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According to the Law of Fanservice…

March 3, 2012

“From the abyss blacker than darkness… is the shadow cast by the light of science.”

Misao Minakami/Kurogane, Asura Cryin’

According to the Laws of Fanservice Asura Cryin’ would have been a cheap tits flick, but it’s not, despite occasionally putting a toe into flashing territory and sexual innuendo. With 26 episodes and four OP and ED  songs total all by angela, Asura Cryin’, is quite simply put, one of the better action anime produced for its season.

The story is a special brand of fusion of magic and science; the magitech genre, where either the science in the story is magic, vice versa, or some plot-induced combination of both. Series like Fullmetal Alchemist/World Embryo are examples with varying degrees of magitech in them; with Asura Cryin’, it throws in one more element to make it stand out amongst other magitech titles, alongside Rulilura and Break Blade; there’s mecha in it.

While the plot of Asura Cryin’ starts out pretty normally with the main character Natsume Tomoharu and his not-so-normal haunting ghost companion Misao Minakami, the end of the introductory episode makes it quite clear that you’ll be getting a regular dose of steel-on-steel by introducing the show’s titular robot, Kurogane, an Asura Machina. Natsume Tomoharu is quickly pulled into a world where magic-wielding demons, soul-powered battle armors, and the owners of either one or both battle for supremacy in a world that, upon closer inspection, is completely out of place even within its own reality. Aided by a fire-wielding demon, a missile-spamming cyborg that trolls him twice as much as the enemies do and reluctant allies, reluctant allies everywhere, Natsume and Misao try to delve into the center of this madness to uncover the truth about their world.

Plot pacing-wise Asura Cryin’ starts out slow enough and easy enough to understand the surface of things. Unfortunately, to a small degree, the plot tends to introduce the fight before they introduce the characters; at times, there’s plenty of things that need explaining, and more often than not it’s all pushed to the back. Multi-faction battles and power struggles make for a good dose of action, but sometimes the characters’ motivations aren’t introduced with the proper impact (or aren’t introduced at all) and the organizations that they belong too are forever in the dark and usually too many to properly keep track off. Remembering which face is allied with who is an easier task than trying to group the organizations together.

It’s only until the second half of the show that pieces start falling into place; as the story begins to compact and twist from the plot bringing all the characters together, the audience begins to understand more and more about the nature of the Asura Machina, the demons, and even the core cast and their personal beliefs. Afterwards it’s nearly fight after fight as time itself works against our protagonists in their attempt to save a world, and more as they find new allies whom which to work with.

In terms of animation Asura Cryin’ uses 3D to produce its mech-on-mech action; while usually this would be due cause for hand-art purists to balk, Asura Cryin’ is one of those shows where the machine action is one aspect I won’t back down on in an argument. Unlike the times in, as an example, MS IGLOO where it forgets to maintain a certain degree of realism, or in Linebarrels where it just seems out-of-place, the 3D animation in Asura Cryin’ manages to blend into the action akin to hand-drawn battle scenes. It doesn’t try to force the exaggeration aspect of 2D-hand-drawn robot combat style, and perhaps that’s what allows the battle scenes in Asura Cryin’ to draw the audience in. Good use of special effects and the right angles help alot as well.

As for the characters fighting the characters, than is good on its own with little “QUALITY” scenes; Asura Cryin’ isn’t a 50-episode action epic, but when and where it matters, they have it done right. Besides, a good majority of the scenes are just ludicrously cool; don’t expect combat strategy on the level of a military setting, but at least the characters can be identified through either skill or strength level and not just because the plot demands that they win.

Then there’s the character interactions, not just between those that can be talked to and felt, but also those who take a less… corporeal approach in the show, and even the supernatural. Teaching you to take good care of what you wish into existence is one thing, but having to watch how you have your demon companion fight so he/she doesn’t crystallize to death or how soul-powered robots are made the way they’re made in Asura Cryin’ is just setting up for a boot to the nuts. And when they do show the eventual consequences of having your own magitech avatar to fight with, well, it’s not bitch-tears material, but it does come close, and not just once. Paying by credit in one go is a shitty way to settle prices.

Perhaps one aspect of the show that can be described with the word “wasted” is the three-sided relationship between Natsume, Misao, and fire-flinging demon Kanade Takatsuki, whom Natsume partners with throughout the show. While the show does try to insert harem elements into the show, those are mild and more of like the director never taking a concept idea that far into the final production; at times it feels forced, out of place and completely irrelevant to the plot, other times it’s a false path leading to a brick wall with a note pasted on it that says “haha, fucked you! Love, the director.” About the only relevant love relationship is the aforementioned Natsume-Misao-Kanade triangle, thanks to the way the magic physics in Asura Cryin’ works. The show ends ambiguous on that aspect, letting the directors, production crew and casual fans run free, but undoubtedly leaving throngs of Kanade/Misao fans locked in eternal internet flame wars.

All in all though, Asura Cryin’ is a show worth your time should you pick it up, and if you’re looking for a recommendation for a friend I would also have served it up as an entry into all things magic-mech related, before you come out swinging with heavy-hitter old-school titles like Escaflowne or whatever you can dig up from the glorious (or great ham-fisted, depending on your mindset) 80’s period of anime. With a decent storyline, satisfying action and a good plot that needs no prior knowledge and keeps you interested in the world settings and plot direction to the end, Asura Cryin’ deserves a spot on your “should watch” list if you want an action flick.

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