Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Burst Angel OVA
Some time after Meg and Jo left the city where they first met, they return despite having sworn to never again grace (or curse) the city with their presence. It's the birthday of mute little Shirley, Jo's favorite among the orphans she and Meg once hung out with, and the two visitors are determined to bring her a present. Perpetually broke though they are, they manage to scrape together enough dough to make the purchase and head to meet her, and wouldn't you know it, the world being the nasty old place it is, Shirley has been hospitalized. The little lady was in the wrong place at a bad time and ended up victim to an indiscriminate slasher who has been terrorizing the poorer districts of the city. And so the slasher ends up with two very bad girls (okay, one very bad girl and one useless wimp) on his tail, and unfortunately for him, nothing gets Jo's ire up like folks who pick on the weak.
More than a year and a half after the sixth volume, the final episode of Burst Angel finally hits stores. Avid fans of this wild, often silly, mash-up of futuristic mecha clichés, gory horror and spaghetti westerns will be glad to have the complete series at last, but it's hard to see anyone else (tentative fans and non-fans alike) getting excited about one more episode of the same-old.
And that's the tragedy of this OVA. When given the budget for a video episode, instead of continuing the story past the abrupt yet rather promising end of the TV series, the series' creators decided to provide a side-story detailing more of Jo and Meg's frankly uninteresting back-story. It fulfills exactly the expectations raised by the television series: Jo runs around shooting crap and raising hell, a bunch of stuff explodes, there's a nifty mecha brought to life with the "Gonzo Special" brand of 3D CGI, a lot of people die in unpleasant ways, and there's a faint whiff of shoujo-ai in Meg and Jo's partnership. It also fulfills some expectations better left unfulfilled. Given that this story takes place somewhere midway between the previous back-story episodes and the beginning of the TV series, it would be breaking character for Meg to grow a spine, but that doesn't stop one from wishing that she'd do something other than snivel and cry whenever she's in a pinch. Plus, there's only one episode in the story and she still manages to get abducted.
Burst Angel's strongest appeal has always been that it bathed in the pulpy excesses of the dregs of pop culture much the way that Countess Báthory bathed in the blood of virgins, making the series lurid fun for those who prefer their entertainment violent and more than a little lowbrow. The OVA wears its influences on its sleeve; it may not have any more references to the awful Django movies, but it does contain the occasional nod to westerns and a glimpse of a fictional movie starring Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Pinhead and an ominous pile of junk food (Ronald McDonald's Nightmare on Friday of the 13th Hellraising Chainsaw Massacre?). The soundtrack's spaghetti-western acoustic guitar is as amusing as ever, with a little electronic jazz thrown in for good measure. And yet, for all the pulp in its veins, it never achieves the delirious outrageousness of the series' best episodes; you know, the ones that end with Jo sailing out of skyscrapers on decapitated monsters and have titles like "Wash This Flower Garden With Blood!" In comparison, the OVA's modest climax is positively bland.
Clocking in at nearly two hours, the disc's wealth of extras is hardly unique to the OVA: the series proper was at times more appealing for its extra material than for the show itself. Heck, some people probably bought it for character designer Ugetsu Hakua's gorgeous cover and booklet illustrations alone (Guilty!). But unlike the radio shows and audio dramas of the previous discs, the extras for the OVA aren't original works. They're recaps. A series of recaps fully four times the length of the solitary feature episode. The only extra really worthy of the name is a three-minute faux-preview for a second season that never was. Those three minutes afford one a glimpse of the strong, confident Meg promised by the ending freeze-frame of the TV series and also serve as proof that Hakua's art, with its bold, beautiful color contrasts and stunning smooth-limbed beauties, can be animated without losing its unique charm the way the sometimes poor compositions of the OVA do.
Their tediousness aside, the recaps do serve a purpose. The "Battle Record of All 24 Episodes," a nearly 90-minute series of short recaps of every single episode, serves well as a time-lapse record of the series' declining production values. With it one can actually see detail levels drop, characters flatten out, and movements grow truncated and shortcut-laden. It also serves as a convenient way to chart the ballooning size of Meg's breasts. The OVA itself finds a comfortable middle ground between the insane excellence of the opening episode and the sadly worn-out episodes towards the end—with the exception of Meg's breasts, which are subdued to match her tender age.
Burst Angel is hardly rocket science, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the English dub gets it right on. The actors turn in thoroughly suitable performances and even manage to wring a drop or two of pathos from the pulpy mess. The rewrites have some fun punching up and rearranging less important lines, producing a script that wanders further than it has to without moving the series in either a positive or negative direction, though the fact that the cadence and tone of the dialogue are just right is probably attributable to the liberties it takes. As an additional bonus, all of the extras are dubbed.
Don't let the sheer quantity of extras fool you. This is a single episode with an MSRP of thirty bucks. And a mediocre episode at that, even by the admittedly low standards of the Burst Angel franchise. But hey, that cover artwork is really gorgeous.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ A last dose of violent, stupid fun for those with an appreciation for the lowbrow and a fondness for the original.
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