Premise: The story takes place in Tokyo Butei High School, a special school where armed detectives—"Butei"—are trained to use weapons. Kinji Tooyama is a second year student who has a special ability, but he keeps it a secret to maintain an ordinary, peaceful life. However, when he gets caught in a bombing on the way to school, he encounters H. Aria Kanzaki, the most powerful S-Rank Butei student in Assault Studies.
Where to begin? Aria the Scarlet Ammo (I'll refer to it by its translated name) is one of the worst anime shows I have ever seen. Scratch that, it's one of the worst shows, animated or not, that I've ever seen. This incredibly unrealistic, inaccurate, uninspired mess should be avoided at all costs by people who want to view animated works as an art form, rather than mere children's cartoons. Now, don't get me wrong; I'm fine with cartoons and products made for children (the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from 1989 happens to be one of my personal favorite shows ever), and I believe they have their place within media. If Aria the Scarlet Ammo was made for kids, than I wouldn't care about this show at all. However, when a show is clearly made for an older audience (in this case, teens) and fails as completely as this show did, then I start to have a lot of problems. While I couldn't bring myself to watch more than 4 episodes of this shlock, I did watch those four completely. The way I'm going to do this is fairly straightforward; First, I'll go over the four episodes and their many mistakes in sequential order, and then I'm going to go over the other problems in the show that were not limited to any specific episode.
Episode One: La Bambina (I have absolutely no idea where this title comes from or how it relates to the episode, but, whatever. I should mention now that since this is going to be at least a semi-detailed analysis of each episode, so there are going to be a bunch of spoilers. Of course, if you had actually wanted to watch this, I hope that I spoil it so much that you won't be able to after you read this review (not to pick a fight with you or anything, I'm doing it for your own good). Now that that's taken care of, on to the episode)
The episode starts out of nowhere with the narration of a youth by the name of Toyama Kinji. He's riding a bike, attempting to shake off this segway with an Uzi on top of it that seems to be chasing him.
|The segway. That dark blob on top is an Uzi submachine gun|
Moving on with the scene, Kinji is on his last legs and is about to give up when a girl by the name of Kanzaki Aria jumps from the roof of a nearby building, deploys a parachute from nowhere, destroys the Uzi segway with a few shots from her pistols, then knocks Kinji off his bike as it explodes. What's wrong with this? Well, reality, for one.
So, as I mentioned, Aria shoots the segway while in the air.
|The position she shoots from.|
|The position she should have shot from.|
|A standard .50 BMG anti-material rifle|
That's the opening scene, which is slightly expanded upon later on. After this, we get to sit through the opening credits (I'll admit, I liked the song), and then we see how these events happened. From here, the episode starts with Kinji waking up, talking about how he just wants a normal life.
|This is his "one and only wish" (his words)|
Anyway, Kinji's friend (well, actually, we don't know what their relation is. Another one of those things we're never told) Shirayuki comes over and the two have a 5-minute scene (in other words, around 1/5th of the episode) where they talk. While overall a very boring scene, we do find out two important things:
1. At some point in time, there was a "Butei killer." It's fairly obvious what the Butei killer did, but apparently the criminal was captured. However, there's worry that a copycat killer is loose. Sets up the scene that took place in the beginning.
2. The Butei organization is run by a bunch of stupid, militant, accident-craving idiots. Here's the proof:
|It's in the school rules.|
. . .Um, why? In fact, why are these high schoolers even allowed to carry weapons, let alone required to? I thought they were in training. I mean, why else are they going to school? Doesn't it make more sense to give them weapons after they've received the training on how, when, and where to use them? Furthermore, these are high schoolers. They're at the stage in life where their emotional instability, and the situations in which they'll have to control it, are both at their greatest. I bet there have already been like dozens of incidents where some kid who gets really easily provoked, or some guy who's been bullied for the past several months, go totally psycho and gun down the other students. Don't tell me it couldn't happen. Furthermore, the fact that they force these students to carry weapons enforces a very dangerous, suspicious, and trigger-happy mindset that no sane person would want to give to the next generation.
Now that we've established that the Butei organization is run on pot smoke ("Hey dude, let's like totally make all the students carry weapons. That definitely won't end badly or anything."), we can move on. So, after this bit of exposition, Kinji runs late for school and has to ride his bike there. The Uzi segway comes up behind him and tells him that there's a bomb on his bike, and if he slows down, gets off, or uses his cellphone, it will explode. Since he dies if he does anything, I don't really know why the Uzi thing was necessary. I mean, I guess the mastermind needed someway of telling Kinji. . .but it's not like this expensive, highly traceable tool was needed to do that. You were able to plant a bomb on his bike, couldn't you just find out his phone number and call him or something? It was just unnecessary. If he's gonna get blown up if he gets of or slows down, then there's already that threat. There's no way he can disarm a bomb under the seat while he's still riding, so it's just a waste of resources. Well, actually, I know why it was there. It was there because the audience is supposed to find a gun more threatening than a bomb. I'm guessing the creator thought this: "If a guy is just trying to not detonate a bomb, then the situation is just tense. If he's trying to not get shot, however, then it's also exciting." However, what the creator didn't realize was how wrong he/she was! Situations should either be tense or exciting. One of the two. When you try to force both in, you end up with a flawed sequence that doesn't make a lot of sense, just like this one. This is not to say that it's not possible for the two to coexist simultaneously, but when you can barely even string together an opening scene, such advanced techniques are beyond your ken.
Anyways, Kinji rides his bike a little more, then Aria jumps off a building and shoots the segway. Another thing; the inaccuracies with physics and the flagrant violations of the laws of motion that are in this scene are baffling. And I know that there are inaccuracies, because Aria parachutes past Kinji, turns around in the air, shoots the segway, and then somehow goes faster than Kinji and gets in front of him again, then does another mid-air turn and releases the parachute, crashing into Kinji. Keep in mind that Kinji was going fast enough that he not only needed to use his brakes, but that when he did they were blown out. I highly doubt that a parachute could:
a.) turn around in mid-air (in fact, I know they can't) or
b.) catch up to a bike going so fast, let alone overtake it. The only way this could happen is if the wind was strong enough and moved in just the right way, which, in an urban area with several buildings multiple stories high, is extremely unlikely. Furthermore, Aria had no way of knowing exactly how the wind would change, so. . .
