Monday, August 2, 2021

REVIEW: Angels of Death (anime TV series)

Angels of Death is a psychological thriller series based on a game. I watched it on Funimation's streaming service.


Content warning for this series, beyond all the murderers: child abuse.

Rachel Gardner wakes up in the basement of a strange building with no memory of how she got there. The last thing she can recall is going to see a doctor because she'd witnessed a terrible murder. It isn't long before Zack, a scythe-wielding serial killer, finds her and tries to kill her. However, Zack isn't the only deadly person in the building - and all of them want to kill Rachel. Luckily (I guess), Rachel soon decides that she actually wants to die...but she wants Zack to be the one to kill her, and he won't do it unless she helps him escape.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this show. On the one hand, it completely hooked me, to the point that I watched the whole thing in a couple days. On the other hand, the ending left me unhappy. I'm not sure what a "good" ending would have looked like, but it definitely wasn't the ending I got.

I'd heard of this series before but didn't actually know much about it, going into it. I remembered seeing it on someone's "bad Japanese horror" list - I disagree that this was horror, though. Yes, it had a bunch of serial killers and some chases in it, but in reality it was more of a mystery/thriller.

It was apparent from the first episode that there was more going on with Rachel than she'd admitted, or possibly even knew. How did she end up there, and what happened to her before she got there that prompted her to want to die? Why were she and the others there? What was the building's purpose? After a while, I started to wonder if the building and everything Rachel was experiencing was even real, considering the kinds of things Zack was able to survive.

This series was originally an adventure game (which I haven't played), and its origins were pretty obvious - at times it felt like I was watching an animated "Let's Play" video or something, as Rachel tried to figure out each floor's various puzzles. Catherine Ward's floor was the most obviously adventure game-ish, due to a setup that forced Rachel and Zack to figure out puzzles in a series of rooms before they could finally directly confront Catherine.

That said, I still enjoyed it immensely, which I suspect wouldn't have been the case with the original game (it sounds like it has some nerve-wracking timed elements). Zack was charismatic and surprisingly sympathetic, considering that he was introduced as a psychotic killer. Once they started working together, his and Rachel's interactions were generally fun to watch. Zack was the enthusiastic muscle, prone to rushing in and worrying about the consequences later. Rachel was the more careful and logical thinker.

As much fun as it was to watch Rachel and Zack try to get past every obstacle the building threw in front of them, the pact they'd made cast a shadow over everything. Zack was a young man who'd been shaped by horrible experiences he'd had when he was a child. Rachel, too, had experienced horrible things prior to ending up in the building. Rachel kept reaffirming that she wanted Zack to kill her after they got out of the building, but would he be able to? And would she really want him to?

Strangely, finding out Zack's past made me feel sympathy for him, while the same didn't really hold true for Rachel, I think because Zack seemed like he might have been a normal kid prior to the horrible stuff he ended up doing, whereas Rachel...wasn't. In fact, Rachel's background got me to thinking about abuse, and how the series' message probably wasn't the best - at least three characters with horrible childhoods, all of whom went on to do horrible things in response. And yeesh, of all of them, Rachel's story probably rang the least true, emotionally. People just don't act like that.

I watched this on Funimation, which, for some reason, only had the English dub. Thankfully, the dub was pretty good. Dallas Reid was appealing as Zack, and Meg McClain managed pretty well considering that Rachel was supposed to be mostly emotionless. Part of me enjoyed this series enough to want to buy it and rewatch it in Japanese with English subtitles, and part of me wants to never see the ending again. Hmm. I'll probably end up getting it at some point, and stopping any rewatches just as they're about to go outside.

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