The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Twin Angels BREAK
How would you rate episode 1 of
Twin Angels BREAK ?
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How was the first episode?
After watching through this first episode, I've devised a bulletproof marketing pitch for Twin Angels BREAK. “Do you like magical girls? Here is a show with magical girls that you can watch.”
That pretty much covers it for Twin Angels BREAK. In spite of the somewhat ridiculous title, this episode sticks to the absolute fundamentals of magical girl shows, offering a classic pair of protagonists, a vaguely fantastical setup, and a minor villain of the week to cap things off. If you've seen the first episode of Sailor Moon, you've seen a version of this episode. Twin Angels BREAK doesn't fix what isn't broken.
The show's loyalty to magical girl fundamentals isn't really a flaw. This episode is energetic and charming, and though its visual execution is pretty lackluster, even that seems somewhat appropriate for this particular story. Twin Angels BREAK is much like its protagonist Meguru: somewhat inept and maybe a little simplistic, but so optimistic and energetic that you can't help but like it.
Meguru is probably this premiere's strongest feature. Her unflappable smile and determination to become a hero make her instantly likable, and her attempts to reach out to the gloomy Sumire are pretty consistently funny. The show has jokes, but they're light, incidental jokes based in quick slapstick and goofy expressions. The overall effect is less thrilling or hilarious than consistently warm, an earnest celebration of a very well-worn genre space.
If you're not in the market for a very traditional magical girl show, there's probably not much for you here - there's a slight hint of Meguru's hedgehog friend hiding something, but no meaningful deviations from script outside of that. And the show also isn't much to look at, with this episode's final battle coming across as more comically under-animated than thrilling. But overall, Twin Angels BREAK is a charming articulation of an anime staple. It probably won't wow you, but if you're looking for a cheerful way to spend twenty minutes, it definitely fits the bill.
To say that Twin Angels Break is better than the 2011 TV series which preceded it (and which you don't need to know anything about to watch this one) is to damn it with faint praise. Based on a pachinko game and apparently inspired by a combination of Wedding Peach and Futari wa Pretty Cure, this is one of the most generic magical girl shows I've seen. It isn't truly terrible (that would be the 2011 series), but it also is bog standard, with virtually no attempt to do anything outside its genre norms – unless you count Angel Rose's crystalline mace. That was actually pretty fun.
The story of bubbly island girl Meguru's determination to come to Tokyo because apparently there's where magical girls/heroes of justice all come from is filled with vaguely annoying standards. Meguru has a polaroid camera rather than a smartphone! Sumire, her fellow Twin Angel, doesn't want to be her friend! Her class is full of wacky people like a transgender girl (whom people still call a boy), a psychic, and a girl who wears a sheep hoodie and baas at the end of her sentences! That's Tokyo for you! While I can appreciate the attempt to make Meguru seem wide-eyed with wonder at her new urban surroundings, the end result is that basically everything about her feels overdone, and her amazed innocence simply feels like perhaps she didn't so much grow up on an island as under a rock.
The magical girl aspects are similarly iffy. Meguru's transformation into Angel Rose is one of the least interesting I've seen, attempting to hit on key aspects of the transformation (glowing body, focus on hair, spinning) but failing in most of them, with the hair being the biggest issue – there's a distinct shot of her ponytail, but it isn't noticeably different once her transformation is complete. The French magical girl knock-off Lolirock does it better. Then there's the fact that talking hedgehog (with wings?) Miruku is probably the least helpful mascot character ever – she just sort of issues orders to Angel Rose with no actual instruction attached. When Miruku wonders why Angel Rose is whacking bad guys with her mace instead of using her powers, I wanted to scream at her that it's because she never told Angel Rose what her powers are.
If you're invested in the magical girl genre, this is may be worth a watch to see if you can identify everything they're pulling from other shows or where they're cutting corners with world building. Otherwise I'd just sit back and wait for the new Card Captor Sakura or next season of Pretty Cure, because this isn't a shining example of what the genre can be.
If it isn't immediately obvious, Twin Angels Break is based on a pachinko game. The entire franchise of magical transforming girls is built around company Sammy's gambling machines which explains the magical tokens, the school uniform's cherry motif, and the baddies dissipating into ball shapes when they're defeated. It doesn't explain the magic hedgehog.
This new Twin Angel installment requires no familiarity with Twin Angel: Twinkle Paradise. The protagonists of that show make a very brief appearance in a flashback, on hang gliders no less, but only serve as inspiration to our new magical girl Meguri. The fanservice that was prominent in the previous OVA is also gone. By all means, J.C. Staff seems intent on playing this one straight but given the 10p.m. time slot I'm doubtful that kids are the target audience.
