アブソリュート・デュオ 第1話 「焔牙/ブレイズ」
Absolute Duo #01. 「Blaze」
Source Material: Light novel series by Hiiragiboshi Takumi (柊 たくみ)
Director(s): Nakayama Atsushi (中山 敦史)
Series Composition: Kouno Takamitsu (鴻野 貴光)
Character Design: Sumimoto Etsuko (住本 悦子)
Music: Hirasawa Atsushi (平沢 敦士)
Absolute Duo is a fantasy harem light novel series written by Hiiragiboshi Takumi with illustrations by Asaba Yuu. The series first began serialization in Media Factory‘s MF Bunko J imprint in 2012, with seven volumes currently published. In April 2013, it received its first manga adaptation illustrated by Nariie Shinichirou in Media Factory‘s seinen magazine Monthly Comic Alive, with a second spin-off 4koma manga adaptation entitled Absolute Duo Tea Party illustrated by Oiwaka Touru following in October 2014. The anime adaptation by studio 8-Bit was announced at Media Factory‘s 2014 Summer School Festival.
The morning of his first day of enrollment at Koryo Academy, protagonist Kokonoe Tooru catches a glimpse of the silver-haired Julie Sigtuna and is instantly enamored. After Julie walks away, Tooru continues to stand dumbfounded until fellow new student Nagakura Imari notices him awestruck and approaches to introduce herself. The two walk to school together and proceed to sit next to each other at the orientation ceremony, which unexpectedly results in them being forced to battle each other to prove their true worthiness of enrolling in Koryo Academy. In a battlefield of dozens of students facing-off again their respective assigned opponents, Imari engages with Tooru with her single sword weapon, universally referred to as a “Blaze”, which in turn forces Tooru to reveal his own Blaze, an unorthodox defensive shield. In a counterattack, Tooru easily defeats Imari with a punch fortified with his soul manifestation, and the time-limit for all the battles expires soon-after. In the aftermath, Imari expresses no ill will against Tooru and says her solemn farewell, but not before urging Tooru to cease being so overly-sympathetic to his enemies in a new, savagely competitive world. Now officially enrolled at the academy, Tooru bumps into his old friend Tora in the hallway and then into the previously spotted Julie in the classroom. Julie, who had witnessed Tooru’s fight with Imari, is intrigued with the special move he used to secure his victory. Homeroom teacher Tsukimi Rito enters the classroom and proceeds to explain the special duo system that the curriculum employs, forcing pairs to work together on such a united front that they are even required to live with one another. Just as with the orientation process earlier, students are assigned their temporary partners simply by the person they are immediately seated next to; and coincidentally enough, for Tooru this equates to being partnered with Julie. In the evening, Tooru is at a loss of actions in regard to entering his shared dormitory for the first time and starting his cohabitation with Julie. He walks in on a pajama-fied Julie who had just finished taking a shower and who nonchalantly proceeds to make casual conversation with Tooru. Julie crawls up to Tooru, unaware of the accruing sexual tension, and asks him to teach her the move he used in the orientation screening, but he replies that it is a technique that puts too much strain on the body for a girl too handle. Julie is disappointed at the news of this but upon becoming tired, falls asleep on Tooru, who then tucks her into her bed.
In the condensed form of something such as a one-minute and fifteen-second opening sequence, a series like Absolute Duo may seem like it has a perfectly decent value of entertainment to offer―what with the fast-paced montage of busty, blade-wielding beauties, intense magical warfare, glorious sunrise/sunset backdrops, bromantic camaraderie, and a tone of fantastical tragedy―but getting into the bulk of the actual content reveals a pretty slow burn of a show. Absolute Duo‘s premiere is riddled with just the wrong amount of stereotypical introductions. From the opening scene of our male hero catching a fateful glimpse of his to-be maiden; to the subsequent scene of said male hero being forced into equally intimate and intimidating situations with said female counterpart; to, again, said hero being specially unspecial in that he possesses an irregular handicap that curbs his triumph amongst a populace of a selected, talented few (a handicap that will undoubtedly turn out to actually be an overpowering strength); to an underwhelming attempt at making the environment in which the whole story takes place seem like a callous dog-eat-dog world (but instead just makes the air of severity seem even more unbelievable and impractical); it’s all very typical, without any dash of soulful story-telling to justify the ungodly amount of genericism. The simple fact that the character designs of all male characters pale in comparison to that of even one female character (each and every Y chromosome here looks like he could just as well function as the character in the background of another, superior show) too is a creative lapse that speaks for just how harem-inclined the series will come to be in near episodes. Even with the established setting in this premiere, there’s not much to anticipate, with the persisting theme of “absolute duos” being especially unconvincing, the terminology for the series’s own mythos being corny to a fault, and the highlighted still-shots of individual characters in their battle-ready poses being just as cringe-worthy (not to mention how they are re-used from the opening sequence, or vice versa depending on how you want to interpret the production chronology). It’s actually a bit ironic how those accentuated portraits are of such quality (or lack thereof) given that relatively new animation studio 8-Bit does a much better job with pretty much every other part of the episode; while it’s no bang-up job, the visual presentation is definitely one of the best things the show has got going for it. Therefore, as strongly implied already, it’s really up to the narrative at-hand to prove itself as being up to snuff. Yet, Absolute Duo presents itself as a series that seems to know exactly what kind of story it wants to be, no matter how dried-out that kind may be. As it remains, the only pleasantries that I can sincerely hope for from Absolute Duo is the occasional visually-stimulating choreography and special effects of fight scenes and a potential candidate for fan-service of the year, as I’m strongly invested in not being invested with the rather weak premise of a warmed-over magical society and bland cast of characters introduced this week.