Angels of Death
A young girl named Rachel Gardner awakens in some sort of underground facility, only remembering that she "saw some people die." It turns out that all the people she encounters in this place- including the man who says he's her "therapist"- are, in fact, psychotic killers trying to make HER die, but she finally makes a pact (of sorts) with one of them, named Isaac ("Zack") Foster, and together they struggle against adversaries on every floor as they work their way toward the surface (and freedom.)
The whole setup of the show- defeating various adversaries as you work your way through various levels- pretty much screams "Game", so I was not a bit surprised when I looked this up on Wiki after the viewing, and found it started out as exactly that.
Now there ARE some good game-based anime (such as Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom), but many shows that began this way turn out to be pretty bad, and this one is NOT an exception to that rule; but the thing that I spent the most time considering here was is this show irredeemably bad, or does it have at least SOME virtue? I ended up agonizing over whether this was a one-star show, or a two. Let's lay out the evidence:
As a horror/suspense show it's actually a bit disappointing. Granted, there's plenty of blood (mostly Zack's; over the course of the show he'll bleed out about six bodies' worth of blood, and somehow keep going); but most of the adversaries get dispatched rather quickly (well, one, named Catherine Ward, lasts a few episodes, and some or all of them may return in one fashion or another), and I was wondering how they could make this go the 12 or 13 episodes of a standard series; it never even occurred to me that they'd end up going to 16.
I'll get into how THAT was managed later, but for now let's meet our starring duo, Rachel and Zack- and if there's anything of some interest in the show, it's the weird (albeit abominable) relationship they develop. Rachel has the blonde, blue-eyed look that's somehow become the symbol of purity and innocence in the West -it's pretty obvious our main protagonists are intended to be Westerners, most likely Americans, even just given their names- but, while she doesn't have her memories back, Rachel knows, on some level, that she's not quite the "innocent victim" that everyone who sees her automatically assumes she is, and that she's being a hypocrite for presenting herself that way. Zack, on the other hand, is pure evil, and makes no pretense about it; he KNOWS what he's done (though takes no joy in remembering it, when that remembrance is forced on him by one of our pair's tormentors.) There's a yin-and-yang thing with our two leads: Rachel has some spot of blackness in her soul that she knows is unforgivable (even if she doesn't remember exactly what it was, until she, too, is forcibly reminded late in the show.)
And Zack? He can't bring himself to kill someone if his victim doesn't show any emotion, and Rachel always looks, and acts, absolutely deadpan (it's really a defense mechanism; Rachel's and Zack's backgrounds turn out to be more similar than you'd think); but she also keeps insisting that he KILL her (for that mysterious unforgivable sin of hers), so they make an agreement: he'll fulfill her wish (kill her) if she can help him escape this place. For they NEED each other- Zack's impulsive, and his approach to every barrier or frustration is to take his scythe to it, which doesn't work in every situation; on the other hand, Rachel's clever and analytical, an approach which works much better than brute force with some of their challenges. But I did say it was yin-and-yang, so is there any spot of brightness in Zack's soul? Maybe Rachel can find it. When the show is just being a two-person drama it sometimes seemed to me ALMOST, well, GOOD (well, as good as a show with a relationship based on a murder pact can be...)
But remember I said that I wondered how they'd make this run even a standard season's length? The show pads like crazy. Personally, I might have actually liked to see some characters get a bit MORE time (like that kid in the pumpkin mask, Eddie Mason); but I would have SEVERELY cut back the "screen time" of that "priest", named Gray, who seems to be this place's emcee. The show obsessively goes on about "sin", turns ever more hallucinatory and surreal (and not even interesting hallucinatory and surreal), eventually throwing in a pointless, dilatory "witch trial" for Rachel- which mainly seemed to exist as an excuse to bring back characters that the show had, itself, shoved off the stage too soon. This sort of thing goes on for about TEN EPISODES, and while it does finally fill in all the blanks in Rachel's and Zack's pasts, things end up moving SO slowly, and getting SO stretched out, that some in the audience might begin to think of making the same pact with Zack that Rachel did, if it would end their OWN misery. We even wind up with one of those scenes of people partaking in calm (and, alas, pretentious) discussions in a burning building, which, as I've said before, I'm not sure is even humanly possible.
I'm also still puzzling over what, objectively, happened at the end. (I thought the forensic evidence was a bit ambiguous.)
The only other thing I'm noting here is that the closing theme rather reminded me of the closer of the first season of Higurashi- which is my rec here, since it's also got its share of psycho killers.
Still, for all its weaknesses- and often, sheer offensiveness- I found something oddly compelling in the relationship between Rachel and Zack, no matter how basically pathological it was. So I couldn't QUITE go only one star. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Extremely violent, including domestic violence; extensive bloodshed (including some self-inflicted.) Movie R/ TV-MA. The show definitely goes with the idea that horror movies can encourage imitation.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (16/16)
Angels of Death © 2018 J. C. Staff
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