Angel Sanctuary 20

August 24, 2008

Ok.  Wow, okay.  Yes.  It’s explained.  All of it.  Surprisingly, it mostly makes sense.  You wouldn’t have thought.

Let’s see if I’ve got this: God wanted the power of Adam Kadamon for himself, so he extracted Adam Kadamon’s powers and split them in two, Alexiel and Rosiel.  Then he sealed Adam Kadamon away and made her the mother of all angels.  By being born, all angels were committing sin since the way God had this set up, they had to consume the energy of the mother in order to be born.  God created Rosiel horribly ugly and as an inert lump of flesh.  Alexiel, wanting to save her brother, agreed with God that it would be done if she imprisoned herself in Eden.  One of the conditions was that she had to pretend to be at the most indifferent to Rosiel, and at the best say to hate him outright.  Alexiel agreed to this, and Rosiel’s hatred for everything grew and grew since God himself told him he had an ugly body that only he could love, plus all his servants told him all the time he was horrible-looking.  Rosiel couldn’t approach the Garden of Eden where Alexiel was kept since all the servants were being driven mad by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Alexiel was said to be a sinner because she was eating the fruit, and the last straw for Rosiel was when Alexiel wouldn’t agree to kill him with her own hand, since she was following God’s plan to show him no love or compassion.  Alexiel escaped with Lucifer when he tried to defile her, and she began trying to overthrow the cruel God she knew and gather the forces in hell, which is where she met Kurai.  The rebellion in heaven failed, she was tried and branded as a fallen angel, and her punishment was that her soul was to be reincarnated as a human… yadda yadda.  Rosiel was raised to basically be hated, because he was the Angel of Destruction, and in God’s plan, when he slayed the one he loved with his own hand, Rosiel would wipe out creation.  I can’t remember why it was that Rosiel had to be… freed or resurrected or whatever by Katan, but I’m pretty sure that was explained early on.  Rosiel’s evil comes from the fact that he was made by God to hate himself.  He wanted to go to Etenamenki to get the tablet not for any reason of power, but because he wanted to feel God’s love again.  Also, Alexiel didn’t actually love God.  She only said that at the trial so that Rosiel would never find out about what God really thought of him and what God had been doing to her for her love of Rosiel.

I couldn’t tell you where Metatron and Sandalphon figured into this ending.  All I know is that I’m pretty sure that Metatron’s name got translated as Megaton in the sidebar at one point.  Huh.

God wound up being the true villain of the series.  There was a brief scuffle with Rosiel where Alexiel was briefly awake in her own body, and then Setsuna scored some more wings and flew off to fight God.  It wound up being Lucifer and the Savior v. God.  Apparently the tablet everyone was trying to get wasn’t a tablet at all, and sealing up Adam Kadamon was the only way to… stop it.  Adam Kadamon was in no shape to do anyone any harm or good, though.  She was torn into pieces (she must’ve been a huge lady) and used by God for various purposes.

While the ending is terribly romantic, it’s a few steps shy of being the kind of romance that tugs at your heart.  I think this is probably because there was too much other stuff going on to fully exploit the emotional potential of the romance between Sara and Setsuna, but that final scene still feels great, and it was still one of the most romantic series I’ve read.  Setsuna and Sara make a great pair, but there are some other really good pairs too: Lailah and Nidhogg, Belial and Lucifer, Rosiel and Katan, some lesser pairs in Uriel and Doll and Raphael and Barbiel, and even some non-romantic relationships like Michael and Lucifer, Michael and Raphael, Zaphikel and Raziel, Sara and Lil, and Kurai and Setsuna… the character relationships were all amazing in this series.  I just wish there had been less of them.  Seriously.

I still marvel at the complexity of the plot and the amazing detail of the world that Yuki created from scratch.  It’s insanely hard to get into, and there’s a lot of unnecessary stuff going on, but it’s very, very rewarding, and I can see how this could be regarded as a shoujo classic.  The awesome art doesn’t hurt, either.  The cover to volume 20 is still my favorite piece of color art from the series, I fell in love with it when I saw it years ago.

Yuki writes some really bizarrely addictive sidebars.  I started skipping this feature in a lot of series I read (this is mostly thanks to Arina Tanemura, who writes some of the most inane stuff in them), but Yuki sometimes volunteers interesting information about the creative process, how fan input affected the series, and how she felt about drawing some scenes.  One of them made me laugh in this volume, it was something like “Oh, fans of so-and-so weren’t happy with this scene, I hated drawing it too, I think severed heads are creepy.  On a tangent, my birthday was in December and someone gave me a cool hat!”

