Recommendations are tricky things. Sometimes, someone will alert you to a worthy series that had completely passed you by, and you’ll understandably be thankful that they did (although if you end up forking out for DVDs, your bank balance may not be as appreciative). Unfortunately, for every good series that you manage to uncover in this way, there seem to be three times as many awful series that ‘random contact A’ enjoyed but which otherwise seem to have no merit whatsoever. Since this is clearly marked as a rant, it doesn’t take too much effort to deduce that Burst Angel falls into the latter category.
Burst Angel is possibly the laziest attempt at a ‘girls with guns’ series to grace our screens, the tale of four generic women fighting ugly monsters dispatched by an evil organisation. There’s Jo, the strong but silent type with a mysterious past; Meg, the whiny cowgirl who is so completely useless that she manages to get kidnapped on practically every mission; Sei, the cool and calm leader with an outfit so gravity-defying that it’s a wonder her breasts don’t fall out of the bottom; and Amy, the irritating kid who’s good with computers. It’s like Bubblegum Crisis all over again, only this time with less interesting characters and more potential for HARD YURI (not that the series does more than vaguely imply such relationships).
To be fair, at the start, I had a vague hope that Burst Angel could at least provide some light entertainment, but then again, those were in the days when I assumed it was working towards some kind of plot. Since I had convinced myself that it was going to get better later, I felt I could live with the flaws in the earlier episodes- it was only when said ‘later’ was reached and things had taken a turn for the worse that I realised how wrong I was.
Over the course of its first eight episodes, Burst Angel presents four two-part stories, each involving some kind of evil mecha, the kidnapping of Meg, and Jo’s subsequent fight to rescue her and save the day. Stretching each standalone story across two episodes was not a good choice for the series- compared to monsters-of-the-week, monsters-of-the-fortnight are that much more tedious and painful to watch.
From volume three onwards, however, the series sticks to more conventional single episodes for its standalone stories, and for one brief moment, it seems as if Burst Angel might actually have something vaguely approaching merit. A pair of episodes devoted to Sei and Amy offers some hope that this characters will get to have more than shallow supporting roles, whilst the beginning of a longer arc that takes Jo to Osaka seems to promise something in the way of a main plot.
With the advent of volume four, however, such hopes are proven to be completely false. From this point onwards, it becomes hard to care about or even concentrate on what is happening in any given episode, so much so that the first half of the series actually looks good in comparison.
To be fair, there is one good episode on the disc- a ‘past chapter’ about how Jo and Meg came to meet. Unfortunately, this one example of worth and character development cannot stem the tide of shallow characters and mediocre stories; from the obligatory beach episode to a production line magic CCTV villain, everything is dull and generic as it can possibly get.
Poor as volume four was, however, volume five manages to take the series to new lows. For a brief moment, it seemed as the promised main plot that had previously failed to materialise would finally arrive- surely now the story would become interesting as Jo’s mysterious past was finally uncovered. Of course, that was not to be the case- in true Mai-Otome fashion, the penultimate four episodes did not so much begin a main storyline as totally erase any chance of the series having one.
Ever since I had first read about the series, I had been looking forward to volume five and its promised showdown between Jo and her ‘anti-existence’ look-alike Maria; no matter what pain I endured earlier on, I had convinced myself that this part of the series would make up for it. In retrospect, it was wrong to hold any kind of expectations for the series, since it could only lead to disappointment. The Jo/Maria showdown was not only confined to a single episode, but it was a poorly edited one at that, making little sense as it meandered between reality and Sunrise sweet potato dango-esque fantasy.
As if to add insult to injury, the next episode turned out to be a completely pointless standalone story about a generic one-shot character- exactly the sort of story that no one can be persuaded to care about even at the best of times. Meanwhile, the second half of the disc is the final nail in the coffin, in which monsters of evil menace the populace of the city for no particular reason, whilst Mr. Magic CCTV looks on from his observation room. Even Tsubasa’s Fei Wong has sounder motives than that of Burst Angel’s nameless villain.
At the time of writing, I have yet to see the final four episodes of Burst Angel, but based on what little I’ve read about them, I hardly expect them to show any great improvement. In fact, the only reason that I’m looking forward to the end of the series is so that I can finally put Burst Angel behind me and never speak of it again.
Style over Substance?
This is a phrase used often in connection with Gonzo, but it has to be said that whilst Burst Angel certainly lacks substance, it fails on the style front as well. The character designs certainly have potential, but lose far too many points for the ugly and ridiculously impractical outfits, whilst the animation budget is extremely inconsistent. So much of the animation budget has been sunk into making the characters’ nipples stick out from under their clothing that there isn’t much left for anything else, resulting in an overuse of stills and ugly CG mecha- when will Gonzo learn that well choreographed hand-to-hand action is much more satisfying than bullet time and badly designed robots?
Burst Angel is one of those series that starts badly and only gets worse as it continues. Even if you consider yourself a fan of girls, guns, nipple-shots and HARD YURI undertones, there are numerous better alternatives to spend valuable time and money on.