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Aria The Scarlet Ammo Complete Series DVD/Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

With a strong need for a partner, Aria finds herself trying to force it with someone who wants to leave the academy completely.

What They Say:
Aria is a volatile girl who wields two pistols and two swords and holds the highest rank in assault studies at a high school for young mercenaries. This pint-sized prodigy swoops in to save her classmate Kinji from a high-speed chase, but he ends up saving her after he switches from a boring wimp into a total hot shot! His secret? He only turns into something of a James Bond when he’s turned on! Convinced Kinji’s an ace, Aria strong-arms him into being her partner – but she isn’t the only femme fatale who wants a taste of his coveted combat skills. Aria gets Kinji for one mission, but he’ll end up with more than one finger on his trigger!

Contains episodes 1-12 plus OVA episode 13.

The Review:
The audio presentation for the series is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets bumped up to 5.1, both of which use the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series has a good mix of action and downtime, though it does lean more towards the action overall in its perception. The mix in the original Japanese uses the forward soundstage well with the action moving it across it seamlessly while the dialogue is well placed as it moves up and down the register. The English mix uses this design well and just ramps it up the move, occasionally giving it a deeper and richer feel with the action. The opening and closings tend to feel the best here as the music really helps it. The series is on good footing here with the two mixes and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in the spring of 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. The animation by JC Staff comes across quite well here, far better than the murky and indistinct simulcast we saw, with colors having a good rich feeling to them where needed and a solid design overall. There’s a lot of darker moments to the series and quiet a few with red hues to them that gives it a more dangerous feeling, but it’s less murky looking here. The character designs show through well with the colors and detail here while the flow of the animation is good as it unfolds. The show is not problem free though as there are areas of banding, largely in the closing sequences, but this is within the animation itself unfortunately.

The packaging for this release is quite good and even strikes away from some of the usual design concepts that FUNimation typically adheres to. The heavy chipboard box holds two single sized Blu-ray cases inside, one for the two DVD releases and one for the two Blu-ray releases, and all of it has a lot of good artwork. The front of the box has a good standalone image of Aria in action with her two guns against a black and red background while the back side does the same with Kinji, though it’s somewhat murkier here because of his jacket. The two cases each provide the simple logo along the top and each case has standalone character artwork similar to the box for the rest of the cast. Jeanne takes the front of one with Reiki on the back while the other has Aria and Reiko together with Shirayuki on the back. Each of the covers also brings in artwork on the reverse side with one showing off Aria in a two panel action pose while the other features the several of the girls together in swimsuits. On the downside, unlike most of FUNimation’s other releases, we don’t get a breakdown of episodes and titles anywhere or a listing of what extras are on what disc.

The menu design for the release is very simple as it just has two small strips along the bottom, red and white, wher ein the red we have the navigation itself. The other ninety percent of the menu is given over to clips from the series playing with mostly action sequences used so that it has a good, quick and intense feeling to it. The center of the menu also draws in the series logo for a bit as well, tying it all together pretty well. It’s a basic menu with what it does and it gets the job done with easy to access submenus and a design that leaves it without any questions about what’s set and what’s not.

The extras for this release are pretty decent overall as we get a mix of the usual and some newly created ones. From the Japanese side, we get the promotional videos for the show and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. On the new side, we also get a pair of commentary tracks from the English language production crew that has them delving into the fun of the show, the style of it and their characters.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels but Chugaku Akamatsu that began in 2008 and has thirteen volumes released so far, Aria the Scarlet Ammo is a thirteen episode action series from JC Staff. The series is one that FUNimation had simulcast when it came out in the spring of 2011 and we had written about it at the time. There was a lot that I liked about it in terms of the action and design of it and I got into some of the quirks of it that it introduced over time with who these characters really are and their lengthy family pasts. While these worked well, and the mini arcs that we get in it, the show also left me feeling off at times with the way it was kind of spastic at times with some of its movements. But also because of the obvious coming of something supernatural towards the end that I still don’t think fits in with the nature of the world the characters inhabit.