Anyways, moving on (or at least trying to - it seems like every five seconds I have to stop and point out what the show is doing wrong), the explosion from the bomb on Kinji's bike blows-wait, why'd the bomb explode if the segway was destroyed? Did the mastermind just blow it up when the video feed from the segway was lost? Well, it can't just be 'cause Kinji jumped off the bike. The mastermind said that the bomb would explode if he got off the bike, but I always assumed that just worked because the mastermind would manually detonate it with a remote control. We know that a weight sensor or some automated detonator wouldn't work, because here Kinji's bottom is clearly shown to be above the seat:
|Any sensor in the seat would detonate the bomb at this point|
Anyways, the explosion from the mysteriously detonated bomb blows Kinji and Aria into this school supply room, even though they weren't on school grounds yet.
|This is about five seconds real time before the explosion takes place|
How does this happen? The two of them, after getting off the bike, rolled several times firmly on the ground (which should have broken some bones and probably a spine) before the explosion, which took place on the same elevation as them, went off. How on earth could they be close enough for the explosion to knock them off the highway, and not be killed by it? And if they weren't close enough to be killed by it, then how'd they reach this building? I mean, it's not like it's under the highway:
|No highway in background|
|No highway in background|
|The metal roof|
So after they wake up, we have a cliche comedy scene where she accuses him of molestation, but he didn't actually molest her, so it's supposed to be funny. Or something. Anyways, they're both still in the box when a bunch of the Uzi segways appear:
The Uzi things instantly start shooting without identifying any targets, and they pin the two characters down. Actually, they would have killed them both, but:
|Wait, how did you know those were bulletproof, anyways?|
First off, this bit of information is correct. I feel like I should give the show a cookie or something for finally being accurate. However, all seven (there are seven Uzi segways in this scene) Uzi's are firing fully automatic for at least 12 seconds. My problem? A 9mm Uzi has a typical magazine size of about 30 rounds. That means that the Uzi's ammo would be used up in about 3 seconds, one fourth of the time they were firing. Furthermore, the weapons fire several more times, also on fully-automatic. This also brings up the greatest disadvantage of these segway machines: they have no way of reloading the weapons. There are no extra magazines and no apparent reloading mechanisms on these machines, so after the weapon fires for about 3 seconds, it becomes useless. I can't imagine someone would be stupid enough to take all the time and money to mass-produce these remote controlled gun segways and not realize this most basic problem. Hey, how about instead of an Uzi you use a machine gun, with a belt feed so you can determine how much ammo it can have? Something like, say, this:
|M249 Machine Gun, seen here with a magazine capable of holding 200 rounds|
In addition to being more practical, this weapon also fires rounds that will easily pierce through bulletproof jumping blocks, or really almost anything, at least at such a close range. I mean, you had all the money to make all those expensive remote control segways, you probably could have gotten at least one of these. I mean really, think about it.
And then there's the problem of why these new Uzi segways were sent at all. I mean, the Butei killer was clearly just toying around with Kinji, trying to show him how inferior he was. Otherwise there wouldn't be such an easy to escape from mess with a bomb and conditions for it to blow up. The Killer would have just detonated the bomb as soon as Kinji got on the bike, or just blown him away with the Uzi. So why, after the killer doesn't know what happened to Kinji (because video feed was lost when Aria destroyed the segway), would they send 7 easily traceable and probably expensive tools to go and just shoot widly at him? The killer clearly wants to kill Kinji with a bit of class, so why do this? In fact, if the mastermind was really stupid enough to do it in the first place, why not just do the bomb on the bike thing again, after making sure Aria isn't waiting on any rooftops? Oh, I guess explosions can't kill people in this show. At least not when they're main characters. I don't know, I guess maybe the killer was angry that they had foiled the bomb plan, and just wanted them dead now? But if that's the case why send more of these bots that are useless after 3 seconds? Oh, right, for some reason they can never run out of ammo. And then there's the last problem: Why give away your position so easily? I mean, how long were Kinji and Aria out for? If it was for only a few minutes, then that would mean that the Butei killer, or at least the place in which the Uzi segways are kept, is only a few minutes away. You could probably use parking lot cameras or something to find where they came from. And even if the Butei killer wasn't there, you'd probably at least find some clues. But then, if Kinji and Aria weren't out for a few minutes, but were out for like, an hour, then why send them at all? For all the controller knows, they were only out for a few minutes, woke up, and walked away. Heck, for all the controller knows, they died in the explosion. it simply doesn't make sense. Now, there are a couple more problems with the scene, but I'm so tired with it that I can't really bring myself to talk about them. Besides, they're fairly minor, so I leave it at that. There one thing I'd like to note, however. Throughout the entire chase scene, and the scene in the supply building, there are no other people. This scene takes place around 8:00 in the morning. There are no cars on the road, no people are walking around or even in any of the many nearby buildings, and nobody is going "Woah, that kid's being chased by a segway with an Uzi on top! Oh dear lord, his bike just exploded! Geez, I need to call the police! I need to call an ambulance!" Sure thing.
Anyways, the scene ends in an abrupt way. Kinji gets turned on, his more competent side awakens, and he shoots a bullet down each of the Uzi's barrels in the space of a second. Now, before I move on, I'd like to go back to a scene that took place during the chase (and by "like," I actually mean "loathe"). In it, this white haired guy called Sayonaki is talking to the new Butei students, and I just want to use it to point out a few more problems with the Butei organization.
Wait, they were established to combat a rising crime rate? Wouldn't you normally increase police budget, pay for more police and better training, and threaten martial law to do this, rather than spend what easily cost millions of dollars on a school that trains high schoolers to shoot guns?
|He's talking about Butei|
|Why? They're solving your freakin' crime problem for you, aren't they?|
And lastly, Exhibit D:
|Worst teacher ever.|
1.) They seem to force students into joining, or stop them from leaving once they have joined, or at least make it difficult to leave (Kinji's predicament).
2.) They force high schooler's to carry guns and knives whenever they go somewhere, showing the highly militant and foolish side of the organization.
3.) They allow kids to enter this highly infamous organization that will cause them to be cast out by society, and when they enter tell them that they'll probably die.
Wow, I want to be a Butei when I grow up!
