Shattered Angels, vol. 1

It finally came!

So, yesterday this finally appeared in my mail box – I would’ve done cartwheels if I knew it wouldn’t end in a hospital trip. So I threw it into the DVD player, sat down, and drowned my afternoon in what even I will admit is crap – enjoyable crap, but crap nonetheless.

Shattered Angels, or Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora as it was originally known, follows a high school student, Kuu, who has suddenly found herself in extraordinary circumstances, as high school girls in these sorts of shows are so wont to do. When the story begins, Kuu is on the bus, her friend trying to encourage her to ask a particular guy to a big dance type of event that is coming up. Kuu is shy, though, and another beats her to it. But she isn’t too troubled, admitting to the audience that her name means ’empty’ and that it fits her well, for she believes that she is empty.

At school that day, a handsome exchange student is introduced, Kyoshiro, who apparently hails from a much more prestigious school than the one he has switched to. Cue annoying schoolgirl foolishness over Kyoshiro’s presence. He later on plays a violin in one of the school’s gardens, attracting the hordes, but he stops suddenly and approaches Kuu, who is shocked because he looks like a prince she keeps dreaming of. But chivalry is apparently quite dead, and he tears her blouse open, and she goes running. It seems he was looking for something, so it seems we’re supposed to excuse the sexual harassment bit.

Kuu is, understandably, upset and confused. She also spies Kyoshiro kissing another girl, a girl with long blonde hair and dressed in a pink maid outfit. But then the campus is attacked by a loli cat-girl, the blonde maid girl fights her, and Kuu is even more bewildered than before. When it seems she’s about to meet her end, Kyoshiro saves her, and we are told that the girl he kissed earlier is Setsuna. Setsuna defeats the other fighting girl, Tarlotte, and the episode ends with Kyoshiro kissing Kuu and asking him to come with her. She agrees.

The remainder of the disc consists of Kuu getting kidnapped, then rescued, sent on a journey to another academy in Kyoshiro’s company, getting attacked again by Tarlotte, learning about Kyoshiro’s past, and meeting one of Kyoshiro’s elder brothers, the sympathetic Soujiro who appears to be Tarlotte’s companion in the same manner that Kyoshiro is Setsuna’s. And, for the record, although Setsuna seems to harbor a crush on Kyoshiro, the two are not involved – Kyoshiro, it is implied, does not really see her as human anyway (and he’s right, she isn’t human in a technical sense, but she certainly behaves like one). Kuu also fills us in on a little bit of the past of her world – apparently ten years prior to the series there was a huge disaster, and the world hasn’t been the same since. We learn later on from Kyoshiro and others that the source of the disaster were experiments involving ‘Absolute Angels’, and that the disaster killed his other elder brother, Kazuya; he is determined to destroy the Absolute Angels. It is hinted strongly that Kuu is another of these.

In addition to all of this, we also meet Kaon, yet another Absolute Angel, and her friend/lover Himiko. These two bear a very strong resemblance to Himiko and Chikane of Kannazuki no Miko, an earlier series of manga-ka team Kaishaku, and its easy to assume that the two are alternate universe versions of that pair, except less crazy and happier despite being under the thumb of a domineering woman named Mika. Mika is to Kaon as Kyoshiro is to Setsuna, although much more controlling and with quite a bit of cruelty. The girls at the academy of which she is the head to her are apparently sexual playthings; Himiko is one of these girls, although her heart belongs to Kaon. At one point, Himiko and Kaon have Kuu, but she is taken away by Kyoshiro, and Himiko is taken from Kaon’s presence for punishment, heavily implied to be of a sexual nature. Afterwards, Kaon is also punished harshly; the end of the volume shows us her bowing to Mika, her memories seemingly wiped completely away. Himiko looks on broken-heartedly.

Having hated Kannazuki no Miko, I never even bothered to give this a glance when it first aired. But a friend pushed me to check out the first episode at the very least, and when the credits rolled, I was curious to see what happened next. I thought Kyoshiro was a creep, and wasn’t impressed by Setsuna, but Kuu for some reason appealed to me – she was a bit of a typical heroine for this kind of anime, but her admittance of being ’empty’ intrigued me enough to want to see what happened to her, and also, admittedly, made me hope she was happy in the end.

The show isn’t anything great, I’ll admit that right up front. But although it is neither groundbreaking nor particularly good, it is entertaining. Kuu is the sort of character you don’t want to see come to harm, and the lesser characters help to further pull you in. Tarlotte is, initially, pretty annoying, but her relationship with Soujiro is fun to watch. I was shocked to not see a hint of fanservice about her, having fully expected to see quite a bit of her panties during fights.

Speaking of fanservice, the series is kind of weird on this point. There are no panty flashes so far, even though at one point Kuu tears the bottom half of her skirt off to bandage a wounded Kyoshiro. There are gratuitous bathing scenes, though, and a completely unnecessary battle done while Setsuna is only wearing her underwear (complete with garters), and then somehow loses her bra. But after this flurry, it is largely absent for the remainder of the disc.

In addition to the episodes themselves, there is a clean opening provided on this release, and two DVD-only episodes. The DVD-only episodes really help to provide greater depth to the relationships between Kaon and Himiko, and between Kyoshiro and Setsuna, and also give the viewer more pertinent information of what is going on in the show.

The animation is crisp, filled with a lot of pastels, and at times downright beautiful (a scene of the world right after the big disaster a decade ago had me stopping the pause button to stare, and in one of the bathing scenes I rewound to get a better look at the bathwater – surely what they didn’t think someone would rewind for in such a scene). Equal attention is paid to male and female characters; I can’t think of any character who isn’t attractive, even the amoral Mika or scarred Soujiro.

The OP song has a bizzarely upbeat tone overlaid over shots of the characters, rendered bizarre by the appearance of blood spatters and a shot of Kuu being stabbed through the chest. The ED is fairly plain, mostly of Kuu looking out a window on a sunny day, the song a softer pop number.

Translation of the volume seems to be up to snuff, although my Japanese isn’t very good, so I can’t promise that. I skipped the dub and so cannot comment on it. The menus on the DVD are the plainest I’ve ever seen for an anime release, although the upside is that there is no load time. The artwork of the keepcase is alright, heavy on the pastels with a cover displaying Kuu being held by Kyoshiro to his chest as Setsuna looms in the background. There is no insert, which seems to be what the industry prefers these days.

Anyway, I was pretty pleased with the show itself, having not too high expectations in the first place. If you liked Kannazuki no Miko, you will probably also enjoy this (although I daresay the reverse certainly isn’t true), as they both come from the same creative team. And if you can enjoy something without it needing to be a masterpiece, then you’ll probably find some merit in this. Overall, I’d actually recommend that you at least watch the first episode.

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