With the recent trend in films and TV shows to have as dark a plot as possible (in order to appeal to the group of angsty teens that gush whenever blood or death comes on screen), it’s no surprise that Satsuriku no Tenshi, an anime literally called the Angel of Death, has been released.
Based on a horror role-playing game (RPG) game, Angel of Death tells the story of Rachel Gardner, who wakes up in a dark creepy place with no idea how she got there and has to escape from a bunch of psycho killers that all want her guts as Christmas decorations. At least, that’s the story line we expect to see, until Rachel realizes that she hates her own life and asks one of the psychos, Jack, to kill her.
It sounds ludicrous on paper, and, to some extent, it is. However I’d say Angel of Death makes it mostly work by justifying it with surprisingly good amounts of drama.
Angst is often something we all roll our eyes at, but when described and explored to the depth this anime does, I’d say it earns that bit of darkness. Rachel makes a fairly good character despite the fact that 90 percent of her dialogue consists of the words “kill” and “me,” and her psycho companion, Jack, actually gets some of the best lines in the whole show despite spending half of it cackling like he inhaled too much laughing gas.
Sadly though, that drama doesn’t extend to the other characters – the other psychos roaming around the building. Maybe these minor characters were explored more fully in the game, but since this is just a 12-episode show, their personalities were unfortunately drastically cut short. They were reduced to just animation fodder, with a new villain every week prancing about on screen, trying – and failing – to be edgy. In the end, their personalities end up as generic as their designs – a little pumpkin kid, a clearly Dracula-inspired guy, a mad scientist and a dominatrix lady.
This anime also stutters a bit in the entertainment department; the original game was an RPG-style puzzle exploration game that involved roaming about in dark spaces, trying to find some vague clue that leads to the hint to the key to the door to the chest to the button until your brains turn to mush.
Of course, the developers must have realized that keeping all these elements in the anime would drive away all the impatient viewers who came to fuel their edge gauge, and the show has almost none of the puzzle elements left.
While this was a smart choice in some sense, this also means that what we do see of Jack and Rachel’s escape attempt is rather boring and simple. Finding a key to hit a button to the next location isn’t exactly the most riveting thing to watch, and a lot of the mystery elements that could have been explored were also cut short.
The pattern of most of the puzzles are also carbon-copy, with Jack’s ineptitude and Rachel’s constant need to find a solution to it; and no, it doesn’t make it any less dumb just because he admits that he’s stupid. You’d think anyone would realize that they’ve sat down in an electric chair without someone having to tell you that perhaps sitting in it might result in some burnt clothes and fried meat.
What this results in is a mixed bag of an anime that has drama, horror, thrills and mystery but, at the same time, not enough of it to really stick in any particular category. Rachel and Jack are good, but aside from them, the cast is bland. The story has some interesting elements but is cut short by ramblings about sin and god – typical of any edgy story. The action value, aside from some legitimately impressive animation, falls short and flat.
Satsuriku no Tenshi could have been quite good, and I can definitely see its potential; it’s just that it was better realized as a game where the player is free to spend as much time as they want on any portion of the story.
With the restrictions of having to watch it in 12 20-minute intervals, the storytelling choices are inevitably limited. That being said, I’m still impressed by the developers; they managed to make the best they could out of rather unforgiving circumstances. Unfortunately, while I give them an A for effort, I cannot be so kind to the show itself.
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