After witnessing a violent event, Rachel Gardner is taken to a hospital for counseling. But she awakes to find herself not in a clinic, but in a strange, dark building, filled with literal questions and most frighteningly of all—a crazed man with a bandaged face wielding a scythe. As Rachel tries to escape this killer, she finds that an even more difficult obstacle to surmount is the surprise another floor has in store…and the questions of life and death that traverse her mind.
Now that’s a first episode. Based on the popular horror video game, Angels of Death drops you into a fearsome scenario (the always scary medical ward/abandoned building setting) right away, but it does so with style that doesn’t seem befitting of the genre. A little of the series video game-ness shows through (I don’t need a stamp giving the doctor’s name), and the tortuous middle portion (both in what it does to Rachel and in how, well, boring it is) isn’t great, but the animation is at times spectacular, with wonderful direction choices, including the feel of a moving, live-action camera in some scenes. The voice acting by Nobuhiko Okamoto was outstanding as well—wonderful to hear him play someone so different from Bakugou, but equally off his kilter. I was mesmerized, though now the hard work begins—for a person like me who isn’t into themes of hopelessness and doesn’t enjoy the horror genre, can this series give me something more? I certainly hope so, because it looks it’ll be a fun ride getting wherever this show intends to take us.
NegativePrimes: Amnesia plus murder seems to be the popular theme of the season. We have Island, about an amnesiac time traveler(?) who wakes up on a beach and only remembers that he’s supposed to save someone and kill someone; we have Planet With, about an amnesiac boy who is told he must kill seven heroes(?); and now Angels of Death about an amnesiac girl who—I am not making this up—wants to be killed. Episode 1 is called “Kill me… please.”
I’d never heard of the video game it’s based on (horror games not being my cup of Earl Grey); even so, it was obvious to me that it was based on a game. It feels like you’re watching someone play through a game. Nothing wrong with that—yours truly likes to stream on Twitch for the delectation of others—but somehow it feels off here. Imagine if the reverse were the case: You loaded up a video game, and found that it felt more like a movie than a game. Probably frustrating or at least a bit disappointing, right? So too here, a TV show that feels like a game seems to fall short of the mark.
It’s certainly possible to have excellent anime series based on games. One of the first that I watched all the way through was Sands of Destruction. In no way will it be taking home the Pulitzer for animated stories, but it stood on its own as a story; it didn’t feel like a game, though based on one.
Is there anything to recommend it? Well, it’s sufficiently entertaining. If I’ve burned through my main programs in a week I wouldn’t mind catching up on it. Of particular note is the setup hinted at by the end of the first episode: The girl looks to be teaming up to survive with the first guy who tried to kill her. That could make for some intriguing options. Also, the questions (written in blood on the wall for good measure) are good existential fodder for contemplation: Who are you? The person you think you are or the person you really are? Why are you here? Etc. Really, these are among the most important questions we humans can ponder! So props to the show for that.
If anyone reading this has some familiarity with the game, I’d be particularly curious to hear your take on the show thus far.
Angels of Death can be streamed on Crunchyroll.