo. Sorry. Oh wait, he has both. He has a duo and a harem, so what the hell is this? Let’s read on.

Story

The anime follows Tooru Kokonoe as he enters Kouryou Academy. In this school, students are paired off and they are known as Duos. Tooru expected his middle school friend to be his Duo until he was suddenly paired with the white haired Kuudere known as Julie Sigtuna. They must now live together as a Duo, and Tooru’s days in this academy certainly became a lot more interesting.

Taking the Pants Off

Ok, now I remember why I keep having these burn outs from watching anime. It’s because I keep watching the same sh*t over and over. How many LNs are there in one lineup? No wonder it takes me two years to finish a lineup now. The repetitiveness can really kill you. Anyways, this is Absolute Duo and it’s a show that doesn’t work on its premise alone. I’m sorry but light novels are all about ass and harem. I don’t really understand why we need so much ass and harem in one show, but it’s apparently the thing that makes these little books sell. I mean, gawd damn it, how are Japanese LN readers not getting fatigued reading the same sh*t over and over? They must have a higher tolerance than me, because my limit is three ass and harem LN. Unfortunately, that’s all LN has to offer nowadays.  Ass and harem, yeah, that’ll hook readers. Oh, and also boobs. It is ass, harem and boobs. It’s a trinity. Seriously though, is this really where LN is headed? We’re just going to be exposed to the same three things? It’s a bit depressing that the consumers aren’t craving for more. Jebus, how much of a societal toilet are you to be satisfied by the same thing over and over? I’m trailing off though. Let’s focus on Absolute Duo, which is, again, a premise that doesn’t work.

Duo Means Two

So yeah, Absolute Duo is about a guy being paired with a girl as they go through their fictional academy life together. Now, I’ll be fine with just this except light novel doesn’t really work in duos. Nope, it works on a harem. It’s an element I can never understand, since it’s already proven once that Railgun kicks more ass than Index and she didn’t have a harem. Well, actually, the cast is still all girls but we broke the formula once. How come no one wants to follow its lead? But anyways, this anime has a harem and typical light novel characters are all girls ready to flirt with the main guy. So, as I watch the first episode, I kinda knew this sh*t wouldn’t work. You could’ve gone for a team or a unit to accommodate the harem, but why go for a tandem when you know you’re going to write a harem in it? It doesn’t work like that. These two things cancel out each other. Duo means exclusive, and harem is like a night market. They’re totally different. Now I do understand there is always a main girl the story favors, but it’ll still accommodate the other girls so what the hell is this show even about?

Actually, I finished the show and we still never found out what an Absolute Duo is. I guess it’s the best two man unit ever, but the show never really focuses on it. It opens with the new students of this school being paired, explains that their partnership is top priority, and they’ll go through their school life as a pair. As soon as it’s established though, two more girls enter the picture to quickly establish the harem. The entire show is a mess from the get-go, and I was really ready for the massive train wreck ahead of me. If a show fail on its premise then you can expect some wonderful sh*t to happen. I learn that from aimless original screenplays. I’d never thought I’d witness an LN go for it.

Thriving Narrative

Now, to be fair, the story is pretty decent. Sure, it quickly ignored the duo premise but the world building is sound. Characters are injected with a stuff that makes them conjure a weapon known as a Blaze. They learn to fight with their Blazes in this school, but it’s pointed out early on that they are mere test subjects by the devil in a gothic Lolita outfit. Each chapter is punctuated by a big fight involving all the characters, and there is a respectable amount of time given to the fights. I finished the show in two days. I don’t know why, but I guess the show is just easy to consume. You know what to expect, you know how the show will disappoint you, so you just sit back and enjoy the dumpster fire. The problem with light novel adaptation is that every volume has a contained story in it, but there is also an overall narrative to tie each volume together. Considering one volume can be consumed in an hour or so, you can bet there is a lot of flavor in that one bite. Now, how much do you think the adaptation will cover to capture that flavor? Not a whole f*cking lot, I can tell you that now.

I didn’t read the LN, and I honestly don’t need to. I don’t want to experience this anime twice. LN is surprisingly elegant though, because the narrative is thick with a lot of stuff. Character motivation, their subtle personalities, their sudden narrating or shift to their perspective and some moments of sentimentality are some important ingredients in a light novel. LN always ensures that you like the characters, give a situation to like them more and then inject a soft scene that will make you root for them. It’s all a calculated chess game, kinda like when you suddenly think an idol is cute. Oh, is she? You wanna know more about her? Don’t be shy, she’s friendly and then boom, you’re spending your money on the group’s latest album. Those poor societal toilets must’ve never realized LN is pulling them closer to the rocks. Anyways, these important ingredients in LNs are almost never adapted by the anime. They are cut out and the result is often a rushed adaptation. I’m actually OK with a rushed adaptation, since I grew up with rushed manga adaptations. It’s the other thing that bothers me.