Because they’ve never been translated into English, I’ve never played the first two Shin Megami Tensei games for SNES or the two original Megaten games for NES.  However, I sort of wonder if Yuki is a fan of the SMT series, and she does mention playing Persona, a spinoff game, but this crossed my mind in the very beginning of the series and here at the very end.  A common element in the early Megaten games was that demons were summoned and people were controlled by computer games, much like the computer program in Angel Sanctuary (though most of the controlling is done in AS and most of the demon summoning is done in SMT).  Also, were Angel Sanctuary a MegaTen game, Setsuna would be a “neutral’ alignment path, where he doesn’t side with angels or demons, but decides to go against anyone who opposes him.  In Shin Megami Tensei II, if I understand correctly, God is some sort of evil overlord character who has humanity bowing to his every whim, and the main character has to kill him in the end.  The similarities begin and end there other than MegaTen games also often have somewhat complex and convoluted plots with about a million characters, angels and demons, that appear (though usually as summon monsters).  Sometimes they have Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Lucifer, Uriel, Angel, Archangel, Power, Virtue, Throne, Principality, and Dominion in them.  Angel Sanctuary is definitely not a ripoff or anything, and neither the world or characters resembles any MegaTen game I’ve ever played, but I wonder if part of the inspiration for the series lies there.  And now you know I’m a big video game geek, too.

Reading it in one go like this was definitely the way to do it, because there’s no way I would have remembered all the characters had I read this bimonthly.  I’m so glad I read it.  Ridiculosly romantic and melodramatic, just the way I like it, it is certainly a fantastic girl’s comic.

Angel Sanctuary 19

August 24, 2008

I didn’t think it was possible, but after 19 volumes, we’ve moved into some sketchy comprehension territory once again.  All the stuff happening here sort of revolves around vague questions I’ve had throughout the entire series, but they haven’t really been important until just now.

We’ve seen a few shots of Alexiel sitting in a chair naked up to now, but here we learn this is because she was being kept prisoner there in Etenamenki, in the Garden of Eden.  The Garden had the Tree of Knowledge, which sealed her powers away so she couldn’t use them.  She was also forced (?) to dine on the fruit of the tree, which was nourished by a piece of the flesh of Adam Kadamon, her mother.  Thus, not only was she committing the sin of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she was also consuming her own mother’s flesh.  But she was being forced to do this?  Anyone else forced to eat the fruit is driven mad, and apparently this happens frequently around her.  When she is forced to mercy kill these people, she is again called a callous monster.  Lucifer busts in on her one day to sully her and make God hate him, but he sees how good Alexiel actually is.

Okay.  So Alexiel lives for the fight, and apparently has no other feelings besides a love of battle and slaying demons.  No other feelings, that is, except a love for God, mentioned some time ago.  She was the more beautiful of the pair of twins, and it’s revealed that Rosiel was actually born the polar opposite of her, an old, wrinkled lump of flesh, and he only looks beautiful because he’s taken flesh from Alexiel’s body, which regenerates instantly on her anyway and serves to make him look more beautiful.  Everyone, including Alexiel, rejected Rosiel, except God.  Rosiel was beloved by God.  And God rejected Alexiel despite the fact she was the daughter of Adam Kadamon and loved him.  So… she was imprisoned in Eden BECAUSE she loved God?  It wasn’t revealed how she escaped, nor what the fight between Rosiel and she involving the Nanatsusaya explained yet, though I get the feeling it wasn’t a fight born of hatred.  This is driving me crazy, because the entire plot in this volume, and really, the whole series, revolves around these questions.  I think I’ve got it straight, and hopefully the last volume will firm things up and answer some of the questions about the more… ambiguous aspects.

There is a fight between Lucifer and Setsuna.  It wasn’t as spectacular as I would have hoped.  I thought for a moment Lucifer slayed Setsuna outright due to the fact Alexiel’s powers were restricted in the Garden… but stuff happens.  Alexiel takes over Setsuna’s consciousness briefly during the fight.  This is something I thought would happen before now, and I was actually expecting the two to merge body and soul at some point.  Alexiel explains this hasn’t happened because Setsuna has more feelings than she ever could as the Organic Angel who loves fighting and violence.  I don’t know.

Okay, so Raphael wasn’t actually in Etenamenki with the others, so they were missing two of the Elemental Angels.  Now they’re only missing one.  Part of me wonders if Raphael will make it, but the other part knows that nobody ever dies, and he’s not in any immediate danger.  Maybe something awesome will happen though, and Belial will come from nowhere and lop his hed off or something.