Okay, now to finish the episode. After the bomb incident, Kinji casually strolls into morning classes, rather than going to the school nurse or a hospital to treat his severely broken body. He evens apologizes for being late, as if everybody is expected to deal with bombs and submachine guns in the morning. He doesn't appear worried about why he was targeted, and he doesn't even seem to bother reporting the incident. In fact, Kinji seems decidedly nonchalant about the whole thing, not seeming to want to find who nearly took his life even a little. Then, in the scene that showcases that immaturity thing I've been talking about all this time, Aria boldly enters the room and hands Kinji his belt (which he gave to her earlier and it somehow helped her zip up her skirt). Everybody in the class room starts talking about how the two must have had sex because she had his belt (gossiping in front of both people involved and interrupting class to do so is clearly a sign of readiness to wield weapons and solve horrid crimes of death and violence). Aria, flustered, begins shooting up the entire class room, demanding that everyone shut up. This is obviously a case of emotional unpreparedness to own guns, but in the end, no one seems to care and Aria receives no apparent punishment. That's where everything of note in the episode ends. Finally.
Episode 2: Aria the Quadra
Oh lord, I can't believe I'm doing more of this. Fortunately, though, the second episode was less painful to watch. Why? Well, as much as I would like the reason to be because the show got better, it's more just because nothing really happened in this episode. While still bad, it's bad in a different way. Mostly, though, this episode is just characterized by great boredom, interspersed with some "comedy" here and there.
So, this episode begins with Aria going to Kinji's dorm room and telling him that she wants to partner up with him and make a Butei "party." They talk for a while, having a vaguely comedic scene, then the conversation ends with Aria deciding to stay at Kinji's dorm. Some stuff happens, then we get another scene with Sayonaki, the insensitive lecturer. In this scene, we find out that the Butei are split into various "classes," or specialties. Anyways, nothing we really care about yet. Then, Aria pressures Kinji to join her in the "Assault" class, something he doesn't want to do. Kinji takes a "find the cat" quest (yes, they're actually called quests), he and Aria have some more "funny" scenes, he finds the cat, whatever. Kinji goes to his annoying friend Riko and gets a big information file on Aria. In the following scene, we find out that Aria used to work as a Butei in London, and that her grandmother was English royalty, or something. Additionally, we find out that Kinji scored very highly on his entrance exam to the Butei school, thus implying that he's awesome at being a Butei. Kinji agrees to help Aria with one and only one quest in Assault, and the episode ends. Gee, how easy is that? Already done with the summary! Unfortunately, we have to linger on this episode a little longer. I said that this episode was bad, and I didn't mean that just because it was boring. You see, where the first episode focused on action, the second episode focused on character development. However, Aria the Scarlet Ammo gets off to the wrong start with the characters even at this early stage.
First we'll talk about the main character, Toyama Kinji. Kinji, in all honesty, is pretty cool up to this point. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he's the best thing about the show, until this episode. He's cool, mature, looks good, can use knives and guns, has a bunch of girls who are friends (Shirayuki & Riko, to mention a couple), he's smart, and he's got a unique trait (I'll talk about this later). Overall, pretty good material for a male protagonist in this kind of show. So where does he go wrong? Well, for some reason, the second episode tries to entirely destroy the character image the first episode built. In this episode, Kinji is led around by strangers like they had a ring in his nose, he shows his incompetence and lack of motivation, his quasi-perverted side shows up, and he is easily intimidated and persuaded.
|This is cool (in context, anyways)|
|This is not cool|
Episode 3: First Mission
Well, they did it. They managed to make an episode that combined the bad points of both previous episodes into one big mess. The only good thing about this episode is that it ends, but that still doesn't make up for the fact that it lasts for over 20 minutes. Here we go again. Oh boy.
The first 5 minutes of this episode (not counting the opening) are much like the entire second episode: wasted. We start with a bland scene that recaps what happened at the end of the last episode, another of these supposedly "funny" scenes with Riko and some random dudes, and Kinji and Aria go to a game center. They spend a minute and fifteen seconds on Aria failing to get a stuff cat in a crane game, which I guess is supposed to be another funny scene (I can't even begin to convey how loosely I use the term "funny" here), and the episode finally starts for real. Before I move on, though, these 5 minutes may sound like they were used to develop the characters, and indeed, we do learn a few things about Aria. I'll list them.
- The show tells us that the name "Aria" (well, it's not a real person's name, but. . .) refers to an opera piece that is sung solo (not exactly true, but close enough I don't care).
- Aria has had trouble making friends, due to her narcissistic personality (I personally think it's due to her shooting rampage at the end of the first episode, but. . .).
- Aria is supposed to be a naive, childish, sheltered girl, evidenced by the fact that she doesn't know what an arcade is. Furthermore, she goes from determined to angry to overjoyed in less than a minute (show time), because things weren't going her way, then she got something she wanted. Additionally, she even started playing with stuffed rabbits out of the populated street in a shameful manner totally unbefitting of a high schooler.
|The show may try to imply otherwise, but the reason he's blushing is that he's embarrassed to be seen with her.|
The next minute is spent showing that Kinji's watch was five minutes ahead of his alarm clock, so he adjusts his watch. Then the following morning, he wakes and goes to the bus stop five minutes early, only to find it departing without him. This is actually my favorite part of the episode, because it actually kinda made sense. His alarm clock was behind, so that's why he missed the bus in the first episode and had to ride his bike, right? Makes sense, since the Butei killer needed Kinji to miss the bus and ride his bike in order for the whole plan to work. Finally, a question answered about the unfathomable first episo -- wait. In the first episode, he looked at his watch to determine time, not his alarm clock (which, for some strange reason, is in his living room). Well, there goes that idea. The Butei killer's plan happened just through dumb luck! Just another "screw you, hopeful reviewer! There's no way we'd do something you might like!" from the show, I guess. Whatever, my hopes weren't that high in the first place.
