Forte's Ruin Stew, Trouble Pickle
Anime can be shrill, obnoxious, and zany—in a bad way. If any series was a candidate for such adjectives, it would seem to be Galaxy Angel. Each episode is a 10-minute-long comedy/action/sci-fi sketch featuring five bubbly gals and a furry robot. These highly trained military operatives go on such critical missions as retrieving lost cats, delivering an old man's ID back to his elementary school, or digging in a dump for lost computer parts. Hold on tight!
But something unexpected happened mere minutes into this series. After I had gleaned its farcical nature and prepared for a slight headache, I found myself smiling. Seconds later that smile became a chuckle. Soon I was laughing, and it wasn't a gentle laugh either. I'm talking full-fledged, gut-busting fits of pure hilarity. It was the melancholy missile that got to me, but it could just as easily have been the hamster biotech weapon or the chicken suit.
Facts of the Case
Milfeulle, Mint, Forte, Ranpha, and Vanilla are the Galaxy Angels, a private group of military investigator/mercenary types. Their primary mission is to locate the Lost Technology, but since it is lost, no one knows what to look for. In the meantime, the Angels do odd jobs, such as rescuing cats from assassination or confronting hamsters on hostile alien terrain. In their free time, the ladies shovel down chili dogs, gamble away their stipends in casinos, and look for eligible men to date. (All of them except Vanilla, that is; she seems to remain stationary until action is required.)
The only mystery about Galaxy Angel is why the writers make any pretense of seriousness. They provide an elaborate backstory involving lost technology, intergalactic politics, and the surprise arrival of a massive space station. But these concerns hardly register as the show unfolds.
Anime can lean towards the dark and ponderous, and many fans like it fine that way. When anime goes the other way, the results can be cringe-inducing. Some anime comedy series are psychedelic shriekfests with blazing barrages of hyperactivity that leave the viewer reeling.
It is nice, then, when a comedy series hits the mark so surely. Each episode employs a quick setup that leads into a punch line during the finale. Galaxy Angel uses faux seriousness to its advantage, creating ludicrous scenarios that somehow seem plausible. Offbeat humor can easily seem forced, like a random collection of unrelated elements thrown together to see what sticks. For having such a blatantly slapstick premise, the humor in Galaxy Angel is subtle. The gags are carefully constructed. Even if a particular episode doesn't amuse you, you can still get enjoyment out of watching the surprise unfold.
The characters are distinct and have identifiable personalities. This feat is rather impressive since each episode runs about 10 minutes. The main character is Milfeulle, a naïve girl with pink hair and an impossible streak of good luck. (Her unflappable good luck sets up a particularly odd cataclysm in a casino.) Her naïvetè is balanced by Ranpha's poise and stunning looks, Mint's calm leadership, and Vanilla's Trek-like stoicism. Forte is like a man with breasts, aggressive and warlike but somehow gentle. These personalities lead to great interactions.
Because of the brevity of the episodes, I cannot say too much about the plot. Suffice it to say that Galaxy Angel delivers an unusual and comic alternative to typical anime fare. I could easily see Galaxy Angel episodes being used as intros or comic relief during anime viewing sessions because of the show's approachability and readily absorbable plots.
Bandai has provided a healthy amount of extras, depending on your point of view. Each episode originally aired with a brief narrative by Shintani Ryoko, the voice actress for Milfeulle. (Incidentally, Milfeulle took spot #15 in Newtype magazine's Top 100 Anime Females of 2002.) Shintani energetically describes a subset of the Galaxy Angel universe to get viewers pumped for the episode (or possibly to fill in the backstory that the show leaves unexplained). If you consider these clips to be part of the show, then their inclusion is mandatory. Because these clips were produced after the show, I consider them extras. Either way, Bandai has done the right thing and presented them with this DVD. There is also a promo clip that goes the serious route, convincing people that Galaxy Angel is a dramatic space opera. The joke was probably successful when the series first aired. Textless opening credits round out the extras package.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The audiovisual quality is not very impressive. The series opens in a hazy blur, as though we were viewing the scenes through a thin layer of petroleum jelly. This haziness diminishes but never completely disappears. There are combing artifacts throughout these first seven episodes, even during relatively unchallenging movements. The colors are vibrant but seem to bleed into each other slightly. These visual flaws are mainly annoyances and only a real problem in Episode One.
The audio is more problematic. Volume fluctuates throughout the series, even within conversations. This makes dialogue sound faint, causing strain to the listener. The audio fluctuations also introduce a strange spatial sensation, as though the characters are moving closer and farther away. Aside from this issue, the audio is average. The Japanese track is quite good, while the English dub is only so-so.
Brevity may be the key to Galaxy Angel's success. Whatever the reason, these short episodes deliver big laughs. The events are very strange, but never seem forced. If you appreciate the lighter side of anime, I encourage you to pick up this disc. The audiovisual flaws are not enough to eclipse the pure fun of Galaxy Angel.
The court remands Forte to gender reassignment therapy, and the missile to psychological counseling. Everyone else is free to go!
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