The Messengers is the latest entry in TeleStoryTOONS’s Angel Wars direct-to-DVD CG-animated series. The DVD contains six short stories that follow the adventures of Eli and Kira, angels-in-training. The supporting cast includes the archangel Michael and the guardian angels, Arianna, Paladin, and Swift.
These characters live in a world reflecting some odd merger of the angelic and sci-fi space opera. I’ve not seen the previous DVDs in the series, so I might be missing some of the background story that would explain why angels wear high-tech armor and occasionally need to fight demons in space. But maybe I’m looking for explanations in the wrong place. I’m sure the setting appeals to the show’s intended six-years-old-and-up demographic.
I went into this DVD with a steadfast resistance to cartoons of this nature, and I fully expected to be bored and possibly put off for the duration of the DVD’s running time. Still, I instead found the stories and action to be engaging enough to hold my attention. Each of the six episodes ranges between 10 and 25 minutes long and provides a specific lesson. The lessons are worked into the plot early on and are revisited once the intended character works the issue out. I much appreciated that they chose not to hammer the lessons home ad nauseam. Episodes on the DVD include:
Some Sound Advice / Harmonics
Not seeing how he might apply his music lessons to his responsibilities as an angel, Eli shirks his required practice and discards his instrument. Paladin attempts to teach Eli the value of learning a skill whose uses one might not immediately appreciate as he recounts the tale of how he obtained his wings.
A Bone to Pick / Giant Trouble
Eli and Kira’s rivalry becomes a problem when their attempts to outdo each other prevent them from defeating a bone demon.
Be Careful What You Wish For / Icarus
Eli learns the value of patience and hard work after a shortcut to obtaining his wings brings more trouble than he had anticipated.
Sticking Together / Despair
Eli and Kira are grounded after straying from their assigned duties during a mission. They volunteer for some light patrol duty, which involves following a young girl who is picking up trash in the street. Eli, bored with the task at hand, leaves to follow a green, bug-like creature. Kira stays the course.
Return to Sender / Message In a Bottle
Messengers Ramuel and Cameron (an archangel and anawim, respectively) are intercepted by demons while attempting to deliver a vital message. Ramuel is injured in an incident brought about by Cameron’s lack of self-confidence. Guardians Swift, Kira, and Eli are sent to assist them. Swift remains to protect Ramuel, while the other three set off the accomplishes delivery of the message.
I am not (typically) a fan of CG animation, so I had some difficulty enjoying this aspect of the show. The angels are textured in a manner that gives them a plastic look. Their movements are unnatural and stiff. The physics applied to these human-like characters are ever so slightly off.
The character designs appear to pull their inspiration from various styles within the genre of anime, with a Toy Story twist to the facial designs. The show is only mildly successful in capturing the anime look. The character’s heads are small, chests bulked to near comic levels by armor, and their torsos are very thin and unattractively elongated.
The show excels visually in its background designs and in the demons, which have a texture that gives them a visual depth well past that given to the main characters. The demons are enough of a departure from the standard human physique that oddities in proportion and movement are not distracting. Unfortunately, I cannot address the compression levels of the DVD, as a pre-retail copy was provided for review.
It should be also be noted that two of the other gripping aspects of the show are the framing and pacing of the action scenes. They’re done in a more mainstream and captivating manner than I would have expected from this niche of cartoons.
Special features are minimal: an animated short and access to the profiles of most of the featured and supporting characters, some of the weapons and vehicles, and one of the villains. The short, titled “P’s and Q’s,” features one of the heroic supporting characters and another non-hero character. I found the not-as-bumbling-as-he-might-first-appear non-hero character, Que, to be annoying at best. It might hold more appeal for those who have followed the series, but I found it unnecessary and not nearly as engaging as the main episodes of the DVD.
The Language Selection offerings are so minimal as to leave me wondering why there was even an option, to begin with. English 5.1 Dolby Sound is the only sound option; subtitle options include “English” and “None.”
Those who shun anything spiritual in nature may find the entire concept of this show off-putting. Still, it’s certainly several steps up in quality, a good deal more accessible than, and not nearly as noxiously proselytizing as others within this niche of animation. Qualms about the animation, character design, and sparse extras aside, it’s still worth spending some time with.