In any case, I don’t think this will be a very happy ending.

Angel Sanctuary 18

August 24, 2008

Somehow, things have gotten much less interesting now that the final battle has started.  I think it’s probably because, at this point, a lot of what’s going on is basically characters cashing in on the relationships that have been built up in all the earlier volumes.  There’s a lot of standing around talking, and a lot of the resolutions are accompanied by soliloquies and flashbacks to earlier events.

One of the things that bugs me a bit is the way that some of the names change throughout the course of the series.  Little things.  Very early on, “Seven-Bladed Sword” became Nanatsusaya, which isn’t so bad.  Maybe they decided to change that because it could be said that the sword has a name instead of just calling it what it is.  But Riru was called Lil at first, and that one changed from volume 12 to 13.  Barbello (which may have been spelled with only one “l”, but feels like there should be two) comes back in this volume as Barubelo.  There’s even some weird stuff in the author notes, like Kaori Yuki referring to herself as a guy at one point, causing me to scour the internet for the one photo of her I know exists to confirm that she was, in fact, female.  On the first page of one of the earlier volumes, the homophone “thrown” is used instead of “throne,” which I thought was hilarious.  I don’t mind the occasional typo, and the homophone is actually kind of funny, but I mind names changing.  In the case of Barbello, her name was only mentioned once or twice, mostly in the author’s notes, but still.  It’s sloppy.  Not that I should be criticizing proofreading of any kind.

Kato gets yet another death scene.  I’ve lamented his loss one too many times.  With two volumes left to go, it’s unlikely he’ll be back, but… still.  He’ll have to prove he’s actually dead first.

Kurai and Mad Hatter come back, along with what I assume is hell’s role in all this.  The “enemy of my enemy” theory that Setsuna had didn’t quite work out, but other than Barbello, it looks like they’re content to stay out of at least Setsuna and the elemental’s way.  Mad Hatter actually turned out to be an awesome character.  Well, she was an awesome character anyway, but she’s sort of unpredictable, and evil, and has her alliances, which is why I like her so much.  She likes Lucifer and she likes Kurai and seems to hate the other six satans, but she just can’t help but be evil.  She’s the enemy of your enemy, but she’s not your friend.  I was a bit disappoined there wasn’t more of a confrontation between Belial and Raphael, since Belial had been a sort of catalyst in Raphael’s past.  Oh well.  I hope she’s somehow involved in the final confrontation, too.

What else…?  Rosiel is still off being evil.  I can’t figure out what it is he’s trying to accomplish now that he’s taken care of Sandalphon, but it involves getting some sort of holy tablet locked away in heaven.  Maybe I misunderstood, but for awhile it was suggested you needed elementals along with the organic and inorganic angels to open the gate to the highest heaven?  Here, the gates open only with a ritual performed by the twelve zodiac angels… and really, Lucifer just does it himself to let Rosiel in, who is now in terrible shape.  Organic angel Alexiel’s body is brought in, and the savior follows, provided he is still the soul of Alexiel, but only three of the four elemental angels follow Lucifer through the gate.  Unless they accidentally brought Gabriel or Sara through the gate with them, I don’t know that it’s happening.  Of course, maybe Sara is linked somehow with Sandalphon, who’s now linked with Rosiel.  I don’t know.

Anyway, I think Rosiel wants to erase and recreate the world with the power of God and/or Adam Kadamon, and that’s why he’s going after the tablet?  Absorbing Sandalphon gives him the power to conquer anyone who stands in his way to do this?  And the others are trying to stop him so he doesn’t erase and recreate everything?  Plus they’re trying to free God and/or Adam Kadamon to try and purge all the corruption that’s ruining heaven at the moment so angels can love again?  I think that’s what these last two volumes are about?  It could also be about Setsuna trying to get Sandalphon to give Sara her soul back, and it could also be about Michael trying to defeat Lucifer, and it could also be about the angel resistance trying to free the angels from harsh restrictions placed on them by the mouldering high council.  It could also be about Setsuna and Sara finally hooking up.  It’s something like that.

The next bits should have a lot of action.  I’m not sure how cleanly everything will wind down, but I’m looking forward to some messy, ambiguous battle sequences.

Angel Sanctuary 17

August 23, 2008

Well, okay.  Now we’ve gotten to the part where everyone just stands around and talks about their feelngs.  This has been going on all along, but this volume is particularly bad.  Aside from an attack on Sara, all that happens is that Raphael talks about his feelings for Sara, Kato talks about what his problem with the current Kira is, Sandalphon and Metatron have a big old girly weep after being a rather threatening monster, Sara starts to make herself feel bad as people accuse her of ambiguous emotional crimes and she has her nightmares eaten, and Setsuna just goes on.  And on.  And on.  It does seem like his power awakens at least a little bit here, though.

