REVIEW: AESTHETICA OF A ROGUE HERO – THE COMPLETE SERIES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RION KUJO / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: YOKO HISADA, NOBUHIKO OKAMOTO / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 16TH
A lot of stories tend to mimic Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (look at Star Wars), it’s become old hat. Good may very well overcome evil, but that’s often where the story ends. Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, on the other hand, begins after the panty-snatching ‘hero’ Akatusi vanquishes a dark lord in the sword-and-sorcery land of Alayzard. Having promised to take care of the fallen lord’s daughter, Akatusi takes Mui to another world, posing as brother and sister. The two attend Babel, a high school for Alayzard kids.
The 12-part anime (based on the manga by Tetsuto Uesu) may have an interesting enough premise, but very quickly descends into little more than exploitation; Mei is introduced literally as luggage, stored naked in a knapsack. The entire run routinely objectifies, demeans and humiliates its female characters, whether that’s with the regular up-skirt and crotch-shots during combat sequences, or Akatusi forcing three of the main characters to piss themselves.
While Akatusi fancies himself a rogue and has been lauded with the title of hero, he’s a vile sex-pest. His favourite pastime does seem to be stealing women’s underwear while they’re wearing it, watching them showering and molesting them. Everyday sexism indeed.
When it comes down to it, the show is little better than hentai with a few interesting concepts thrown in for good measure, making Nude Nuns with Big Guns look positively wholesome. While busty schoolgirls are a staple of anime, you’d be better off sticking to Sailor Moon which at least stopped short of being offensive.
Aesthetica is filled with trite character clichés, especially the two-dimensional Chikage Izumi, a stereotypical sports-loving, short-haired and deep-voiced lesbian. The character, when introduced, is made out to be a sexual predator, forcing herself onto another girl. It genuinely feels as though the manga was written, at best, with a distrust of women and, at worst, loathing.
The show routinely belittles sexual violence, somehow making Akatuki’s antics out to be an endearing foible. The fifth episode (A Day We Spend in the Weekend) is all but exclusively dedicated to bra-shopping, which amounts to little more than Miu getting groped and humiliated to the point of tears.
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the show is the blasé attitude to child abuse. In the third episode (To Become An Adult…) Akatsuki takes Kuzaha, a grade school girl, into a couples room. What follows is a deeply unsettling scene where the ‘hero’ all but forces himself on her.
Schoolkids fighting one another is nothing you haven’t seen before, hell Battle Royale takes the crown and then some, but there's no denying that the fight sequences are enjoyable enough, complete with oversized weaponry and dazzling magic. Faylan’s “Realization” is a fun opening theme (think Mindless Self Indulgence covering Bonnie Tyler) and the music is one of the best parts of the show. But even in moments of apparent tenderness, sexual violence creeps in, tainting what could have been something sweet into something sinister.
If you’re a 14-year-old boy who wants something to entertain your friends, then an anime where the focal point is tits, big weapons and loud fights is really going to butter your crumpet. If not, it’s probably best to stick to Naruto or Kill la Kill.
Extras: US trailer / Promo videos / Opening and closing songs