Tonal Mess

A harem is mostly slapstick, since it features boobs and asses. Like this scene:

By itself, it’s haremless. The problem is that these characters are apparently enrolled in this particular school because they want to avenge their dead loved ones. So yeah, a serious story of serving the best dish serve cold is kinda muddled when you suddenly feature a beach episode after the characters discuss the conspiracy within the academy they are in and how they are treated as puppets by the principal. It is really hard to take the story seriously, because you just don’t know what the anime wants to accomplish. I can see it in the LN though, because the beach stuff is in a different volume than the fight the characters had at the mall where the main character is shot in the arm. As the anime progress, the story kinda became more serious but it all just feels numb to me. It came to a point where a council is apparently called, the bad guy is in the council, a massacre happens in school and I just didn’t care. When you’re juggling a harem, a story of a guy being cute with a kuudere, magical conspiracies and a bad guy bent on killing students, you soon realize these things are at the end of an opposite pole. You just can’t take the story seriously, and it doesn’t really matter who the hell dies at this point because the story is so rushed you don’t even know what’s happening anymore. The only fact that stays consistent is that one of the characters has massive jugs. Like, boulders. Oh, and speaking of character boulders though.

Motivation

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Part of a rushed adaptation is neglecting character development. Some of them just aren’t fleshed out that much, and LN often gives so much nuances just to establish a character. I guess this is the main reason why the show feels so numb. It doesn’t really make the characters interesting enough to move the story, but they are often just dragged by the story to whatever stuff happens in it. This clearly isn’t the case, since there are a lot of interesting characters in Absolute Duo. In the first episode alone, we are introduced to a girl that was rejected by the academy. You can tell her motivation was enough to drive the story, and it’s a shame the same thing was never done again in the show. If we simply had a reason to care for the characters then I’m sure the narrative would’ve strived better. The stakes would be given more emphasis and fights would be more than characters randomly swinging their swords around. Now, you can tell character motivations were gutted out of the story because a lot of the moments in the show were character centered. The resolution to the big fight in the last chapter is resolved when the Duos talked to each other. No doubt, the LN has established each character at that point for the resolution to actually take effect. This is different in the anime, since it really just happened. Stuff just happens and then we are given more ass as pay off.

Perhaps the most perfect example of the motivation being gutted out is during the second chapter when the Exception wanted the Irregular to be her Duo. Gawd damn it, an irregular at a magical school. Just, f*cking kill me now. Anyways, the Exception courted the Irregular two different times. The second time was even during a wonderful firework scene after a fun date. The Exception was rejected twice though, and this really flipped her lid. She went on an awesome bender defeating the second year students and then challenging the first years to a rumble. It was the Exception against the entire first year students battling in a mall. This particular mall is where the Irregular had his first date with his Duo. It was so LN that I was smiling as I watch it. Here’s the problem though, we never get a scene to answer the “why” behind the Exception’s action. In the LN, this would’ve been done by a useful narrator or a simple paragraph highlighting her reaction when she was rejected. The anime didn’t really stew on her pride being hurt twice, since it was rushing the story. It gutted out her motivation to take revenge, her moment of vulnerability that the original source established to make her the likeable character she was turning out to be. The nuance of her actions was lacking, and this awesome scene really just felt like an ordinary episode.

The Irregular

My gawd, is having him an irregular a dirty nod to Mahouka or is the anime just trolling at this point? Either way, I hate him. Like most LN protagonist, our hero is given a harem, given an extraordinary power and given enough screen time to look awesome. LN 101 dictates that the hero must never work towards a goal, but given a healthy harem instead. It plays to the wish fulfillment of the readers or some sh*t. Tooru is an interesting character though, because he does have a backstory and a motivation to be in the anime. Sure, he is the sun and the other characters are his planets, but he certainly has his moments. I still don’t like him, just by principle, but he is effective enough to function within the story. I’m not a fan of his “I want to protect my harem” mentality though. It’s so overplayed at this point. I’m just not a fan of that sh*t from the start. I also like his chemistry with his duo, and it’s a shame we never really see it develop properly. I really don’t understand why we have three guys in the show and two of them are partnered together. Wouldn’t it be cool to have two of the girls lumped with them? Do we really need a harem, I mean, good gawd.

Nakayama, Kouno and Eight Bit

This anime is directed by Atsushi Nakayama and he might be a fan of Battlestar Galactica because this anime has a lot of dutch angles. It has a ridiculous amount of tilts that it’s kinda like a joke after the fifth one. Nakayama has been an episode director for most of his career, and it clearly shows. You can tell he’s injecting something to the anime, but the presentation of the show still feels bland despite the action oriented narrative. I’m not saying he’s a bad director though, since I still did finish the show in just two days. It’s a testament to how each episode is given care, but I think series directing is just an entirely new thing for Nakayama. I say give him another series and let the guy flourish. Takamitsu Kouno series composed the series, and he’s been a script writer for a majority of his career. I have to give him props for making the five or so volumes of the original source fit an anime format. There was escalation in the story, and he even made sure a big battle happens in the last episodes. It’s still rushed beyond belief, but that’s a normal thing for LN adaptations. If we weren’t stuffing so many volumes in one season then it wouldn’t be a problem. The fact that Kouno managed the clusterf*ck is a victory in of itself. It also helps that 8 bit handled the project. I’ve been a big fan of this group since I saw Yama Susume. They just make competent anime. Good? That’s subjective, but their stuff is competent. Not enough to really dislike and not enough to be impressed with. The fact that they’re consistent with their releases is a good thing though. They should stop with LN adaptations though, because their animation style is fitting of an action series. I hope they land one in the near future. Or maybe they already did, if I wasn’t four years behind in my reviews.

