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Burst Angel, vol. 2 – A New Tokyo
A region 2 DVD review by CNash
 

Burst Angel Vol. 2 – A New Tokyo (released 13th March) is a breath of fresh air in what has become a rather stale genre of animé as of late. It harks back to the episodic, one-story-at-a-time narrative structure that I enjoyed with Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star, while at the same time breathing new life into an old formula: a group of mercenaries that band together to fight crime and demons with large guns and mecha.

Indeed, there isn't much more backstory or reasoning to go on. The four main characters of the story – whom I'll go over in more detail later – are introduced as jobbing teenaged mercenaries, who primarily work for a company named Bai Lan. This company is run by the grandfather of one of the four, Sei. Together, they fight against criminals in future Tokyo, as well as some more demonic activity that they treat no differently. The only other piece of relative information I can impart for those of you who want to purchase Volume 2 before Volume 1 is that there's a new law in Tokyo – civillians are permitted to carry firearms, and the new armed response division of the Tokyo Police is resorting to lethal force in order to control the populace. This provides the motivation for a secretive mercenary team, as well as shadowing the backdrop of events during the series.Our four main protagonists – three of them the spitting image of the main characters from Evangelion – are the cryptic and aloof, androgynous Jo; spunky cowgirl-wannabe Meg; cute but deceptive computer whiz Amy; and upright, all-business Sei. Along for the ride is Kyohei, their cook, who's usually roped into helping them out on missions – much to his chagrin. The three leading ladies are your stereotypical animé warrior girls, more often than not dressing in skintight, revealing outfits, regardless of their usefulness in armed combat. The level of fanservice is nowhere near as bad as in Battle Vixens – it's typical of most series to show their female cast in overtly sexual costumes and positions – but it's pronounced further by the main characters all being female.Volume 2 contains four episodes. The series takes the Justice League turn of splitting one story into two parts, so there are only two distinct stories in this volume. As I mentioned before, the episodes are largely self-contained, with only the vaguest hint of a backstory in each one.05: "Mansion Where Lurks the Demon"06: "Wash This Garden With Blood!" Meg goes undercover at an elite private school, to investigate rumours that some of the students are taking hallucinogenic drugs and possibly conjuring demons. She's unable to adapt to the unfamiliar environment, but manages to muddle through. When things get too tough for her to handle, Jo steps in and joins her in her search to uncover the mystery of the school.07: "Black Sky"08: "The Wounded Outlaw" A huge mechanical crow is snatching young girls from the streets of Tokyo. When Meg is captured by the creature, Jo rebels against Sei's instructions and sets out to rescue her – at all costs. Kyohei is caught right in the middle, finding himself used as a human bargaining chip.

It's in the second of the two stories that the relationship between Jo and Meg is thrown out into the open. In the first story, the implied relationship between the two of them is made quite clear through dialogue – but it's only in the second story that the viewer begins to understand the nature of their relationship. Jo is hugely protective of Meg, forgetting all her responsibilities and doing literally anything in an effort to save her. If I were Sei, I wouldn't want my strike force's strongest member to go off like a bull at a red flag every time her teammate finds herself in danger. I'd consider it a danger to the team. I wonder how much Sei is willing to tolerate Jo's wilful lack of respect for authority figures, and I hope this aspect of the story is built upon in later episodes.The English voice-acting work just didn't sit too well with me. While the English voice-actors' line delivery isn't emotionless, some characters tend to put emotional stresses upon the wrong syllables, and this makes certain lines seem completely out of place. Music ranges from upbeat and peppy action tracks for the first story, to tracks that wouldn't seem out of place in one of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns in the second. The English narrator also has a wonderful Western drawl. The opening theme is the usual techno-rap-dance-JPop that I've seen in recent animés, but the closing theme did catch my eye (or ear) – it might just sound like all the other animé closing themes out there, but I found it nice.The artists have used a faded, muted colour scheme, and lots of overexposed white backgrounds. We've seen this before, in Gunslinger Girl, where I think it worked a little better. Unlike the characters of that series, these girls have fully developed personalities and eotions, and the effect of this lighting simply drains them of life. Eye colours are bright and solid, and often convey facets of the character's personality – take note of the character Angelique, from the first story, whose eyes just scream "Evil". And I was seriously impressed by Studio Gonzo's CG work on the mecha combat scenes of the second story – the 2D and 3D animation styles blend almost seamlessly, and are simply a joy to watch.Overall, in case you hadn't picked up on this, I'm really enjoying this series. It's got a story ethic that lets new viewers jump in at (almost) any point; the stories aren't confined to one episode and so can be made longer, without feeling as though they're dragging the series into a long story arc; music and visual effects are used well; and there's some decent characterisation. My only real gripe is that the English VAs aren't quite as good as most of the recently-released animé out there – the washed-out skintones, I can live with. If you enjoy not having to view an entire series from the very beginning to "get" the plot threads, and simply want some decent action-combat animé to put on at the end of a long day, I wholeheartedly recommend Burst Angel.

sound and vision

1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced, the transfer is decent enough, with good colour and reasonable sharpness – the slightly over-exposed and diffused look in some scenes appears to be deliberate and is a trait that can be found on some other recent animé series.

There are two soundtracks, both 5.1 surround, one Japanese, one English. The English track is slightly fuller than the Japanese original, and the voices have been treated (added reverb etc.) to make them suit the location, something the original Japanese voices have not. The music has slightly more punch on the English dub.

extra features

Extra features on Burst Angel are, like most MVM discs, quite satisfying. There's an audio commentary track for episode 08, "The Wounded Outlaw", with the English VA director and the voices of Jo and Sei. Having heard Greg Ayres (here the voice of Kyohei)'s commentary track on Chrono Crusade, I was slightly disappointed that they didn't ask him to record one this time around – given that the episode in question features a bond forming between Jo and Kyohei.There are some Radio Dramas – one main track (16:35) and two bonus tracks (3:55 and 3:35) – featuring the Japanese voice-actors in their own Burst Angel radio show, where they get to grips with Japanese tongue-twisters and act out skits sent in by fans.Finally, you can view clean opening and closing animations (and hear the Japanese closing theme), and watch trailers for Samurai 7 and Battle Vixens.

Burst Angel, Vol. 2: A New Tokyo

Japan 2003
100 mins
director
Kouichi Chigira

DVD details
region 2
video
1.85:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby surround 5.1
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
English – signs only
extras
Commentary on one episode
Radio dramas
Opening and closing animations
distributor
MVM
release date
Out now
review posted
30 March 2006

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