Neo Angelique Abyss Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

Neo Angelique Abyss Complete Collection Anime DVD Review The fate of the world is in the hands of one young woman and her handsome companions, but with secrets abounding what price is going to be required of them to save it?

What They Say:
Arcadia was once a beautiful world. Now it is a land under siege. Against the horrifying creatures known as Thanatos, there is only one known defense: Purifiers, rare humans gifted with the ability to exterminate the life-draining monsters. But Purifiers are few and the Thanatos are multiplying, so when the mysterious Nyx discovers 16-year-old Angelique, he becomes doubly committed to recruiting her for the team of Purifiers he is organizing. Not only is Angelique a Purifier, she’s the first female Purifier in recorded history. Moreover, there is an ancient prophecy Nyx is aware of: one of a woman with special powers, the “Queen’s Egg,” whose future will be inextricably tied to the fate of Arcadia!

The Review:
Audio:
Neo Angelique is one of the titles that was picked up and produced by Section 23 that was released with just its original Japanese language dub. To that end the only language track available is the 2.0 Japanese track. The track is a fair one which splits the dialogue and effects between the front speakers and also provides directionality when required. It isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off but it is a competent track with no dropouts or distortions noted during playback.

Video:
Originally airing during the 2008 television season Neo Angelique is presented in its original 1.78: aspect ratio and is presented with an anamorphic widescreen encode. For the show the producers chose to use some softer colors for the most part, giving the show a bit of a calming look. Sadly either through faults in its initial Japanese production or just the result of low budget DVD replication the video here is a rather sizeable mess. The problems are numerous and include lots of noise which creates trouble in motion scenes, some minor interlacing spots, ghosting, and some ugly jumping of the screen as well as blurring lines at times. Additionally, there is the presence of bleeding, banding, artifacting, dot crawl, jaggies, strong red blurring, aliasing, and some minor digitizing. From what looks to be the production side there also appears to be dirt in a scene and some of the CGI work looks off at times but it is hard to say how much of the video faults here belong to one category or the other.

Packaging:
The release contains five discs (two for each season and a separate disc for extras) in a Stackpak case where all the discs stack on a center spindle type holder. The front of the cover features Angelique in the center of the picture as she looks to be singing while she stands in front of a tree that is blooming in pink petals which also surround her. Above her is the series title while to the side of her there are some pastel purple bars and the series four main men are situated below her image. Angelique is again featured on the image on the spine, this time wearing a white dress and curled up with some yellow light radiating off her in the bottom of the cover while the title is presented in a classic looking font against the purple background at the top. The back of the cover features the copy, seven images from the series as well as the four men who play a slightly lesser role then the ones on the front.

Each of the four discs devoted to the series are presented with an image of one of the four leading men from the series getting their own disc featuring their image while the bonus disc features chibi characters of the extended cast standing about halfway on a purple circle that is around the hub. This circle is then surrounded by a white background on the rest of the disc that really helps the character images to stand out.

Menu:
The menus are a bit of a simple but satisfactory affair for this release as they use the original sets menus for the series discs. Each disc splits the screen with the image of one of the four main characters in the upper right of the screen against a white background (the characters match up with the characters pictured on the respective disc labels), with the first two discs devoting the color space for the options to a deep purple and the last two using a more purple, red and star dusk looking image. The first two discs use a clip of the first opening music while the second two discs do the same with the second series open as background music.

Given the series is available with only the one language track the only options available are the episode selections which are stacked in a staggered “step” like formation with the episode number listed before the title and the odd numbered discs have the option for the clean opening animation listed at the bottom of that screen. Which option is currently selected is indicated by a leaf image which changes colors when selected. The bonus Extras disc uses this same set up against a dark blue space looking pattern with Angelique being featured in the upper right corner. The menus are quick to respond to changes in selection and to implementing the selections when chosen.

Extras:
This release comes with all the extras from the individual set releases and there is a good deal of them, so many that the extras get their own disc. The first extras, Neo Angelique Theater and Second Age Theater are short little animation pieces that lovingly poke a little fun at the series. Another extra, the Multiple Love Endings features a character specific short bit of animation (some new, some stock) and presents what would be the ending routes for that character if this were a game rather than anime.

The next specials are rather linked in that they are actor focused- Omelet Rice Duel, Return to Neo Angelique Omelet Rice Duel, Sweets Duel ~ Pudding a la mode as different male members of the cast get together and have a cooking show type face off which allows for them to play a bit more. Finally my favorite extra, the Arcadia Carnival Special Drama where the cast went out to special promo events and read certain scenes live, then read scenes again with a different (and often hilariously wrong for the scene) character substituted in place of one originally there. I love watching actors play with characters and this extra provides that opportunity.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Neo Angelique Abyss is an anime spin off of the dating game series Angelique which is published by KOEI in Japan. This is mostly just background knowledge as the series does a fair job of explaining itself and standing on its own with the world it creates rather than relying on any game knowledge to enjoy it. In this world known as Arcadia the average person goes about their lives in the mostly middle ages like time period that the society exists in but the presence of some advance technology and left over artifacts suggest that there was a previous highly advanced society present that has fallen.