So what's here for adult viewers who aren't PreCure fans? That's where the show hits its first snag. This is a very by-the-books presentation and that's not to say magical girls for adults has to go into grimdark Magical Girl Raising Project territory. This seems like a sincere attempt to be a straight magical girl show (and promote gambling) but it lacks any attempts at humor and its villains are lame. Meguri aka Angel Rose faces off against an evil shamisen player who is stealing energy from her classmates. His attack are primarily defensive, using his bachi deflect attacks and strings to ensnare Angel Rose. Things never get a chance to get interesting before he's wiped out. I thought to myself that he was a pretty boring Monster of the Week, I mean Sailor Moon got pretty creative with its offerings over 200 episodes. Then come to find out he's not a trash monster but one of the top tier villains?
Twin Angel Break will have to have a little more fun with its characters if it wants audiences to keep coming back. Right now it isn't offering an interesting hook outside of Meguri gradually winning over icy Sumire so they can be heroes together. Twin Angel Break isn't outright bad, but it needs a little more flash and pizazz if it wants be remembered in an already large category.
I doubt Twin Angels Break is deliberately trying to be generic and unremarkable, but it's certainly hitting the standard magical girl buttons as hard as a series possibly can. It feels like it came from an earlier point in the genre's timeline, back before everyone tried to hop on the Madoka Magica bandwagon with dark stories and tragically flawed characters. This episode has the safe, sparkly, no-surprises-here vibe of a series that's trying to pull in otaku fans and the more traditional audience of young children at the same time. The result is instantly forgettable.
That feeling of dull familiarity starts with the characters. Meguru is the friendly, idealistic redhead: full of energy, a little dumb, and determined to become a hero. Sumire is the obligatory ice to Meguru's fire: serious, antisocial, and burdened with family obligations. They're not actively annoying, but good grief they're predictable. The same can be said of the story, which sets up an expendable bad guy for the girls to fight once Meguru has gone through her first transformation sequence and pulled a magic weapon out of thin air. The upside of all this sameness is that the show is able to speed through all of the usual plot points, and by the end of the episode we're already up to the search for common ground between the polar-opposite heroines.
Playing it safe would be all right if the episode were able to pack some more flash and excitement into the proceedings, but “adequate” is about as far as it goes. The baddie of the week is a dumpy-looking dude with a magical shamisen, and his henchmen are all guys in bug suits with pointy sticks. The fight happens on an empty stage in a dark gymnasium, all the better to save time and effort on the background art. In a medium that allows artists to create whatever kinds of worlds they want, that just seems exceedingly lame. It's like watching a dress rehearsal for a magical girl stage show.
Unless you really like this genre, I can't think of any compelling reason to watch Twin Angels Break. On the other hand, I also can't point to any hideously offensive flaw that renders it unwatchable. It meets a bare minimum of quality, and that's as far as its ambitions seem to reach. If you absolutely want to see a series go through the usual motions, then that might be enough. Otherwise, move right along.
The Twin Angel magical girl franchise (not to be mistaken with the hentai series known in English as Twin Angels) started as a series of slot machine games, then got adapted into a two episode OVA in 2008. That led to the aforementioned 12-episode 2011 TV series, which this series spins off from. However, it doesn't appear that any previous familiarity with the franchise is expected, as the only firm connections between the two seem to be the setting of St. Cherrine Academy and a cameo by the original duo of Haruka and Aoi. (They're the heroes who rescue the drowning child in Meguru's flashback.) Even the mascot character, the hedgehog Miruku, is different this time around.
As magical girl series go, this looks about as stereotypical as titles cut from the mold of the original Pretty Cure get. (You can't make a list of the most influential anime series of the past 20 years without including Pretty Cure, and this series is just further evidence of that.) Meguru's hair is longer than normal for her archetype, but she's still the perpetually outgoing, vivacious one with the orange hair and Sumire is fairly standard as more proper and less social long-haired brunette. When they get into their fight against the mystical shamisen player, their attacks are entirely physical: the scepter used by Meguru (aka Angel Rose) functions as a flail, while Sumire uses a naginata. The one significant departure from formula is that Sumire has apparently been a Twin Angel for a while and has become disgusted with it, to the point that she states near the end of the episode that she won't become one again and wants to have nothing to do with her would-be partner. That means that the first order of business for Meguru going forward is going to be to win her back into the fold, which actually gives the series a potential storyline beyond just having to fight off the expected succession of bad guys.
That potential storyline and the normal magical girl trappings are the reasons to watch the series, as the action scenes certainly don't cut it. They're pathetic on a level that reminds me of that live-action Sailor Moon series which came out in the mid-2000s. Even beyond that, this is far from the sharpest-looking series you'll see this season. A bonus fan service scene towards the end and the relatively late time slot (it airs at 10 p.m. in Japan) suggest that this is meant to be more otaku-skewing, too. Still, if magical girls are your thing then this one is at least worth checking out.
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