Review/discussion about: Absolute Duo
Wanting to be stronger is something that a lot of people strive for. And that isn’t just in the sense of lifting weights to tone one’s muscles. There is strength of mind in the form of intelligence or strength of spirit in having the courage to do what’s right. But no matter its form, strength isn’t something that is easily obtained. Hardship and difficulties are what give shape to such strength, and subsequently determine what strength is ultimately earned. This is what Absolute Duo tries to convey, but without much strength to support even itself.
Absolute Duo follows young Tor Kokonoe as he enrolls in Kouyou Academy to take part in the “Duo” program. There, he meets Julie Sigtuna, a mysterious girl who eventually becomes his fighting partner.
Absolute Duo is an ecchi series, therefore making much of the content focus on showing the girls in promiscuous situations. In other words, there are many scenes involving bouncing breasts, unfit clothing, and risqué positions that attempt to entice the viewer. No girl is left unscathed: Julie often wears a single button-up shirt, Miyabi always has the camera aimed at her enormous bosom, and Lilith revels in her sexuality which gives her the confidence to perform more daring ventures. The ecchi itself isn’t too classy or original, usually falling back on easy tropes like lost panties or chest-hugging, but there is a nice amount of it throughout its entire run.
And that’s as far as Absolute Duo gets in terms of positivity. When it isn’t sexualizing its characters or going through with a comedic moment, the show doesn’t know what to do with itself. The story it attempts to tell is entirely contrived, filled with disjointed segments and an apparent lack of cohesion. The students are fighting in a mall one episode, only to be whisked away to a secluded island the next. The motivation behind many of these events is spurred on by the so-called principal’s desire of obtaining “Absolute Duo,” but what that really is isn’t explained. And that goes for a large portion of the show: What was “Equipment Smith” trying to do? Who killed Tor’s loved one? How does one become an “Exception?” There are other questions that are raised similar to these that are never answered, or even when they are, they are done in a slipshod manner. For example, Julie’s actual status and powers are hastily shoved in minutes before the end of the series. Another is the “Reign Conference” that brought many different leaders together, but the meeting’s purpose wasn’t explained properly nor did it affect the outcome that followed. Again, these are just a few, but suffice it to say that the majority of whatever is presented is largely given the bare minimum of attention. All of this says nothing of the fight scenes, the powers everyone uses in them, and how lame most end up being. Tor’s hammer-fist exists without explanation, bad guys let people live for no reason, and the battles usually give the side-cast the short end of the stick. It’s all just a mess that it never recovers from, from start to finish.
Hearkening back to the anime’s theme, the show plays with the idea of strength, what it is, and how one obtains it. Many of the characters have separate drives when it comes to finding said strength: for revenge, for love, and for protection, to name a few. In order to make the idea more meaningful, the anime also tackles how some kinds of strength are evil: “taking the easy route” to get it is bad, as is simply wanting to have it without a purpose. The problem, though, is that such a theme is muddied by the fan-service, the lame narrative, and the pointless battles. Beyond that, the classification of strength in such a way is strange. Because it isn’t so much how you get such strength, but what you do with it that matters. “With great power comes great responsibility,” as they say. In other words, Absolute Duo’s segmentation of strength is not only difficult to see but also difficult to accept.
The art for Absolute Duo is somewhat boring. It usually consists of the same-looking schools and buildings, with some variation in location. Some forests, a beach, and an amusement park here and there, but nothing that catches the eye or causes wonderment for the audience. Perhaps this is simply a product of the setting of the anime itself, with it not lending to such interesting environments. Regardless, what is presented is generally devoid of high detail, making it look general and same-y.
The character designs are strangely hit-or-miss. Julie’s white hair and magenta-filled eyes are nice, yet Tor’s, Tomoe’s, and Miyabi’s lack of detail is not. Their school uniforms have many layers, with blues, whites, and blacks making up most of their composition. On top of this, the Blazes (the weapons the cast wield) are jagged and black in color, giving them an ominous feeling that reflects the weapons’ very nature.
Actual animation is not wishy-washy. Bluntly put, it’s bad. And that’s something that is sorely unneeded for a show that spends a lot of time on the fighting scenes it constantly throws the audience’s way. During these scenarios, there are way too many close-ups and simple movements to reduce the amount of animation required. There is also the very jarring use of 3D used for particular situations and characters that is nothing more than distracting.
The characters of Absolute Duo do not fair too much better than their story brethren.
Tor is the star of the show, so his “importance” is the highest. Yet he’s arguably the worst of the bunch. Average, kind, and compassionate, he’s probably the perfect protector for Julie. This is further reinforced by his lone character trait: screaming “Julie!” whenever he has the chance. Obviously, he cares about her, which is fine. But there isn’t anything else to him than that. That is, his past is mired in failed protection, so he makes it his life’s duty to do what he previously could not. And he doesn’t budge from such a stance; he doesn’t experience other tribulations nor does he see such protecting as much of a challenge. He’s the same super-nice, super-friendly, super-bad character for the whole show.
