Review: Absolute Duo


As you might have seen a couple of weeks ago I posted my first First Impressions article. Looking over the internet, it seems to be a pretty widely used format for overviewing the first few episodes of a show. However, the most important form of reviewing, in my mind at least, will be always be the season review – such as this one. Why? Because the start of a show can misleading, it’s often the case that a show with a bad beginning can improve in the latter episodes, or, as is the case with Absolute Duo, a promising show can make a turn for the worse.

Background and Plot

The premise is as follows: a group of selected school kids have been given the power to materialise the essence of their souls as weapons, called blazes. At the school, the students, known as exceeds, work together as duos, living and training together. The story focuses on a boy called Toore Kokonoe and his duo partner Julie (u-lee-a) Sigtuna as they navigate the beginning of their school lives.

Toore and one member of the harem.
Toore and one member of the harem.

The point of the story seems to be the development of Toore and his relationship with Julie. We get a problem with the plot after episode 3 when events are completely ignored in favour of starting new plot lines which only seem to bring more girls into Toore’s life for no other reason than this is harem show and it needs the main character to be loved by girls. The truth is I don’t mind a good harem based show, but Absolute Duo wasted what was looking like a deep and serious plot.

Characters

So the main characters in Absolute Duo are Toore and Julie, the principal duo partners of the story. As Toore’s blaze materialises as a shield it may not come as a surprise to you when you hear that throughout the story he realises that he doesn’t want revenge (as he initially thinks- for why we’ll never know…) but instead wants only to protect people (because that’s original).

A beach scene with 6 girls? So remind me why anime has a bad reputation in certain circles?
A beach scene with 6 girls? So remind me why anime has a bad reputation in certain circles?

Julie, on the other hand, wants revenge for her father who died many years ago and as far as I can tell even at the end of the show after lots of bad things have happened because she wants revenge, she still wants revenge. In a way that’s just as bad as falling for the cliché of now wanting to protect people.

In terms of other male characters we are (not surprisingly), pretty low on the ground. There is Toore’s childhood friend Aoi, who serves to point out that Toore isn’t that great after too much appreciation from the swathes of female characters involved. There is also the enemy Kevin (known mostly as only ‘K’). This is an enemy that seems to have deeper motive than simple destruction, but it is only alluded to very briefly in the last 5 minutes which leaves him feeling a bit shallow as a character.

'K' is a power crazed psychopath, shame we don't know anything else about him.
‘K’ is a power crazed psychopath, shame we don’t know anything else about him.

As for female characters in Toore’s harem we’ve got the following: Lillith, Miyabi, Tomoe, Imari and Tsukimi (the teacher – no really). I don’t really feel the need to go into each of them as essentially they all have the same motive for doing the things they do (even if those things do vary considerably). Perhaps the only female character worth talking about is the school headmistress, Sakuya. Refreshingly, she is clearly not involved in Toore’s harem, and has clear motives for running the academy in the way she does – namely, attaining Absolute Duo. Finding out more about her is one of the few reasons why you might want a sequel to Absolute Duo.

Sound, artwork and animation

In all three of these areas, Absolute Duo is decidedly average. The artwork isn’t bad, but it’s not great either: despite having fantastical weaponry involved, everything just looks a bit plain. At times in combat, the animation is good, but it would be a stretch to say that it was impressive. The sound and music is completely ordinary. The opening and endings don’t stand out at all and none of the insert soundtrack is even remotely memorable.

Given the quick release of the dub, you’d have to say overall it’s pretty good. That said, you’d do just as well to watch the English sub, if only because of the quality of the Japanese VA’s.

Favourite Episode

Episode 3: Avenger

Back when I started watching this show I was pretty impressed. The height of that was in episode 3, after we are thrown an early curve ball when there were only two main characters that we were supposed to care about and the plot was going in a really good direction. Shame it couldn’t carry on well from here.

If it kept going like this for the rest of the show it could have been really good...
If it kept going like this for the rest of the show it could have been really good…

Overall

The sad thing about Absolute Duo is that it was shaping up to be really good. The truth about the show however is that it was never going to be any better than it was. The nature of a harem show is that the characters aren’t going to be particularly well developed and actually most shows follow a similar pattern in terms of characters, so it’s not really something to criticise. The problem here is that these characters, who aren’t all that likeable, are introduced at different points for no other reason than to love Toore, thus sacrificing plot as a consequence. It’s not that I dislike the genre, but here is another example of a show trying to be something it isn’t, and it falls down because of it.

Absolute Duo

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