Aria the Scarlet Ammo is a blend of action, romance, comedy and detective style anime that encapsulates the viewer with the premise of Sherlock Holmes’s great granddaughter, searching for a partner in order to go on a crusade to capture the criminals that have framed her mom for their crimes.
The anime is a clever parody of a Western mystery thriller with a “shounen” perspective.
Shounen is a manga category that targets young male readers, often exploiting many poor stereotypes of immaturity and crude affinity for sensual material. There have been many shounen anime that have their male protagonist run from sensual situations like a plague for comedic reasons and made their main male “allergic” to the women in his life due to past psychological trauma or general social uselessness.
Kinji, partner of Aria the Scarlet and anime protagonist, follows this trite basis for a shounen male lead by having a genetic abnormality similar to a duel personality, called Hysteria Savant Syndrome (HSS). HSS is a hero complex that specifies its altruistic behavior toward the female gender or a feminine character in general and serves as the main source of Kinji’s personal conflict.
When HSS is activated, there is an increase in deductive faculties and a decrease in self-censorship toward certain characteristics such as confidence, charisma and chivalry. The cognitive dissonance between these two personas of Kinji ensures an aversion to the company of women and hatred toward situations that require the skills of HSS.
Kinji, is thrown deeper into a world he has been trying to escape since his brother’s tragic death. He struggles to keep his life from falling into chaos as he transforms from a regular guy with reservations but on an adventure, into a charismatic super sleuth..
Beginning with a sarcastic commentary on the basic premise of many different shounen manga and anime, Aria the Scarlet Ammo follows the same conventions it criticizes. It does not deliver the more sophisticated narrative it hopes to, although the entertainment value remains relatively high, mostly due to its comedic portrayals of various situations and its lovely action sequences.
Aria the Scarlet Ammo introduces an occupational section between police and a freelancing specialized super-agent called butei (pronounced bu-tay). The induction of the viewer into the world of butei is paralleled with the orientation of first year students.
This parallel is used as a vehicle to weave the exposition into the narrative. Creative yet choppy, the switching between scenes of a bike chase and the Tokyo Butei High orientation does help to pick up speed and incite a feeling of suspense in the viewer.
The cast of characters are stereotypical at best, and there are numerous love interests, as per normal in shounen. Kinji follows a good section of shounen conventions with his inability to communicate and denseness toward women, a stereotype established in the 90s anime, Muyo Tenchi.
Following the pre-established formula, the two main love interests are a traditional and an unconventional tsundere (pronounced t-sun-de-ray). Traditionally, tsundere, describes a proper lady with impulsive tendencies toward unconventional behavior. It later evolved into a term that described a person who had a personality polarization when around his or her lover interest.
These definitions describe Shiriyuki and Aria. Shiriyuki embodies a traditional Japanese woman due to her childhood taking place within the confines of a Shinto shrine, but she also has possessive tendencies when dealing with Kinji and becomes very violent when she feels romantically threatened.
In contrast, Aria is a very independent and naturally becomes violent as a defense mechanism, but around Kinji, she can be quite submissive and girly.
One thing Aria the Scarlet Ammo does well is comedic timing. The anime humorously exploits morbid themes, pokes fun at emotional situations and gives the audience a dose of slapstick humor, mostly at the expense of Kinji.
The anime utilizes music in an excellent and creative way. Due to definition of the term “aria,” many of the tracks incorporate operatic vocal sequences with an array of classical and non-classical instruments.
Surprisingly, these sounds do not create a complete cacophony but a rather cohesive piece as each aspect weaves in and out between the consistent Japanese pop music (J-pop) voice of May Nakabayashi (stage name: May’n). The strains of piano and violin integrated into album make the random pieces of classic rock, rock ‘n’ roll, and techno-pop more acceptable.
Aria the Scarlet Ammo has well-choreographed fight scenes that vary between a conglomeration of gun and sword fights. In the first episode, it utilizes of computer generated imagery (CGI) and “bullet time,” with clunky transition but well placed in the context of the fight. Thankfully, this is scarce and better integrated farther in the series.
Dubbed by FUNIMATION, Todd Haberkorn voices Kinji in the English version, and brings a lot of range and depth to the role, which is needed as Kinji has a duel personality. His voicing of uncanny heroes is well-known in many roles as Natsu of Fairytail, Allen Walker in D.Gray-men and Ling Yao in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
FUNIMATION dubs this better than the source material by creating many quotable lines, such as Aria’s “I’ll pump you full of holes!” with it scene specific variations. Nothing is notably lost in translation and the flaps work well.
As for cultural references, few passing scenes about Shiriyuki’s monastery have glossed over explanations on the traditions and rules, but they are not prominent within the context of the narrative.
In this 12 episode series, suspense of belief is very hard to be maintained, especially after supernatural aspect is introduced. After several episodes of bombs, hijackings and remote controlled machines with guns mounted on them, the viewer must stomach hair-based telekinesis, pyro- and cyrokinesis through swords and power-enhancing rosaries.
Aria the Scarlet Ammo does a good opened ended anime ending and is a palate wetter for the manga as it is still an ongoing manga. It does not have a lot of literary and analytical high points, but it can be highly entertaining for the right audiences.
As bit more of personal guilty pleasure, I find it highly entertaining for a petite girl with pink hair pull out guns and shoot nearly everything in sight in a fit of rage, but everyone not will find something to latch on to.
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By Kimberly Joy Ward