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Neo Angelique Abyss

All good stories have their roots buried deep in human history. These are the universal or transcendent themes. So let’s travel back to the times of the primordial Greek gods when Chaos ruled over Heaven and Earth, then called Gaia. The first born is darkness and is named Erebus. He stands between Earth and the emergent Hell. A sister and Goddess of the Night, Nyx, is born to Chaos and, incestuously, Erebus and Nyx give birth to a clutch of children including Hemera, Oneiroi, Nemesis, and Thanatos, who represent day, dreams, revenge, and death. Eventually, Erebus gives his name to a specific region of Hell — what we would now call Limbo — where the dead first go before being ferried across the River Styx into the underworld. This gives him control over the souls of the newly dead.

Angelique does her thing

 

Turning now to Neo Angelique Abyss, this was a KOEI game, with the anime version produced by Yumeta Company and directed by Shin Katagai. It was divided into two seasons, both of thirteen episodes, the story continuing with only a time lapse of six months between the two parts.

 

For now, let’s ignore the way in which the narrative is developed and animated. At its heart, this is a wonderfully dark story. As a world, Arcadia has lapsed from a high-technology culture supporting off-world travel and advanced cyborgs, to an essentially preindustrial level where only vestiges of the previous technology remain with key elements rediscovered through archaeological digs. This collapse has been caused by random attacks by interdimensional creatures named the Thanatos. They bring death and destruction wherever they manifest. A few humans possess the power of purification, i.e. they can confront the Thanatos and send them back through through the dimensions to Erebus — for these purposes, there’s deliberate confusion between the being and the alternate world itself.

From left to right: J.D., Nyx, Rayne and Hyuaga

 

Arcadia fights for its survival both through the Artifact Foundation, which tries to recover and preserve technology, and through a religion led by Mathias which believes that, at some point, a Queen with supernatural powers will emerge and save the world. Unfortunately, both organisations are corrupted. The chief technologist is Erenfried. He’s young and gifted, but with a severe inferiority complex, consumed by jealousy for Rayne, the man in whose footsteps he follows. In this role, he’s assisted by Jet, a cyborg with no real will of his own. The leadership succession for Celestial City is supposed to work through a process similar to reincarnation. Mathias knows he’s not the rightful leader but, obsessed with the power he commands, he keeps the true heir, René, out of the picture.

J.D. and Jet square off against each other

 

This leaves the day-to-day fight against the Thanatos in the hands of a small group. Led by Nyx, we have Rayne who recognised the dangers of the Artifact Foundation’s reliance on only partly understood old technology, Hyuga who left the Celestial City to find a better way of fighting the Thanatos, and J.D. who is a second cyborg but one who has reprogrammed himself to achieve a level of emotional maturity approximating that of a human. It’s this team that identifies Angelique as the likely Queen and saviour of Arcadia.

Mathias and René before the storm

 

To sum up. The dead emerge and literally suck the life out of the living. The Artifact Foundation’s failure to understand the old technology strengthens the power of the Thanatos. Equally, Mathias is tempted into using Erenfield’s technology instead of allowing René to lead the people in prayer. The result is the effective destruction of Celestial City although one symbolic tree does survive. This leads to more widespread destruction and loss of morale by the people of the world. The fact that Nyx has been the agent of Erebos for some three-hundred years is the final nail in the coffin, completely undermining Angelique’s self-confidence. Now the world has lost its one real hope for survival.

 

It’s a great story except the execution fails to match the required level of darkness. What we have is twenty-six episodes of pulled punches. It begins with the style of the art work. The best of the dark fantasy and horror animes use shadow and darkness, capturing the viciousness of the threats and the terror of the victims. Here, almost everything is light which completely destroys any real sense of danger from the Thanatos. There’s no menace as these tentacled thingies vaguely float around. Properly directed, the light would fade to shadow as the Thanatos emerge. They are hunters. Hear their lust to feed and then their angry frustration as our heroes fight them. More importantly, appreciate the real brilliance of Angelique as she is imbued with a holy light that purifies these diabolical beasts into oblivion. As it is, the effect of the holy light is washed out by it largely appearing in daylight. It could all be so dramatic as the light slowly spreads out, battling the darkness and, when it touches the Thanatos, producing wails of despair as they return to death.

 

Worse, we have a cute cat to keep Angelique company and, when not fighting, our heroes are turned into housekeepers, cooking, cleaning and generally acting in a distinctly non-macho way. It’s just all too nice and equal opportunities. Even when their home is burned to the ground and Angelique is stunned into a coma, the three hangers-on just hang around, waiting for something to turn up. There’s never any real sense of desperation and despair. I suspect all the key players were slipped a copy of the script. This explains why they act as if it’s all going to come out right in the end. So, there’s little emotional power in Erenfield’s redemption and the way in which Jet resolves his programming does not have the impact it deserves. The worst failure comes in the relationship between the human Nyx and Angelique after his dual identity is revealed. This could have been pure theatre as the dominant Erebus comes and goes. Sadly, the only visible sign is that Nyx gets a purple rash on his face.

 

Thus, what should have been an anime of wonderful power and drama is left as a plodding, rather romanticised story of a young girl who keeps her upper lip stiff enough to get through to the end where, as the Beatles once endlessly repeated in one of their singles, love is all you need. It’s interesting but not very involving.

 

My thanks to Autumn Rain for the screenshots.

 

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