After saving a fairy-tale kingdom, Akatsuki returns to the real world with his prize—Miu, the busty daughter of the defeated Dark Lord. It’s one hell of a happy ending until they’re forced to enroll at a school for magic users. There, Akatsuki can’t keep his hands off the girls, Miu’s constantly ballooning measurements make her a walking wardrobe malfunction, and it seems like someone is always plotting against them.
Jam-packed with extreme action and comedy, you’re in for a bouncy ride that’s sure to have you bursting at the seams. Lock your door and close the blinds; Akatsuki and Miu are about to take you places you never knew you wanted to go.
Ever watch those harem anime in which the male lead the girls cluster around is such a mental eunuch that it makes you wish that another character would grab the garden shears and finish the job? Those can drive you crazy sometimes, even if you do appreciate the service (as I do). Well, Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero (Hagure Yuusha no Esutetika) is now here to make you thankful for that kind of anime.
Aesthetica opens with Akatsuki Ousawa, carrying a large sack over his shoulder, trying to escape from Alayzard, a sword-and-sorcery land in another dimension that people from the real world sometimes find themselves in, thanks to something called the Otherworld Gate. A sizable number of female archers dressed in maid uniforms are attempting to stop him, but he manages to stop the arrows flying by nibbling on the earlobe of one of them and snatching the underwear off of the rest of them from under their clothes. Wait, what? When he’s back in his real-world pad, he opens his sack to reveal not stolen bras and panties (he doesn’t collect them), but a good-looking and very buxom pink-haired young woman, whose clothing has been doffed to allow her to cross dimensions; this is something guys apparently don’t need to do. Meet female lead Miu. She is the daughter of Alayzard’s Dark Lord Garius, who Akatsuki defeated; his dying words entrusted Miu to him, since she doesn’t seem to want to become a Dark Lady herself, but just live her own life in peace. To this end, Akatsuki takes her to his home world and works out a story line with her that she is really his long-lost younger sister who he reunited with in Alayzard, in order to keep an eye on her and try to keep her safe. Unfortunately, they couldn’t come up with anything to help her explain why she has difficulty finding clothes (especially school outfits) that fit correctly and/or don’t get damaged by her endowments.
The day after their return, a car arrives to whisk them both off to BABEL Academy. We get a quick explanation of the “Summoning Syndrome” from a video in the waiting room of the medical wing, which is easy to miss the first time around because we mostly see Miu undergoing a physical exam while its narrator speaks. This started 30 years ago, and BABEL is an educational facility set up in an autonomous state started by the New United Nations in order to give guidance and training to people who have returned from where they were summoned with fighting skills they developed there, which are usually magic-based. Instead of that, Akatsuki chose to develop a talent for controlling internal energy flows using Linked Energy Manipulation, which is something we get to see him use quite a lot of, for different reasons. It doesn’t take him long to gain a reputation as a perverted so ‘n’ so, somebody who doesn’t back away from a fight if it comes to him (as both the class bully and the student council find out on their first day), and a guy whose skills are sharp enough to attract serious attention from the higher-ups at BABEL Academy, so the bits of boasting that he does are not empty.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, Akatsuki is a man, baby! Unfortunately, he’s also a pretty frickin’ big creep. That part in the box blurb about how he “can’t keep his hands off the girls” is not hype; he gropes so many female characters (mostly Miu) in this series that it almost makes me embarrassed to have a Y chromosome. One of the ways it tries (and fails) to undercut that is by making their classmate Chikage Izumi a fairly ravenous lesbian who is mighty grabby in her own right. In one infamous scene, she, Akatsuki, Miu and class president Kuzuha Doumoto wind up trapped in the phys-ed equipment room, thanks to one of her indiscretions. One of the girls eventually has to talk to a woman about a dog, so he figures he’ll minimize the girls’ embarrassment by making the other two have to go as well—and that’s what they all do. This earns him a sound thrashing, and they end up bonding over hating him for doing that in the showers afterward. Also notable is the part where it looks like he’s about to molest the very young (skipped several grades) Kuzuha, but just imparts some good advice to her instead. Gee, Sarge, was that set-up really necessary? To help things graze the bottom of the barrel briefly, he pulls Miu down into his bed and attacks her in HIS sleep. Yeah. Nothing like anime to occasionally remind one about how far behind Japan’s media can be on certain issues. The writing spends not a little time attempting to justify why he’s getting away with doing these terrible things—no, really, he’s actually a nice guy and there are good reasons—instead of having at least one girl close to him putting anti-androgen drugs in his food.
The second half of the series tries to make up for the first half by having things go wrong during BABEL’s Ranking Matches. You can tell it’s serious because the ecchiness level (and number of body shots of characters that are almost sideways) dips way down during this time, and Akatsuki somehow gathers enough respect for/from Miu, Chikage and Kuzuha to have them on his team. Phil Barnett, another person who had been summoned, has returned, and he’s trying to drag Miu back to Alayzard to execute her in order to quell the unrest that’s now happening there. Of course, Akatsuki isn’t standing for that, especially after Phil nearly takes out his teammates and tries to mind-trick Miu into killing herself, the attempt at which Our Hero manages to rescue her from. Given the choice between the evil Phil and the cad Akatsuki…I’d choose Miu, thank you. Despite the amount of time spent on this part of the story, which probably came from the originating light novels, its writing feels frankly rushed (especially the obvious trawling for a second season, which still has yet to happen in the two years since this finished in Japan), and even the Big Battle at the end didn’t really pay off for me.
To top…no, bottom everything off, just when you get used to Akatsuki behaving himself for once, the Embarrassing Original Videos (AKA bonus bits of extra-gratuitous fan service so that the Japanese companies can sell more ¥5000+ discs with only two episodes on them to their own people) are also on the second disc, and they help serve as vivid reminders of his objectionable side. One amusing touch in one of these is a reference to producers Studio ARMS’ big franchise, Queen’s Blade, which also gets briefly shown on a TV in the main show. The musical score? Sorry; couldn’t hear it for all the boobs and butthead. OP theme “Realization” by Faylan is a pumping blend of dance beats and rock guitar crunch, while ED theme “Ai no Sei de Nemurenai” by Aki Misato is its relatively shy little sister.
Episode 2 Commentary by Felicia Angelle (Miu), Monica Rial (Kuzuha) and Alexis Tipton (Haruka); Episode 8 Commentary by Eric Vale (Akatsuki), Joel McDonald (Motoharu) and Ryan Reynolds (Chikage; he normally does little boys’ voices); Embarrassing Original Videos; Promotional Videos; Textless Opening and Closing Songs; U.S. Trailer; Trailers.
One of these days, Japan will finally find a title like this featuring a male lead who is a MAN! without being an utter jerk about it. As it is, I found Akatsuki to be more of a liability than an asset to Aesthetica. This contains quality fan service, but there are many overall better sources for that sort of thing out there.
- Released By: Funimation Entertainment
- Available on BLU-RAY + DVD Combo Pack
- Running Time: 300 minutes
- Rating: TV – MA
- Release Date: 12/17/2013
- Reviewed By: Neil Ellard