Sight and Sound

I love the bulky designs of the characters. Coupled by 8-bit’s flashy animation, the characters just stand out amazingly. The design is still typical LN, but the use of strong colors really set them apart. Most LN go for a soft style, but You Asaba’s design have a fierce color palette. From the hair color to the matching intensity of the eyes, the characters are just amazingly created. I am also a fan of their uniform. It’s not much, but the sleeveless design with the short skirt is a nice touch. It makes the girls posing look cooler while also showing off their body in a smart way. Kudos to 8-bit for capturing Asaba’s intensity since it is the character design that’ll attract you first in this anime. Actually, it’s the out of place flash forward featuring a loli that was never brought up again, but also the cute design. The weapon designs are pretty bland though. It’s really just default knife or axe, and it’s a crying shame their “soul weapons” didn’t have personality. I guess it makes sense since the characters are pretty bland. I think the only cool weapon in the show belongs to the bunny girl, and she rarely fights in the series.

Animation is inconsistent. 8-bit likes to show off its flashy style at the first three episodes, but their quality dips significantly towards the middle episodes and comes off lackluster towards the end. They make great first impressions, but the dip reminds you that they are still a small studio that still needs to do more. I do love the still shots in the show. Nakayama often employs a basic wide shot to emphasize a fight. It looks really cool, and it gives you an idea how strong the characters are. He also employs Dutch angles though, and I am not a fan of that. Maybe two or three in a series, but I’d prefer a 360 camera spin that constant tilts. Some fights are really sloppily presented. Characters would often just swing with no reason and the back and forth between fighters aren’t clearly established. There’s one scene where the guy has a knife, but he knees his opponent instead. When the good guy goes for the comeback, no doubt, they use their weapon. So why go for CQC when you can gut the kuudere in an instant? I’m pretty sure it’s as messy in the LN, so it doesn’t matter. I just wish the adaptation had enough sense to actually improve this bit.

The ass and boobs is pretty good as well. The bulky character design is great to feature a lot of dirty scenes. There are not a lot of slapstick dirty scenes, but it’s enough to keep your attention. I have to say though that this is the first time this year I watched a beach episode in an anime, and I forgot how much I absolutely hate them. They’re like nonsense filler episodes, and I am not excited revisiting old shows that feature them prominently. Anyways, there are a lot of naked scenes here too, but they’re not really down right dirty. It’s still respectably censored to compliment the story.

The anime’s OP is “Absolute Soul” by Konomi Suzuki. It’s your typical OP song for shows like this. It’s about never giving up and being strong for the future and stuff like that. It’s bland at best, but I do love the OP sequence it has. It features all the characters, a short montage of the overall story and all the Duos looking cool as fudge. I also love the opening bit where all the girls are shown off in 8-bit’s flashy animation. The anime has three EDs and I don’t want to go over them one by one. Each ED compliments an episode though, so the one focusing on the kuudere features her ED song. The one about the blonde has her song and so forth. They’re all decent song. It’s not really that catchy, but I like the effort of giving the girls their own songs. It’s also great that the accompanying animation is the typical flashy 8-bit style. I love them, even though they often don’t pair with the song itself. I think the first ED is the best one in my opinion.

Overall Score

6/10 “It’s a mess of a show, but it’s entertaining for what it is.”

The story is rushed, the tone is confusing, the premise is just dumb and the entire experience is just one huge mess. It’s still enjoyable in certain areas, but the overall presentation could definitely be better. If you enjoy the typical LN thing, then this show is for you. If you like some fun ass and harem then this is for you too. If you want to enjoy an easy enough to digest show, then this one is simple to get into. It has its positives and definitely some strong negatives. I don’t recommend it. There’s a better mess on an LN show out there for you all.

I’ll be reviewing the movie of Tamako Market next as requested by my patreon backer. It’ll be number four hundred forty four and A HALF. Movies get half a number for me.

It means you can recommend the other half to me as well.

You can recommend an anime to me. Just become a patreon supporter and you can ask for one title a month! I’ll review one requested title a month.
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Justin Yeung
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8 thoughts on “Absolute Duo Review

  1. I followed this one weekly as I was bored last 2015. Yeah, this one was hella generic, though I do admit I had fun watching it. Same as you, I wont be checking its LN too.

  2. I watched the 1st episode of this but dropped it like it’s hot after. I dunno. I guess it wasn’t just that interesting to watch.

  3. i have a brand new anime or manga concept featuring a 33 year old man named Adam Lee he lives in Tokyo japan he becomes a teacher he teaches a school full of freakish students he is the only human in this weird school as well.

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