Angels of Death – Mid Series Anime Review
Synopsis:When Rachel wakes up in the basement of an unfamiliar building, she finds herself lost all her memory. As Rachel tries to get clear of the basement, she runs into Zack, a scythe-carrying serial killer wrapped from head to toe in bandages. “Kill me, kill me please…” “I will do it, but only if you help me to get out of this building.” The bizarre promise brings these two together and somehow makes them an irreplaceable partner to each other. Where are they? Why are they trapped? And what is the destiny they have been looking for? The journey of death and lives starts… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Series (8 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Angels of Death had one of the stronger Summer premieres. It nailed a creepy atmosphere, set up enough questions to intrigue, and painted it all with solid visuals. Angels of Death wasn’t high art, and it’s tone often veered far enough into the extreme that it became something appreciable ironically, but for what it was it opened strong. Unfortunately Angels of Death dazzle early on is largely superficial. The story doesn’t have the depth it seeks to command, nor the legs to drag on this tale of a young girl, eager for death, trapped in the depths of layered floors, crawling with killers. Often the series is more edgy and obnoxious than it initially let on.
Linny: As a self confessed lover of cheesy horror, and having had read the first two volumes of the manga’s adaptation of the original game, I was very excited for this anime. The premiere was everything I hoped it would be. Angels of Death seemed poised to be a hit among fans who love the over the top brand of anime horror, with exaggerated villains; Zack, the scythe swinging maniac, or Daniel Dickesns, an evil doctor obsessed with finding and owning the perfect set of eyeballs. But then things started to feel shaky with episode 2.The story started to show cracks; new villains seemed extremely random with very little backstory, save for Zack who gets explored later in the series. These new villains then come off as a random mishmash of ideas. We get a pumpkin mask(?) wearing kid who likes to bury people, with so little explanation about his past and personality that his declarations of love to Rachel feel equally random and lacking impact. Consequently, this makes his presence in the story feels limp and uninteresting. In the manga, we get a lot more backstory for him, which invokes sympathy or adds substance to his bizarre persona, certainly more than the anime offers.
Tom: The point of horror is to make us unnerved, uneasy, perhaps even actually scared. Films frequently get this wrong, with jump scares that only ‘get you’ because it’s loud and obnoxious. Angels of Death fails in the same way, but for different reasons. Rather than pumping in the scares, Angels of Death tries to make us care about its two leads, young Rachel Gardner and sadistic murderer, Zack.While Rachel has a death wish, clearly pointing to her unhinged mental state, she’s overall likable. She’s competent enough to root for. The series tries similar with Zack, attempting to paint him in a sympathetic light via a tragic backstory, but it doesn’t quite land.More damaging is the series inability to make us fear that either might actually perish in this journey. Zack is subjected to all manner of torture, from electrocution, cocktails of drugs to even cutting himself apart in order to retain his sanity.It quickly becomes apparent that Zack is immune to death, and the fear that he might perish washes away. This might be okay if Zack was indeed a likable lead, but he’s more annoying than anything else with a grating laugh performed far, far, too often. That’s another ongoing issue: repetition. Angels of Death frequently repeats information, ideas and concepts, dragging episodes along at a snail’s pace, frequently obsessed with the same point for half an episode at a time. One example is with the third killer Rachel meets, Edward Mason, who harps on and on about crafting the perfect grave for Rachel. That single point becomes the entire focus of one whole episode, but lacks the nuance to make that singular topic interesting from multiple angles. The episode hammers this central issue into you for twenty-three minutes when really it should take half the time, if that.
Linny: A horror story is only as good as its villain, which is why we are harping so much on the lackluster villains of Angels of Death. When we move beyond Edward Mason and onto Catherine Ward, the cliches only get more gating. Not only does she have the most cliche of female villain cackling laughter, which she engages in OFTEN, but there’s nothing to her character beyond wanting to punish ‘sinners’ in the format of a TV show… which doesn’t even get that much development and often just ends with her putting Zack and Rachel through torturous ‘game’ after ‘game’. If you had picked up this show because you enjoy these predictable staples, or you are new to the anime horror genre, then all of these feel fresh/entertaining. But for anyone who has consumed a fair amount of horror anime and is seeking more original twists and turns, you’ll soon find yourself tiring of these shallow and predictable villains and events.
Tom: By mid season we seem done with introducing new characters, now squarely focused on exploring our leads. With Zack’s backstory out of the way Angels of Death turns its attention to examining exactly who Rachel is, attempting to ask tough, moral questions that point to her unnatural mental state. Trouble is, the show tries to paint murdering zombies as some huge folly of morals, making for an entirely ineffective sequence. It’s yet another example of where Angels of Death seeks to have some kind of depth when it honestly doesn’t have the writing strength to back that up.
Linny: There’s this heavy hint throughout that this series of floors may actually be the afterlife or some type of purgatory, with the various villains trying to make Rachel face different and dark aspects of her true self. It’s very obvious from the beginning (more so in the manga) that Rachel is no pure and innocent victim but the show drags this out. What makes this potentially frustrating is that the show seems to try to portray it as a shocking revelation in its 8th episode but like Tom just explained, it comes off comical and falls flat on its face. There’s a scene where Rachel is shown squashing disembodied hands that scream and beg as she steps on them, but fails thanks to a morbidly comical depiction where they seem more like blood filled ‘balloons’ than still attached to an actual living human, beyond their pleading voices.
Tom: Angels of Death has gradually grown into a disappointment. Early on the series had potential, but quickly tried to exude depth, when in reality this is a much more ‘shlocky’ property, fun and absurd rather than deep and brooding. That’s even evident by the wavering tone, doing that all too annoying anime misstep: ‘insert joke/chibi art before things get too serious’ that derails the flow. The visuals otherwise hold up well, and the designs for the characters remain memorable and appealing, but everything beneath the surface is borderline forgettable.
Linny: Angels of Death has many staples of classic hammy anime horror… and how much you enjoy it will totally depend on how much you love seeing the genre tropes and cliches associated. If you’ve long tired of them or were seeking a more fleshed out or twist filled story, Angels of Death is going to end up being a disappointment. To be honest, I am still likely to pick up its future manga volumes as I feel the manga does a better job of setting up and portraying its villains. That might be the way to go for those who are on the fence with the anime. Overall, I think there’s still an audience out there for Angels of Death, specifically someone still new to and/or extremely in love with the classic components of horror anime. But it’s a safe pass for most everyone else as the strong premiere ends up turning into predictable and thin drivel.