So anyways, Kinji runs after the bus a little, but it's obviously too fast, so he stops and decides to walk to school (which, incidentally, he couldn't reach in over 4 minutes while speeding on his bike in the first episode). He's only been walking for a minute or two, though, when Aria (who I guess stole his cell phone number - gee, maybe the Butei killer should have done that, so the whole Uzi segway wasn't necessary) calls him and tells him that there's been a bus-jacking. It turns out to be on the bus that Kinji missed, and the Butei killer calls some random girl's cellphone and tells everyone that there's a bomb on the bus, that it'll explode if the bus slows down, and that the passenger's have to stay still. Then, all of a sudden, we see Aria and Kinji running down a hallway together:
Where is this? I would assume it's the school facility, since the hallway leads to a garage and they just take one of the cars with no hesitation whatsoever. The cars even all look the same:
This all leads me to believe that this is the Butei school. However, there's a problem (of course). How could Kinji possibly make it to the school in time? Even running, it would probably take like a full hour just to get to the school! The bus would be long gone! So what happened? Did Aria pick him up on his way? But if that's the case, why did they need to go get a car? Is this not the Butei school, and the two of them met up here? Is this like a secret storehouse thing they have in another part of the city? It certainly seems so when they drive out:
|This doesn't look like school|
We have two more problems with this. First off, was Aria the same distance away from the garage? She seems to arrive at the same time as Kinji, since they're running together. I mean, if she got there before him, why didn't she pick him up in a car on the way? And where was she when she called? She couldn't have been at school, because there obviously would have been at least one vehicle she could take and pick Kinji up with there. I would assume, though, that such a Butei prodigy (it was established in the second episode that she's super great at it, or something) wouldn't miss a day of school for no reason at all. So where was she, that she arrived at the garage at the same time as Kinji but didn't have access to a vehicle? The other problem with this is distance. You see, in the first episode, we learned that:
I assume that the dormitories are fairly close (let's say under 2 kilometers) to the school. Especially when taking into account the fact that everyone hates the Butei, this would make the most sense. The highjacked bus ends up going on Rainbow Bridge a little later in the episode, and this is only after Aria and Kinji have both caught up to it. My question: Why was the bus going so slow? It probably took Kinji and Aria at least a few minutes (let's say 6) to both run to the garage, and the bus was highjacked immediately after it took off. So, even if this bus was only going around 20 kilometers per hour, which is highly unlikely in a densely populated city with busy roads (oh wait, I forgot. No one is on the roads at 8:00 in the morning), there's still no way Aria and Kinji would be able to catch it. How do I know this? Well, if you look at the picture above, you can tell how much 2 kilometers is on the map by looking at the length of the Butei school. 20 kilometers an hour is 2 kilometers every 6 minutes. That means in the time it takes Kinji and Aria to get the garage, the bus has already gone a distance equal to the length of the school (assuming the bus was only going 20 kph). Thus, I once again pose my question: Why was the bus going so slow? To put this in perspective for users of the Imperial system, 20 kph (kilometers per hour) is equal to about 12.5 mph (miles per hour). Can you imagine a public transportation service moving that slow in anything but a jam? So, the bus had to be going slower than 12.5 miles per hour in order for Aria and Kinji to catch up with it. However, the bus is clearly going much faster than this, and we even see this:
|At least, it sure looks like a speedometer|
Moving on with the episode. The Butei on the bus all start looking for the bomb to defuse it, but the Butei killer doesn't want them to, so they get a weapon-vehicle sent to go shoot at them. However, the killer has learned from previous incidents, and this time, instead of an Uzi segway, an Uzi car is sent:
Fortunately for the Butei, though, the Butei killer still has yet to learn about the concept of a machine gun, and continues to use the impractical Uzi. You see, I could kind of understand it with the segways, because a machine gun would be too heavy for such a vehicle (although an alternative, such as a four-wheeled bot, could easily be found for such a weapon). Now that a car is being used, though, the Butei killer has no excuse to not to use an actually useful weapon.
In the following scenes, we are forced to repeatedly question not only the intelligence, but the motives, of the Butei killer. You see, we first see the Uzi car when the killer tells the Butei through the cellphone that they really should be staying still. The car (which somehow can steer and accelerate even though it doesn't have a driver? I guess it must be yet another remote control thing) pulls up alongside the bus and begins wildly shooting through it's side, where the Butei's heads were just a second ago:
|They clearly have to be ducking to avoid the shots|
|That's not how "bulletproof" stuff works|
|Yeah, a miniskirt's not gonna stop bullets|
|This, however, will stop certain pistol rounds|
You see, even armor like this can be penetrated by bullets, especially multiple bullets at close range. Additionally, being shot with a bullet, even when wearing body armor, hurts more than a little. It hurts a lot. You don't just shake it off. My point: Mutou (the sap a few pictures back complaining about bullets hurting) would probably be screaming with pain from the bullet that would obviously have punctured his uniform and gone through his arm. The bigger meaning of all this? That Uzi's are clearly not effective against the Butei (although reality says otherwise). I'll return to both points of body armor and the Butei Killer's motivation later, but for now, on with the episode.
So anyways, as Aria and Kinji are driving after the bus, she says this to him:
|. . .What?|
Anyways, Aria and Kinji are driving after the bus, and there's short conversation between the two where Aria avoids questions about how she knows things about the killer. Then we skip back to the bus, where these three muscleheads try to shoot the Uzi car when they go into a tunnel. They fail miserably, so we can find out that the Uzi was using a heat sensing camera to look at them all, so it could see them all. Then, the Uzi starts wildly shooting the bus:
|Still not bulletproof|
Then we see that the Butei killer has performed is next idiotic action: killing (or at least incapacitating) the bus driver:
Doing this accomplished nothing for the Butei killer. It's revealed that the Butei killer was leading the bus to Rainbow Bridge, a densely populated area (moreso than the city?), where the bus would explode. So why would he allow the bus driver to be shot, massively increasing the chances of a crash (which would result in a premature explosion)? Then, the Butei killer the next stupidest possible thing and attempts to shoot the Butei who took the wheel and was preventing that situation (a crash) that the Butei killer shouldn't have wanted. The Butei at the wheel is only stopped by Aria shooting the Uzi once with her pistol, destroying it:
Of course, so things would look cool, Aria did this leaning out from the car window, even though shooting through the windshield would have given her a much better shot. Anyways, Aria then shoots out one of the car's tires, causing it to crash, then she and Kinji pull up alongside the bus. Then, Aria and Kinji decide to jump on the bus and diffuse the bomb, because:
What injured? Everyone is either fine because they've got the impervious vests on, or dead because they were shot in the unprotected head. So what injured are you talking about? And, for that matter, how do you know whether or not there were injured in the first place? For all you know, they all ducked when the Uzi fired and all the bullets all bounced off the unpenetrable vests. So why did you say that? Ah, whatever. Anyways, because they're both trying to jump on the bus, they need the car to be steady, so they did this:
|I'm not even gonna ask where they found time for this|
So then we're told that the bus is running out of gas:
This is quite possibly the stupidest piece of plot convenience Aria the Scarlet Ammo has pulled yet. Why would a public transportation vehicle be so close to empty? It's not like the bus had been driving that long or far, or Aria and Kinji wouldn't have caught up to it. So it would have had to have started driving near empty. I get the feeling that public buses probably fill up before they head out, at least if they're that close to empty. This is only done so that the bus will run out of gas, slow down, and the bomb will detonate. So what, did the Butei killer secretly siphon gas out of their tank so that they'd run out of gas? And the driver didn't notice this?
