This week, a show about murder, gore, and the "other"; a show about ... more murder and gore, and one about luck.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Apr 8th 2004
DVD 1: What's Cooking?
The Angel Brigade is on a mission to uncover the Lost Technology! The problem is, they have no idea what they're actually looking for, what it looks like, or even where it is. Much to their dismay, the girls are assigned plenty of trivial tasks to keep them busy. Whether it's looking for lost cats, finding a home for a suicidal missile, or running away from rampaging construction vehicles, it's up to them to see the jobs through to the end!
At the dawn of the new millennium, Broccoli unveiled an earth-shattering new sizzle reel at the Tokyo Game Show. Accompanied by the hazy swirls of autumn leaves, eager onlookers watched as the screen filled with the dazzling visions of faraway galaxies, and listened as the air filled with the majestic sounds of a sweeping orchestral score. The stage was set for the dramatic entrance of a new space epic, traversing solar systems and captivating hearts everywhere with the trials of the Angel Brigade…
Wait, did someone say Broccoli? Forget whatever pristine image you were building up in your head then. It's time to throw out the Cristal and pop open a can of frozen punch. No stranger to the genre of science fiction, the studio is even more familiar with the realm of the cutesy and garish (having given birth to the immense fan-favorite Di Gi Charat). Mash together these worlds of mechs and bright-eyed girls, and it's no surprise that Galaxy Angel is the bastard child of the two. With cute girls, wacky hijinks, and plenty of intergalactic fun, it brings the both of both worlds to create the biggest guilty pleasure of the year.
Already a hit franchise in Japan with multiple seasons, manga series, video games, and live performances, the adventures of the Galaxy Angel gals are finally available to North American consumers from Bandai Entertainment. With seven short episodes on the first volume, the disc is attractively packaged with a freakishly happy cover, featuring the five Angel Brigade members already parading their archetypes for all to see. Although each episode rings in far short of the standard 25 minutes, the disc is hardly blank. In the Extras section, there's plenty to please all admirers of the show, including the “Now I Get It! GA Lectures” that aired before each episode in Japan.
When Broccoli first launched Project GA in 2000, they were so eager to jump into the fun that they didn't want to bother with dull exposition episodes. To make up for this, they pulled voice actress Ryoko Shintani from behind the microphones and shoved her in front of a camera with a costume and a clipboard to help guide viewers through the show. Sporting the same silly flower headpieces as her character Milfeulle Sakuraba, Shintani explains to viewers in a lackluster voice the details of the Galaxy Angel world, from its politics to its history. It's a little painful watching her stumble through the lines, but it gets the job done—provided you don't lose yourself in the slumbers of ennui before then. With a lecture for every episode on the disc, the “Play All” feature is the perfect cure for late-night insomnia.
For some unintentional entertainment though, the other extra on the disc is none other than the idyllic promo described in the first paragraph. The trailer casts Galaxy Angel as a dramatic space tragedy, filled with courageous battles and surreptitious forces trying to stop our heroines. Dignified to the max, though somewhat shaken up by hideously clashing CG ships and flimsy girls, it sets itself up as the blockbuster to blow even Star Wars away.
Let it be known that the show is the complete opposite of its trailer.
If the first seven episodes are any indication of what the series is like, what viewers are left with is a frilly show about a bunch of generic girls saddled with trivial tasks. Members of the Angel Brigade, our heroines are supposedly part of a branch of the Transvaal Empire military who are trying to search for the Lost Technology. The downside is, they have no clue what they're doing or what they're looking for, and apparently the scriptwriters are just as lost. So what is it that makes this run of the mill show so bloody entertaining? Perhaps the cookie-cutter characters?
Apparently, when the first guy at Broccoli said, “hey, instead of giving plot development, let's put a girl in front of a camera and make her bore the audience to death!” the guy next to him thought, “say, that's a great idea! Let's do that for the character development too, so instead of having to waste previous fanservice time with background, we can jump right to the jokes!” And thus was the borne the Angel Brigade, a collection of the anime world's most rehashed stereotypes ever.
