A retrospective view: Galaxy Angel

Recently I had the opportunity of viewing a DVD that I had bought in 2006 but never had the chance of seeing: it was the third season of Galaxy Angel, of which I had already viewed the first two years before. After viewing it, I realized I could have viewed it sooner, as I liked it quite a bit. Not only that, but I brought myself up to speed by getting what was left in the series, that is the second half of the third season (marketed by Bandai Visual as Galaxy Angel AA) and the fourth and final season (known in the English speaking market as Galaxy Angel X).

Well, I found the whole franchise quite good: and after having explored also other bits of it, including the manga and the games related to it, I thought it’d be nice to have a retrospective with my own views. Which is the point of this post.

Galaxy Angel? What was it about?

Image of the first design

I was initially aware of the whole matter when Project G.A. was announced by BROCCOLI (for those who don’t know, it is, or at least used to be, a large merchandising company which also owned the GAMERS anime chain until very recently) at the Tokyo Game Show in 2000.

At the time the designs were very preliminary and they showed mostly about the game (more on that later) than on the TV series that was going to be made by Madhouse. As you may already know, BROCCOLI thought of this whole matter as a rather spread initiative, encompassing different medias: games, a TV series (13 episodes in total) a manga (made by the Kanan, the same person who did the original designs) plus a lot of merchandise and associated bits.

But back then, it was all yet to come. I admit I didn’t pay attention much to the announcement and moved on.

It was only years later that I bought the animated series, in 2004, that is when BROCCOLI USA opened and a partnership with Bandai Visual was formed to bring the anime and the manga to the English-speaking market.

The animated series

Season 1 - Galaxy Angel

That’s where it all begins (TM), in all senses, because the animated series was the first to come out after the announcement. I wonder if people watching it thought that BROCCOLI had been trolling them, since it was completely different than the promo. Difference that’s seen already by the opening song, ギャラクシーBang! Bang! (Galaxy Bang! Bang!), markedly nonsensical. The episode titles reinforce the impression, as they’re almost about food and have a somewhat loose connection to the actual content.

Even though it was just 24 15 minute episodes, I already appreciated the highly non-sensical humor that permeated the series. The first series sets the basis for all the characters (from the second one top rightwards, Milfeulle Sakuraba, Ranpha Franboise, Volcott O. Huey, Mint Blancmanche and Vanilla H - pronounced ash) and to introduce their… peculiarities.

Already, unlike the games (see below) there’s a lot of nonsense and parody humor that will become even more important in the later seasons. At this point the characters aren’t that developed but I found most episodes to be enjoyable. Already hilarious is the presence of Nomad (rightmost on the second row) that is just a target for some serious nonsense violence.

Compared to what we’ll see in later sesons, the interactions among the cast are a bit stiff: understandable since nothing else had been done (the game would come out later).

Sometimes the fact that the episodes end without a real conclusion can be surprising (as well as finding that in the following episodes the characters are still there!) but one gets used to it pretty quickly. The series “ends” with a non-ending like the rest of the episodes (introducing counterparts that will never be seen after that episode), but at the time I knew already that there was a sequel.

Season 2 - Galaxy Angel Z

The second season (known as Galaxy Angel Z outside Japan) introduces a format that will become common: assemble two episodes (which are half as long as a common anime episode) separated by the eye-catch. In this case we’re looking at 18 episodes, or rather 9 in total. Compared to its predecessor, elements of parody and marked non-sense begin appearing, which make the show even more enjoyable. Also the cast has better interactions than in the first series, leading to truly hilarious moments.

One episode in my opinion stands out, because much more of this type will be featured in later series, is the second, ウェディングケーキ合体スペシャル (Wedding Cake Gattai Special, aka Wedding Cake combined Special). In this specific episode, we see the Angels having to pilot a robot which is basically a reference to a number of 1970s and early 1980s mecha shows, in particular Combattler V _ and _Voltes V. I would rather say rather try to pilot, as the thing explodes every time combination is attempted… But this is not the only element of parody there: a scene where Milfeulle rides a scooter to reach her vehicle is a mock of Daisuke Umon / Duke Fleed’s rocket “motorbike” in the launch sequence of Grendizer. The final icing on the cake is the song played in the background, たたかえ!ぼくらのX X X (Fight! Our X X X), _sung by a real singer of mecha shows and _tokusatsu sentai. The X X X in there because the mecha blows up exactly when the song would say its supposed name.

Like the original Galaxy Angel this series ends with a non-ending, showing something great about to happen “but now it’s the last episode” and thus ending in an anti-climactic way. Still, the game was about to come out and a third series was in the works.

