The first episode of Asura Cryin’ is incredibly dense in terms of material. It’s got childhood trauma, self-sacrifice, silly friend antics, social commentary, ghost haunting, high school romantic comedy, family drama, magical girls, split personalities, underground societies, potential harem, and mecha all rolled into one. Did I miss anything?
The story begins with a scene of ruin. The protagonist, Tomo, suffered serious injuries in an accident, and a mysterious magical girlfriend from the Goddess Agency – no, wait, that’s not quite it. A mysterious girl reassured him that he would live, as he lay on a hospital bed. Flash forward to the present. It’s clear that he’s now trying to live a normal life, just as it’s clear that the accident is of great importance and that something mysterious happened. This entire setup happens in under a minute. Asura Cryin’ is efficient.
The trance-backed opening works fairly well with the ethereal beauty of the watercolor scenes that accompany it. If anything, the character art falls a little flat in comparison when we cut away from the clouds and sakrua to the people. Lyrically, the opening is about fate and its incomprehensibility to the normal way of thinking, which is an appropriate choice for a story with a main character who was saved by supernatural intervention.
The character spread in the Op is not bad either: a miko who feels distant from other people, the main character, the girl that haunts him, an arrogant ice-user, a heterochromic girl with a flaming sword (possibly said miko), a gun-user with panty-flash, and a “fire all the missiles” scene are shown.
Tellingly, they place heterochrome girl and the ghost flanking the main character. As the survivor of a near-death experience, he stands astride two worlds: that of the living and the dead. Perhaps because of this, Tomo seems much more mature than other male leads: he responds with a minimum of fuss and drama to some rather trying scenes, and when a friend brings up a sexual subtext in conversation, he shrugs it off. Clearly this is not the stereotypical over-embarrassed kid.
There are many small ironies – for example, Tomo’s best friend is a parapsychology otaku, obsessed with taking ghost photographs, yet he is wholly unaware of Tomo’s ghost. Tomo, interestingly, goes along with it rather than discouraging it. This suggests that either photographs don’t interact with ghosts, or that his best friend is incompetent. The show moves on. The Plot Item is delivered by the Mysterious Family Friend. It is both heavy and made of some sturdy alloy – perhaps Gundanium.
Moving along with typical efficiency for this show, we are treated to a second of rooftop-jumping. Are there ninja this night? Well, they certainly don’t do their entries like ninja. It’s the miko, presenting the stereotypical “I was chasing the bad guys; they got away. I’m tsun-tsun and use force without thinking about it. So, greetings and strangulations!”
Once again there is some kind of bizarre flashback to a decision (this is the third or fourth flashback in seven minutes.) Of course this is a memory displaced in time, which will turn out to be important. And of course the Miko can see ghosts, and reacts with a few cryptic phrases that will be explained later.
Misao (ghost-girl) denies understanding what the Miko said a little too readily, but Tomo isn’t worried about that. Clearly he trusts her. Tomo’s friend may be stupid, but he’s a genius stalker who easily tracks down the visiting family friend within a day. Of course, he just wants to see more hot chicks, but it’s useful to Tomo and inadvertently a really good thing. The apparent moral: stalking girls is okay when it’s done FOR JUSTICE.
Tomo talks to his ghost during school as well, unlike a certain magical notebook user. This results in some weird looks from those close enough to notice. Misao is, incidentally, by far the liveliest girl on the cast, despite being clearly dead. A clear case of mistaken identity, though, as the heterochromia is gone. Either it’s a different personality, or a different girl who just looks the same . . . anyway, the gossip mill starts cranking and Tomo’s reputation as a weird boy grows.
And then . . . guns, drugs, and TOW missiles.
These parts of Asura Cryin are really reminiscent of Futakoi Alternative, where it just felt like the volume level was cranked up to 11 and physics gave way to style. Explosions, cute girls, heavy weaponry, and magical powers abound. Despite the riot of firepower, it manages to stay classy. Mooks are clearly distinguishable from heroes; a missile flattens all of the Inquisition group except for its leader, who isn’t singed or scratched in the least. Bullets mow down normal people, but the Yakuza boss calmly walks through a withering hail of machine gun fire. The Mexican standoff between the leaders is hilarious.
Then we have a theoretical physics reference, much as the Dirac seas in angels were a reference in Evangelion, but this one does not appear to have been well thought out: the Schwarzschild radius is the radius beyond which an object collapses under its own weight into a black hole. Calling something that and then having things come out is rather bizarre. At any rate, this explains the name of the episode – Asura Machina, or “demon machine.”
Whew! That was a lot. Asura Cryin’s problem is that it is too dense. The first episode had at least five plot twists or sudden reveals. While on the whole I am against decompression, there was easily enough material in this episode for two or three episodes at a more normal pace. Still, the patient watcher is rewarded with both plot and very promising fight sequences. This show could turn out quite nicely if the pace is addressed.