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Review

by James Beckett,

Ange Vierge

Episodes 1-12 Streaming

Synopsis:
Ange Vierge Episodes 1-12 Streaming
The universe is divided into five different Worlds: Darkness Embrace, Terra Rubiri Aurora, System White Eguma, Grunewalt Silt, and Earth. Also known as the Black, Red, White, Green, and Blue Worlds, these separate universes collide when faced with the threat of the Ouroboros. Girls from all worlds called Progress have developed special powers that they use to fight against the alien threat. One unique individual is Amane Ayashiro; known as an A-Driver (or Alpha Driver), she has the ability to form special bonds with these Progress and greatly enhance their powers. Together, they gather at Seiran Island's Academy, joining forces to obliterate the Ouroboros once and for all.
Review:

Trading card game adaptations have a surprisingly wide variety of styles, tones, and themes, given their relatively simple origins. Some series choose to simply use the mythology of the game to forge their own unique story (Rage of Bahamut Genesis), while others go the opposite route and use the literal card game as the backdrop for their adventures (Yu-Gi-Oh!, Selector Infected Wixoss). Studio SILVER LINK took on the challenge of turning the card game Ange Vierge into an anime last year, and they opted for something of a mixed approach. While the story doesn't literally involve people playing a card game, the influences of card game mechanics are still very clear. We have one character in charge of directing and powering up a wide variety of girls from different backgrounds, each one represented by a primary color. Not only that, but the girls' rankings are represented quite literally by card rankings, with the lower tier girls being ranked UC (uncommon) and the most powerful being known as EXR (Extremely Rare).

Going into Ange Vierge, I was fairly optimistic. The premise itself is interesting enough; I really like the idea of the five disparate worlds coming together, each of them offering a different take on a classic genre setting. The Black World is a gothic, horror-tinged world of vampires, the Red World has a Classic Rome feel to it, the White World is an advanced techno-utopia, the Green World is a Tolkien-esque Elven forest, and Earth is, well, Earth. There's a lot of promise in getting to see these worlds collide, and giving each world a pair of girls to represent it sets the stage for a diverse set of characters.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long to become clear that the show wasn't necessarily going to live up to that potential. The plot and characters are rooted firmly in stock tropes and anime clichés, with the diverse setting serving as little more than window-dressing for a never-ending series of battles between the different Progress. The Ouroboros are similarly thin as villains, never becoming anything more than a vague, menacing threat that exists to incite conflict and little else. While I can't quite say that the series' premise is squandered, it's definitely executed with an unremarkable functionality. Similarly, the character work on the show is only ever just okay. Each of the girls has a decent visual design, and all of them are pleasant enough, but they never really grow beyond their archetypes. Some of the Progress, such as the vampires Almaria and Sofina, are able to get by on being charming, but most of the characters end up getting lost in the shuffle. Saya from Earth stands out as the most developed Progress, essentially acting as the protagonist of the series, and while she's likable enough, she doesn't have enough charisma to pick up the slack left behind by the dearth of unmemorable characters surrounding her.

What I found most irksome was the show's repetitive pattern of storytelling. Early on, a number of Progress are corrupted by the Darkness of the Ouroboros, and Amane herself is taken out of commission for almost the entirety of the series. After this, the show starts following a noticeable pattern of episodes. We learn about one of the Progress from the different worlds, see how their friendship with Amane developed, and then follow them as they go to rescue another of the girls from their World. Once that's done, rinse and repeat with another girl from another world. This formulaic approach leaves the series lacking in a larger sense of buildup, so by the time the final showdown occurs, it feels less like a culmination of everything that came before it and more like another pit stop on a series of episodic adventures. Amane herself also ends up being underdeveloped as a result, which makes it even harder to connect with the Progress who are so hellbent on rescuing her.

All of that being said, while the show's more stock approach didn't do much for me, I can see how it might work for other audiences. The easygoing, familiar characters and storytelling are like anime junk food, and there's absolutely a time and a place for a good junk food binge. Ange Vierge's production values are pretty consistent and generally up to snuff. Even though the battles tend to lack emotional tension, they are almost always fun to watch, and the show's music does a good job of keeping the drama going or highlighting the humor whenever necessary. Like most everything else about the show, nothing about the animation or music really stood out to me, but there was a certain level of consistency about it that I definitely grew to appreciate.

