Reviewby Rebecca Bundy, Mar 13th 2010
Neo Angelique Abyss
Sub.DVD - Season 1 Collection
Life in the world of Arcadia would be perfect if not for the Thanatos, life-draining monsters that appear suddenly and attack without warning. Men known as Purifiers, who can utilize a mystical power in order to combat and defeat the Thanatos, try to fight the monsters the best that they can, but they wait for the day when the “Queen's Egg,” a female Purifier, is found so she can defeat the Thanatos once and for all. That day is now, and the fabled Queen's Egg is none other than Angelique, a 16-year-old girl. With the help of four Purifiers who have dedicated their lives to protect her, she must overcome threats from both monsters and humans in order to protect Arcadia and unleash the full power of the Queen's Egg.
It's hard to take an anime series (or anything, for that matter) seriously when it's based on a video game, especially considering that the vast majority of them are lackluster at best. To be sure, Neo Angelique ~Abyss~ definitely suffers from the “initiating a random monster encounter” feeling that adventure games love to make you level your team through, but interestingly enough, the video games the series is based on are more famous for the dating sim aspect of the games, an angle that (aside from the copious amount of pretty boys) is rarely touched upon in the anime. Toss in characters that are more than just the sum of their personalities, morally ambiguous questions about the price of safety, and some of the most beautiful designs and animation that's come out of Japan, and you'll understand why Neo Angelique ~Abyss~ manages to brush off the game-to-series curse that so few can escape.
Angelique, the heroine and only regular female character in the series, is hardly your average 16-year-old. Having lost her parents in a Thanatos attack at a young age, the orphan is now going to school to become a doctor in order to carry on her parents' legacy and help those who are hurt by the Thanatos. A good student who has otherwise lived a secluded life at an all-female private school, Angelique first attracts the attention of a wealthy gentleman named Nyx when it gets out that she can heal the sick simply by holding their hand. Believing she may be the Queen's Egg (as there hasn't been a female Purifier in a very long time), Nyx approaches her and asks her to join him and fellow Purifier Rayne in order to battle the Thanatos. Angelique turns him down at first, but after realizing that she can help people as a Purifier just as much as she can a doctor, accepts the invitation. They soon pick up two more Purifiers, J.D. and Hyuga, and form a group that the Arcadian media dubs the Orb Hunters.
It takes some time for some of the main characters to shake off their personality stereotypes and develop as characters. Angelique may seem cowardly and a bit boring at first, but her honest wish to help people and passionate desire to protect her new family, coupled with just enough naiveté to keep the series from deteriorating into her sitting around pondering her true feelings for the hotties surrounding her, make her a very likable character.
Rayne and J.D. are the most dynamic when they're facing off against their rivals, Erenfried and Jet. Considering that the only other adversaries our heroes fight against are the random Thanatos that pop up, it's good to see some real conflict with characters that won't just go away when Angelique purifies them. Plus, it's only after they've tussled with their foils that we get to peek inside their heads and learn more about them. Nyx, even with his history still masked aside from a few hints about his true age, develops through his numerous interactions with Angelique and his ability to motivate her. Hyuga is the only character of the four who never develops into anything beyond his blind devotion to Angelique, and even secondary characters like Bernard and Rene are far more interesting and engaging than “the quiet spearman.”
The big problem with the four main guys is that there isn't any spice to flavor the dish presented. We know why they are the way they are, yet we rarely get a chance to understand what motivates them. Why do they fight the Thanatos? Why do they devote themselves to a stranger? What are their feelings about the people they protect? Plenty of time is spent inside Angelique's head to understand her, yet she's so busy discovering herself and trying to preserve the fragile little family she's surrounded herself with that she never asks the tough questions and the boat is never rocked between the five main characters.
Thankfully, secondary characters like Rene and Angelique's two girl pals Hannah and Sally are more than happy to toss a little conflict into her sheltered life. The big question that looms throughout the episodes on the second disk is one that every viewer will be familiar with: life versus safety. The Jinx are, at first, capable of protecting the lives of the average citizen, but at the cost of their homes, possessions, and livelihood. But for people who have lost loved ones to the Thanatos attack, these are small prices to pay. For Angelique, however, no one should have to sacrifice so much just to stay alive and feel “safe.”
Initially the chips seem completely stacked against her as her girlfriends and Rene show her just how precious life is to those who have lost loved ones, but as the safety net falls away with the Jinx becoming less effective and more destructive, it becomes harder to empathize with those who continue to cling to the only thing they have left (their life) while they stand amid the ruins of their village and easier to side with the orphan who watched her parents die and still believes that the cost is too great. Still, such a poignant question is what brings a lot of life to the characters who decide to debate it (including Rayne and Erenfried, though from their perspective it's less about life vs. safety and more about right vs. wrong), and it's a big reason why some of the secondary characters feel more alive than the main characters who have actual histories attached to their names.
The stunning animation and beautiful character designs make it really hard to stay annoyed at the show's one flaw though. A lot of series stutter after the first few episodes as the animation and art drop in quality, but Neo Angelique ~Abyss~ does not suffer from this in the least. While a few of the outfits that characters wear are so outlandish that they easily fall into the realm of ugly and the Thanatos could definitely do with a few more skins so that they're not always fighting the same five designs, the quality of the background art and animation remains consistently crisp and stunning. Those who are easily distracted and entertained by pretty things will quickly feel like a cat trapped in a room full of catnip-stuffed mice, and the cover price of these two DVDs is almost worth it based on animation quality alone.
For the most part the music is also very fitting and pretty, especially the lullaby-like ending song, but the opening song is absolutely awful. There's nothing wrong with having a talented voice actor who can sing perform a song; there is however something very wrong with taking talented voice actors who may or may not be able to sing and making them all sing in perfect unison with each other. When you have more than one singer you need variation, otherwise the song ends up sounding like a bunch of guys in a car singing along to the radio.
There was a time when this type of opening was actually fairly common. There's also a reason why it died a horrible, bloody death in favor of actual singers singing opening and closing songs. Thankfully, the Next button skips past the opening song, so unless you're really, really interested in seeing some of the spoilers in the opening animation, the miracle that is the DVD remote will save you from harm.
Neo Angelique ~Abyss~ is one of the better series I've seen that is not only based on a video game, but has enough eye candy in it to send any girl running for an insulin shot – two strikes that would normally sound off warning bells in the head of any seasoned anime viewer. The animation is spectacular, the story avoids many of the “which guy do I want to end up with?” pitfalls that other series like it stumble over, and even weaker points like fighting the same random encounter monsters and characters who could use a little more character development are easily forgiven as you're pulled deeper into the world of Arcadia.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : B+
+ Stunning animation and moral questions that you wouldn't normally expect from a series based on a dating sim.
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