A few seconds later, Aria finds the bomb and reveals that it is about 3,500 square centimeters of plastic explosive (for those of you unfamiliar with this kind of stuff, that's a lot of plastic explosive). At this point in time, I would like to point out the impracticality of Aria's hair. Aria has two five foot long pony-tails on either side of her head. You know the style, it's the. . .the. . .I forget what it's called, but you know what I'm talking about. My problem with this, besides everything else, is this: Aria's hair would get caught under the tires and either rip it off, or pull her down, running her over and wounding/killing her horribly:
|Just give it a few more seconds. . .|
Then, Kinji is told by some dope that the killer is probably watching them now from some. . .thing. Then the dope says that before they get attacked again (which he knows is gonna happen, for some reason), they've got to dismantle the "sensor or the equipment that transmits it's signals." Okay.
a.) How do you know about this thing?
b.) How do you know about this thing?
c.) How do you know about this thing?
d.) What kind of sensor that transmits signals lets you see people?
After rewatching this scene a couple of times (it was agonizing), I think that this sensor is supposed to be the thing that let's the Uzi camera detect the Butei's body heat, allowing it to target them directly (even though the Butei killer shouldn't want to just shoot them). First off, this is not how thermal imaging works. Thermal imaging, especially when used with guns, generally refers to a single optic component that detects and displays heat. You don't need a sensor on the object to see the heat inside it. So then, Kinji goes on the roof and finds this sensor, and throws it off the bus. Then, another Uzi car comes up behind the bus. First off, where did this come from? Did the Butei killer send it out after the first one got destroyed? But then how did it catch up so fast? And if it wasn't sent after the first one was destroyed, why didn't it get sent out at the same time as the other one, so they could both attack the bus at the same time? You could put one in front, one behind, and force it to go a certain speed, escorting it to the place you want to blow it up. In fact, I don't know why the Butei killer didn't do this. Oh, right. Plot convenience. I forgot. Ah, whatever. So then the Uzi car sees Kinji's body heat and shoots at him. Wait, how did it see his body heat if Kinji got rid of the sensor? Was the Uzi car using actual thermal imaging technology? But wait, if it doesn't need the sensor to see people's heat, what did the sensor Kinji destroyed do? And it's not like the first Uzi car needed the sensor, but the second one didn't. I mean, their body heat showed up the same way with both of them, so I assume they were using the same technology. So what did the sensor Kinji got rid of do? What signals was it transmitting? Well? Oh right, plot convenience to get Kinji on the top of the bus.
So the Uzi car shoots at Kinji, and Aria, who was hanging down at the bottom of the bus, gets on the roof, blocks the two shots, and shoots out the Uzi car's tire. Before anything else, I'd like to point out that there's no way Aria could shoot the tire from her position:
As you can see, in order for Aria to shoot out the tire, she would have to have fired a shot that went through the left headlight and wheel well. The left headlight is quite clearly intact, and there is almost no way a pistol round could go pierce that much metal anyways. So how did she hit it? Did she just shoot the road and hope the the bullet would ricochet into and pierce through the tire? Is that what happened? Gee, that's not unlikely or anything.
However, the biggest grievance I have with this section is that this whole time, we are being told that the uniforms are bulletproof and can't be pierced through by bullets. However:
|They actually went through her arm and grazed her forehead, too|
So anyways, then the bus leaves the tunnel it was in and some blue haired girl with a sniper rifle comes by on a helicopter, and then she shoots the bomb off the bus (through the many metal rails) and into the water, where it explodes. Now I don't even really care anymore, so I'm not going to bother with why this didn't work. I'm just not up for it. I feel dead inside. Give me a break.
Fine, I'll finish the rest of the episode. So then Kinji goes and visits Aria in the hospital, where she gets angry at him, for something, and he leaves. I guess this whole scene, and stuff from previous episodes, are all trying to hint that Aria has some dark past with the Butei killer and that she's some kind of sad, pitiable character we're supposed to feel bad for, or something. But the fact is, she's obnoxious, unlikable, childish, has stupid hair, and is an overall confoundingly bad character (I'll fully explore this at the end, but you know already know it's true by now). Quite simply, we don't care about Aria's past, because we don't know it yet, and all we've seen of her so far is her childish behavior and violent personality. In fact, I think a number of viewers will actually feel kind of glad that for some reason, her uniform was the only one that doesn't blocked bullets. Anyways, that's it for this episode. Now for the finale.
Episode 4: Butei Killer (Little known fact: This episode's other title is: F*** You, Audience!)
Ah, the fourth episode. Or, as I call it, Hell. This episode tops everything before it, and is where my disgust with this Aria the Scarlet Ammo was driven so high that I was forced to stop watching the show. Here we go.