Aria the Scarlet Ammo gives us a world of today with a few key differences that definitely make for an interesting world. Around the world there are places called Butei Academy in which high school students who are exceptional are able to train to in essence become highly trained semi-independent agents. As adults, not that we see any here really, they’re like a specialized police force that will deal with unique problems that require high level skills where needed. Within the academy there are different focuses and specialties that people get to deal with, from vehicles to intelligence and the like as well as normal educational studies. And students after the first year are encouraged to take up the “quests” where they get to gain credits as they deal with real requests for help in the real world.

The focus here is with the Japanese Butei Academy and in particular a pair of students, Kinjiro Tohyama and Aria H. Kanzaki, two second year students. Kin is in a difficult position Unwithin the school as he’s an E-rank student and really doesn’t even want to be there and is intending to leave at some point soon that’s never made clear. He has a connection with the academy as his older brother was a member, but his time as a Butei went poorly in the real world and he lost him. While he isn’t a high ranked Butei student by any means, he’s not without skill. When his body goes into hysteria mode, a way of protecting itself, he becomes quite skilled and shifts from a kind of meek personality to one that’s essentially James Bond cool. But he hates being like that since he’s not in control of himself in the way that he wants to be.

Unfortunately for him, he’s being pursued at the start here by a Butei Killer, or at least a copycat version of one as supposedly the real one was caught recently. The series opens with Kin being chased by a creative approach to take him down that’s used at least one or two more times here but he gets saved through the sudden arrival of Aria, a small girl the same age as him who is somewhat unique in that she’s been working alone and uses four weapons (two swords, two guns) with a great deal of skill. She has the whole pint sized attitude thing going and an intent on using the situation to make Kin her partner. Well, that’s what he’d be but she intends to call him her slave since she wants to dominate the partnership. She needs him but he just wants to quit so it’s definitely something that doesn’t get off to a good start.

This provides the foundation for the series as Aria is intent on making him her partner no matter what, especially since her presence can draw him into hysteria mode pretty easily, and it causes a few problems along the way with others in his life. His childhood friend Shirayuki is a Butei as well, though a special one since she’s also a shrine maiden who normally isn’t let out much and she’s quite intent on winning his heart. There’s also Riko, an outgoing blonde Butei who is very flirty, sexy and playful when it comes to Kin as well. Toss in a cute, quiet green haired girl named Reki And it also introduces a few more people along the way of varying note, such as Jeanne and a few adults that have a decent use in the series. In essence, yes, we do have something of the traditional harem routine here as there are a number of girls interested in him while he’s trying to play it cool so he can move on.

While we do have the whole harem aspect, it also is a show heavily focused on action. With Aria doing what she can to win Kin over to her side, they have to face quite a few challenges. One of the students turns out to be a traitor that’s intent on taking down other Butei, but there’s an intriguing twist to it. Shirayuki is hunted down at one point and there’s also a good deal of back and forth between Aria and Shirayuki as Shirayuki is so possessive over Kin. Their relationship gets tweaked nicely over time and while there’s an understanding, you can still see the jockeying for position. The action for the series uses the characters well, though we never really get deep into them, and that allows it to do big silly things like planes being hijacked, Speed-like sequences and even a surreal supernatural experience towards the end.

What the show does that leaves me a bit less than enthused with it, though I like how it evolves over it, is the nature of some of the characters. With an “evil” organization that’s brought into play through just name for the most part, we get a whole angle played where one of the characters is revealed to be the fourth Lupin descendant and another is a Holmes character that goes back a long way in struggles between the two families. It dabbles in a couple of other areas as well, but bringing in a new generation of characters isn’t unusual, especially a Holmes type but also that of the Lupin name. Anime loves trying to expand the Lupin side.

In Summary:
Aria the Scarlet Ammo was a show that I enjoyed a lot the first time around for the action and over the top nature of it at times that was still within some relative bounds of reason. Revisiting the series in an afternoon rather than over thirteen weeks definitely gave it a much greater flow and it felt like things connected better. Aria’s intention of solving a number of mysteries and needing Kin comes across better and seeing them work as a team, as well as other configurations that comes up, so as a whole it feels like there’s a better story running here. In weekly fashion it left me a bit colder with how it all connected. FUNimation has done a solid job here in providing a very well done set with a great package, good looking show and a fun cast working through it.

Japanese 2.0 DolbyTrue HD Language, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promo, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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