Burst Angel Volume 1: Death’s Angel

Rating: TV-14

Starring:
Monica Rial as Jo
Jamie Marchie as Meg
Alison Retzloff as Amy
Clarine Harp as Sei
Greg Ayres as Kyohei
R. Bruce Elliott as Grey Capo and Narrator
Dave Trosko as Hayao Ichimondera and Spike
Wendy Powell as Ms. Hongo
Jerome 57 as Thug Boss
Chuck Huber as Wong
Robert McCollum as Liang
Andrew T. Chandler as Mac

Special Features:
Guide booklet
Commentary track for episode 4
Radio drama volume 1
Textless songs
Outtakes
Collector’s Set includes Burst Angel Charm Strap

Other Info:
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (16:9)
Region: 1
Soundtracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English (optional)
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Synopsis:
Burst Angel is a 24-episode anime TV series produced by Studio GONZO that aired in Japan in 2004 under the title “Bakuretsu Tenshi.” This DVD contains the first four episodes of Funimation’s English adaptation of the series.

From the DVD cover: A new law has been passed in Tokyo…

Ordinary people are now allowed to freely carry firearms. Crime has turned citizens against each other in a fight for survival on the city’s mean streets. Thanks to the Recent Armed Police of Tokyo, the arrest rate is going down. After all, the only prison a dead man needs is a hole in the ground.

RAPT is taking away jurisdiction from local authorities quicker than they can draw their guns. In these dark times, an angel arrives on Earth. No one is sure if she came from up above or down below, but with her partners Sei, Amy, and Meg, Jo’s the best chance this town’s got.

Burst Angel is rated TV-14 for bloody violence, language, and near-nudity.

The Series:
Studio GONZO has built their reputation on the blending of 3D CGI with conventional 2D animation. Rather than striving for a photorealistic look as done when mixing CGI with live action, GONZO specializes in “cel-shaded” CGI designed to match the 2D cels and backgrounds stylistically, but with smoothness and detail unmatched by hand-drawn animation. Blue Submarine #6, their first such effort, was somewhat crude by today’s standards, but GONZO steadily refined their art with Yukikaze and Last Exile. Their latest title, Burst Angel, marks another step forward. Visually, it’s nothing less than stunning, especially for a TV series, which are typically developed with much lower budgets than OAVs or feature films. There are only a few scenes where errors in perspective between the CGI and the background paintings give themselves away.

The series follows the adventures of a mercenary band of four women, Jo, Meg, Sei, and Amy, in a future Tokyo overrun by violent gangs. Stylistically, the series is cyberpunk punctuated by frequent nods to spaghetti westerns and Hong Kong action movies. It’s wall-to-wall action clichés, but delivered in a manner that is more homage than ripoff.

The four episodes divide neatly into two-episode story arcs. In the first two episodes, Sei hires a shy culinary student named Kyohei as the group’s cook. Kyohei is a shy, peaceful type and immediately finds himself kidnapped by the girls’ enemies. Most of the action in the first two episodes is seen through Kyohei’s eyes and it would be natural to assume he becomes the main character, but this is merely a device to introduce us to the girls. Kyohei takes a definite backseat in episodes 3 and 4.

The real main character of the series is Jo, a quiet, mysterious girl who wields twin .50 cal Desert Eagles with deadly accuracy. Apart from her gender and the fact that she goes into battle wearing next to nothing, she’s the archetypical spaghetti western hero. She’s usually accompanied by Meg, who is Jo’s polar opposite in personality and who shares a relationship with Jo that is only hinted at in the first four episodes. They are supported by Sei, the group’s apparent leader, and Amy, a precocious computer expert. Like Jo, all go for the scantily-clad look to one degree or another, and all are action-movie archetypes. Rounding out the cast, in a way, is the girls’ giant robot Django, which is usually piloted by Jo.

From a technical point of view, it’s pretty obvious this DVD is an A-list release. The transfer is gorgeous, detailed 16:9 widescreen. Both the English and Japanese soundtracks are full 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround.

The DVD’s TV-14 rating should be taken seriously by parents. The series is quite violent, often bloody and (especially in episode 4) explicitly gory as well. The English soundtrack has occasional profanity. Although the girls’ outfits are quite revealing, there’s little actual nudity, at least in these first four episodes.

The Extras:
Funimation’s TV anime DVDs have historically been light on extras. Burst Angel reverses this trend on quantity, though the quality is a bit spotty.

The DVD case includes a 16-page guide booklet with character and mechanical descriptions, and background paintings of the various locations. It also has a short interview with Akeno Watanabe, voice actress for Jo on the Japanese track, and commentary from the bands who performed the theme songs.

The Collector’s Set packages the first DVD in a box big enough to hold all six TV series DVDs plus the OAV special, and includes a charm strap featuring Jo and Meg.

The DVD includes the following extras:
Commentary track for episode 4, “The Brothers Die at Dawn” – features Monica Rial (Jo) and Jamie Marchie (Meg) along with the voice director and audio engineer. Though it doesn’t really shed much light on the episode, it can be amusing at times.

Radio drama – a collection of audio tracks featuring the Japanese voice cast, subtitled over a still background. Though it can also be a bit amusing at times, it’s for hardcore seiyuu (Japanese voice actor) fans only.

Textless songs – the opening and closing theme songs (“Loosey” and “Under the Sky”) without credits. The opening song is in Japanese, while both Japanese and English versions of the closing theme are included. Unfortunately, there’s no romaji karaoke subtitles like some previous Funimation releases have included.

Outtakes – various vocal flubs from the production of the English dub, of decidedly uneven humor value.

Trailers – commercials for other Funimation titles, including Dragon Ball Z, Lupin III, Burst Angel, and Baki the Grappler.

The Bottom Line:
Burst Angel is a wall-to-wall action TV series with beautiful girls and stunning animation. Those who like their anime with more plot or characterization should take a wait-and-see attitude, but the series has potential.

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