The fourth episode starts with Kinji dreaming about the past, specifically about the incident in which his older brother, who was also a Butei, died. So, there was this passenger cruise ship that he (Kinji's brother) was on, and that ship blew up. Apparently, the explosions started around Kinji's brother, so everyone assumed he was the reason the ship blew up. Then, something stupid happens (what a surprise):
|This is said to Kinji at what appears to be his brother's funeral|
a.) Since when are poeple's family members held accountable for their actions?
b.) Since when are the media allowed to storm funerals, or, even if it wasn't his brother's funeral, private buildings and begin questioning family members?
c.) Why on earth would the media blame a specific Butei for saving people, even if he was the target of the explosions? Does the media blame wars on soldiers? No, it blames it on political leaders. The same thing would happen here; Kinji's brother would be free of media attention, maybe even be commended for getting everyone else out, and the government members that support the Butei and the leaders of the organization itself would be targeted by media flak.
d.) Why did the Butei organization not take advantage of this story and try to play it up? They could paint a picture of Kinji's brother being a hero, selflessly rescuing civilians, in an attempt to improve their public image. I mean, they're already viewed as like a terrorist organization by the public, they should take every chance they get. I don't know, maybe they did this, but just failed miserably. Somehow. Even though every Butei we see in the show is shown to be extremely competent at their specialty, and could probably manipulate the facts perfectly to make Kinji's brother a national hero.
Sigh. So that's the first 10 seconds of the episode. Then, as he's walking along, Kinji spies Aria. For no reason whatsoever, he decides to follow her, and she ends up going to the police station. Before she enters, though, she notices Kinji, and, also for no reason at all, decides to let him tag along on what ends up being an extremely personal and private matter. Even though the last time they met, they left each other on quite awful terms. Anyways, they enter the police station and meet Aria's mother in what is one of the most bland and overplayed scenes yet. So, they get to talking, and it's revealed that the Butei killer framed Aria's mother and somehow got her a sentence of 864 years. So then - Wait, WHAT?! 864 years?! She was framed for a crime that got her a sentence of 864 years, and she's just being kept in the local police station, and not a maximum security prison?! Yeah, right. So first off, keep in mind that instead of 864 years, they'd just give her a "life" sentence. Second off, to be able to pull off such a horrible crime (whatever it was, we haven't been told yet), you'd probably need to be very skilled at a certain skill set, which I doubt Aria's mother was. You see, it's really pretty dang hard to frame someone perfectly, and when you have the police + Aria, a super skilled Butei (remember, Butei means detective), + the full weight of an English royal family (remember, Aria's grandmother is royalty), chances are, a few flaws are going to pop up with whatever the framing plan was. Fortunately (for me), though, they don't say what the crime was or how she was framed for it. This is fortunate because now I don't have to pick apart the many, many flaws and inconsistencies that would surely pop up if this show tried to tell such a story.
Anyways, the scene with the mom. There are a few other things we learn in this scene. Aria has some ability she's inherited (we are not yet told what it is), and in order to use it, she needs a great partner who understands her. She needs this in order to fight a great foe (in this case, the Butei killer). Then as Aria's mother is forced to leave the room (because visiting time is up), she says that it's too early for Aria to challenge the "E.U." To the best of my knowledge, E.U. stands for the European Union, a financial coalition whose best known achievement is probably the introduction of the Euro. Of course, this E.U. appears to be some sort of shadowy terrorist organization, so I assume they're not the same. Now, one last thing before I leave this scene. Remember how I said this scene was overplayed? Of course you do. Aria's mother is literally dragged out of the room by the policemen, because she was going a little over the visiting time. I guess this is supposed to capture the image of a young girl having her family torn away from her, or something, but I couldn't bring myself to care even a little bit. For one, Aria's mom shouldn't have even been at the local police station, so the whole scene lacks reality. Second, police, while they are always shown to be this way in TV shows, probably wouldn't drag a woman out of a visiting room while she's talking to her daughter. They would probably tell her reasonably that visiting time is up, and if she didn't listen, probably a little more sternly and urgently. They'd probably only use force as a last result. Seeing policemen displayed as thugs has always bothered me. I mean, I'm fine with seeing corrupt policemen act this way, but for normal police officers to act like cowards, brutes, regular abusers of power, etc. is just insulting to real policemen. While Aria the Scarlet Ammo didn't go as far as others before it have, it was headed in that direction, and the whole thought of a professionally trained police force being inferior at their jobs to a bunch of high schoolers is pretty dumb. In all honesty, the whole "we're just a poor mother and daughter who society has ripped apart" theme did not reach me at all, and the way the scene tried to convince you of it just felt. . .manipulative.
Just one more question. Why was the mom, regardless of not being held in a maximum security prison, being held in Japan? Considering that Aria grew up in London (we learned this in episode two), it's more than likely that her mother moved to England with her father and became a naturalized or dual citizen. Furthermore, she probably stayed in England, so why is she in Japan? Did the crime she was framed for take place in England? Well, probably not, because Kinji's able to find a whole bunch of Japanese articles on the incident, probably more than what would be written on it if it took place outside of Japan. So did she live in Japan? Probably not, because again, Aria grew up in London. I would imagine that her mother would stay and raise her. So was her mother framed while she was visiting her family in Japan for like a week? Yeah, a crime would probably be pretty hard to pin on her if that was the case. Then again, it's actually pretty possible that Aria's mother lived in Japan and left Aria to grow up alone, because I can't imagine that any sane parent would let their child join the universally hated Butei organization at the age of 14 (another tidbit we picked up in episode two, in case you were wondering).
Anyways, moving on. Kinji goes and does little research on the incident with Aria's mother (and the audience gets to know nothing about it while or after he does), then finds out from the dopeface from episode 3 that Aria has chartered a flight back to London, even though she just swore to catch the Butei killer, who has lately only been active in Japan. The whole scene with her mother pretty much revolved around the fact that Aria was trying to catch the killer to prove her mom's innocence, and that apparently she was running out of time to do so. So why's she going back to London? Oh, right. Plot convenience, our old "friend." So then Kinji goes over to his lady friend Riko's place, where she starts trying to awkwardly (not clumsily, mind you, but awkwardly) seduce him as she reveals that it was the Butei killer who killed his brother. Kinji enters his super competent mode and figures something out, then dashes off after Aria.
