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"Burst Angel Vol. 5 Line in the Sand" - Babes: Missing in Action

Future Tokyo’s finest, and I do mean finest, female gunslingers return for another round of crime-fighting and spandex stretching in Burst Angel Volume 5: Line in the Sand. Following the sensational 3rd and 4th volumes, Line is a slight letdown, but entertaining all the same. The girls themselves are given surprisingly little screen time, with only Jo seeing much combat.

Maria walks the walkEpisode 17 “Dueling Angels” takes up right where Volume 4 left off, with Jo and a mysterious mute samurai defending his ancient village against a rampaging cybot. To Jo’s surprise, she feels a strange connection with the cybot pilot Maria. The concluding mecha duel in the forest between Jo’s Jango and the cybot is this volume’s action high point.

“The Immortal Classmate” gives team errand boy Kyohei a rare starring role. He encounters old classmate Akio, who has been modified into a lethal cyberoid assassin and works for the yakuza. Betrayed by his boss in a power struggle, Akio suddenly finds himself public enemy number one. Although this story is barely about the girls at all, it’s a nice dramatic piece and a refreshing change of pace. The final shot is a nice homage to Terminator 2, but I’m not sure if I was supposed to laugh.

“24 Hour Strategy” is this volume’s comedy episode, albeit not a very effective one. When the girls’ Osakan police detective friend Takane Katsu (see episodes 11-13) visits them in Tokyo, she ends up in the hospital after a string of uncharacteristic violent outbursts, such as wrecking the TV studio of her favorite show. Sei discovers that Takane and other youths may be acting under the influence of some sort of mind control, leading to a cautionary theme about the corruptive power of the media.

The volume wraps up with some breakneck action in “Blood Red Highway.” In response to rising crime rates, the Tokyo police department introduces the Road Raiders, large and lethal robots that patrol the city’s highways dispensing instant and brutal justice. However due to a programming glitch the Raiders begin behaving erratically, and set their sights on the girls. If the series continues with these warnings about the perils of technology, I hope they do an expose on those infernal speed cameras next. Not even Jo could get out of those tickets.

Cut MY close-up will you...As usual, the animation and music are solid, especially the tearjerker tune that closes “The Immortal Classmate.” The goofy opening theme aside, Burst Angel would make for an excellent soundtrack album.

I can’t say I feel as positive about the special features, but at least they’re better than usual. “Dueling Angels”‘ commentary track with English voice actors Monica Rial (Jo), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Maria) and ADR director Christopher Bevins is the usual boring geek-fest that might be overheard in a high school anime club.

Next are interviews with Japanese voice actors Akeno Watanabe (Jo), Megumi Toyoguchi (Meg), Mikako Takahashi (Amy), and Rie Tanaka (Sei). It’s neat to finally meet the faces behind the voices (the deep voiced “Jo” is unsurprisingly a little butch, and sultry “Meg” appropriately eye-catching), but frankly these shallow interviews are rather dull. Better but far too brief are interviews with CGI director Tomoaki Kaneko and character designer Ugetsu Hakua. Kaneko roughly explains the CGI development process, for which Burst Angel required 3-4 animators per episode.

Jango and his best friendThen it’s on to the usual collection of extremely lame Japanese radio programs hosted by Burst Angel voice actors. Only fanatics with a high tolerance for earsplitting giggling will make it through to the end. I would have pulled an Elvis if I weren’t still in the waiting period.

The extras conclude on a strong up note with “Heavenly Bird,” an unusually touching installment of the Mr. Stain on Junk Alley CGI comedy short series. Stain strikes up a friendship with the bird he initially meant to cook for supper, and though things don’t quite go as planned the ending is more or less happy. With stronger episodes like this, the series could definitely make some noise on Cartoon Network.

If, like myself, previous volumes have made you a big Burst Angel fan, then you’ll probably want to add Volume 5: Line in the Sand to your collection. However it’s nothing essential for casual viewers, and only contains one really strong episode. I look forward to seeing Meg and Sei back in the spotlight next volume to, er, shake things up.

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