Angels of Death
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Angels of Death ?
Zack has been burned, shot, drugged, electrocuted, and poisoned, but slicing open his own stomach was apparently the last straw. Lucky for Ray (and the audience), he's still hanging in there, but since he leaks a few pints of blood every time he attempts to move, it falls on her to find some medicine. This leads Ray down the candlelit hallways of floor B2, where new traps, new horrors, and a new enemy await her.
Given that Zack and Ray's playfully hostile rapport was my favorite thing about Angels of Death, I'm a little disappointed that this development separates them and reduces Zack to a groaning lump on the floor. I can appreciate it from the perspective of the original game's narrative, because losing Zack's strength and companionship makes Rachel, and thus the player, feel more vulnerable. But within the context of the anime, I just miss my good shouty boy. To be fair, this development seems to coincide with a shift toward Angels of Death taking itself more seriously, and I do have to commend how it used comedy in its first half to endear us to its protagonists. Both Ray and Zack are creepy and/or murderers, which are rarely appealing character traits, but humor used well is a powerful tool in any story. If only anecdotally, I've seen Angels of Death gain a lot of traction through its tongue-in-cheek tone, so I think a lot of horror anime could take some pointers from it. Committing 100% to seriously terrifying horror can be rewarding yet really difficult to pull off, while something as simple as creating likable characters can be just as appealing.
What this episode lacks in banter, it makes up for with a hallucinogenic trip into Rachel's psyche. A strange purple smoke warps her from room to room, and echoes of mysterious messages prod at her mind. It's a lot of oblique questioning without many direct answers, and Ray herself doesn't reveal much either, but the scene is aesthetically compelling at least, letting the show's good sense of composition run more wild than usual. Blood, paintings, shattered mirrors, and the inconsistent geometry disorient both Ray and the viewer, and it's hard to tell what's real and what's in Ray's head, or if that even matters. Ray reacts most strongly when she slashes at a vision of her parents, drawing blood from a painting of sheep, which is somehow not the weirdest thing that's happened in Angels of Death. After she splashes blood on another painting of an angel, the floor's master Gray reveals himself, and if the organ music and stained glass weren't obvious enough for you, he's a priest, and Ray is in his chapel.
Gray's presence lets me talk about another angle of Angels of Death that's been around since its first episode, because the show isn't just horror—it's Catholic horror. Horror stories and films are no stranger to the Catholic Church's old and evocative brand of mysticism, and while Catholicism hasn't been explicitly mentioned by the narrative, it has many of the telltale symbols. Aesthetically, this episode throws a bunch of Christian cues at the audience, including the aforementioned organ music and stained glass, but also paintings of a snake and a lamb, lots of candles, Gothic arches, and a confessional. It's the confessional that strikes me as the most obvious Catholic signifier, and it also fits thematically with the show's constant mentions of sin, atonement, and God. I'm a lapsed Catholic, so obviously I'm a bit biased, but I think most lapsed Catholics will agree that there are many aspects of the Church that never entirely leave you, and guilt is a big one. Gray really seems to think that Ray needs to confront her sins.
This guy is much more reserved than the other scenery-chewing floor masters, so naturally he feels even more suspicious and sinister. Still, he agrees to help Ray find medicine for Zack by escorting her back to Danny's hospital floor. I was wondering how Angels of Death was going to fill the rest of its time, since we were rapidly running out of basement to explore, and the answer appears to be good old video game backtracking! Gray has a series of tests in mind for Rachel, however, and while ostensibly the first one is to power the elevator out of the prison floor, a darker motivation also reveals itself when Ray has to fight her way through the hordes of zombie prisoners who have run amok in Cathy's absence. Initially, you may worry about this small girl surviving an undead onslaught, but then she reminds the audience that she has a gun, and furthermore she holes up in Cathy's control room and makes quick work of the many security systems (including mounted miniguns) to pave her way. She's almost too good at this.
I suspect this back half of Angels of Death will continue to throw Ray into the path of the bosses she's helped kill for the purpose of dragging out the sins that have been hinted to be inside of her, further blurring the line between heroine and villain. It's not a revolutionary angle, but it's a neat arc nonetheless, and I'll admit I was caught off guard by how unsettlingly hollow her eyes looked in the episode's final scene. That said, what I really want is for Ray is to outsmart Gray already, heal Zack, and get back to having bizarre conversations about death. I'm invested in Angels of Death's narrative, and I am interested in Rachel's mysterious past, but nothing's better than the weird buddy cop rapport that Zack and Ray possess. I hope she patches up his stomach soon.
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.
discuss this in the forum (76 posts) |