If the lack of technology was the lands greatest concern then the people would live in a good deal more peace but they are also plagued by the occasional appearance of strange monsters known as Thanatos that drain humans of their life energy. As with many cases in nature, when there is a disease, antibodies are developed, which in this case are people – almost completely men- who have the power to banish the creatures. These people are known as Purifiers and they are highly regarded though few in number and the number of Thanatos seem to be rising.

The world of Arcadia does provide some solace for its people as it has a legend- one day a woman will be born who will become the Queen’s Egg and who is destined to save the land from the evil that torments it. As the story opens it appears that the prophesized time may have come as stories of a young girl who has been rumored to posses power that even some of the stronger men who are Purifiers lack have begun to spread in a small village. These rumors reach the ear of the aristocratic Nyx, a Purifier who has been searching for the Queen’s Egg and has used his resources to try to help the people of the land combat the threat facing them and he sets off to verify their accuracy.

Nyx arrives at the school where the young lady named Angelique attends to find that she doesn’t believe she is the girl he is searching for or that the power she possesses is really that special. Nyx isn’t alone in his quest as he has already recruited a brilliant young man named Rayne to help him, whom Angelique encounters after he is wounded in a battle with some Thanatos. Angelique attempts to help him as she intends on being a doctor but when some Thanatos attack again she is forced to recognize the power she has as well its existence the responsibility it places on her.

As Angelique travels around the land helping others and helping fight Thanatos she encounters some other men who will join with the band Nyx is assembling- the always smiling but mysterious JD and the reserved former knight Hyuuga. With their fighting strength bolstered the group becomes dubbed “Orb Hunters” by an inquisitive journalist who hears about their attempt to cure the land of the plague that affects it. The Orb Hunter’s aren’t alone in this as, along with a branch of knights gifted with the abilities of being Purifiers, there is an organization known as the Artifact Foundation that is using science to try to bring peace to the people.

The problem is that each of these organizations may possess individuals who have motives of their own which will place Angelique in some odd situations. These perils won’t be helped in the least as her new companions each have some secrets of their own which may introduce even more trouble to the group and one secret may hold a key to a lock that will end the Orb Hunters.

Shattered and with a world in despair 6 months will pass in which the world slips further into darkness after a surprise revelation scatters the Orb Hunters. Will the Orb Hunters find the strength to fight this newest challenge in front of them. And when Angelique discovers the fate of the Queen’s Egg will she find she still has the determination to see her role through to the end or will the task be too much for the 16 year old girl’s shoulders to bear?

When it comes to anime series based off games the results can be hit or miss depending on how close the series sticks to the game as well as the fact that certain elements- enemy encounters for example- don’t translate well with a medium switch. For the most part Neo Angelique avoids many of the pitfalls but it can’t escape the problem that much of the familiarity a player has with certain characters comes from the amount of time spent with them, something that an animated series just can’t match in the same quantity.

This leads to a feeling that characters are getting shorted a bit as there is a rather sizable cast present here. The anime strives for a more neutral approach to the story which avoids settling on a particular character’s story path which gives every character a fair shake so no one’s favorite is left out but the reverse side of this is that no one character is allowed to outshine the others by too much. Part of this is made up for with the Love Endings extra, but a couple of minutes focus can’t cover the entire gap the neutral balance creates by itself.

Still, despite this flaw, the series brings in the fantasy/medieval/fallen society story setting that seems to have fallen out of favor among anime producers in a very competent, though not necessarily spectacular, way. The story does a nice job of presenting the love between characters and their impact on their world as well as establishing a consistent presentation of that world and filling it with some decent bits of wonder.

In Summary:
Neo Angelique is a series that manages to overcome many of the pitfalls that beset other game adaption anime and brings a tale of hope, love, loss and redemption to the table. While some maybe attracted (or repelled) from it based on its reverse harem setup the story manages for the most part to become more than just an average example of the genera and it has elements that likely will appeal to a broad spectrum of anime fans. While it has a few flaws (not the least of which is its shoddy encode) it still manages to bring a rather well crafted tale to the screen and it leaves me wishing that the original game series this is based off could find their way across the ocean.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Neo Angelique Abyss Theater, Neo Angelique’s Multiple Love Endings, Neo Angelique Omelet Rice Duel Part 1, Arcadia Carnival Special Drama Part 1, Return to the Neo Angelique Omelet Rice, Duel Part 1, Neo Angelique Sweets Duel ~ Pudding a la Mode

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: D+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 30th, 2011
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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