Angels of Death
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Angels of Death ?
One of the quirks of reviewing shows weekly is that you can never know for sure whether an anime is setting up pins just to clumsily knock them down. I've been fairly critical of some of the recent developments in Angels of Death, and I've been frustrated in particular with Rachel's motivations. So the opening act of this episode washed over me like a soothing balm, heralding one of the show's strongest episodes in weeks.
Zack assumed protagonist duties last episode, and this week he takes that a step further and becomes the audience mouthpiece. With Danny out of the picture (I told you she was gonna shoot him), Rachel wants to finally, and I mean finally make Zack her own—a culmination of her obsessive possessiveness borne out of abandonment issues. Zack, meanwhile, looks about as frustrated as I feel and calls her bluff, pins her to the ground, and shouts some sense into her. It'd be an uncomfortable scene if not for the fact that Zack doesn't act out of self-defense but out of a genuine concern for Ray, albeit communicated through his typically florid use of profanity. Zack cuts through Ray's despair at her own sins and loss of her “God.” Zack was never her God, but he's still Zack. He's still her friend. And why should he care about her being unclean? He murders people. He does it for fun! He literally spells all of this out for her, and the situation's absurdity, combined with the catharsis of hearing all my complaints voiced by an actual character in the show, had me howling at the screen. Zack even throws in some great zingers like “For someone so insane, you're way too serious.” It's a wonderful scene through and through, and it ends with Zack and Ray reconciling and renewing their original promise. Should Zack ever want to switch careers, I think he has a promising future as a great, if unconventional, motivational speaker.
The dream team is reunited again, and the rest of the episode is similarly great as the two switch gears back to finding a way out of their basement of death. Zack's smashing through doors for no reason again, Ray's making creepy conjectures like imagining Danny wriggling through an air vent—all's right with the world. Seriously, having the two of them back working and bantering together raises the quality of the show to such a staggering degree. The voice actors play off each other naturally, and that alone would be my primary selling point to any fan of the game skeptical about the anime. It's also great to see Ray open up around Zack more. As they're about to leave, she delivers a revealing line about how the people sewn together on the couch were “supposed” to be her parents. Zack, whether consciously or not, gives her the opportunity for closure when he tells her to say “bye bye” to them like a little kid. They failed their daughter, but she's leaving with someone who does understand and care for her. Zack even tries to lighten the mood on the elevator by throwing her earlier comments about the cleanliness of his room right back at her. The importance of their camaraderie is most blatantly on display when Zack physically cannot move the final obstacle in front of the exit by himself, so Ray helps him push it. It's one of those things that reveals the anime's video game origins, since needing two characters to push a large block is a classic marriage of game design and narrative, but it gets the point across. In my opinion, anything that makes Zack smile is good and pure, and it warmed my heart to see him smile so gently as he gave his old murder knife to Ray.
We're also reminded that this is a video game when backtracking rears its ugly head. Ray deduces that the exit is actually on the floor below them, not hers, but at least this leads to another scene giving Ray's arc some closure. Both the deadpan humor and the heart of Angels of Death shine through as she takes one last trip by herself to say goodbye to her room. On her way, she apologizes to some unseen and inanimate object that she unfortunately won't have the time to sew up. I can only assume that she's talking to a grotesque pile of her recent victims, which makes this moment cute and twisted in that classic Angels of Death way. In her room, she has a surprisingly good scene with Gray that reiterates her character growth from the start of the episode. Rachel's arc is ultimately about not projecting your desires onto other people or turning your relationships into abstract obsessions. They're not contracts between angels, nor witches, nor gods. They're not something you can weave into others forcefully. A relationship is simply a connection between people, as fragile and tenuous as the whims of our hearts, but that's also what makes them so valuable. Trusting others makes us vulnerable, and it makes us human. It's a legit sweet message if you ignore the messed-up context of Zack and Ray's murder pact, but I don't know why you'd want to. That's what makes Angels of Death so good.
While it doesn't entirely forgive the show's earlier pacing and character issues, I'm incredibly thankful for this episode's sweet, funny, and poignant return to form. Of course, there are still two episodes to go, so we gotta have some open plot threads to work through, even as Zack and Ray ascend their stairway to (presumably) heaven. Danny, acting once again against all laws of nature, is apparently still alive. Gray's intentions are still unknown and possibly nefarious. Oh, and the building is going to self-destruct now. This will hopefully be enough to pad out the rest of the show, but I'm of the opinion that they easily could have cut some of the game's fat and condensed this story down to a standard cour's length. At this point, there's only one open question that really matters, and that's what Zack and Ray are going to do once they're outside. Thanks to this episode, I'm more invested than ever in finding out.
Angels of Death is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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