Angel Sanctuary

Based on the manga by Yuki Kaori, Angel Sanctuary is at best odd, and at worst sacrilegious and a little disturbing. The main theme is a pseudo-Christian tale of angels from heaven, demons from hell and those that get caught in between. While I can't verify if the religious elements are borrowed or merely invented, the concept seemed interesting enough. Of course, this anime proves that an interesting concept and solid execution are two different things. Angel Sanctuary focuses on Setsuna, your typical, angsty teenager hung up over a girl. Of course, most typical angsty teenagers have the hots for a popular cheerleader, prom queen, or even "the girl next door". Not Setsuna. He's got maddening desire for his cute-as-a-button younger sister, Sara. That's right, his blood-related sister (and yes, they make a point of stressing this in the series). As if lust for his own sister wasn't bad enough, Setsuna is also apparently the reincarnation of an angel named Alexiel. Alexiel, at one time, led a rebellion against God and has since fallen from grace. Forces on both the demonic and angelic side are awaiting Alexiel's re-awakening, including Rosiol, Alexiel's twin brother. The one problem is, Setsuna will be killed in the process. What's a teenager to do? If you didn't quite figure it out from the description, I really didn't care for Angel Sanctuary. I'm not sure if it was the sacrilegious and incestuous themes, the constant parade of bishonen angst, or the totally unsympathetic characters. Even Setsuna and Sara's mother, who seems to have her daughter's best interests at heart, is portrayed as a domineering bitch. Every character seems to be out to fulfill their own selfish desires, and end up making someone else's life miserable as a result. Particularly bizarre was Setsuna and Sara's relationship. Setsuna is continually bombarded with the taboo of incest, but it seems love will prevail over all odds. Except, it's his blood-related sister, so the romantic element just felt too weird to be real. The story itself isn't bad. The idea of an angel reincarnated as an awkward teenager works, and the conflict is certainly set up nicely. Pacing is handled well, and the series looks like it might bring itself to a solid conclusion by the end of the third episode. It's this point, however, where things really fall apart. Without giving anything away, the use of a completely ridiculous plot device in the final moments just plain hurts. Then, further plot revelations leaves the series hanging, resulting in a completely unsatisfying ending. It looks like there may have been more episodes planned (mainly from the teaser at the end of the third episode), but from what I could find, these three are it. Thus, Angel Sanctuary befalls the same fate as other unfinished anime before it, leaving one to seek out the manga for the rest of the story. The art-style is quite shoujo (everyone has pretty, shiny hair and liquid eyes) and the animation is average. The voice acting is another story, decent by U.S. Manga Corps standards, but sub-par overall. In the end, Angel Sanctuary isn't terrible. But with all the elements of a bizarre soap opera, it turned me off pretty quick. While fans of the manga might find more to enjoy, I'd personally keep my distance from this anime. The Verdict: * * 1/2 (below average)

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