When it comes to being considered one of the better rated action, magic, school, ecchi harem anime the Winter 2015 season, Absolute Duo was an Absolute fluke. Don't worry, I'm not here to bash. If anything, that statement says just how mediocre and poorly-received all the harem anime were last winter season. Since there were so many of these action school harem anime airing, I decided to review what I considered the most appealing and least appealing anime of those genres. Absolute Duo being the most appealing, in my opinion of course. Now I don't necessarily think that Absolute Duo was most suitable because of enjoyment because that's subjective. However, the main reason I picked to review Absolute Duo is because it's by far the most realistic when it comes to school harem anime of Winter 2015. Let me put it this way. When you think of school harems, what do you think of? Dragons? Monsters? Parasyte rip-offs? Evil demons? Supernatural elements ridiculously flawed beyond fiction itself? That's why I picked Absolute Duo as I believe it's the most realistic and believable harem of Winter 2015. When I say realistic in that context, I mean not at all unfortunately. (lol)
Absolute Duo is a school harem anime with action, sci-fi, and supernatural elements. While I don't consider this anime to have any strong points, I don't think there's any weak points either, at least nothing anime breaking. On the surface, Absolute Duo looks like nothing more than a low-budget, generic and possibly even a bland anime. Although mostly true, it isn't nothing less than that either. First impressions will certainly leave that feeling for many viewers and understandably may be turned off by it. However, it may hook viewers in with the fast-paced first episode that has all the elements briefly displayed. While I don't think this anime is anything special by all means, I can see this being an "under-rated" gem for some. So, let me get into the review now.
The setting revolves around a special school, quite unlike the one I attend daily, called Kouryou Academy. For the first half of the anime, the setting is pretty much at the school for the most part. Nothing out of the ordinary for a school anime. Later on, there's other settings, like the mall and the typical beach setting for example. Nothing out of the ordinary from harem anime. There are a couple of other settings, but I'll keep quiet due to minor spoilers. Other than that, there isn't too much about this world that's explained, but this doesn't ruin the anime. Overall, pretty industry standard settings for the modern school harem anime.
The story opens up our main character, Tooru Kokonoe walking his way to the Kouryou Academy, with another character that he meets along the way named Imari Nagakura. They have a bit of small chat and seem to be friendly toward each other right from the start. During the entrance ceremony, all who were enrolled were told on the spot to battle with another student. Whoever, wins the battle, stays at Kouryou Academy. The loser, along with his or her pride, will be expelled from the school. Tooru ends up battling with Imari as they were sitting next to each other. The battle shows off some of the main characters' weapons, or "Blazes". Also during the battle we learn, from a brief flashback, that Tooru has something to fight for, showing he's determined in doing so. Tooru ends up winning and thus earning his place at the academy. After that, Tooru has brief chat with an old friend as the first class is about to start. During class, a few more characters are introduced, like the teacher and a strange female student named Julie Sigtuna, that sat next to Tooru and kept staring at him. By the powers of anime voodoo, they get to share a school dorm room together, which leads to some harem hilarity. From there, the story of Absolute Duo takes off.
The story of Absolute Duo isn't the most engaging or original, but it has a simplistic start, while keeping some mystery until the ending. The story is pretty much there are powers called "Blazes", which are manifestations of a human's soul that can be summoned as combat weapons. Students who are qualified to use these weapons end up enrolling in various private schools to train and level up their Blaze combat abilities. There's a duo system in place, which has students train together in pairs. This system and training is to help bring out the best of the Blaze abilities and to accomplish the goal of "Absolute Duo". The story kind of sets itself up to be an action anime. However, the anime seems to go for more of a story and character driven approach. While the story has some substance, the plot progression is a bit loose. Although a bit inconsistent at times, the plot progression is pretty simplistic and focused throughout the show. The first half, the story primarily focuses around Tooru. Despite his past and him wanting to become stronger for REVENGE, it just focuses on the main character interacting with a few female characters, occasionally interrupted by the rejects from VR troopers or something. While the pacing can be a bit slow in these parts, the story does throw in some unexpected-mentnessage to help keep the story engaging enough, outside the harem romance moments. The second half shifts to more of a story driven approach, while also revealing the mystery aspect of the "Absolute Duo", among other things.
Overall, while the story isn't very engaging, it does a decent enough job with the plot progression to generate some interest outside the harem romance elements. The concept of students training to become stronger with the power of Blazes isn't the most original, but it isn't fundamentally bad. The action scenes are a bit awkward. The action will either be too slow, or too quick, for my fancy at least. This anime is primarily character driven where most of the character interactions are lighthearted and there isn't any drama or anything too serious going on here. If you come in expecting a good story and plot progression, you may be disappointed.
