Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger doesn't want his dead pets reincarnated in human form to serve him. That would just be weird.
Master, we came back to serve you this time! But are we doing a good job?
If you watch enough anime, certain themes and subgenres emerge. One such subgenre is known as the harem plot, wherein a bumbling young man is unexpectedly beset by a swarm of magical babes who start fighting over him. Anime based on this theme can be tender and romantic, such as Ai Yori Aoshi, or ribald and action-packed, such as Tenchi Muyo!. Such angles are practically necessary; otherwise the predictable plot becomes meaningless.
Angel Tales didn't get that memo. With few exceptions, there's nothing here we haven't seen before. The setup for Goro's harem is paper-thin: A fortune-teller/goddess notices that Goro is unlucky but that he is still kind to people and animals. She rewards him by sending guardian angels down to watch over him. That's basically it, except for the twist that the angels are all reincarnated pets looking for their master. Thus, each girl has a distinctly animal-like personality, which leads to conflict. The cat girl taunts the hamster girl, the dog girl scares the fox girl, the rabbit girl and the tortoise girl race each other, and so forth. Everything about Angel Tales feels like strict interpretation without an understanding of the spirit. Place one nerd in an apartment, add girls with distinct "personalities," rinse, repeat.
Stop me if you've seen this character before: a diminutive, impish girl who is always hungry, devouring anything edible with zany dispatch. How about the girl who is demure and loyal, pretty but unassuming? Have you ever seen a sly, showboating redhead with pointy ears and even pointier teeth? If you have watched a decent number of anime titles, chances are you have seen every character in Angel Tales, more than once and done with more flair.
For a central character, Goro is surprisingly nondescript. I'm having trouble recalling what he looked like, and I'm struggling to remember any significant action he performed or moving words he spoke. He does play the harmonica, one song over and over again.
The girls are equally bland. Beyond a doubt, the most frequently spoken word in this show is "master." "Is Master cold? I will get Master a blanket." "Master…oh, master, thank you for being such a good master." Apart from this ingratiating submissiveness, all the gals do is argue with each other. There was one moment when two of them squared off that I thought was going to get interesting, but they ended up waving their arms around like Wile E. Coyote falling over a cliff. It might have been more appealing if there were fewer of them. By the end of episode four, we've been introduced to no less than eight guardian angels, which means we've relived eight grisly pet deaths, heard eight voices sigh "oh, master," and watched eight girls shoot daggers at each other with their eyes. I may misunderstand the harem subgenre, but the mere existence of women in the apartment does not result in ego gratification or fantasy fulfillment. If it wasn't for the rabbit girl's fetching come-on, I'd say that Angel Tales had no pulse at all. Unfortunately, Goro was sleeping at the time.
Angel Tales is visually pleasing. The lines are crisp (aside from minor periodic softness), the colors are bold and cleanly saturated. Although action is not emphasized, there are some nice effects such as rain dancing off of Goro. Flashbacks to the past are rendered in a faux grain that tries to evoke melancholy. Had the material been better, the visuals would have been up to the task. The same can be said for the audio. Technically it is fine, but the voice acting is uninspired. The voice actors aren't doing a poor job, but they aren't feeling the material either. When the soundtrack consists of eight whining voices, it is hard to maintain interest.
There are two extras of note, neither of which is the Illustration Gallery listed on the back cover. The first is character profiles, which gives us the bust measurements, zodiac sign, fears, and personality traits of each girl like some sort of stalker database. The second is Venomous Tales, noteworthy because it makes fun of Angel Tales through crudely drawn sketches. It wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but I appreciate a show with enough humility to poke fun at itself.
If you've never been exposed to the harem subgenre, or if you like paint-by-numbers anime, this one may be of interest to you. Otherwise, I can't think of a real selling point. The court finds Angel Tales guilty of unoriginality.
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