Angel Tales Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, December 10, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2004
What They Say
The guardian angels are ready to serve him with everything they've got, but living with 12 girls can be pretty tough! Surprises, surprises! The Saint Beasts' confrontation with Goro reveals a shocking truth about his previous life. After the "minor" domestic disturbance has passed, another shocking event awaits them. But just when they think all their troubles are over, someone unexpected pays Goro a visit. Find out what really happens in this exciting final volume!
Angel Tales races to its conclusion with a bang and then proceeds to almost whimper for more than two episodes until it closes out gracefully.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. For the most part, the show is fairly quiet on the dialogue front but picks up as it goes along. The early episodes sounded good and you can hear the distinctness of the audio placement more easily than in later episodes where there's so much more talking and yelling going on that ends up filling up the entire soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the music sounds solid during regular playback. We only spot checked the English audio track and had no issues there.
Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for the first four episodes of this twelve episode series looks very good. With as many characters as there are in here with the varying uniforms, the color palette is richly filled and there's a great depth and solidity to them. Cross coloration is very minimal, creeping into only a few areas and aliasing is minimal in general. There isn't a lot of action in the show and mostly just mildly moving characters so the transfer doesn't run into many issues with the encoding. Backgrounds look great and maintain a very solid look and avoid pixilation.
Similar to the earlier covers in more than a couple of ways, this volume has two of the older angels getting some time on the cover along with the trio of young angels which is one way to get more on there with less. The artwork for it is nice and clean and pretty simple with a blue-green pastel background to it that keeps the focus on the characters and the bathing suits. The back cover has only one small area of shots from the show but manages to squeeze in half a dozen images. The back cover is pretty full with a summary and a large section of small print production credits. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed though (along with volume numbering on the spine and front cover) and the discs extras and basic features are prominently listed. The insert replicates the artwork from the front cover and opens to a two-panel image that has a really great looking detailed shot of all the girls in their standard outfits in a circle. The back of the insert has a surprisingly clean and open spaced listing of the main staff of the show and a bilingual cast list with full English credits for the actors.
The menu layout is very simple with just a shot of three younger girls/sisters on one side with selections in using halo icons, all of which is set against a pink/blue background and to some instrumental piece from the show. Selections are quick and easy to navigate with immediate episode jumping and fast access times. The disc properly read our players' language presets as well.
There are only a couple of extras on this volume. A brief summary is included about the Saint Beasts which is no more than a couple of pages of character profiles with a single black and white shot of each character. The Venomous Tails extra is here again with a few more "mini" episodes of the cast doing things in super-deformed mode and just acting goofy or somewhat out of character. Unfortunately, the extra isn't dubbed and is in Japanese only with soft subtitles. It's a mildly amusing piece but nothing terribly critical to the show as it's basically the four panel comics done to minimal animation.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After three volumes of Angel Tales, with only the last volume really starting to show anything of a serious plot with the introduction and arrival of the final Saint Beast, the series has three episodes left to really hit things with its plot and bring it all together. So when it wraps up the real plot in the first episode and then spends two episodes going back to what they did in the majority of the series it feels really odd to do so.
The opening episode is rather engaging and probably the most interesting one of the series, especially since the women are pushed back from the forefront and the men get a chance to actually talk and figure things out. With Goro in the picture now and defending the girls from the advances of the Saint Beasts and trying to negotiate a way to get the "four brides" back from them, he's showing more spine than in the rest of the series but it's not exactly unexpected from him. What changes is that we start to learn more of what the Saint Beasts had gone through in the past when they were forced to lose their powers and become imprisoned and what role Goro played.
As it turns out, Goro is a reincarnation of a great power named the Sage. In days gone past, he was the one who had taken the divine powers of the Saint Beasts from them and locked them up, something he needed to do as his power and life were waning at the time, so that they couldn't get out until he had been reborn in a time where his powers would be strong enough to handle them. Naturally, it's best thought that an uninformed Goro would be better so as the truth gets revealed it's a shock to him but he handles it well. Too well in fact as his good natured side gets the better of him and he tries to give back the powers that he has contained inside of him to the Saint Beasts, which will allow the fighting to stop and everyone to go back to being what they were.
The very amusing turnaround to this is that the four are so surprised by this and the way it all turns out that they end up offering to serve him and move in with him for a short period of adjustment. It's a great change of pace to watch the four of them become subservient and try to do what they can to feed and make Goro happy while the girls are away. Even better when they do return and try to one-up each other for the brief time that they are all together. There are some nice little moments between some of them that indicate places to go in the future and just the interactions are comical and sweet at the same time.
The one subplot that comes up during the final episodes that's interesting and puts the entire set of girls in their place is when Goro's mother starts to set him up with a marriage meeting. Though he blows it off and heads back to the city, the young woman finds her way to him and ends up spending some time with him. It's a nice twist since even though he's unsure of the entire thing since he's got so many girls in his life already, he finds himself having a really good time with her and the others have to actually deal with it and possibly realize that they can never truly be what she can be to him. It's a bit bittersweet but it plays out nicely for the last episode.
In a way, the last two episodes are a really extended epilogue to the show that didn't necessarily have to exist and normally aren't done for a lot of shows. With all the big moments and revelations done with the first episode, the drop in the tension and activity really lets a lot of the wind out of the show that had been built up. While I'm not looking for two episodes of fighting and the usual back and forth, the layout and planning of the last episodes just felt like it came and went in the wrong way. There are some really good moments throughout all of the episodes that help mitigate it, but the ending to this show will always feel off.
Angel Tales has alternated between mildly amusing, very creepy, somewhat touching and then pretty interesting for a few minutes before it decides it just wants to wander through its ending episodes. The series is pretty consistent however and it's hard to fault it for that at the end as it does what it did at the beginning and there is definite character growth for some of the key characters along the way. The way it all got resolved just felt like it was a letdown however and it dropped the wind from its sails far too early, leaving us dangling along to resolve things that could have had more impact in far shorter sequences.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Saint Beast Summary,Venemous Tales Extra Clip
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Angel Tales