Another day, another show based in a magical academy. Thankfully though this school is geared towards straight-up brawling which makes it a little different and far less nebulous than others have been in recent seasons. Needless to say though, it’s still going to be hard to stand out from the crowd. Can Absolute Duo break through convention and be an absolute success?
Enter Toru, a brand new student at Kouryou Academy, a place of learning which seems to borrow its architecture from all corners of the world. That’s not the only thing that this show borrows from other sources; most of the plot is from something that most audience members will have seen before. Toru’s quirk is that he is considered an “Irregular” because his soul-based weapon or Blade is a shield whereas the typical Blade is an offensive weapon which varies depending on the user’s soul. This doesn’t mean he is a weakling, he can channel his spirit energy into a powerful not-Falcon Punch. This anomaly attracts the attention to the standard child prodigy from another land with silver hair and innocent outlook on life, Julie Sigtuna. In typical harem anime fashion, these two are placed together as partners at the academy, called Duos. Each Duo fights together against the rest of their class in battles which are scattered throughout the campus. As we go forward into the story though, it’s clear that the origins of the Blades aren’t as clean-cut as they seem. What seem like spiritual weapons are actually psychosomatic tools, meaning if you want to cause actual harm, you channel that thought into your tool and it is imbued with it; not that that the students are told that at first. Shame that this nugget of intrigue is almost lost within the sea of mediocrity.
Absolute Duo to me seems like a show run by committee who have watched tons of harem anime and know what will sell discs and books. This anime was based on a light novel written by Takumi Hiiragiboshi and the results add to my notion that most light novels these days tend to get shoddy or sub-par adaptations. Hiiragoboshi and the FIVE producers of this adaptation shoehorned as many cliches as physically possible into a twenty minute magical academy formula. You have the stoic leading lady with the supreme skills [Julie], the unusual main character with a tragic past [Toru], the serious one [Tachibana], the one who’s well-endowed and self-deprecating [Hotaka] and the overly peppy teacher [Tsukimi] who wears rabbit ears and has a really forced cutesy voice and patronising demeanour clearly instilled to titillate but thankfully is rebuffed by the rest of her class as weird. That being said, just because this is generic doesn’t mean it’s bad; it just means it fails to inspire. What it does do is produce a show which is of decent quality. The cliches at play are done with a modicum of flair and style. The animation is alright and harks back to Infinite Stratos in look and feel [which makes sense as both shows are animated by the same studio, 8-bit].
All this predictability is solidified with a short flashforward [like in World Break this season] of Toru and Julie fighting each other, which implies that the intrigue that Julie had for Tory turns from mild curiosity into a desire to destroy or so it seems. I tend to find flashforwards to be major spoilers of shows; sure it leaves you intrigued to find out what happens but if you’re watching this as it airs, then you have to wait for weeks and wade through a sea of average teenage angst and magical drama. That being said, none of the characters are terrible or unlikeable, they’re all good people with a desire to embrace their skills or sheer luck [Only one in a thousand people are compatible with this world’s wonder drug, Luciful, which empowers the host.]. What I don’t like is that the students are being made into soldiers pure and simple, it all seems rather morbid in a way. Not to mention that each student gets one hundred thousand yen a month [roughly eight hundred and fifty dollars] to play with with their ID/credit card because reasons. It all seems rather convenient and forced. It’s hard to say where this will go in the end, but based on first impressions and the show’s first arc, it’s going to be less than great.
Absolute Duo is a decent show which does enough to pass through most filters as a nonoffensive product. It ticks the boxes in what makes a regular magical harem production without pushing any boundaries but not aggravating the audience with anything glaringly poor or rage-inducing. It’s alright, middle-of-the-road, meh. Whatever you want to label it, it’s not bad. I don’t recommend it because there are better shows out there. If you do choose to watch it though, you’re not going to regret your choice but neither will you remember it after you finish it.
Absolute Duo is available to stream on Funimation.
RATING: CAUTION [Forgettable harem series with some flickers of flair]
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