Burst Angel Vol. 4: Hired Gun
At first glance, Burst Angel might appear to be nothing more than a bundle of guilty pleasures for fans of hot women, conspiracy theories and giant robots. However, beyond the considerable frequency of explosions, panty flashes, breast jiggles and dramatic poses, there is a very entertaining series waiting to be discovered by sci-fi diehards.
Set in the near future, violent biomechanical monsters have been appearing with alarmingly increasing frequency. In order to combat the threat, some people have been granted the authority to carry deadly weapons. While the amount of incidental destruction can be considerable, the government simply cannot face the strange assailants on their own.
Burst Angel is about a team of young women whose purpose it is to battle the monsters. Naturally, they're pretty good at their job.
The characters and setting can't help but evoke memories of the cyberpunk classic Bubblegum Crisis, only it lacks those pesky hardsuits that covered up the beautiful women inside of them. The story features a team of women -- with increasingly massive bustlines -- and a young girl for the lolicon crowd.
Led by Sei, a mafia heiress turned bounty hunter, the team is rounded out by Meg and her compatriots. Meg is a spunky young woman with more spirit than sense, and unfortunately for her, combat skills. Then there's Jo -- a superhuman warrior, skilled markswoman and the pilot of the team's mech, Jango. Finally, there's Amy. Amy's young age belies her unmatchable knack for making technology do exactly what she wants it to. It was likely that her talents as a hacker brought her to Sei's attention in the first place, but she plays a very active role in the team's missions.
Kyohei, a young male aspiring chef (an aspiring patissier, to be exact) serves as the gang's comic relief, but he's not integral to the overall story. He isn't seen much in this volume of the series except in the obligatory swimsuit episode, making its long-awaited appearance for the fanboys out there.
Then again, given the clothing that the girls wear on a daily basis, swimsuits really don't show viewers anything that they haven't seen before. Up close. Often.
GONZO, as always, does an awe-inspiring job of integrating CG with traditional animation to create a look that is all their own. Combined with terribly slick character designs and impressive mechanical creations, the end result is a very pretty series.
The series is so pleasing to the eyes, in fact, that it's easy to overlook the plot. For the record, there actually is a plot. In a show this good-looking, a storyline is optional for most of its followers.
With catchy music ("Loosey," the show's opening theme, stays in my head for weeks at a time) and 5.1 channel surround sound in both languages, audiophiles should be rather pleased with the show's aural presentation as much as those who care more about the look of the series.
Even more surprising, there is a nice number of extras on the DVD, adding yet more to the disc's value. First of all, there's a commentary with some of the English staff for the first episode -- this is something that even I usually listen to, despite my preference for the Japanese language track. It's always fun to hear voice actors and directors talk about the show that they've worked on, and this instance presents no exception.
There's also another radio drama segment with the original Japanese voice actresses. It's easily as entertaining as the English commentary, thanks to the simple fact that few things are cuter than Japanese women doing tongue twisters.
There are also the standard extras, such as textless opening and ending animations and trailers for other shows. However, perhaps one of the most entertaining bonus features has nothing to do with Burst Angel at all. Included on this disc is an episode from the odd CG-animated series, GA-RA-KU-TA or Mr. Stain of Junk Alley. It's due for a full release in early 2006, but seeing the silent comedy for adults for free in advance is an excellent way to build up hype for an off-beat production.
While Burst Angel doesn't offer considerably more than it advertises, it is a considerably entertaining series nonetheless. The lavish cover illustrations actually do the show true justice, so if you're a fan of the girls with guns genre, and you don't mind the occasional giant robot showdown, then there is no reason for you to avoid this series. There is a plot if you go for that sort of thing, but then there's also enough superficial content to keep most people (well, most guys) plenty engrossed in the action.