Burst Angel Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Monday, January 09, 2006
Release Date: Monday, January 16, 2006

What They Say
A new law has been passed in Tokyo: ordinary people are now allowed to freely carry firearms! Crime has turned citizens against each other in a fight for survival on the city's mean streets. Thanks to the Recent Armed Police of Tokyo (RAPT), the arrest rate is going down. After all, the only prison a dead man needs is a hole in the ground...

RAPT is taking away jurisdiction from local authorities quicker than they can draw their guns. In these dark times, an angel arrives on Earth. No one is sure if she came from up above or down below but with her partners Sei, Amy and Meg, Jo's the best chance this town's got!

Episodes comprise:
1. Hell Comes Silently
2. The Heartless Gunfighter
3. City Where The Beast Howls
4. The Brothers Die At Dawn

The Review!
The latest dose of eye-candy from GONZO arrives in the futuristic, Western-style action extravaganza Burst Angel.

I opted to listen to the Japanese 5.1 track for this review. The track sounded really good when the action kicked in with the sound effects making nice use of the channels. Music and dialogue sounded crisp and clear as well, and I didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

I briefly sampled the English dub, produced by FUNimation, sounded well-cast with all the girls seeming to slide into their roles quite well.

Being a fairly new show from GONZO, we get a really nice anamorphic widescreen transfer for this series. I noticed no compression problems, no anti-aliasing and colours came out really vibrant and life-like. The series has quite an interesting look to it with its blend of a Western and sci-fi vibe, and it just looks really nice and helps you focus on the show itself.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and are a good, clear size. I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors that stood out throughout the episodes.

My only issue with this is that, unlike the US release, for some reason Madman (who author the discs) or MVM decided not to include alternate angles. I find this a little annoying as it means we only get the “English” angle with translated credits for the opening and ending, but more annoying is we get the English episode titles (although the Japanese ones appear in the subtitles as they’re spoken in previews and the like). This frustrates me as I hate how FUNimation change something as simple as episode titles when they “reversion” a lot of their shows.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The menus are all static, with the main menu featuring an image of Jo in a skimpy outfit with her gun. On the right hand side we have the individual episode selection and the “Setup” and “Extras” options. The show’s logo and volume title are just above them, with the funky opening theme playing over it. The two sub-menus are also static, with just text on the menu background. While they’re definitely functional, they’re also somewhat dull.

We get a couple pf really good extras here. First up are the radio dramas that appeared on the Japanese releases, presented here with subtitles as super-deformed images of the cast appear on screen. The first three are here and are quite lengthy, with two shorter bonus tracks as well. They’re a lot of fun since we don’t get to see these sorts of extras often, and it’s great to hear the cast having a bit of fun! We also get the textless opening and endings (both the English and Japanese versions), though strangely the dub outtakes and cast commentary that appeared on the US release are missing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prior to watching this review disc, I had little interest in Burst Angel, mainly because it had nothing that seemed all that appealing, looking like a series that was all style with little substance. Having seen the first volume now, while that does hold true to a certain degree, it's got far more personality than I ever expected it would have, although it does need to find its true identity to develop into something more.

Burst Angel starts as it means to go on to a degree, with a flashy action sequence involving some interesting looking mecha. The show is set in the future, in a town where chaos once reigned supreme. Money and power decided life and death. No one knew that the powerful beasts that devoured the weak were possessed by something unimaginable, but eventually a new leader rose forth to bring order to the city, and the town was swallowed by even greater destruction and chaos (all this is revealed in a voice-over at the start of episode three).

The first two episodes form a two-part story, focussing on school kid Kyohei, who also works part time as a delivery boy (at least he did…). When he’s out one day, he comes face to face with a thug, but is saved by a nice looking young woman with white hair who’s both acrobatic and a good aim. At school he raves to his friends about his encounter, when his teacher hands him a job vacancy. It looks a bit fake, but he decides to go for it anyway and is an excellent cook. He’s picked up by a woman called Sei, who takes him shopping and then to his new workplace: a huge, armoured truck. He’s introduced to Sei’s companions: the frustrated Meg, young Amy and nonchalant Jo, who he recognises as the woman who saved him. They get a job and quickly kick him out before going to work.

It turns out that our girls work as bounty hunters of sorts, thwarting some of the town’s crooks. But this time the bad guys have a hostage – Kyohei. He’s in far deeper than he could’ve imagined, and as if his involvement wasn’t bad enough, when they get him free Meg is captured herself, leaving the other girls to form a rescue mission!

The second story (taking up the remainder of the disc) has Meg and Jo being sent after a man named Wong, only things go a bit pear-shaped as someone beats them there and shoots him. They follow his ambulance to what turns out to be a testing facility, but end up running into Wong’s brother, Liang. He blames Meg and Jo for killing his brother, but even convincing him doesn’t stop the trouble, as Meg gets captured again and the girls end up facing Wong, in his considerably modified state…

Unsurprisingly, the series doesn’t really stand out a great deal. It lacks originality, and what we get often seems little more than several ideas we’ve seen before being thrown into a recycler and churned out the other end as something that looks new and shiny, but underneath really isn’t. You can tell from the summaries of the two stories we get on this disc that really they’re nothing special without a great hook to get the viewer really involved, and at the same time, they lack depth.

For example, while there are essentially only two stories here, the same basic things happen in both. Meg is captured and Jo comes to her rescue. Amy doesn’t seem to do much other than a bit of tech-related stuff and send Django to the others’ location, and in terms of the group action, we don’t really get to see Sei that much either. Because of this it already seems a little repetitive at times, which is a pretty bad thing so early in the series. I can certainly see myself rolling my eyes if Meg gets captured again, especially since it’s always under such dubious circumstances.

The characters themselves do have fairly distinct personalities which come through at times though, and at this stage it looks like they could be the series’ main hook. They may be somewhat stereotypical so far (right now it’s like we have a thinker, brooding fighter, tech girl and stupid one), they are fun and have some interesting interaction. I also liked Kyohei and his reaction to the girls. His involvement should make things even more fun within the group, because already Meg keeps on at him, Sei likes him, Amy is all “big brother” style around him and, well, Sei just seems to like him. As the core cast they look like they could develop into a good ensemble.

Despite its apparent flaws, Burst Angel turns out to be greater than the sum of its parts. While it does lack depth, there's plenty of action and with relatively simple stories thus far that make it easy to pick up and get a quick fix dose of entertainment. It's not trying to be anything more than it is at this stage, and in a way that works to its advantage as some of what it does it does well, while certain things misfire. It also looks good, with some really nice character designs, the typical GONZO shine™, a good opening and decent soundtrack and generally good animation so far (although it must be said that there were a couple of times that the models looked a bit basic and off from a distance).

In Summary:
While it has its flaws, there's a lot of fun to be had with the first volume of Burst Angel and it's easy to see why it has its fans thanks to all the eye candy on offer. The series is still finding its feet at this stage but there's some promise in there that this could develop into a fun little series, especially if they take advantage of the characters they’ve created.

Japanese Language (5.1),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Radio Dramas,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Burst Angel