Asura Cryin’ doesn’t hold anything back in its opening, giving you a brief introduction to the characters and “factions” the show will feature almost immediately. Its first episode is action packed, and gives you just enough information to entice you. A fantastic start, but how do they build?
A Whole New World
To start this off I want to give a bit of a basic idea of what the show was actually about. The characters live in a world that is referred to as ‘The Second World’, and it seems to oddly revolve around the city and school the characters attend. The school, in fact, has 3 separate student councils who are to some extent at odds with one another. There is some measure of direct opposition, but for the most part they just begrudgingly tolerate each others’ existence.
Some tragedy befell the First World and there is a fear among certain groups in the Second World that a similar event will occur to this new world, which has spurred hidden organizations to form to try to alleviate this… and since the location of the primary ruins with information about the First World happens to be very close to the school, naturally the school becomes a focus of their efforts. The odd thing is that nearly all of the people involved in this are actually attending the school and most are a part of one of these student councils.
In their aim of trying to ‘save’ the Second World, these organizations take certain interest relating to anything tied to the First. This includes the ruins, but also includes the giant robots known as “Asura Machina” and their handlers, as well as the demons that inhabit the world. Demons are, essentially, people born into a family that innately possesses magic, as magic isn’t native to the Second World.
Now that you’ve read all that you’re certainly very confused, but I can assure you that putting it in writing all at once like this makes it way more confusing than the way the show provides this information to you – which is mostly through indirect means while watching the show. Asura Cryin’ does a very good job of providing you with information that you don’t necessarily realize you’ve been given. Certain things are stated explicitly, but the show does a lot of subtext in providing you with details, and it works really well.
You Want It, We Got It
Whether you’re looking for romance, for humour, for mechs, for magic, or even for swordplay… Asura Cryin’ is a bit of a blend of everything. It does all mesh together fairly well, thanks to some clever synergies they managed to incorporate. None of the elements feel superfluous as each element actually serves a purpose. Swordplay and magic often feel so out-of-place in mech-based series since they’re often so incompatible. The specific dynamics of the show help to overcome awkwardness of that sort by providing an actual purpose, a reason for things like that to exist.
The mechs themselves are, of course, the stars of the show when it comes to action. Watching these Asura Machina use their fantastic weaponry and abilities is understandably satisfying – as mechs always are – but due to some very specific story elements, they’ve managed to add a very significant pang of anxiety whenever you watch the mechs fight. Especially when you see the main character use his.
The magic has a very unique twist to it as well… the characters who actually wield magic are paying a very hefty price for it… and one that becomes more apparent as time goes on. In fact, every form of power has a hefty price in this show… there are no characters with godlike powers for seemingly no reason. Any character who has power either is paying a price or already has – and those whose power is the ability to resist magic have paid most of all.
Even If You Don’t
There are some aspects to this anime that really felt forced. Number one on this list is the touch of ‘harem appeal’ you’ve got going on for the main character. It seems like, for no apparent reason, every female character develops some form of affection for the main character. It really doesn’t make any sense in a few cases, although in others it does. They do a better job than many harem anime at making most of these ‘relationships’ make sense but they still feel a bit awkward.
The other unfortunate victim of the anime’s design are the characters. While your main characters are mostly unique and interesting, some of them and most of the side characters are largely unmemorable and kind of bland. These supporting characters are never really given enough time to become important, yet they are played up as though they are. And even a few of the main characters lack impact. There were several moments that should have been tragic, that should have been heavily moving, that should have contained some strong emotion… yet because the characters were done such disservice, I found myself completely unmoved by many of the big scenes.
The Unlife of the Party
Our main character Tomoharu is a fascinating character, partially because he is forever accompanied by the ghost of his best friend Misao – who most people are unable to see. She has a remarkably interesting take on being a ghost, and her interactions with him get him into trouble with his classmates frequently, which just creates even more hilarity. And partway through the series, she becomes visible to everyone… which just makes her even more endearing.
There’s a strange sort of love triangle between Kanade, the third main character and a Demon, and the two other main characters as both her and Misao are clearly strongly attracted to Tomoharu. What makes this so intriguing is that she is forbidden from being with him since she’s a Demon and Misao is a ghost… so you have a love triangle where love can’t really flourish. And it’s through her that you truly begin to understand the realities of the world and demons.
And to make things even more interesting is the addition of a child prodigy named Ania, who is – in addition to being a child prodigy – a demon. She is the only other character that really is adequately developed. She is a type of demon known as a ‘luck eater’. She doesn’t have her own luck, but she can take luck from other people, and also give it to people as well. This is not only really interesting, but also really hilarious as when she takes luck from people bad things happen. She’s also a bit of a tragic character as she’s not allowed to use her powers for her own benefit, so she is constantly plagued by little acts of misfortune, sometimes at some pretty critical moments. It’s an interesting dynamic as she’s kind of adorable, kind of obnoxious, kind of arrogant, and kind of tragic all at the same time.
There is one other thing I want to briefly mention here. This show’s ending was so out of character for the show, it almost feels like they were afraid to do an ending that really would’ve worked with the tone and the context of the show. That last episode has some really cool elements, but really spoils the story and makes a lot of the foreshadowing and the buildup in the show feel like it was all for nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed this show. Each episode kept me interested, the core characters were fascinating, and the action was both exciting and suspenseful. It just felt like they really let the show itself down, the story they’d created down by not seeing it through in a way that actually made sense.
Note: I will also be writing a second post about Asura Cryin’ that will include spoilers. There are a number of things I really held back from saying in this post because I didn’t want to spoil it in a review, but I found this show so interesting that I really want to take some time to get my full thoughts on it out there, so if you’re interested and don’t mind spoilers – look forward to that.