Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Oct 15th 2008
Galaxy Angel X
Sub.DVD - Complete Collection
The Angel Brigade is in hell. No, really. They're dead and suffering tortures unheard of in their universe. Like convenience-store checkout lines. Which have nothing on the untold horrors unleashed when they casually promote lonely, sickly Chitose Karasuma to their ranks. Bed-ridden Chitose is looking for the friendship that her hospital-bound existence has denied her, but finds the sociopathically self-centered Angels ill-prepared to provide the life-long commitment she craves. So she decides to kill them. Not that they really notice. Avenging co-workers, unlucky assassins, alien armies, uncontrollable super-technologies—they're all just passing obstacles in the Angel Brigade's quest for truth, justice, and self-gratification. Really, who cares about threats to one's life when there are planets to destroy, high-school love to enjoy, and hijacker-hunts to inadvertently turn into hijackings?
Your silly comedy has grown insanely popular, drawing on far longer than anyone anticipated. Your comedic formula is now so worn that you are forced to admit it in the opening lyrics ("predictable gag paradise," they trill). Your budget is nil and your characters have been so savaged by years of substanceless joking that they are impossible to take seriously. You know that your only option is to keep it funny, but are finding it increasingly difficult to do so. So what to do? Why add a new character, of course! It's Chitose Karasuma to the rescue!
Adding characters has long been the favorite tactic of series that have run out of steam and are looking for a boost (thank you Sailor Moon), but it isn't the death knell that some would have you believe. New characters can add new and interesting dynamics, and if well-planned actually can rejuvenate a series. Of course, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Galaxy Angel franchise knows there isn't a chance in hell of that happening. However, Chitose is everything one could (reasonably) hope for from a new addition to the cast: her personality is extreme enough to compete successfully with the more established characters, she provides some superior gags (her education in the terrors of being Milfeulle's friend makes for one of the season's best episodes), and the competition of her genuine need for friends with her natural distrust of others adds a surprisingly effective melancholic edge to a handful of episodes. Her behavior—one minute plotting treachery, the next longing for the betrayed person's friendship—defies comprehension, but that's just Galaxy Angel for you.
Which is exactly the problem with this fourth season. It's just Galaxy Angel. A hit-or-miss comedy starring a bevy of cute girls; nothing more, nothing less. And after more than a hundred half-episodes of it, the luster has definitely worn off. There's no denying that it's amusing, that the girls are cute (they haven't become anime idols for nothing), and that it's satisfying in a comfort-food kind of way, but none of that, nor the new character, can save it from the diminishing returns of its humor. Punchlines that are too often merely nonsensical punctuate entire episodes of straight-faced parody, self-conscious zaniness tries fruitlessly to supplant comic invention, and the series' nonlinear excesses no longer have any power to surprise (how many times has each character died now?). Entire comedic episodes will pass without earning so much as a smile, and serious episodes inevitably collapse under the weight of an anticipated punchline that never comes.
And the cracks in the series' appeal are beginning to have their effect, at least stateside. Though a sub-only release according to the back-cover specs, the first four episodes actually were dubbed before Bandai apparently abandoned the process, cramming them and the remaining nine sub-only episodes into a single bargain-priced box. In the dubbed episodes, potential for new humor is quashed by a re-write that sticks to the subtitles with the alacrity of an over-dependent child—except when (badly) covering for Japanese-dependent puns—leaving the English cast to sound understandably under-enthused as they give voice to the unwieldy dialogue. By this point even the chance to watch the Japanese cast being cute as they play trivia quizzes and sing in concerts—all of which Bandai kindly includes—has lost most of its novelty.
Luckily, enough of the series' charms remain to keep it from drowning entirely in the stagnant waters that claimed its unfunny spin-off Galaxy Angel Rune. The characters, even the new additions, are genuinely striking in a shiny, cotton-candy kind of way. Settings are incongruously well-rendered, the synth-pop songs are pretty catchy (though not the kind of thing one listens to in mixed company), composer Hikaru Nanase knows enough to keep her score in the background, and there's enough life left in the animators to twist the badly limited animation to their benefit (as when characters retain their SD forms even as those around them revert, or when the cast falls victim to hilariously short-cutted violence).
But more importantly, the series can still be genuinely funny when the mood takes it. The faux opening sequence for the romantic comedy version of Galaxy Angel is hilarious, the assassin episode is lowbrow physical humor of a high order, and for all its kandy-colored hyperactivity, the series never forgets its mean-spirited comic bite. The first episode, with its secretly logical incongruities and intimation that normal life is literally Hell, is most definitely not the product of a lifeless series. Merely an increasingly inconsistent one.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C-
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Successful new character; cute cast; sometimes very funny.
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