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"Burst Angel" Vol. 1: Louisa May Alcott Rolls in Her Grave

Hot chicks with guns. Giant robots. Fanservice. These are the stereotypes that pepper many an anime series. But Studio GONZO, experts in the unoriginal, accidentally added another stereotype to the equation: “whiney male sidekick.”

Thus, Burst Angel (Bakuretsu Tenshi) was born! Jo, Meg, Amy and Sei are a group of super powered, but absurdly dressed, heroines who combine their abilities and dedicate their lives to fighting crime and the forces of RAPT (groan… Recent Armored Police of Tokyo).

In the near future, Tokyo passes a law allowing anyone to possess firearms. As crime rises, the RAPT come in and take an “eye for an eye” approach to crimefighing. The arrest rate drops, but the dead criminals pile up.

Apparently there are other organizations who dislike RAPT’s stranglehold on authority. Sei’s grandfather works for one and contacts his granddaughter with information her vigilante crimefighting team needs to stop perps before RAPT can kill them.

Jo is the main component of this operation, a hard-as-nails gunslinger with an angel of death complex and impressive mech-piloting skills. Amy is the jailbait of the team who harasses the other “sisters” and provides tech support, including clearing traffic for Jo and Django, Jo’s mecha. Meg is the busty professional hostage lifted straight from Evangelion‘s Asuka. These girls live in a huge armored war vehicle and don’t seem to get out much, so they hire a plot device– I mean cook to keep them well nourished. Enter Kyohei, a teenage cooking prodigy who is way too young for this kind of life and constantly whines about it. Not that he doesn’t have good reason; the chicks are crazy and live their lives accordingly.

There are four episodes on the disk which break down into two mini-arcs. The first arc introduces us to the girls, and Kyohei, who gets kidnapped as leverage on an arms exchange the girls are planning on busting up. Meg ends up getting captured by a self-piloted mecha, causing Jo to go berserk and recruit Kyohei into journeying to the bad part of town with her to complete the rescue. Large explosions ensue.

The second arc is a bit more compelling, involving a test subject for a new illegal drug. Since Jo and Meg were hunting the man down for another company, they pursue. It turns out that the man has a twin brother who joins them on the bullet train to the pharmaceutical company who orchestrated the whole experiment. Meg is captured by the twin and the two make their way toward Wong, the sick brother. Wong mutates into a monster, and a mecha-insectoid themed terrorist group attacks the train, initiating one of the bloodier scenes I’ve seen in a made-for-TV anime series. Jo shows up in the Django and cleans up the last of the mess, while the brothers slam the train into the pharmaceutical company.

The acting and writing in Burst Angel are largely up to FUNimation’s good standards, as a bonus, they even un-typecast cutesy Monica Rial as the hardcore badass Jo. There’s some colorful language not usually found on Funimation’s disks, but it fits the gritty world well and never gets too vulgar. Animation is fine (barring some obviously over-animated breast physics), but comes apart during the mecha fights. GONZO has yet to properly incorporate CGI robots into cel animation (they’ve gotten a bit better with the recent Transformers: Cybertron). To add insult to injury, the well-animated CG models are ruined by a choppy framerate.

The DVD features Japanese radio programs with Jo’s voice actress, which are only for the hardest of hardcore fans, and textless versions of the catchy opening and ending. (There’s also an English dubbed version of the ending.) Some sound engineers and actresses provide commentary for the last episode on the disk. Last but not least are the always-popular bloopers. The packaging also includes bios and production art in a booklet similar to that shipped with FUNi’s Fullmetal Alchemist discs.

Burst Angel is a fun series with thematic throwbacks to Outlaw Star, but I’d have trouble recommending it to someone who had to pay for it. A definite “wait for TV.”

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