What I found a lot harder to swallow will likely also be a deal breaker for another percentage of Ange Vierge's potential audience: the series' ridiculous commitment to its fanservice. While fanservice shows aren't usually my thing, I can appreciate their place within the medium, and most times I can look past a lot of fanservice if a show's story and characters prove worthwhile. Ange Verge takes its fanservice to some ridiculous levels, not because it's especially graphic or scandalous, but because there's just so damned much of it. The first episode alone has the girls spending roughly 70% of the episode lounging around naked in communal baths, and every episode afterward makes sure to maintain that ratio of Battles to Bathing. When the girls are bonding, they are naked, when they're arguing, they are naked, when they're defeated in battle, their clothes are obliterated. It's simply absurd.

What's more, the show apparently attended the Big Order School of Censorship, opting to obscure all of the girls' naughty bits with blinding rays of light and omnipresent clouds of fog and steam. Now, even though I'm not especially hungry for fanservice in my anime, I think if you're going to try and make your show sleazy, at least go all the way. The excessive censorship just makes the show's fanservice all the more distracting and obnoxious. Not only is the nudity excessive, it isn't even very sexy. Neither the pro-fanservice nor the anti-fanservice crowds will get much out of this show, at least not until the uncensored blu-rays come out.

It might sound like I didn't like Ange Vierge at all, but that isn't exactly true. It isn't a bad show, just an underwhelming one. The “fantasy worlds collide” premise has a lot of potential, as does the diverse cast of characters, but they just aren't capitalized on here. Likewise, the show's card game roots are present enough to be conspicuous, but aren't integrated enough to effectively advertise the actual card game. Even the crowd looking for some simple anime cheesecake get ripped off, since all of the nudity is censored to the point of being completely ineffective. If you have the cravings for a very traditional, very predictable romp in a familiar science-fantasy premise, Ange Vierge might do just enough to hold your interest. Otherwise, you're better off leaving this particular game on the shelf where you found it.

Grade:
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B-

+ Premise has a lot of untapped potential, a few of the Progress wind up being interesting, the music and animation are consistently engaging
Rote execution, too many underdeveloped characters, fanservice is both excessive and neutered by censorship

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Production Info:
Director: Masafumi Tamura
Series Composition: Katsuhiko Takayama
Script: Katsuhiko Takayama
Storyboard:
Akitoshi
Masato Matsune
Yuuichi Nihei
Kazuhisa Takenouchi
Masafumi Tamura
Kaoru Yabana
Episode Director:
Taichi Atarashi
Takayuki Chiba
Jun Fukuda
Taiji Kawanishi
Junya Koshiba
Waruo Suzuki
Masafumi Tamura
Kaoru Yabana
Unit Director:
Masato Matsune
Masafumi Tamura
Music: Takatsugu Wakabayashi
Original Character Design:
abec
Akabane
bob
Kantoku
LLO
Ryohka
Tsunako
Kira Inugami
Kurehito Misaki
Kurone Mishima
Yuka Nakajima
Kōshi Sasagi
Shunsaku Tomose
Hagane Tsurugi
Eiji Usatsuka
Akio Watanabe
Sakaki Yoshioka
Character Design: Masafumi Tamura
Art Director: Noriko Moroguma
Chief Animation Director:
Yuuki Hara
Shoko Takimoto
Animation Director:
Hyo Jung An
Takayuki Chiba
Daisuke Endo
Akinori Fudesaka
Seung Hee Han
Yuuki Hara
Maki Hashimoto
Keiko Ijima
Ken Ijūin
Yumiko Ishii
Yuina Ishitomi
Toshiomi Izumi
Satohi Konno
Takahiro Mizuno
Ken Mukaigawara
Ryuunosuke Murakami
Usaku Myouchin
Kiyotaka Nakahara
Shinya Nishizawa
Sae Ōba
Kouji Ogawa
Kei Oohashi
Kwon Yong Sang
Eri Sano
Yumi Sudarehata
Yuka Takemori
Shoko Takimoto
Keitei Tomita
Ayumi Tsukamoto
Yi Wang
Akitomo Yamamoto
Hajime Yoshida
3D Director: Yuu Sudou
Sound Director: Yukio Nagasaki
Director of Photography: Atsushi Satō
Executive producer:
Takehiko Aoki
Daiji Horiuchi
Minoru Iwaki
Hayato Kaneko
Norimichi Suzuki
Tsuneo Takechi
Producer:
Jun Fukuda
Tetsuya Hototsuka
Jōtarō Ishigami
Takayoshi Ishiguro
Shunsuke Matsumura
Tomoki Saitô
Jun'ichirō Tamura

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Ange Vierge (TV)

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