Though he's busy saving the world, Judge William Lee still hopes to find someone who enjoys window-shopping.
On a planet of mystery, her fate was written in the stars.
In another life where I'm a teenage girl who regularly reads manga and plays computer games, perhaps I would enjoy Neo Angelique: Abyss. That's assuming I haven't already come across a better version of the same story and sci-fi elements that are recycled into this anime series. Chances are, I'd still be peeved by the absence of unicorns.
Neo Angelique: Abyss is the latest incarnation of the story begun in the Angelique video game series which was popular in Japan but never imported to North America. What I understand about the original game (thanks, Wikipedia), is that it concerns a young girl proving herself as a worthy successor to the Queen of the cosmos. Along the way, she has the chance to fall in love with one of a selection of Guardians. Not exactly my handbag of Chihuahuas but let's consider how this reboot is meant to appeal to its target audience.
Angelique was orphaned at a young age when aliens called Thanatos attacked their home on Arcadia. Now 17, she's studying at a girls' boarding school to become a doctor like her father was. A handsome and sophisticated stranger named Nyx recruits Angelique to be a Purifier and join him in fighting the Thanatos. Angelique is the first and only female Purifier so she's naturally the center of attention when three more guys join the team. Later dubbed the Orb Hunters, Angelique and her four non-threatening potential suitors live together in the Sunlit Mansion. It's also possible that Angelique is the chosen one—the Queen's Egg—who will rid Arcadia of the Thanatos forever.
The world of Arcadia resembles a fantasy vision of pre-industrial age Europe. There are giant ocean vessels but on land people travel around in horse-drawn carriages. There are cute villages sporting timber-framed houses like those of Gothic era Germany as well as imposing castles and French chateaux. Weapon technology encompasses anything from spears and automatic handguns to artillery. The most powerful force is the Light of Purification that Angelique can summon when it's needed most.
There is about equal attention paid to the sci-fi action and the romantic angle but neither aspect of Angelique's story is really compelling though. The Thanatos don't seem like a real threat. They usually appear in the form of grotesque plants or bugs with tentacles that suck the life out of humans. Sometimes they're very difficult to kill and other times a bullet in the sweet spot is enough to make them dematerialize. Their victims' health is restored when Angelique comes around to apply her Light of Healing. It doesn't help their cause that the origin of the Thanatos isn't explored to any satisfying degree over the course of this first season.
As for the romance between Angelique and her male harem, there are really only two worthy contenders: the sophisticated, older Nyx (handy with a whip) and the young, renegade scientist, Rayne (quick and deadly with a gun). A former Knight of the Silver Tree, Hyuga, is an ultra-serious sort who pledges his allegiance to the Queen's Egg so he comes off more like a servant. The ever-smiling J.D.—who looks remarkably like a straight version of Xandir from Drawn Together—is slightly aloof and later revealed to be a kind of robot so his role is nearer to that of a younger brother or gay best friend. The closing credits animation shows Angelique walking in the rain on a quiet city street. She pauses to look in a shop window and fix her hair. Next, she's walking away from camera with an unidentified man. The repetition of that scene does reinforce the expectation that Angelique will find her true love in the course of her adventure. Like the rest of the storytelling, however, the romantic drama never gains enough momentum to make me care much about its development.
Thirteen half-hour episodes are spread between two discs. There are roughly three story arcs in this first season. The first few episodes introduce the members of the team as they assemble after seeing the initial sign of the Queen's Egg's power. The second set of episodes concern Angelique's coming out to the Arcadian populace as she assumes the role that has been prophesied. The subsequent and largest portion of episodes concerns the corporation known as The Foundation and their development of a secret weapon against the Thanatos, Jinx: a remote controlled tank that imitates Angelique's power. However, Jinx proves to be more destructive than it is helpful and the Purifiers' heroic efforts are compromised as a result.
The show looks quite good on this Sentai Filmworks DVD release. The image is clean and lines look smooth and sharp. The colors are slightly muted but it seems to be the result of an intentional lighting effect. The character designs look like typical anime creations but the backgrounds are impressively detailed and realistic whether the setting is a seaside town or a lush forest. Animation is about average for television anime with limited character movement and plenty of camera pans across still frames. The stereo audio sounds fine but only the Japanese language mix is available. The optional English subtitles are easy to read.
The two extras are a clean version of the opening title animation and the "Neo Angelique Abyss Theater." The latter is a set of five short animations retelling select moments from the series with chibi, or childlike, versions of the characters. They're cute and mildly amusing.
Stocked with bland, run-of-the-mill anime characters that don't look too different from each other, it's hard to get involved with this story. Viewers who haven't seen Sailor Moon or Fushigi Yugi or The Vision of Escaflowne may find that the action has enough energy and the heroine isn't too annoying. For them, Neo Angelique: Abyss: Season One may be a tolerable distraction for a few hours but not even the cliff hanger ending could entice me to a second visit to Arcadia.
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