BS reviews is a series where Edy and I look for the unseen genius in anime that have not been widely recognized by the public. Today, we will be talking about the deep hidden meanings and excellence of Absolute Duo, a widely unknown anime from 2015, based on a light novel.
It’s been a while since we have done a BS Review and I must say, Absolute Duo was the perfect show to come back on. Absolute Duo is about Kouryou Academy High School, a school dedicated to the training of “Blazers”, those who have the ability to weaponize their souls.
Yes, although it does not reach the heights of Akikan or Ex-arm, Absolute Duo is definitely a great candidate for BS reviews.
But looking beyond the premise, at its core Absolute Duo is a social commentary on deforestation. This can be seen in the title, “absolute duo,” which is referring to the ultimatum given to mankind by God. Technological advancements, or preservation of nature. There are many direct connections made with this theme in Absolute Duo, such as how Tooru and Miyabi, two main characters of the show, have brown hair. Brown is not only the color of tree logs, but it is also the color of soil, two key components to nature. This is juxtaposed with Julie, who has white hair, symbolizing the white collar workers. The ‘absolute’ in the name is a word that is supposed to be ‘full,’ ‘total,’ or ‘universally valid.’ A middle ground between good and bad. It’s the medium. This is why Absolute Duo is a 5/10.
The parallels being drawn between nature and technology is also brilliantly shown through the incorporation of both CG and hand drawn animation.
As can be seen above, on the left, we can see CG soldiers, while on the right, we can see a hand drawn character. A key thing to take away from this screenshot is that both of them look like shit, which is Absolute Duo trying to convey that mankind is fucked anyway because they produce these kinds of garbage shows.
Taking a step back, Absolute duo isn’t just a social commentary; it’s also a commentary anime’s tropes. First with the title. “Duo” is from the latin word “duo” which means two (etymology dictionary). For those who have seen the show, they will know that this is the showcase of irony. That’s right, Absolute duo is nothing like a show about a “duo” — it’s a harem show. Now I know many people have bad responses about harem shows, but believe me, Absolute Duo is the perfect harem show. This is because the show undermines all harem tropes and simplifies everything.
First, you got the characters, Julie, our main character’s duo, Lilith, the rich girl or the future husband, Miyabi, who has a crush on our main character, then we have Tachibana, Miyabi’s best friend. While these characters are all different prototypes of the normal harem team — loli, rich girl, deredere, and tsundere — they all have one commonality: these characters have no character to them. Their real traits really only come down to “can fight” or “loves the main guy.” Through this, Absolute duo creates perfect, robot-like, programmed characters which speak to the whole issue of CG characters in anime while talking about how bland the shows of recent times have been.
Speaking of Harems, Absolute Duo also subverts your expectations by making you think it’s going to be a yuri show, when it actually is not. One of the character’s names is Lilith Bristol. Lilith, is a name that’s origin comes from ‘Lily.’ Lily is a flower name, and in Japanese, is called “Yuri.” The connection is really obvious, and so anyone who looked at the main character list couldn’t be blamed for thinking that this show would be a hardcore yuri show. However, Absolute Duo is not a Yuri show, and I thought that this was very fascinating.
One key part about Absolute Duo is the writing; this show never fails to keep you off of your seat. The show has this bizarre writing technique that I have never seen where something new appears out of nowhere. In the middle of different fights, everytime, when it feels like it’s over, suddenly, the characters do things that were given completely no set up. For example, they would use a technique that they never trained for, we are given backstory that was never foreshadowed, or the main character randomly gets healing abilities that lets him come back alive from being stabbed with a sword. These types of skills that appeal out of nowhere really make you think: “what will appear next?” Truly, a show where you can’t guess what will happen next.
One bizarre element of Absolute Duo which does not meet any of the themes or what it’s a commentary on is the opening. It’s really bizarre, because the opening is good. It’s a really strange decision coming from the creative team behind Absolute Duo, which I did not end up understanding.