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"Shattered Angels": Not Exactly From Heaven

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My enjoyment of Shattered Angels, appropriately enough, was shattered as soon as it began. Wow, is this one bad. It’s a contrived romance show mixed with some uninspired mecha and fantasy, with even a little yuri thrown in. Too bad it doesn’t do any of these elements right.

Our main character is Kuu. She’s an Average High Schooler(TM) who frequently writes to a non-existent prince in her journal, hoping to find him someday so he can sweep her away into a fairytale romance. One day her school is half-destroyed by a cat-eared villain wielding a huge mecha. Kuu is saved from the carnage by a mecha-wielding maid named Setsuna and Ayanokoji, who happens to be a prince. Kuu is instantly smitten, because he’s a tall pretty boy, and I guess that’s all she needs. (Props to The Nostalgia Critic on that one)

Unfortunately for Kuu, Ayanokoji doesn’t seem to have any feelings for her; he’s only focused on his mission to destroy Absolute Angels, as they were the ones who damaged Kuu’s school as well as other places. To make matters more difficult, Setsuna also loves him, which leaves Kuu stuck: She doesn’t want to give up her infatuation, but she also has respect for Setsuna’s feelings. On top of all this, we later learn that Kuu herself is an Absolute Angel (huh?), which of course makes Kuu fear it’s her fate to eventually be killed by Ayanokoji.

Now, this does make for some conflict amidst the battles. But the romance in the show is forced and sloppily written. It’s the kind of romance that is beaten into the audience by having Kuu constantly expostulate on her love in flowery, poetic monologues. There’s no subtlety to it, and it makes everything eye-rollingly melodramatic. I find it hard to believe anybody talks like this in real life; it’s like reading one of those romance novels. In addition, it’s not clear why Kuu loves Ayanokoji. Yes, he saved her early in the story, but aside from that, and from his being a handsome royal, what drives her to him? Neither character has any kind of personality or backstory to speak of, and we never see the two engage in any chemistry-laden conversations. We’re just supposed to accept that they love each other because the script tells us they do. Thanks to all this, I couldn’t get into their so-called relationship at all. You have to care about the characters for romance to work, and I didn’t here.

As for the mecha, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. The only difference is the characters don’t sit in the mecha but instead materialize them out of thin air. But the actual battles showcase nothing engaging; it’s just pieces of metal hitting each other, with little to make the fights stand out. And before you ask: No, I don’t have a grudge against the mecha genre. I love Full Metal Panic, Godannar, Gurren Lagann, etc. The battles here are just plain unexciting, and often short-lived at that.

I was also bothered by how contrived the fanservice is. For instance, in the first episode when Kuu is approached by Ayanokoji, he pulls open her shirt to reveal her Absolute Angel mark, which is barely above her breasts. Why couldn’t that mark have been placed someplace else, like on the back of her neck? Numerous times in the first few episodes, Kuu and Setsuna visit the bath. The first time makes sense, sort of; they’re cleaning up and healing some minor wounds after that big disaster that almost wiped out the campus. But the second and third times they visit the bath? It’s because Kuu accidentally got food in her hair. There are also a couple moments when Kuu bathes by herself. Then later in the series there’s another scene, only this time it’s a group bath, and seems to hold no point whatsoever. I think the writers just figured, “It’s been a while since a nude scene, let’s add another one!”

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Absolute Angels replenish themselves by, you guessed it, kissing, which leads to quite a few women sharing kisses between each other. Yes, the smooches aren’t supposed to be sexual in nature, but who are the writers kidding? They knew what they were doing. Look, I’m a guy. I like fanservice as much as the next honest male. But all of this just seems incredibly desperate, like the writers felt they couldn’t keep our attention unless they added some skin and quasi-titillation. If you’ve seen Moeyo Ken TV, it’s the same kind of deal: They break out the hot springs in the very first episode to compensate for a weak plot.

Animation-wise, you’re not going to be blown away by anything here. It’s got plenty of pans and still characters like your average TV anime. There are maybe a handful of fully animated moments in the series, but that’s not enough. The character designs are nice, but man cannot live on eye-catching designs alone. And to be honest, the costumes of the characters are a bit generic. The violin-heavy music is highly reminiscent of Kannazuki No Miko (no surprise, since TNK did both shows); it’s serviceable, but at times it gets pretty overdone and I doubt I’d be chomping at the bit to buy an OST.

I also have a bone to pick with the special features. All we get are clean openings and endings and FUNi trailers. We’re missing the handful of short “special” videos, which is a big annoyance. I don’t know if ADV had the rights to them before their license expired, or if FUNi just didn’t bother to include them. Either way, it’s an omission and it sucks, regardless of how I personally feel about the series. On the upside, at least the thinpak artwork looks nice, and each thinpak case contains reversible artwork, which is always a plus.

And at least the dub is nice. Britney Karbowski does a fine job as Kuu, and is perfect for the part of the timid, breathy heroine. One major gripe, though: The first half of the series has her narrating, “Dear prince, I hope this finds you well” constantly. I know it was like this in the subs as well, so it’s not a dub fault but more a problem with the original script. Was this really necessary? After hearing it for the 50th time, I wanted to jab a pencil in my ear. She could’ve just said “Dear prince” and it wouldn’t have been nearly as irritating. Luckily, Kuu saying “Ayanokoji” isn’t nearly as annoying as it is in the Japanese version, when it seemed to be repeated just as much as the “Dear prince …” bit. As for the other voices, they work just as well; I had no complaints with anybody, really.

Despite it only being twelve episodes, I impatiently waited for Shattered Angels to end. Even during the finale, which was supposed to generate tension with its “end of the world” scenario (and tears with its bittersweet conclusion), didn’t generate anything in me but boredom. If you want melodramatic pap that awkwardly combines numerous genres (mecha, yuri, fantasy), Shattered Angels is for you. For the rest of you, there are plenty of better shows you can spend your money on.