I know, I know. I started the Anime A to Z challenge with a harem anime… and a forgettable one at that!
It’s about the journey, through the good and the bad!
To be honest, his is actually a re-watch. I have seen Absolute Duo before. I believe I originally watched it in the summer of 2015.
But hear me out here, I had some reasons for watching Absolute Duo!
First, because I stumbled upon the OP on youtube, and I love the song:
That song is what first reminded me of Absolute Duo’s existence.
And that brought me to the second and main reason: I couldn’t remember a single detail from the anime. I didn’t even recognize the character pictured in the above YouTube video! All I could remember was that the characters were in pairs for some reason.
Which made me wonder – “why have I forgotten everything about this anime?”. Naturally I had to watch it to find out. I wanted to see exactly why the anime was so forgettable, to the point that I might as well have not ever seen it before.
So I re-watched Absolute Duo.
And here are my thoughts.
I’m not sure if my standards have increased, or if there are just some anime out there that are always worse when re-watched. To be fair, Absolute Duo isn’t exactly amazing the first time through either.
So here is my review of Absolute Duo.
Absolute Duo Spoilers Ahead.
The Harem Tag
Love it or hate it, the harem tag is what I consider to be a curse upon anime. It’s like a void that just sucks any and all creativity / originality from an anime. Unlike other tags, the harem tag is just very restricting when it comes to these things. Both the plot and characters tend to fall into a standardized pattern involving a clueless protagonist, clichéd female characters, a clichéd plot, and several other clichés. The plot also takes on a secondary role to fan service and showing off the female characters interacting with the protagonist as much as possible.
And the only reason there are so many clichés in a harem anime, is because they all do the same thing. I don’t know who made this decision, but it must be some unwritten rule or something that all harem anime must choose from a specific pool of clichés – creativity be damned.
To be fair, there are good harem anime out there. I enjoyed Lord Marksman and Vanadis. I remember enjoying Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari, and Grisaia no Rakuen. So there are at least three harem anime out there that I thought were good, despite the tag. They seem like a rarity though.
Oh The Clichés
Seeing as this is a harem anime, let’s point out some of the super innovative clichés used (in no particular order).
- The Clueless Male Protagonist. Always “does the right thing”. Acts inspiring when it comes to everything / anything BUT women. Unable to understand male / female relationships. Unable to resist women – completely freezes up in any / all situations that involve contact with a woman.
- The “Perverted” Protagonist Joke. Protagonist constantly gets caught in seemingly indecent situations with women. Whether the protagonist instigated them or not (usually not, because he is clueless), the protagonist is blamed and called a pervert by one of the tsundere / uptight female characters, or all female characters present. Usually ends in the protagonist being slapped.
- Protagonist Wakes Up To Naked Female Character(s) In His Bed. This one almost feels obligatory for the harem tag. Not much to write here, the cliché is pretty self explanatory.
- Protagonist Is Different / Special Compared To Other Characters. Usually the excuse to introduce a male protagonist into an all female school for some reason or another. In this case, the school is mixed. But the protagonist is still special, because he doesn’t summon a traditional weapon like all the other kids. Which results in some special treatment.
- Protagonist Has A Dark Past. Flashbacks, and reasons to seek strength. The protagonist has a dark past that motivates him to become stronger.
- The Big Chested Girl W/ Confidence Issues. Despite having a chest that the other female characters are jealous of, this character has issues with self confidence. The inspiring / kind protagonist usually wins their heart over, but they are too shy to make a move. Even if they do make a move, nothing will happen in the end because the protagonist is unable to process / react to situations such as a girl confessing. Usually found in libraries, although that is not the case in Absolute Duo.
- The Girl That Declares The Protagonist Is Her Future Husband. There always seems to be at least one female character that has some reason or another to declare the protagonist her future husband. Childhood promise, familial arranged marriage, protagonist has to marry her “to take responsibility” for something indecent that occurred. In this case, Absolute Duo just threw this cliché in with none of the above. She couldn’t be the protagonist’s partner, so she decided to say she was his future wife instead.
- Obligatory Foreign Girl. This time around, the foreign girl is from England. France, Germany, Russia, Italy are also common though.
- Obligatory Beach Episode.
- Obligatory Female Shower / Bath / Hot Springs Scene(s).
So the anime is called Absolute Duo, and the anime creates this whole underlying premise that the students are getting stronger in order to create the “absolute duo”. No other details are provided about it.
The thing is, this whole “duo” business seems completely worthless. I understand from a “harem” perspective that it’s an excuse to get the male protagonist a female roommate, but from a story perspective I can’t find any real convincing arguments for it.
