Reviewby Carlo Santos,
Galaxy Angel Z
DVD 1: Back for Seconds
Milfeulle, Forte, Ranpha, Vanilla and Mint are five young ladies who make up the Angel Brigade, an elite spacefaring team that goes on missions to retrieve artifacts of "Lost Technology." However, many of their journeys lead to odd misadventures. Sometimes it's having the team turn invisible or become oversized due to accidental use of Lost Technology, or it's something completely unrelated like getting into professional wrestling or vying for a prize on a game show. Even going on actual missions can be unpredictable, as Mint finds out when an entire civilization mistakes her for a legendary beast, or when Mint and Vanilla must guard a bag on a mysterious planet where everyone's after them.
There's got to be a reason why Galaxy Angel is so popular in Japan. With multiple seasons of anime under its belt, a concurrent manga series, regular appearances in Newtype magazine, and a catalog of merchandise that finds its way onto dealer tables at every convention, surely this franchise has some kind of particular charm. Maybe it's the cute young girls, the space adventures, and light situational comedy that make this a comfortable and easily likable show among Japanese audiences. Yet it hasn't translated to equal popularity in the West, where serious English-speaking fans often seek out works with more depth and involvement. And who can blame them? Galaxy Angel is all about silly, lightweight escapades in a low-budget style, and hey, we already get plenty of those without having to look to Japan.
Not once during these first six episodes of Galaxy Angel Z (each episode being 13 minutes) is it suggested that anyone need to know the events of the original series. It starts up right in the middle of a mission, and while it may take a while to learn the names of the characters, the direction of the story becomes instantly clear and there's little need for background knowledge. After all, what could be simpler than a team of girls traipsing around space in search of these so-called Lost Technologies? With no continuity from one episode to the next, this show feels a lot like an American cartoon, throwing the characters into simple but wacky scenarios and letting the jokes fly. However, your level of amusement may vary. Most of the gags are juvenile fare, relying on gross exaggeration of character traits ("Hahaha! Look at how angry Ranpha is!") or predictable comedic turns like mistaken identity.
Galaxy Angel Z does have its moments, however. With fast enough pacing, like in the game show episode, the sheer energy can make it a fun experience despite a flat and formulaic story. Then there are departures of style like in Episode 6, where a Twilight Zone mood hangs over Mint's mission to guard a mysterious bag. Even though the twist at the end is predictable, the homage to classic horror shows creates an amusing contradiction within this relentlessly happy series. However, moments like these aren't enough to save a show that revels in kiddie cartoon formula and fails to challenge the viewer.
The laziness of Galaxy Angel Z's animation is legendary, as evidenced by extreme shortcuts like depicting crowds of people as stylized blobs and the use of repetitive back-and-forth motion. This show is just a few steps away from being a montage of still images, and yet it's not a complete failure—there are occasional gags that rely on clever visual tricks, like Ranpha's face falling away to reveal an "in love" face during the wrestling episode. Otherwise, the visual style is mediocre or worse, and the CG spaceships are about as clunky as they come (thankfully, they don't show up a lot). Even the main characters, who are supposed to be the focus of the show, get cheated when they're not rendered in static close-up. Like everyone, else they become simplified renderings that obey the animation philosophy of drawing as few lines as possible. On the other hand, I hear that Milfeulle looks great on Galaxy Angel posters and pin-ups!
Matching the tone of this series is a music score that's persistently cheerful and bright. The one exception to this is the Twilight Zone-themed episode, where spooky dissonances create an acoustic backdrop that makes the blatant horror cliché even funnier. Otherwise, it's major chords and treble instruments all the way, plus a couple of bouncy theme songs that make no sense if you actually pay attention to the lyrics. Luckily, the music is pushed far enough into the background that it doesn't become intrusive and annoying, which is always a risk with soundtracks of this sort.
Bandai and Ocean provide an English dub that doesn't rise much above the show's Saturday morning cartoon standards. Everyone overacts, but with the characters being such two-dimensional caricatures, is there really any other way to interpret them? Milfeulle's panicked screaming, for example, sounds equally grating in both English and Japanese—a feat for which the voice actresses should be praised, successfully capturing the spirit of the character. The dub script does a fine job of following the subtitle translations as well, resulting in dialogue that's free of embellishment or ad-libs.
The DVD includes a "Now I Get It! GA Lecture" segment among the extras—live-action shorts which prefaced each episode during the show's airing in Japan. Milfeulle's seiyuu (cosplaying her own character, no less) answers various questions about the world of Galaxy Angel, although most of them are about the franchise as a whole, referencing other incarnations of the series and discussing the background of the Angel Brigade.
If there's one thing that can be credited for Galaxy Angel's multimedia success, it might simply be the marketing prowess of Broccoli, the company behind the franchise. Despite a lack of originality in the premise, this series has managed to enter the fandom consciousness with its panoply of interrelated products and an easily recognizable cast. Galaxy Angel Z is but another tile in the mosaic of the GA universe, relying more on name recognition than production values or quality storytelling to make its mark. It's fun at times, but for fans who were raised on a more filling anime diet, this show is little more than junk food.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C+
Animation : D
Art : C
Music : C
+ Occasional bursts of creative energy when it gets in the right mood.
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