Metalphon’s story is probably the most interesting thing that happens in this volume.  I still can’t figure out Rosiel’s deal, because he seems to be stopping people from doing what they’d normally do, even though his goals seem to run parallel to theirs.  He tortures Sandalphon though, and sort of riles him up to get him good and mad before he tries to attack Sara.  He winds up fighting with Setsuna and being driven away after… I don’t know, I don’t think he actually got what he wanted, but he did claim Sara, I suppose.  Then he almost gets killed, and then Rosiel just taunts him more.  It’s not too clear what Rosiel actually wants from him, other than to make him mad.  Is Metalphon the key to unlock the door to God?  I don’t think he is.  I’m pretty sure all you need are the four elemental angels as well as the organic and inorganic angels.

There’s a lot of Raphael in this volume, and he picks a fight with Sara, then leaves her, then picks a fight with Setsuna, then Michael picks a fight with him.  I couldn’t figure out why he’d turned into such a disagreeable character, but apparently this is how love changes you.  And I thought he loved Barbiel.  He may be back to normal as of the end of this volume.  I really like the relationship between him and Michael.

Anything else important happen?  I think things are sort of tapering off towards this point where Rosiel tricks everyone into helping him open the gate to the highest level of heaven.  God and Adam Kadamon are supposedly hidden off there.  I’m not sure what part Metatron and Sandalphon will play in this, but Sandalphon is a really horrible creature, so I assume he’ll be sent out to mess with people again, or at the very least Sara.

Angel Sanctuary 16

August 23, 2008

Because Rosiel has not been in most of the series, it’s sort of easy to forget that he’s been hanging out in the background, waiting to summon the real Alexiel.  He is an evil, evil character, much more so than Sevothtarte could ever dream, and now that Sevothtarte has been taken care of, he’s in charge and basically out to hunt the four elemental angels and the savior.  He’s got some dirty tricks up his sleeve to do it.

More importantly, Sevothtarte is finally taken care of.  I was so bummed by his ending.  He certainly got his comeuppance, but none of the characters got to take out their grievances, and his actual end, while quite beautiful, made you feel bad for him.  It also sort of pushed all the blame off Sevothtarte for his actions, and I’m not very fond of being forced to forgive evil characters because of their rotten upbringing.  I can’t believe such an awesome villain went out like that.

Metatron and Sandalphon are a looming threat.  What’s more dangerous, Rosiel or Metalphon?  Rosiel is certainly more evil, I think, but Metalphon poses a more immediate threat to Sara.  Here’s hoping Raphael’s up for a good fight.

Because characters really, REALLY can’t stay dead in this series, we get two resurrections of characters who were certainly dead and the reapperance of a character who was only lost.  The lost character is someone who just… you know, shouldn’t have been in more than one volume, but I’ve grown to like him a lot despite the fact I can’t separate them from minor character status.  The reappearance is pretty awesome and a good save, so I didn’t mind too much.  The other character goes hand in hand with this one.  The fact that he’s back is one thing, but the fact that he sides with Rosiel is just bullshit.  What happened to all that other stuff, like everyone loving Setsuna et al?  And how do you control someone who’s so powerful because you happen to hold a stone?  Huh?

What is there to look forward to now?  Everything looks pretty grim, and there’s two different armies bearing down on the good guys.  I guess we can look forward to Setsuna awakening his actual power and healing that which he’s lost?  He hasn’t been able to use any of his powers since his fight with Rosiel that crammed Heaven and Hell together, so it’s been sort of hard to watch him.  Rosiel says there’s a chance for him to get his power back, so here’s hoping.

Angel Sanctuary 15

August 23, 2008

Honestly?  This feels like one of the last things that will happen in the series.  I know it’s not, because there are five volumes after this one, but several things we’ve been waiting for all happen at once here, and really, the only unresolved issue other than the melee that will happen after this event is what happened to hell.

So of course we’re watching Sara’s trial all the way through this volume.  Sevothtarte is in rare form, and he’s basically sent Michael away and made sure that Raphael is blackmailed and forced away from the trial.  With Uriel gone, that takes care of the other three elemental angels.  Before the trial, Sara is given something to make it so she can’t speak, so basically Sevothtarte is able to accuse her of anything he wants, and that’s it.  Oh, also?  He’s judging the trial.  Of course Uriel is nowhere to be found, and the person that’s supposed to take his place is conveniently ill.  This is Sevothtarte’s show, and it is a mighty evil one.