Before I go any further, I figure this is as good a time as any to talk about Kinji's "alternate mode." I've been avoiding this for a while, 'cause, you know, it's stupid. But, it needs to be mentioned at some point, so here goes. Toyama Kinji, our protagonist, has a "special ability" called "Hysteria Savant Mode," which allows him to pretty much do anything and be cool while he does it. Doesn't sound to bad, right? Totally out of place with the rest of the show (the not being bad part). Well, don't worry, because the "mode" is activated whenever Kinji gets turned on. No no, not whenever his blood pressure rises or something, only when he gets turned on (because there are plenty of incidents where his blood pressure would rise greatly, but the mode doesn't turn on). This should be all you need to know about the show to determine whether or not you want to watch it, really. But I digress. Anyways, Riko arouses Kinji, who then realizes somehow that Aria's plane is the next target of the Butei killer, and rushes after her. Kinji runs into the airport just as "Hysteria mode" is wearing off, and starts flashing his Butei badge everywhere, which lets him get through every security point. Gee, what if a terrorist killed a Butei, took his ID, and decided to highjack a plane? Oh, well, if he said he was a Butei, I guess airport security wouldn't even bother checking his ID, just like they did with Kinji. Gosh, it's a good thing that hasn't happened. Additionally, just for being a Butei, Kinji even gets to do this:
Apparently, however, the pilot already started the take off and it couldn't be aborted. So, Kinji, who was in a massive hurry to get here, suddenly loses all sense of urgency and decides to go meet Aria. Rather than explaining that he's figured out the Butei killer is on this plane to her immediately, they instead calmly buckle up as the plane takes off. Well, Kinji does start to tell her, but she interrupts him and then he decides it's a better idea to buckle their seatbelts. Then, when she asks why he's here, instead of him telling her right away, he plays a childish game of mimicry, saying the words she did when she forced her way into his apartment. Then he starts to explain again, Aria interrupts him again, and he once again stops caring about informing her. Then, we have another of those oh-so-missed "funny" sequences, where Aria is scared of lightning and Kinji makes numerous scathing remarks about how she needs to be careful she doesn't wet herself. The humor! Oh, and on a side note: why would the plane take off if it was going to run into a thunderstorm mere minutes after it takes off? They obviously would have known about the storm, and I can't think of a pilot or controller who would ever think that taking off in a thunderstorm is okay. I mean, flying through one, maybe. Taking off in one, no way. Yes, that's right, I said taking off in one, because the thunder starts almost as soon as they get off the runway. That means that the plane is still trying to gain altitude while flying through a thunderstorm. (I include gaining altitude as part of the take off process.)
Then all of a sudden, we hear two gunshots and the scrambled voice of the Butei killer saying he's highjacked the plain. Kinji and Aria go the bar and oh my gosh! They find that the Butei killer is the flight attendant:
|The attendant! Of course!|
|No way!. . .Who are you again?|
- Aria and Riko's real last names are "Holmes" and "Lupin" in some kind of hackneyed, screwed-up reference to classic 19th and early 20th century literature. I would assume that most of you understand the Sherlock Holmes reference, but Lupin is a little more obscure in America, so for those of you who thought this was reference to the Lupin III anime, consider yourself wrong. Arsene Lupin was a fictional "gentleman thief" created by Maurice Leblanc, a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who, as you surely know, wrote the Sherlock Holmes books). Although Lupin was first introduced in the early 20th century (1905 or so), as opposed to Holmes, who first appeared in the late 19th century (around 1890), Lupin's popularity lasted nearly as long. For those of you curious, the titular character from the Lupin III anime was based of Leblanc's character. Now with that background out of the way, we can get back to this horrid reference. You see, Aria the Scarlet Ammo takes the "homage" to these classic series way too far. Riko actually says that Arsene Lupin was her great grandfather, and that Aria's equivalent ancestor was Sherlock Holmes. This is a little something I like to call "insulting," but I'll fully explain this in a moment. Next.
- Riko has joined the mysterious E.U. This is somehow supposed to afford her power.
- Riko reveals that she was Kinji's brother's lover, despite the fact that they had to have had at least like a 4 year age difference. But, since when does age matter in highschool relationships, right?
- Riko reveals that she was the one who set Kinji's alarm clock back, just like I thought. But the original problem remains; how'd she make sure he was late in the first episode? And furthermore, she reveals in a moment that she was the one who made Kinji and Aria meet. How did she do this? Did she kidnap Aria and stick her with a parachute on the roof of that building? How could she have possibly arranged for Aria's presence?
- Riko answers the whole electromagnetic waves thing. She was using them intentionally so that they'd be easily traceable (which still doesn't explain why other Butei couldn't figure them out). See, I always assumed that Riko was using, like, radio waves or something to control the Uzi bots, but I guess she was actually using electromagnetic waves. But then, Aria says in the third episode that the electromagnetic waves are the unique kind that the Butei killer used. How does she know it's Riko (the Butei killer) if Riko's only used them once before (in the incident with Kinji)? Did Aria "catch" the electromagnetic waves being used in the first episode? But then, how did Aria know that Riko hadn't decided to use a different "spectrum" of waves for the second incident? How did she know that it wasn't just some Butei on the bus who was experimenting with their electromagnetic wave generator they made for their class project? Had there been other Butei killer incidents in the recent past that we weren't told about? So I guess what I meant by "Riko answers the whole electromagnetic waves thing" I actually meant "Riko raises more questions than she answers."
- Riko reveals her whole driving purpose for being a Butei killer (supposedly). So, apparently, She's called "the fourth" by everyone who knows her bloodline (because she's the fourth descendant of Lupin), and she decides that because of this they don't see her as anything more than a number. The only way she can be known for who she is (even though it's only her family and servants that call her "the fourth") is by surpassing the original Lupin. Rather than attempting to do this by, I don't know, stealing stuff, Riko decides the only way she can do this is by defeating Aria in battle, because:
|Right. . .|
|Wait, Kinji counts as an "excellent partner" now?|
|She's talking to Kinji.|
Next up, we have what is possibly the worst gun fight in anime history.
|This is silly, not cool|
- Bulletproof still doesn't mean that it will just stop bullets under any condition. Both of these characters would be quite dead after the first shot. Furthermore, if the uniforms are bulletproof, why don't you just aim at the unprotected head/legs? What, are you telling me that those stockings are bulletproof too? Yeah, not likely.
- This is just not true:
- If you're going to do something, show, at least do it consistently.
|Why is it that the bulletproof vests only work some of the time for Aria? Hmm, consistency of a bad kind?!|
- Riko at the end.
Wrap-Up: The Various Mistakes and Problems:
So here it is, the much promised wrap-up. Honestly, there's not a whole lot more left to say about this show, but I'll do my best.