Why duo? Why not trio? It feels so arbitrary anyways, why not go further?
The only other reason provided in the anime is that the characters “will be working in pairs once they graduate”. That’s great, but it doesn’t mean you have to assign them as permanent pairs right now does it? I feel like it’d make more sense to have the students constantly working in new pairs, so that they all get to know each other and learn how to work with a multitude of different individuals with different strengths, weaknesses, et cetera.
Anyways, the duo system felt like a total cop out excuse to force the male protagonist together with a female character. I just don’t appreciate the weak reasoning here. It’s a central plot point, try a little harder to have it all make sense. Unless I have a reason to be interested, the “absolute duo” that they are striving for is meaningless. And if the ultimate goal feels meaningless, all of the actions taken to achieve it also feel meaningless.
The weapons that students were able to summon are called blazes. The idea behind this is that they are summoning their soul into the form of a weapon. If the weapon is damaged, they also get damaged, as the weapon is their soul. Cool right? The students become stronger through training, and are injected with drugs to level up their abilities. They become stronger, faster, et cetera. Basically superhuman.
Here is my problem with the whole concept. Whats the point in blazes? Becoming superhuman in itself is great, and I understand striving for that. But why use a sword in a world where guns exist? Just because you can summon a hammer or something using your soul, doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient combat instrument right?
In a modern world, why would anyone willingly use melee weaponry? The whole thing is just stupid. Again, like the plot, I understand the reasoning for it from an outside perspective. I get that melee weapons are cool from both a fantasy and sci-fi perspective. I think they are cool too. But like the plot, I don’t appreciate the weak reasoning here. It’s basically just implied that the blazes are the best weapon. I just can’t make that leap to accepting the use of melee weapons without better reasoning.
Something that happens right at the outset of the anime is the selection exam. The selection exam worked like this: characters go and sit down for the opening ceremony. They are then told that they are to duel the person sitting next to them. Whoever loses is expelled, and the winner gets admitted to the school.
Justification for this? To find the “absolute duo”.
I guess finding the “absolute duo” isn’t that important then, is it? Considering the use of such a half-assed system here. Why not set up a proper tournament with losers brackets in order to ensure the best students aren’t eliminated by fluke? What if the two strongest students were sitting next to each other? That means the school will guaranteed expel one of the two strongest students on the first day.
It’s not a huge deal, but it actually bothered me quite a bit. Just a very stupid way to go about things. But just like many other aspects of the plot, I guess it doesn’t have to make sense.
I will say that I enjoyed how the anime built up that female character that the protagonist fought, and then cast her aside. I didn’t explicitly see it coming, because the anime makes it look like she will become a female main character.
It’s just not interesting
Absolute Duo is an anime that took the “magic fighting school” concept, and tried to make it more original by putting the characters into pairs. The “magic fighting school” part of the anime is below average, and the attempt at originality is so weak that it doesn’t add anything. The entire plot is just a worse version of something like Chivalry of a Failed Knight, and a much worse version of The Irregular at Magic High School.
I’ll even compare this to another harem anime: Highschool DxD. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it, but I still remember so many concepts and ideas from it. That’s because despite being a harem anime, Highschool DxD actually has a very interesting plot and overworld. Using chess pieces to denote character ranks for combat, and allowing for actual strategy in combat. And the whole concept of fallen angels vs. angels vs. demons is very interesting. Highschool DxD may be a harem anime (honestly I wish it wasn’t…) but it does create a great story and world in addition.
Absolute Duo just isn’t interesting. After the first few episodes, I struggle to come up with a reason to keep watching. Once my initial curiosity is sated, I fail to find reasons to keep going.
If Absolute Duo is your first anime ever, I can see it being entertaining.
Other than that, it’s just not a good anime in my opinion. And I love magic highschool anime. I just couldn’t stay interested in Absolute Duo, and had to resist skipping ahead as I watched it.
For mindless action I think it’s all right, but as I mentioned I guess my standards have increased. Absolute Duo is probably still a fine anime to watch for the typical casual viewer.
The anime just doesn’t do anything innovative or new. It also doesn’t do anything very well. And when the entire anime is average or below average in nature like this, it has nothing memorable to offer me. This is why I forgot all about Absolute Duo. If I still remember this anime years from now, it will be because I wrote 2000+ words about it, not because the anime itself did something right.
Looking at the MAL score of 6.75, I’d say that’s very generous.
Personally I would rate the anime lower.
And that concludes Anime A of the Anime A to Z gauntlet!
Just you wait, Anime B is proving to be excellent so far.
Until next time!
Thanks for reading.