Meet the lead girl Milfeulle—a naïve, annoying, blank-minded girl whose lack of intelligence would give a comatose Jessica Simpson a run for her money. What she lacks in brains she gains in rabid good luck. She's backed by the dynamic duo of Forte and Ranpha. The former is a butch, heavily-endowed gal with a love for guns, and the latter is a beautiful, boy-crazy party girl, stolen from any given MTV reality show. This trio makes up the Fanservice Triangle. As long as one of them is in the screen at all times, there will always be one fan wanting a piece of character merchandise. To balance them out is the Fetish Pair. Vanilla is the requisite emotionless Rei clone with the creepy red eyes. Last but not least is Mint, a quiet little girl with lamb ear-like objects sticking out of the side of her head who serves as Little Miss Prissy Composure.
Everyone already knows these characters from front to back, even if they weren't aware of this knowledge. Every possible anime stereotype in the industry is wrapped up in one of these girls. Before the first episode is even over, it's pre-established that character development is a foreign beast that won't be grazing these grounds. If it's not the characters that make this show so fun, then maybe it's the story.
Nada. Move along, there's nothing to see here. If there's a story to this series, it hasn't shown up yet. So far, all of the episodes are standalone shindigs showcasing a few of the girls at a time. With escapades to find lost cats, chasing down kidnappers in mascot costumes, or consoling suicidal missiles, Galaxy Angel is a box of randomness waiting to be opened. In fact, it's nearly impossible to pinpoint just why this show is so enjoyable. As it turns out, it all rests in one secret. The entire series runs on fun and energy alone.
From the tried and true methods of super deformed art, to standard face faults, to just frantic chases around the screen, this show is filled with the saccharine of a hundred standard anime jokes. There's hardly anything original in this show, but with the latest trend of dating sim-inspired shows and angst pots, sometimes it's nice to go back to the old, repetitive jokes of ye olderne days. Of course, all of the uptight, more “sophisticated” anime fans will most likely frown on your tastes in anime, but that's what makes Galaxy Angel all the more a guilty pleasure. This might be the most brainless show of the decade, but it doesn't detract from the fact that it's nothing short of a bundle of distilled energy burning vicariously through a group of comedic girls.
What really generates much of this energy is the voice acting. Both the Japanese and English casts deliver their lines with punch and accuracy, giving their generic characters the perfect voices that one would expect. With one tiny exception, there aren't any big let-downs in the acting. That lone disappointment is the English voice for Forte. While the character is a pretty tough woman, the casting made her sound like a cheap transvestite hooker. Sporting a boorish boy's voice and gruff undertones, it was a performance that could have been found in any high school across the country. Aside from that, everything else about the language tracks was done to the T. As with most Bandai products, the English translations were very well done, and nuances aside, were just as dead on as the actors' voices. With a show so joke-centric as Galaxy Angel, the delivery's where it's all at, and that part was nailed.
If there's one thing Broccoli can do better than write long strings of gags though, it's creating enough cute girls to carry them out. Packed with an armload of paint, the art is vibrant and colorful. From the brightly hued character designs to the simplistic backgrounds, the entire production jumps out of the screen and reeks of happiness. The cuteness doesn't stop at the girls though—to the delight of girls worldwide, this series also packs some of the cutest animals ever animated. Even so, the visuals are far from perfect. Every time the cameras zoom in on the girls' faces, the trace-lines are revealed to be blurry and choppy, giving the artwork a look of haste and inconsistency. This slipshod feeling carries through to the animation as well. While most of the animation is fluid and slick, some of the pans and slower movements appear a bit jerky. Luckily, much of the focus is on action shots anyway, so this weakness doesn't show up often.
Unfortunately, what does appear often are the opening and ending themes. With all of the episodes being as short as they are, viewers are peppered with the same giddy tunes twice as many times as necessary—not to mention the additional textless version of the opening thrown into the Extras section for good measure. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing really depends on each person's assessment of the peppy opening, “Galaxy Bang Bang.” A voraciously annoying song, its lack of harmony is eclipsed only by how utterly weird the accompanying animation is. Comparable to any cast-sung opening “I wanna be cute!” song, it walks a fine line between being cheerful, and almost too cheerful. Luckily, things are balanced out by the ending theme, “Horoscope Rhapsody,” a friendly ballad that soothes the ear from the grating sounds of the intro.
If there's one thing that fans have learned about Broccoli throughout the years, it's that these people know cute, and they know fun. Galaxy Angel is far from a masterpiece, and it's far from mentally engaging, but it's entertaining enough to keep you busy for a while. Corny jokes, frivolous antics, cute girls, and enough energy to run a city's lights for a year? The answer's obvious, but just don't let anyone see you watching it.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Packed with energy
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