The first and greatest overarching problem with Aria the Scarlet Ammo is of course its lack of reality. You see, Aria the Scarlet Ammo (ah, that's too long, I'm switching back to the untranslated name) tries to be a cool show with guns, explosions, bombs, and action. It really does try. However, it fails so miserably at reality that no matter how hard it tries, it'll never be cool. You see, it's reality that let's the audience connect with and care about the events onscreen. If something is supposed to be set in a real or near real world, we have certain expectations. Even in fantasy shows, we still expect character's to have a base level of intelligence and plots to have at least a little continuity and realism. Hidan No Aria simply doesn't have this, and that's one of the biggest reasons it's bad. You remember how, in the introduction, I talked about how I liked simple cartoons? See, I'd be fine with the unrealities and several instances of plot convenience in this show, if it were like a Saturday morning cartoon show, where the police all had laser guns and everyone ever always survives vehicle crashes. But the grim truth is that it is not; Hidan No Aria is marketed at dudes in their mid-teens who like action and girls. In a way, it almost targets the same audience that James Bond does, although it certainly does it in a more "anime-esque" way. Huh? You still think this show is for kids? Right, that why it has at least a dozen skirt focus shots.
And erotic eyecatches:
And various other erotic happenings, including awkward straddling:
And blood (I won't post any pictures, mostly 'cause I'm tired of taking screencaps).
Still think this was meant for kids? Yeah, I thought so. This is why the unrealities posed such a problem; because they were in a show who's audience (slightly older teens) would (and should) expect a show free of such problems. Hidan No Aria feels like something that was made after the first draft, and they decided to throw some casual, minor nudity in there as a draw for adolescent males. It doesn't really try to do anything, be it tell a story, do something interesting with technology or visuals, create a unique atmosphere, or make memorable characters. And that's really the biggest failing of Aria the Scarlet Ammo. It stopped caring, or maybe just forgot about, the very first part of making any kind of media: having a rhetorical goal (besides making money). Even with all these inaccuracies and bland characters, I probably still would have enjoyed Hidan No Aria if it had a really interesting and engaging story. But it doesn't, and that's a real shame. I was looking forward to this being either a cool detective story in a non-standard setting, or a fun action story with an interesting premise. Instead, I got a "story" riddled with holes in a setting where everyone was a stupid, incompetent idiot.
Now, I promised I talk about Aria's character in this section, so I will. If I had to sum up her character using only screenshots from the show, I'd use these 4:
|Compare the lines in the top and bottom images.|
You see, the biggest problem with Aria isn't that she got stupid hair, or that she got a bad personality, or that she's totally forgettable. It's that she's generic, and more than generic, bland. Aria is supposed to fit into the ever popular "Tsundere" character type (for Japanese anime harems, it's a must have). She's even voiced by the talented Rie Kugiyama, who is known for doing an excellent job with those kinds of characters. However, the fact is, she's bland, as I said. Her reactions, motivations, and emotions never go above the lowest common denominator line, and she is, quite frankly, a weak character. If she had a regular haircut (and color) and only used one gun, you wouldn't even remember her character two weeks after you saw it. Everything about her, down to the very last aspect, feels "watered-down," except for her obnoxiousness. I honestly want to be done here, so I'm not going to get into this to deeply. If everything you've seen and heard about her character already didn't convince you of her lack of quality as a character, you'll just have to watch the show and find out for yourself (which I can't recommend).
Aria the Scarlet Ammo is one of two things, depending on the viewer: a let-down, if the viewer was expecting something, and boring, if they weren't. The action is bland and unbelievable, the comedy is dry and unfunny, and the "story," if you can call it that, is built on a foundation of convenience and gaping holes, and it seems like every action a character makes will leave you with three unanswered questions about it. Overall, a huge disappointment.
Plot/Story: As I said, riddled with plot holes and unbelievably convenient events. The story in this is probably the worst thing about it.
Characters: Flat and one-dimensional, the characters in this show are pretty darn terrible. The supporting characters get pushed back to make time for the action and main characters (like I said, Riko got less than 4 minutes of screen time in 3 and a half episodes). The main characters aren't any better, though. Aria is utterly bland, inconsistent, and one-dimensional, and Kinji, while he starts out promising, loses nearly all likability within the first 3 episodes. Some of the weakest protagonists I've ever seen.
Sounds: The sound in this show is probably the best thing about it, and that's sad. Although they got some good voice actors, there was little they could do to bring the dull script and bland characters to life. The sound effects, while decent most of the time, were also pretty bad a lot of the time. For example, when the wheels on Kinji's bike start screeching (because he's skidding), the sound effect is for a car skidding, which sounds nothing like a bike. Another example is when Aria's pistols make burst fire sounds, even though they're only semi-automatic. The music is probably the highlight of the show, with an intense beat going during all the action scenes, and a cool opening song.
Visuals: The visuals were what I thought the show saving grace would be, but I was proved wrong even there. While the animation is decent and the blending of 2D and 3D elements was okay, there was nothing especially impressive about it. The art style was, much like the characters, bland and generic. But the worst thing about the visuals was actually what wasn't in the show. Several times an episode, characters would be in one place, then, with no warning, would suddenly be in another place. An example of this: in the second episode, Kinji hears about the highjacking incident. Then, it cuts to a quick scene on the bus. Then, in the very next shot, Kinji is shown running down a hallway with Aria. Then, in the shot after that, they're outside some garage. My point: they shouldn't have left out the parts where they got from point A to point B. While this is primarily a plot and story problem, it is also very visually jarring, which is why I included it here.
Rewatchability: As I said, I could barely stand to watch 4 episodes of this, let alone the full 12 episodes multiple times. Poor, to say the least.
Overall: Aria the Scarlet Ammo is a downright terrible show. The only thing that comes close to being a redeeming point, the sound, just isn't redeeming enough. I would have loved to say there was something, anything, to appease fans of some genre. But there's really nothing. The comedy isn't funny, the fanservice is almost non-existent (not that a lot of it could save any show, really), and the action is so unbelievable it's near impossible to get into it. The only person I would recommend this to would be either a slightly older child who has entered puberty a little too soon, or a very, very immature teen. Avoid.
Any suggestions/requests for my next reviews? Post a comment!
Pictures of guns and/or military personnel taken from Wikipedia. Any screenshots from the show were taken using the print screen key. Any arrows or lines obviously put in by me were added in Microsoft Paint with the purpose of making my points clear.