In recent years every anime season has seen nearly every series debuting be picked up for release in the West but a decade ago the anime market was in a very different place that saw only a few acquisitions each season with many anime left languishing. Over the years many of these have been picked up in some form and now Asura Cryin’ has been given that same treatment but in a slightly unique manner. Originally airing back in 2009, during a season where a number of prominent franchises debuted, and released in Japan on DVD, the Western release of the series appears to be the first time Asura Cryin’ has made its way to Blu-ray so now that it has been released, is it worth revisiting the past?
After barely surviving a devastating plane crash that took the life of his close friend three years prior, Tomoharu Natsume, nicknamed Tomo by his friends, has transferred into a new school and is living alone due to his mother remarrying and not wanting him to ruin her new romance. This chance at living alone may seem like a blessing but Tomo is never alone because rather than being haunted by his past trauma he is instead haunted by the ghost of Misao, the girl that perished in the aforementioned plane crash. Although he’s adapted well to Misao’s presence, Tomo often forgets that he is the only one that can see her, that is until people begin rapidly appearing in his life that can not only see Misao but have far more knowledge about the mysteries of the world than he could have imagined.
This all begins when a mysterious woman appears with a gift from his overseas brother, a steel briefcase that Tomo must protect no matter what. Of course it isn’t long before numerous factions including a shrine-priestess, a mafia organization, and religious order begin assaulting him from all sides all wanting something. With the help of the Science Club, of which there are many names, and those close to him Tomo manages to learn bits and pieces of truth about what the briefcase holds, what Misao actually is, and the powerful weapon that he can call forth to save the world.
One of the immediate things that viewers will notice when it comes to Asura Cryin’ is that it takes full advantage of the fact that it has twenty six episodes to work with. This is something of a double edged sword because while the majority of the core cast of characters are given plenty of character development, with some even given entire episodes to expand upon their backstories, it also means that the pacing is incredibly rough. For the most part, viewers will be just as confused as Tomo near the beginning of the series due to the fact that while many crazy events are happening around him, very little is actually explained despite these frantic developments. Instead most of the focus is spent on developing the core cast while still leaving many of the mystical elements in the dark until the second half of the series.
Along these same lines the story will also devote entire sections at a time to dropping tons of information on the viewer at a time. This lack of proper pacing can be rather frustrating at times, making the series feel more rear-loaded than it should given the fact that, originally, this two season anime aired within months of each other, especially since so many of the middle episodes of the series end up feeling like filler and more often than not a cliffhanger at the end of an episode is left hanging entirely or wrapped up off-screen when beginning the next episode.
That isn’t to say that Asura Cryin’ is a bad series by any means as the strong development for its characters, especially Tomo Misao, Kanade, and even Reishiro, helps emotionally invest viewers into a story that falls into a fairly steady pace after the initial frantic introduction before eventually escalating to an unpredictable level throughout the second half of the series. Asura Cryin’ manages to deliver a solid, albeit a little unorthodox, blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and romance that culminates into a story that has its fair share of giant mecha battles, living spirits, and girls that can pop rifles out of their arms, but still manages to stay grounded enough to deliver a satisfying storyline.
Now it is interesting to note that while Asura Cryin’ is being released on Blu-ray here in North America, there currently doesn’t appear to be a Japanese version of the series on this format and although the series was originally aired back in 2009, the transfer from DVD to Blu-ray here has worked rather well. The animation may still appear a bit aged at times, especially when it comes to some of the blending of the CG battle scenes, but for the most part the animation and art style work quite well here.
There is a decent amount of variety when it comes to the character designs and their wardrobes change quite often, especially in the case of Misao, to keep things fresh. It is interesting to note that while there is a decent amount of fan-service spread throughout the series there is nothing that really pushes the line and it even tends to take a bit of a backseat the further the show progresses.
It is worth noting that while Maiden Japan’s release of this series does combine both the first and second season of Asura Cryin’ it does not include an English dub of any kind. Instead viewers will be presented with the original Japanese voice work and considering the 2009 air date of the series, it features not only a number of high profile voice actors at the time but a few, now popular veterans, that were just starting out at the time. As such the Japanese dub is excellently handled here and viewers will be pleased with their performances.
The soundtrack features a wide-array of background music to fit the transitions from combat to slice-of-life style scenery although most do not stand out in any special way. As for the opening and ending themes, they are handled incredibly well with the first season’s opening “Spiral” and ending theme, “Link” both performed by Angela being the real highlights here.
This Blu-ray release of Asura Cryin’ offers a clean version of the first opening and ending of the series but oddly enough does not include the second opening and ending of the series. Also included are trailers for other releases from Maiden Japan.
Asura Cryin’ can feel like a hard series to get into thanks to its rather rough start featuring far too many events occurring with little explanation but once it manages to push through this initial introduction it manages to tell a story featuring a well-developed cast of characters and plenty of mecha action. Though the pacing remains an issue throughout the series and there are more than a few plot threads that are left hanging, Asura Cryin’ does end up coming off as a rather fun series that feels a bit aged, mostly due to its structure, but still holds up rather well.