Angels of Death might look like a grim and gruesome piece of psychological horror, but its delightfully campy edge makes it more giggle-worthy than expected. This week, Nick and Steve dig into the comedic kitsch buried just under the surface of this grave thriller.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read our weekly coverage of Angels of Death here!
Steve, I'm not gonna bother starting with a joke today. We're covering a show where one of the characters eats Not-Froot-Loops with blood instead of milk for breakfast. I can't possibly top that.
The horror! They're going to be so soggy now.
That is literally a thing that happens in "My Immortal". And this show just drops it in my lap without so much as a knowing wink. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?
Angels of Death is frequently operating on a level I'm both impressed by and scared to try and comprehend. So it's been pretty fun to watch!
I can firmly say it's turned out very different from what I expected going in. That first episode seemed like pretty typical anime horror, but somewhere along the way the story turned into a buddy cop road trip through purgatory.
That's absolutely the strongest thing the series has going for it. It helps to know that it's based on a RPG Maker horror game by the same title, which begins like most of those: you're a little girl, you're trapped in some weird building you have to escape, there's a giant monster chasing after you, and also you have to solve a lot of puzzles. Angels of Death's twist on the formula is that you actually end up befriending the monster.
And of course, Rachel herself has some unusual motivations.
The show strikes a weird tone too. Like everything about the marketing would have you believe this is a psychological horror fest, and it's partly that, but it's also a comedy about Hot Topic Bakugo yelling at the bullshit logic puzzles they have to figure out every episode.
And I LOVE that! The edginess is always there, but it's mercifully tempered by the show's willingness to either make fun of itself or let its characters bounce off each other like a particularly macabre comedy duo.
Also Zack does in fact share a voice actor with Bakugo, which is exquisite casting, since he basically spends the entire show yelling and/or cursing.
It's kinda crazy that in a season bursting with comedies, the hardest I've laughed at an anime was Johnny The Homicidal Maniac: The Animation.
The show has legit comedic chops! My favorite gag happens when Zack gets electrocuted, and his screams continue through the eyecatches. It caught me off guard, because i didn't expect that kind of joke to come out of a game adaptation, but the anime has really surprised me with its enjoyability. Horror anime especially seems to be strongly hit-or-miss, and Angels of Death ain't perfect, but it is very entertaining.
I admit that part of my enjoyment just comes from the nostalgia this series awakens in me. I don't know if teens these days still have the same kind of edgelord phase, but Angels always takes me back to filling my MP3 player with death metal bands and trying to disappear inside my skull-themed hoodie, while adding just enough self awareness to be fun instead of mortifying.
For instance: Zack's backstory could have been played solely for torture porn, but then in the middle of the gruesomeness, you'll get exchanges like this.
Zack was somehow lucky enough to stumble into the nicest surrogate grandpa ever.
Yet unlucky enough for that grandpa to immediately die, setting him on the path of serial killing that would lead to him hanging out in some weird priest's basement.
Honestly I'm surprised you brought him up first considering the uh, "impression" that one of the other floor masters must have left on you.
There's something to be said for saving the best for last, but yes, of course I love the gleefully sadistic prison warden.
Her whole schtick is basically "sexy Monokuma," with her own fake TV show and everything, and that's great.
She certainly starts out fun, out-camping the rest of the cast by leagues, but by the end of her floor I was as done with her shtick as Rachel is with, well, everything.
No such thing as too much Cathy.
Murder as an expression of love is kind of a running theme with Angels of Death.
You don't say.
As the show's gone on, what started as a simple agreement of necessity has turned into a driving force behind Zack and Rachel's actions. He starts risking his life to protect her, and when he's incapacitated she does the same for him. Eventually you realize that when Zack says "I want to kill you", what he really means is "I love you. And want to kill you." Which would be a bit troubling in a less campy package, but it kinda works here because everyone already operates on bonkers emotional logic that wouldn't make sense if they ever stopped to think about it.
It's for sure messed up, but when everyone else in the show is their own brand of weird murder pervert, Zack and Ray's bond seems like the healthiest thing anybody has going for them.
A family can be an amnesiac Anime Lizzie Borden and her mummy Onii-chan.
And now the last thing standing between them is the scariest monster of all: a judgmental blowhard priest!
And that's where things start to get rocky. Turns out the most dangerous threat in Angels of Death is running out of material, because woof has this dude's arc been a drag compared to the others. For one, it splits up our dynamic duo, which kills a lot of the comedic relief and makes the tone much more dour. For two, there's an entire episode of just the pointless backtracking you'd presumably have to do in the game, complete with revisiting every past floor to fill out time.
Yeah, I've definitely been less enthusiastic about these last several episodes. That's not to say that there aren't still some golden moments, like Rachel herself getting frustrated and telling Gray to hurry things up.
I also got a kick out of the trial scene. It's reiterating themes that have already been covered in previous arcs, but it also throws all of the villains into the same room, so it pretty much turns into a Three Stooges skit while Rachel continues to look vaguely pissed off in the background.
It's definitely a shot in the arm for the arc, but I'm still hoping this bit wraps up soon. Though that might not happen since we're apparently due 16 episodes of this show instead of the usual 12.
I have no idea how that can be possible, but I'm praying there's enough zaniness to fill in the rest of the runtime.
Considering we still haven't gotten Rachel's mysterious backstory, I'm guessing we're in for a bunch of twists and revelations. And since this is based on a video game, I assume we'll end everything by killing God.
But I am frankly concerned with how much time Angels of Death has left, considering it's spent a lot of time creeping forward in first gear. The latest episode brought back a lot of what I liked about the early episodes, but part of me's sure that the rest of the show is just going to get more self-serious, which would be a shame.
It'll be disappointing if the series ends up barely puttering across the finish line, but at the very least, it'll always have a solid horror-comedy within its first batch of episodes. And as long as it continues to throw stuff at us like Eddie blushing through his mask, I'll be content to eat up those scraps of goofiness.
And, importantly, it's given me a new addition to my collection of anime crucifixions.
Actually that's a good point to end on. The series has been rife with religious allusions and Christian imagery—Grey is a priest after all—so I'm eager to find out what all of that might symbolize--