Season 3 - Galaxy Angel A & Galaxy Angel AA

This section is the longest when dealing to the anime, because it is the longest of the four, featuring 52 half-length episodes, and a few specials on the way. This is in my opinion the best of the bunch, where the mixture of the interactions among the cast and decidedly weird plots form a very nice mixture.

I mentioned the plots. Well, starting from this series the parody / non-sensical element is much more noticeable, and often every episode would lose every bit of sanity within seconds. The situations where the Angels fall in also are even stranger than in the previous series (although they magically get fixed in time for the next episode).

Regarding parody this series stars a number of successful experiments. In primis, one episode, サインはブイヨン (Sign wa Bouillon), which is a complete parody of famous sports anime like Attacker no. 1 (the song sung in the end, あたしたちがNo.1, or We are no.1, is a direct reference), featuring improbable and out-of-the-line volleyball techniques, but also references to Ultraman and Cyborg 009 (such as Forte’s acceleration, complete with spark on the teeth). In the end there’s even a “next episode” that puts together all the possible cliches.

However if I were to pick, parody-wise, two episodes from this series, I’d definitely choose ピュルリクマジカルステーキ (Pyururiku Magical Steak) and 新鮮 鯛づくし (Shinsen Taizukushi) because they bring that element to a new level.

The first of the two is an all out reference to the “magical girl” series, where the Angels (and Volcott, too!) try to use a magic stick that would grant a wish to a truly believer in magic. This somehow ends up in a sort of clip where lots of historical shows are referenced, as shown in the images below.

The series reference relatively recent productions such as Doremi, but also real antiquities (for the Japanese, at least) such as Megu-chan (the Italian readers of this blog may know it as Bia e la sfida della magia), touching also video games. How many references did you find in the image shown above? This video shows all of them. As you can see are quite a lot. The song is also performed by a veteran of such series.

The second parody episode I mentioned instead is a reference to super sentai series, where the Angels have to fight as a group known as the “Angel Five”. Also this episode compresses a full-length sentai 52 episode series in little less than fifteen minutes.

Almost all the cliches are touched, including also a reference to the first Kamen Raider series and the always present narrator that tells how things go on. Oh, and I should not forget about the obligatory mecha scenes (with the combination of the girls’ 紋章機 - monshoki _or rather _emblem frames - referencing the usual lack of budgets of these series). Just like the previous episode, there’s even a specific song for the various scenes.

The last mention for this series is the last episode, final dish REBECCA, which is actually full-length. In contrast with most of the series, there’s not a single trace of humor. It’s like one of the few serious episodes scattered through the series but in a more coherent and longer form.

Despite the difference, the essential psychology of the characters is not changed at all (in fact some bits reminded me of the game) and the whole story fits perfectly as ending of the series (open ended, also with Masami Okui and JAM Project’s In the Chaos as ending song). If Galaxy Angel had to end there, final dish REBECCA would have been ideal. By the way it was done, I also feel that this season was to be the last one, but the decision changed only later on.

Season 4 - Galaxy Angel X

The last of the seasons is also the one of the most absurd, because the parody and nonsense elements increase dramatically. Usually it’s impossible to predict where an episode would end up to being, because aside the initial settings they almost go completely random (but they’re rather funny). The craziness affects even episode titles, which become tongue-twisters that also play on assonance: an example 非凡平凡チョコボンボン (Hibon Heibon Choko bonbon, _translatable as _Extraordinary, ordinary chocolate bonbon).

On the parody side, an episode like 哀しみ憎しみ凍み豆腐 (Kanashimi nikushimi shimi tofu, _or _Sadness and Hatred Tofu in the English translation) replicates (very faithfully, I might add) the aura of Japanese dramas, complete with rather improbable plot twists and character relations (who is the daughter of who?). _Another episode, ラブ米, feels like a session of _Tokimeki Memorial, with the Angels infiltrated in a school-like environment (complete with stereotypes) and with an insert song performed by a singer that actually did some of the game’s songs.

Along with the already present characters, this season also includes Chitose Karasuma, but she’s completely different than the game counterpart, with a personality bordering on psychopathic. She doesn’t appear very often in the season as well, but she leaves her mark, definitely.

The last episode (オールオッケーロケ弁当, All OK bento) is somehow meta as due to plot reasons it almost feels that the main voice actors are speaking about their characters, in a way. However, near the end the nonsense returns, showing a “battlefront” against aliens that is more reminiscent of the tennis anime エースをねらえ!(Ace o nerae! _or _Aim for the Ace!) as the “battle” is played at table tennis. Other notable mentions which also include the appearance of a character from the 1970s Great Mazinger series, namely 闇黒大将軍 (Ankoku Daishogun, or Great Dark General). but with the face of Di Gi Charat’s Digiko…

Unfortunately the last episode is a bit of a let down because it’s half-length, unlike _final dish REBECCA, _ and thus the final part is a bit rushed. It’s not a bad ending per se, anyway, and doesn’t affect the overall quality of the series. Series which despite its length never really bored me and provided many hours of enjoyment. Especially the latter seasons show a great coordination among the cast that increases the comical effect.