The story primarily focuses on our main Duo of Tooru and and Julie. Despite being the main characters, they really are not that engaging. Tooru is a character the has a desire to get stronger to get revenge from a certain past event that happened in the past. Other than that, he's pretty much a blank piece of paper or blank canvas where the anime producers can just have him act however they want him to at certain times. Basically what I'm trying to say is that Tooru has hardly any noticeable character traits and personality. Looking to get stronger, wants revenge, kind to others, and a loyal friend. Other than that, he has nothing going for him and he doesn't develop much either. No witty dialogue or humor comes from him. I guess they were going for a more realistic student. The only noticeable difference from any of the other characters, and also maybe the reason why he's even the main character, is because he has a unique combat ability, or Blaze. Meanwhile, Julie took an interest to our uninteresting character. She's a pretty monotone character that resembles a robot rather than an actual human being. Despite that, she's a likable little darling that acts fairly innocent. She also attends the academy because she also wants to get stronger for revenge for her father. Just like Tooru. Well, at least they make the perfect Duo then right? I wonder if all the students at the academy want revenge. Wouldn't be surprised.
Alright, now while the supporting cast have horribly written roles, they're still focused a lot in the anime as well. Thankfully, the support cast helps make up for the lack of engaging character traits from the main characters. Our supporting characters range from our male protagonist's childhood friend, which he doesn't interact with much and is just a background character. We have another duo that are both females, Tomoe and Miyabi. Tomoe being a skilled hard-worker as well as smart. She also puts other people's feelings over her own and encourages others to work hard. Miyabi is really nothing more than a typical shy character that has a love interest in our bland male protagonist. Then there's a British transfer student named Lilith. Kind of a snobby character at first that thinks highly of herself. However, her personality takes a hit after her role gets degraded towards the rear end of this ass-ime. At least her goal at the academy isn't to get stronger. However, she ends up getting more than she bargained for.
Overall, the characters are pretty uninspiring, un-engaging, and are really just there to be nothing more than harem tropes, with no major role in the anime. These characters wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that the anime hardly attempts any meaningful development. The main duo hardly seems to change despite the fact they were at the academy to change themselves for the better. The character interactions are the only thing that makes these characters tolerable. While I understand that the characters in this anime were written to be realistic students, they weren't written to be engaging unfortunately. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't care for any of these characters. Mediocre characters that can be a toss up if you'll like them or not.
Overall, the art is pretty decent and probably one of the better fundamental aspects of Absolute Duo. The characters are drawn nicely. They all look quite a bit different from one another and look realistic. Also, dark and light tones are frequent in the anime and it always seems to suit the mood. Whether it be a serious action moment or a bright sunny beach where harem hilarity ensues. The art at least captures the atmosphere nicely. At times, the backgrounds are surprisingly detailed nicely too. However, the quality may get degraded at times where there's action, or when the story/plot is trying to move along.
For the animation, I'll talk about the action scenes. I'm personally not impressed in this department. However, outside the action, the animation is pretty fluent and had some energy to it. I wish I could say the same for the action scenes. The action is just very generic and un-engaging. The action's either too fast, or dragged out by tedious dialogue. This doesn't occur throughout the anime, but some may get that impression in the first half of this show. The blaze weapons and powers themselves are unique to each of the main characters at least. Swords, shields, guns, and other typical stuff. Nothing really new or special. If you plan to watch this anime for the action, I'm sorry, but you'll be disappointed.
In this section, I try to justify my rating with what I liked/disliked and I try to further explain if this anime would perhaps be worth your time. As a person that enjoys occasionally watching comedic harem anime, I moderately enjoyed this anime. There were some good episodes that I liked and there was also episodes that frustrated me. So watching this anime wasn't a smooth ride. However, at the end of it all, it's just harmless action harem anime. While I disliked the action, the character interactions were lighthearted and funny. The art was nice to look at and this anime gave me something decent to watch every week. I would not recommend this to anyone, even those who like action/harem anime. My rating for this anime is "A Mediocre Anime That's Industry Standard".
Alright, to get the maximum enjoyment from watching Absolute Duo, you have to come in with low expectations as most of the anime's fundamental aspects are just mediocre at best. If you're into the action genre, this may disappoint you. If you're into an engaging story, you maybe disappointed as well. If you're into comedic harems, then I can see you enjoying this, as it's at least decent enough in that department. Just keep in mind, when watching this anime, you'll be watching lots of character interactions as well as some action scenes thrown in here and there. You'll also see how these Blaze weapons work as the plot moves along and will find out the mystery of the the "Absolute Duo", that's if you even care enough. Other than that, not too much more to expect. I would say avoid watching Absolute Duo unless if you only care for the harem moments. I guess the only thing I would say here is if I were you, I'd wait until spring anime starts airing. Shows like the 2nd seasons of Nisekoi and Oregairu are coming out in April. I would recommend watching those instead, especially if you want something realistic and with no action/supernatural elements. Just come in watching Absolute Duo with low expectations so you won't disappoint yourself and you may enjoy it.
It's your choice. Watching this you'll either think this is an "under-rated gem", mediocre, or you may find it to Absolutely Du- nothing for you. However, if you're looking for an action harem anime that's more of a fantasy setting, then try Seiken Tsukai no World Break. It may seem like I'm downplaying Absolute Duo, but it's really not bad at all. Just another mediocre school harem anime among the vast number of uninspiring harem anime this passing Winter season. Nevertheless, it was still probably the better option for harem enthusiasts to start the year with, for them sadly.
Watch Girlfriend BETA instead.
Final Score - 14/30 = 4.67 read more