Sadly, Julie isn’t much of an improvement, either. She’s very quiet, sticking to Tor at all times due to some strange attachment. Furthermore, she isn’t accustomed to her new surroundings, meaning she constantly does things incorrectly — a gag rather than a meaningful characterization. Regardless, she, too, has a past that is controlled by death. But where Tor wanted to protect, Julie wanted to eviscerate. This development isn’t revealed until much later into the show’s run, meaning, once again, she is similar to Tor in that her growth over the course of the anime is nonexistent. She “likes Tor” and “wants to be his Duo,” but there is nothing more to her character outside of her quasi-girlfriend relationship with the main hero.
The rest of the cast is wholly uninspiring as well. Rito is the professor who is also a bunny with a good and evil personality. Ryuutarou likes to flex his muscles. Aoi is quite annoying. Tomoe is quick to misunderstand and Miyabi is very shy. Both of these girls, though, are slightly better off than the others, receiving some focus later on in the series. But the problems they face are resolved too quickly to prove worthwhile to their overall characters. If anything, Lilith, the “Exception,” really is the only exception. She begins rather abrasive towards others, acting wholly arrogant given her special status. But after dealing with Tor’s unwavering attitude and competing against the people she deemed worthless, she opens up, becoming both approachable and a good friend to the rest of the gang.
As a further look into everyone’s character, and as becomes somewhat known over the course of the anime, the Blazes of the students are designed in such a way as to reflect the soul that wields it. Tor’s is a shield due to his absolute need to protect the people around him. Julie wields two swords, demonstrating her need to punish first and ask questions later. Lilith uses a rifle to not only align with the “Exception” status but also due to her rather aimed personality. Tomoe’s is a whip due to her cracking back-and-forth from being judgmental to apologetic, whereas Miyabi’s is a massive jousting spear due to her already large amount of untapped potential. This technique can be applied to each of the named members of the show. And while not a fascinating detail, it is at least an okay concept that is employed to aid in characterization.
The OP for the show is rather fast, with the vocalist doing a lot of work. She shows a large amount of range, with both high and low notes, as well as extended note-holding. The beat and instruments are surprisingly modern, sounding more techno than instrumental. It’s an okay song overall, but largely forgettable.
The first ED is very aquatic in nature. It’s slow, with the drums and violin working during the first half. Around the middle, the sound somewhat cuts away, having the singer sort of “skipping” with the lyrics. Afterwards, the beat picks back up, with the vocalist continuing with the softer way of singing. Again, an okay piece that isn’t highly memorable.
The second ED is rather lackluster, with its easy beat and simple singing. The only mentionable part of the track is the ending “Happy, happy!” speaking, which is both cute and fun.
Lastly, the third ED is more melancholic than the rest. The first third is interspersed with harp-like sounds and high violin playing. The second third becomes more hopeful, with the singer and instruments slowing down just a bit, with the final third picking back up the tempo. But like the second ED, this song just isn’t that good to listen to, either on its own or within the show.
The soundtrack has nothing worth remembering, either. There are “soldier”-esque tracks with drums and violins during battle segments, piano tracks during sad moments, and elevator music during the laid-back ones. They’re simple mood pieces that aren’t special or significant in any way.
Voice-acting is about average across the board. Special shout-out to Nozomi Yamamoto as Julie for all of her “Ja’s” and “Nej’s.”
The show could be funny at times, especially in regard to Julie’s ignorance of social cues and general cuteness. From her hair wiggle to her constant clinging to Tor, she could usually put a smile on my face. The other girls could, too; Tomoe’s prostrations after mistaking the situation or Lilith’s unabashed advances were enough to make me smile.
I can’t say that I like any of the characters, though. Or any of the battles for that matter. Or any of the world’s rules and what-not. All of it is just “there,” with barely any semblance of “oomph.” And it’s not that it had a lot to work with, but more so the fact that it couldn’t do anything with what it had.
Absolute Duo is an anime that focuses on pairings: relationships and boobs being the most prominent. But no amount of fan-service could save this one from its awful plot, lame characters, boring art, and forgetful music. It’s simply a really bad experience the whole way through.
Story: Bad, okay ecchi scenes, disjointed plot, lame motif
Animation: Bad, okay art style, okay character designs, below average actual animation
Characters: Bad, Tor and Julie are poor characters, the rest of the cast besides Lilith is just as poor, Blazes at least serve some purpose
Sound: Bad, okay OP, okay first ED, bad second ED, bad third ED, bad soundtrack, average VA work
Enjoyment: Bad, could be comical at times but not much else
Final Score: 2/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3