Reviewby Carlo Santos, Oct 19th 2007
Galaxy Angel Rune
Apricot "Rico" Sakuraba and her friends are the bubbly, high-flying members of the Rune Angel Troupe, an intergalactic peacekeeping force. Defending space is all in a day's work, but so is keeping everyone on the team happy! Rico's looking for a good deal at a bargain sale, but she'll have to fight off the hardcore shoppers to get what she wants. Then space raider Anise wants to make a meal of "legendary hot pot," but she'll have to travel across the universe to collect the legendary ingredients. A visit from a galactic princess goes beyond interstellar diplomacy when she asks Rico to help her find the perfect cookie, and Troupe members Anise and Lily try to resolve their personality conflicts—with hilariously violent results.
After the packaging debacle that was the first Galaxy Angel Rune DVD (one episode and a 45-minute "bonus" concert recording), fans will be happy to know that the second volume reverts back to a more normal format. The four episodes on this disc feature more of the usual Angel antics, investing in all styles of comedy to see what sticks. Not surprisingly, the results are a hit-or-miss collection of attempted humor: some segments, like the over-the-top parodies in the hot pot episode, are close to brilliant; other parts like the bargain sale episode are a mind-numbing exercise in hyperactive behavior. Don't expect anything special or new in the visual department—heck, this one doesn't even have unlockable fanservice!—but get ready for another dose of silly space adventures.
For those who like to get bad stuff out of the way first in order to enjoy the goodies later, you'll be happy to know that the worst episode on this disc is the first one. Rico's bargain-shopping adventure is screechy, inconsistent, and makes the mistake of trying to shoehorn a crime-fighting side plot into it. Sadly, idiotic behavior does not automatically equate to funny (not even with a Rocky parody), and nobody cares about space-police procedurals when everything else is geared towards comedy. On the other hand, the episode right after that is an example of how to get it right: Anise's quest for the perfect meal of hot pot takes something mundane and exaggerates it to epic levels. The Angel Troupe's path to dinnertime is loaded with fantastic spoofs, riffing on Indiana Jones, board-game competitions, school-punk brawls, old-time war films, and finishing with a classic shounen-tournament showdown against an Afro-clad villain.
After that outburst of creativity, it's no surprise that everything afterwards is a letdown. The remaining two episodes on the disc feature average-to-decent levels of comedy, with the cookie episode copying the previous formula—an epic quest to find great food—except not nearly as good. The princess character adds a bit of humor with her picky attitude and reflective forehead, but there just aren't as many laughs here compared to the hot pot ordeal. Finally, Anise and Lily's attempt at reconciliation throws the spotlight on two of the Troupe's more grown-up characters, but the constant use of the odd-couple gimmick turns it into a repetitive effort. Oh look, these two people are complete opposites in personality, let us laugh at them. Again. And again. And again. After a while, it's not funny anymore, except maybe when Anise and Lily do the kick-punch-and-fight routine, which is an example of perfect comedic timing.
One does not go to Galaxy Angel to see stunning artistic technique, and this set of episodes is no different. "Adequate" would be a polite way of describing the animation quality, which frequently skimps on frame rate. (Watch Lily and Anise's dialogue scenes at the eatery, where everything is seen from behind in order to eliminate mouth animations.) To make up for the lack of character movement, the series resorts to high-speed visual gags—throw enough junk on the screen, and people will be too busy laughing to criticize the quality! The technique works well when there's a wealth of good material, like the parodies in the hot pot episode, but other times it just looks like an assault on the eyes. Of course, that assault could also be attributed to the bright colors and generic character designs, which are clearly high in cuteness but low on elegance or subtlety.
This kill-'em-with-cuteness aesthetic is also prevalent in the opening sequence, a high-speed audiovisual explosion that ought to come with a health warning. The theme songs are pure pop candy, of course, but are also threateningly catchy. Likewise, the background music makes use of bouncy synthesized material wherever it can—why pay for musicians when an electronic keyboardist will do everything for you?—resulting in a soundtrack that is often jovial but lacking in any other emotional range.
A subtitle-only translation and high price tag make this a release clearly geared towards hardcore fans, preferably with some proficiency in Japanese language. The subtitles are so hellbent on accuracy that it sometimes leaves words untranslated in order to preserve a pun—you'd better understand the usage and purpose of "de gozaru" if you want to get one of the jokes—as well as a lot of food names. Clearly, this won't go over well with English-speaking viewers who actually want understand the anime in English. A couple of minor annoyances also drag down the DVD's technical aspects—each episode quits to the main menu instead of continuing to the next, and the default language setting is subtitles with no sign translations. (Believe it or not, some people do like to know what the on-screen text says.)
Fortunately, the bonus content is more likable: the reversible DVD cover features a pair of attractive color illustrations, and the included booklet contains tidbits about the episodes in this volume (which is at least more entertaining than generic character profiles). The disc itself contains textless ending sequences, as well as a couple of 3-minute film shorts starring the show's voice actresses that might actually be of more artistic value than anything else on the DVD.
Those who think of Galaxy Angel Rune as just a quick cash-in on a brain-dead yet highly popular series ... are probably right. As these episodes show, the whole point of the series is to have cute, dumb-as-bricks girls go on wacky adventures in space and try to score a good meal or snack. Every now and then a gem pops up, as in the madcap brilliance of the hot pot episode, along with other occasional bursts of parody and absurdity. However, it doesn't change the fact that this is still a low-budget production whose main focus is on moving merchandise rather than making art. Yes, it can be enjoyed, but only in the same way one enjoys cotton candy: sweet and sugary, but empty on the inside.
Overall (dub) : N/A
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C+
Animation : D
Art : C
Music : C
+ One terrific episode (plus a few other moments) loaded with parody, absurdity, and comedic mayhem.
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