There I was, scoffing away at a fellow reviewer for wimping out on not only reviewing, but even merely finishing Studio Gonzo girls and guns title Burst Angel, assured in my fangirl superiority because I myself had managed to sit through an entire volume and hadn’t tried to kill myself by the end. You wuss, I mocked. Spoilt by too much quality anime (which I admit is my fault, since I keep pushing the quality stuff on to him). But then I realised my error, since said sense of superiority was derived from having been there, watched that and written the review to prove it, when in actual fact I hadn’t; I only thought I had.
Which kind of sums up this series, really. It’s kind of cool, kind of fun, and kind of something you think you’ve already seen (or in my case, reviewed). I’m not going to call it vacuous, simply because there is such a long standing tradition of mindless action entertainment in anime that it would be utterly ridiculous to scoff at something which quite successfully fulfils those prerequisites. And I’m not even going to say I was disgusted at the fetishist approach to fashion the four main characters insist on, because again, I’m quite at peace with the fact that where there is anime, there are bouncy, half naked anime girls in ridiculous outfits made from half a metre of gravity-defying material. After all, if one is going to battle, one wants it to be over from nosebleeds without any shots fired since one is actually more skin than armour, right?
I am however going to complain about the fact that Burst Angel is almost, almost good. It’s got all the right ingredients – cool, gun-toting chicks, big mecha battles, cute, innocent boys who get caught up in the much more sophisticated, not to mention dangerous, world of said gun-toting chicks and look forward to losing their virginity (but never do), and a shadowy conspiracy involving government weapons and human experiments. Sounds on target, doesn’t it. Well, it’s not that this familiar mix doesn’t work, but it seems to work only enough, and no further.
Take for example main gun-toting chick Jo. She’s great. Even I can like her, despite the totally impractical chaps she wears with her halter crop top, short shorts and gun holsters. There’s something wrong in her head; she’s like a robot, socially maladjusted, narrow focused and an extremely efficient killer. The only things she cares about are team-mate Meg (or maybe it’s the cowboy costume she’s attached to), and zombie movies, but in battle mode, she’s all systems go. She also has this crazy, glow-in-the-dark tattoo which seems to have something to do with the mecha she pilots.
Sadly, the first volume just doesn’t seem to make enough of her beyond her ass-kicking abilities and her robot-sees-red mode when the resident damsel Meg somehow (surprise!) manages to get herself into trouble. I think it’s a case of character under-development, because I can see her potential, but there just isn’t enough there for me to chew on (err, so to speak). This is, disappointingly enough, the same case with the rest of the characters as well. Neither Sei, operations mastermind, nor Amy, the young techo-prodigy, are as charismatic as Jo, and neither do they have any grab points in the first few episodes (apart from the obvious physical ones). Meg is hardly better than your standard anime babe either; all hot air and little sense. While she seems to be the character who’ll have the most focus (since she has the most room for improvement?) and possibly even be the point of romantic interest for sweetly vacant and idealistic token boy Kyouhei, there is really very little hope for any truly affecting drama from these four pretty-girls. Perhaps the creators (and I feel like I need to do twenty Hail Mary’s saying this about a Gonzo title) couldn’t fit any really meaty character development in, what with everything else, or maybe they just didn’t think they needed to, considering there are nipples.
Which is a shame.
Or is it? I mean, at least when it’s Gonzo, you can be assured that the action is going to be great, which it is. And just because Burst Angel isn’t a stand-out in terms of characters or original drama, doesn’t mean neo-cowboy wear doesn’t have its place in the greater scheme of things. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, even the producers get a bit cynical further into the series, and realise that skimpily clothed, heavily-armed babes are all well and good, but having real character development is like anime-fan heaven, where it appears some angels fear to tread.