To be very brief, watching this series, even now taht many years ahave passed, is definitely recommended.

The video games

It is somewhat less known that Galaxy Angel had also a series (three) of game counterparts, in fact part of the all round strategy devised by BROCCOLI. Unlike the animated series, however, none of these have been translated to English (actually, such a translation was planned, but hastily canned when BROCCOLI USA closed up shop).

The scenario of the game is much closer to what BROCCOLI had announced at first. Gone are some of the anime characters (the ones devised by Madhouse themselves, such as Nomad and Volcott) and others come in, most notably the commander Takuto Meyers, the character whose actions are controlled by the player.

So, how are the games? From a purely technical standpoint, they’re a mixture of 恋愛 (Ren’ai, literally love but used in the terms of dating sims) and strategy-based battles, a formula that was employed succesfully by the Sakura Taisen franchise in the past. Basically, a good part of the game involves talking and interacting with the Angels, building up relationships (and eventually love with one of the heroines), while the other part involves controlling the Angels’ monshoki and fighting various enemies, trying to achieve specific victory conditions. The latter is basically a 3D strategy game, where orders are issued and then executed, while the first involves reading the main story dialogue and occasionally making choices (unlike _Sakura Taisen, _those aren’t timed). Poor choices, however, will inevitably affect the Angels’ morale and hence the battle performance, so the girls must be treated well.

As you can see from the images, Kanan did all the job (like in the manga, which covers the same story as the games). The result is unpredictable: at times it’s quite nice, at others it’s rather poor. Nevertheless, it is good enough.

While the story has a more serious tone, it has also many comical moments that remind of the series (although they don’t reach such levels of absurdity). However, in my opinion there is a huge letdown when you are forced to choose your Angel: the characters aren’t “strong” enough, from a personality standpoint, to stand up alone, as their strength lies exactly in the mutual interactions. Therefore, when focus is given to a single member of the group, the results are often poor, and even “out-of-characters” scenes occur. The problem, which affects the first game (Galaxy Angel) only partially, is even more evident in the second instalment of the series (Galaxy Angel - Moonlit Lovers) where for basically half of the play time there isn’t even the full squad available. On the plus side, every scenario for each group member is often very different.

Speaking of characters, Chitose appears in Moonlit Lovers, and as I wrote before she has a completely different personality, the one of an elite soldier but so fresh that’s not capable of adapting (let alone in a carefree unit such as the Angel Tai). She still has a good deal of humorous scenes, though: her interplay with Milfeulle or with Forte in their respective scenarios is quite funny.

Let’s go over the battle part a bit. In these sections, the player is thrown in a 3D battlefield, having to control the Angels, the command ship (the Elsior) and optionally other friendly units (this only from Moonlit Lovers onwards). Units can be selected and orders given (in this case, the visual switches to a zoomable 2D map). Each unit has a series of gauges that indicate their status: the Hull gauge indicates how badly the unit in question is damaged, the Energy how much energy it has (the Angels’ monshoki can be resupplied by coming within reach ot the command ship) and for the Angels only, the Spirit gauge. The last one fills when damage is dealt or received, and once full can be use to unleash a powerful special attack which varies depending on the pilot (or in the case of Vanilla, to repair all units). Although the monshoki are rather powerful, some careful planning is due, especially in Moonlit Lovers, where the enemies are in much larger numbers. Aside that, there isn’t much else to control. The camera can be switched to the various units (useful if you want to check their performance or watch the specials).

To show you how the game plays in these sections, here is a video.

I haven’t played the third instalment of the trilogy (Eternal Lovers) yet, but I can say so far that the games are good enough when all the characters are involved and terrible when they focus only on one heroine (and Moonlit Lovers is painfully short, with a rushed ending). Not too bad, but not too excellent either.

Concluding remarks

Whew! This was one long blog post. I took almost one month to finish it (including viewing the last two seasons and reviewing the game). I can say that Galaxy Angel (but not its mediocre sequel) is definitely a series that will stay in my list of favorites for a long time, especially due to the way the cast interacts, both in the games and in the anime. A shame that we won’t see any more operations of this kind, due to the way the TV slots have become so far (very tight and packed).

Dialogue & Discussion