by Carl Kimlinger,

Galaxy Angel II

GN 3

Galaxy Angel II GN 3
Kazuya is devastated to discover his beloved ex-instructor Forte leading an army intent on subjugating NEUE. Forte is no slouch on the battlefield, so the Luxiole quickly finds itself outgunned and cut off from reinforcements. Badly in need of allies, the Rune Angel Troupe heads to Magiic, a planet known for its magic and the sort-of homeland of Rune Angel Kahlua Marjoram. Along the way they face dire threats from Nano-Nano's disappearing tail and selfish nanotechnology experts, eat lots of Kazuya's yummy sweets, tangle with some romantic comedy cliches (hilarious misunderstandings! Sword-wielding new arrival who hates wussy hero!), and learn more about what forced Kahlua to split her personality. Somehow, with the help of original Angels Vanilla and Ranpha, they make it through everything, only to find that the battle begins in earnest on Magiic itself.

It's difficult to accept the Galaxy Angel manga on its own merits when one's only exposure to the franchise is the series' television incarnation. After spending hours and hours watching the cast switch genders, wear pig suits and die repeatedly, it can be a tad difficult to be entirely receptive when manga artist Kanan wants you to take them even a little seriously. This isn't really the drawback it might seem at first glance; the busier you are trying to puzzle out whether the TV series is clubbing the merits of the manga to death in the back alleys of your brain, the easier it is to overlook the real problem with the manga's merits: it doesn't have any.

The anime was always one male character away from a harem comedy, and not only does the manga add the male, thus venturing onto the manure pile known as harem romance, but the male it adds graduated directly from Generic Loser Academy (where they apparently teach pastry-making). That's Kazuya, the star of this second manga, not Takuto, the infinitely more interesting star of the first manga series who consistently steals every scene he's in. Take away Kazuya, and everything else in the manga that is downright bad or outright offensive (why is it that the girls' ships can only power-up by merging with Kazuya's? Because everyone knows that girls only reach their true potential there's a man around to help), and what remains is a lot of half-hearted drama, half-hearted cutsey humor, half-hearted cutsey romance, and half-hearted action.

Most of the half-heartedness can be laid at the door of Kanan's complex but thoroughly deficient art. The manga is literally drowning in detail, every corner of every page swimming with so much art that it leaves you gasping for a little white space, for a lull in the visual barrage. Kanan does cute well—her characters are adorable and her use of super-deformation cute and amusing—but there's little chance to enjoy it when the characters are jammed in between reams of insanely fragmented panels and spiky dialogue bubbles. Action scenes are the worst, so full of flashy effects, speed lines and canted angles that they may as well be abstract art for all the sense they make. Even when the pace slows and the chance for some gloriously empty space presents itself, Kanan can't help but throw in random flowers and sparkles. The crowding leaves no time or space for effects to sink in, be they humorous, romantic or dramatic.

But laying the blame solely at the feet of Kanan's artistry would be dishonest. The ugly truth is that the manga is pure heartless glitz. The characters are paper-thin, empty one-dimensional skins fundamentally incapable of inspiring empathy, sympathy or any other emotional response. The manga goes through the motions—endangering Nano-Nano's life, delving into Kahlua's tragic past, and tossing in blushing "aw-shucks" nuggets of Rico/Kazuya romance—but it's just the motions and nothing more, hollow and thoroughly lacking conviction. And it doesn't help that we're expected to accept as serious warriors and commanders characters who look like grammar-school kids playing "space soldiers."

The nice thing about Broccoli books is that no matter how poor the content, you can always rest assured that the presentation will be fabulous. You always get the same weighty, substantial paper, color pages and attractive covers. There's a full twenty pages of extras, which include author's comments, translator's notes, next volume preview, a character profile for Kahlua and an interview with her anime voice actress (Aya Hirano), and explanations for the Rune Angels' choice in uniforms.

Unless you're a fan of the franchise and simply must know why Nano-Nano has a tail and Kahlua a split personality, or you're a sucker for any kind of harem romance, this manga is unlikely to captivate. Or spark interest at all. Indeed, if you have issues with the juvenile wish-fulfillment of harems or a sensitivity to annoyingly meaningless suffixes (nano-da this!), you'll be lucky to escape with your sensibilities intact.

Production Info:
Overall : C-
Story : C-
Art : C

+ Cute character designs; any scene that Takuto usurps from bland-boy wonder Kazuya.
A hollow series with no real heart or conviction, despite its attempted personal focus.

Story & Art: Kanan

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