“ Actors: Junji Majima, Rie Kugimiya, Ayako Kawasumi, Kaori Ishihara / Directors: Takashi Watanabe / Format: PAL / Language: Japanese / Subtitles: English / Dubbed: English / Number of discs: 2 / Classification: 15 / Studio: Manga Entertainment / DVD Release Date: 8 July 2013 / Run Time: 300 minutes „
Aria the Scarlet Ammo is an anime series based on a popular line of light novels penned by Japanese author Chugaku Akamatsu. The cartoon's thirteen episodes are presently available to buy, as part of a two disc DVD set, from Manga Entertainment. At the time of writing you can pick up the release for a little over fifteen quid at Amazon, any other reputable online seller or HMV... if they are still bothering to stock anime after their much publicized financial woes.
The series follows the exploits of Kinji Toyama, a teenage student at Butei High School, an institution tasked with training up the next generation of Buteis (a highly skilled team of freelance police.) Despite being the younger brother of a renowned Butei operative, Kinji is struggling to meet the lofty expectations others have of him. Demotivated and suffering from low grades, which rival my own A-Level scores, Kinji is giving serious consideration to dropping out of school. He is however convinced to stay in class by the titular Aria - an S Ranked Butei who is seeking a partner to help her bring down a nefarious criminal organization that is responsible for framing her mother.
Right off the bat it's clear to see that Aria the Scarlet Ammo isn't trying to break any new ground. It follows the format of many other lighthearted shows that combine teen friendly action with harem-focused comedy. Although Butei agents carry live ammunition and wield bladed weapons they are not permitted to kill, which ensures the violence can be safely marketed to youngsters. The humor relies mostly on romantic tension as the predominately female cast does their level best to get into Kinji's pants.
Aria is a lolita tsundere - she's short, flat as a board, sports pink pigtails and has a bad temper. Although she'll never admit to liking Kinji she'll fly into a jealous rage whenever anyone makes advances on her partner (who she refers to as slave.) Anyone trying to flirt with the show's leading man will trigger her wrath, which often involves firing her twin pistols into the air whilst vowing to fill the seductress full off holes. Aria's chief rivals in love are Shirayuki Hotogi and Riko Mine. Shirayuki is a shrine maiden who has had a crush on Kinji since childhood. Although less temperamental than Aria, she too is guilty of losing her cool whenever some harlot tries to snatch Kinji away from her grasp. She literally has a fiery temper given how, in addition to being a skilled swordswoman, she has been blessed with the power of pyro kinesis. Riko is my favorite of the trio. She's a manipulative cock tease who has a thing for cosplay... what's not to like?
The collection's thirteen episodes can be roughly broken down into three story arcs. Things kick off with Aria and Kinji teaming up to track down the identity of the mysterious Butei Killer, who is guilty of attacking students with machine guns mounted on remote controlled vehicles. The next adventure has our heroes employed as bodyguards for Shirayuki who has become the latest target for a serial kidnapper known as Durandal. Things then wrap up with an undercover mission that sees Aria and Kinji adopt the role of maid and butler to infiltrate a mansion, with the aims of nabbing a stolen rosary that is being stored there. Episode thirteen is a bonus OVA were the cast head off to a hot springs for training and obligatory fan service. Although there's a side story, about a creepy kid haunting the lodgings the group is staying at, the focus is definitely on treating viewers to nude shots of the girls as they spend time at the bathhouse.
Overall Aria the Scarlet Ammo is a run of the mill anime show were stereotypical female characters squabble over one guy with some over the top action thrown in for good measure. Cartoons like this are a dime a dozen back in Japan and whether they are worth watching or not depends on how well they execute their unambitious ideas. Thankfully Aria avoids becoming another uninspired offering, full of annoying clichés, thanks to some decent gunfights and cute interactions between the characters.
Although devoid of original ideas, I do have to give the creators some credit for finding a way of getting the harem moments to factor into the combat via Kinji's hysteria mode. Whenever he becomes aroused Kinji transforms from a regular bloke into a suave badass who is unstoppable in combat. It's funny to see at first, although it kills the tension as no matter how dicey things get you know the heroines can get out of a tight spot just by rubbing their cleavage in Kinji's face. Another interesting idea the show utilizes is the premise that the female cast are all descendant from famous historical figures. It's a neat idea, although sadly it isn't explored much beyond the main villain (a genetic researcher named Vlad) having a passing interest in harvesting their DNA.
Despite lacking depth I found Aria to be an enjoyable watch in a turn off your brain and appreciate the action sort of way. If you enjoy shows like Cat Planet Cuties, Shakugan no Shana or Is This a Zombie this should be right up your alley. Bite the "bullet" and give Aria the Scarlet Ammo a go.