Rosiel’s around, and despite the fact Michael and Setsuna team up after a brief scuffle at the beginning, Rosiel keeps Setsuna from appearing.  That doesn’t stop everything else from happening, and he’s basically allowed just enough to happen so that Sevothtarte is disgraced in front of the entire Heavenly Host.  Barbiel has a job to do, Raphael has something he wants to say, somehow Uriel can speak now, and even Sara has a few well-placed verbal jabs for Sevothtarte.  Setsuna takes a rather extreme and permanent action in order to make it to the trial with Michael, too.  The final scene is the beginning of the face-off between him and Sevothtarte, and I’m ready.

Other things are happening while Sevothtarte is occupied.  Remember our friend Metatron and how he’s supposedly the most powerful angel in heaven?  Well, he’s not been taking whatever it was that Sevothtarte has been giving him, and now Sandalphon’s out helping him.  They unlock what appears to be some sort of apocalyptic beast, and I’m ready to see what that does, too.

Remember how I said back when Nidhogg asked Setsuna to find his girlfriend that I didn’t have much hope for her after what happened to Tialiel?  Yeah.  That was Lailah.  Her random significance in this story is of a Lucy Monostone level of ridiculousness.

So, five volumes and what has to be wrapped up?  Well, I figure Setsuna will mop the floor with Sevothtarte next time, but whatever it is that Sandalphon and Metatron have done, it will take all four elemental angels and the two angels with the key to God/Adam Kadamon to stop it.  I figure Setsuna will still have to fight Rosiel at some point too.  Also, some resolution to the whole God and Adam Kadamon thing that’s been hanging over the entire series.  Also, also, Hell, like I said before.  Totally unresolved.  Mad Hatter hasn’t appeared in forever, and what’s an ending to this series without the Mad Hatter?

Angel Sanctuary 14

August 23, 2008

Well, something finally happens to Kira.  I actually really like Kira, but he’s been sort of out of things for a long time.  As important as he has the potential to be, I was expecting him to jump back in with an awesome role.  But I would not have had what actually occurred happen to him, really, I was waiting for him to… change form, again, into that which would be the most help since he is actually insanely powerful, but that doesn’t happen.

Hm.  I’m a bit sad that Zaphikel isn’t sticking around, but I’m glad everything was soeted out in the end and Raziel is back around.  Plus, bonus massive destruction to the prison.  That’s never a bad thing.

There is also an abrupt fight between Rosiel and Setsuna.  So abrupt, actually, that I didn’t understand what was going on at first and was flipping through the book so I could see if maybe the pages were out of sequence.  I had to read the few pages before it a number of times before I finally had the sequence of events straight in my head.  One of the problems is that Setsuna shows up and Rosiel is already randomly there with everything destroyed.  The other problem is that he’s holding the head of one of the main characters, and it was just one of those things I didn’t believe because certainly that person earned themselves a death scene.

The fight itself is actually sort of one-sided and disappointing.  I know this fight will happen, eventually, and it will be spectacular, but this was not the time.  Rosiel actually mutilates Setsuna quite a bit.  It was a shame, because Setsuna has one of his three wings torn off, and that was a design choice I liked quite a bit.  He’s mutilated in other, more immediately visible ways, too.

Michael watches the fight, and afterwards captures Setsuna in the aftermath because… he laid eyes on Kira, basically.  I was disappointed by the link between Michael and Kira, actually.  Reference is made to the relationship way earlier in the series, but Kaori Yuki sort of blows it off in the margins, saying everyone should already know who this relation of Michael’s is.  After being shamed by this, I looked this information up.  It certainly wasn’t Kira.  I don’t mind the backstory the info triggered though, and I certainly don’t mind seeing more of Michael.  Like I said, I like all four of the elemental angels a lot.

Raphael, also among their number, is going to break my heart in a bit, I think.  I hope not.  Someone needs to do something about Sevothtarte right now, though, or very bad things will happen.  He’s still my favorite character, I think, for being the most perfect evil you could possibly hope for, but I just love to hate him.  Somewhat related, Rosiel keeps making mention of taking him out, but at the same time, Rosiel helps him out a lot and does a lot of the same things Sevothtarte is working towards.  It… doesn’t exactly seem like he’s working at some sort of cross purpose to me.  Of course, Rosiel is also very insane, so his ends may not come clear for some time.

But yes, get better Setsuna, and someone needs to stop Raphael before his hand is forced.