Talk about obscure titles that never really made their way to the States. Angelique has been a massively popular video game series in Japan, but in all honesty I never heard of it before checking out the animated series. Apparently the games have been running since the days of the Super Famicon and there seem to be more titles than you could shake a stick at. With that in mind thankfully Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ has basically nothing to do with the dauntingly large game franchise. It's a complete reboot which is good for someone as clueless as I am. Fans may want to keep that in mind when checking this release out.
Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ falls under the direction of Shin Katagai and was produced by Yumeta Company. The show consists of two seasons that span 13 episodes apiece and here in the States the license has fallen into the hands of Sentai Filmworks. While the second season will be out sometime next month, the first season was recently released and we have it in hand for review.
Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ takes place in the fantasy world of Arcadia. It seems to be a nice place, but considering the fact that there are monsters known as Thanatos that drain the life-force from people maybe it's not the kind of place you want to vacation. Standing between the throngs of angry demons and their human prey are people known as Purifiers. These Purifiers are basically humans that have been gifted with abilities to eradicate the Thanatos and restore life back into those it was drained from. They are few in numbers, and the monsters are more plentiful, so it seems like something of an uphill battle. That is, at least, until a girl named Angelique comes along.
Angelique is a 16 year-old aspiring doctor who wants to heal the world's pain. She's good natured and full of hope, but is more than a little surprised when she discovers that she has the powers to be a Purifier. In fact she's the only woman in recorded history to ever possess the trait. Soon enough their leader, Nyx, recruits her and mutters something about prophecy and she becomes known as the "Queen's Egg".
Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ quickly sets up this scenario and introduces all the main characters and gives hints at their relationships. At its core this show is essentially a reverse harem (meaning one girl surrounded by a bunch of guys), though it lacks some of its inspiration's charm in that sense. The characters are all interesting enough, but their relationships feel rather wooden in this first season since they aren't given much room to grow.
Basically the first chunk of episodes in Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ are rather episodic with Angelique and the Purifiers (hmm...sounds like a bad 80's band) traveling around vanquishing Thanatos. It's not until about the midpoint that longer lasting plots begin to reveal themselves. A power known as Jinx comes to surface and the storyline gets much more interesting in the latter episodes. It's just a shame that it all feels like set up for the second season, which leaves this first coming up just a little short. Not too short, mind you, but just enough to leave that nagging feeling in the back of your head.
Despite the lackluster first half Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ gets more interesting towards the end and we'll see how the second season works as a continuance of the story. The characters are nicely detailed and the world is interesting as well. I'm not certain how fans of the game franchise will feel about the (apparently) new setting, but as a newcomer I found it easy enough to get into and rather self-contained. Overall the first season of Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ gets a recommendation, but I'd say wait until the verdict for the second half before getting too excited.
Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~ is presented on DVD with 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The show looks very good with a vibrant palette, attractive designs, and a solid transfer all around. The world of Arcadia is wonderfully designed and I'm sure that is due in part to the large background the franchise has. This show has a style all its own and that's definitely a good thing. The picture quality sparkles at times with some nice clarity, though in a few darker scenes there is some noise. It's not quite enough to be too distracting, but it's noticeable. Otherwise this show is pleasing to the eye and maintains a steady image.
A Japanese 2.0 language track is the only source of audio available for this release. No English track was produced for this show, so keep that in mind when checking it out. As far as the quality, the original dub is very good with nice performances all around. The presentation of the track is a bit of a sore spot with a flat presence on the soundstage and no separation between channels. Everything is front-centric and that just leaves you begging for a 5.1 track. Alas that wasn't to be. English subtitles are included for this set.
The only bonus features you're going to find here are some trailers and a clean opening animation.
Sentai Filmworks has another solid license on their hands with Neo Angelique ~ Abyss ~. The show finishes strong with a solid arc that leaves you looking forward to the second season. Unfortunately the start of the show is not quite as strong. This imbalance leaves the first set feeling a little off. However, taken as part of a whole this may be a minor note that's easily overlooked, but we need to check out the second season first. As it stands consider this first set recommended, but check back to see how the franchise as a whole rounds out.
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