Angels of Death is horror anime series that is based on the Japanese video game of the same name. The game was developed by Hoshikuzu KRNKRN and published by Den Fami Nico Game Magazine in the year 2016 for Microsoft Windows and Nintendo Switch devices. It has been later ported to the android and iOS platforms due to popular demand. Two manga adaptations have also been released for the title to overall positive reviews.
Now, there is a reason behind us providing you with this information and that will become relevant once you go through the entirety of this article. Seldom do we see a video game spawning anime and manga adaptations. It’s usually the other way round. Once a production house manages to find an anime with an attractive plot that can be modeled around a game, we usually get to play that title. The difference lies in the media.
How Loyal is the Anime to the Game?
When an anime is adapted as a game, we know the basic characteristics of the character that we play and the attractive element is the role-playing concept. We get to live and influence the world that we have been witnessing over the course of time through our television screens and this adds to the depth of the experience. However, when an anime is adapted from a game, they need to build on the characters, provide them with emotions and then make the audience connect with the same. The audience does not have a clue what to expect when they sit down to watch the pilot since they are witnessing the character that they are used to controlling themselves, out of their control.
This one difference between the medium of gaming and storytelling makes a huge difference to the overall success of this anime. The major gaps in character development, the whimsical portrayal of certain characters and the inevitable differences in ambiance are blatant in some of the episodes, especially in the middle of the series. If you are coming in to the anime without playing the original game, then we are afraid to say that you will have a hard time connecting between some of the sequences.
What is the Anime About?
Having said all that, the overall series does manage to stay pretty loyal of the original game and this is something that is highly appreciated by those who have played the game before. Now that we have the backstory for the entire series, let’s talk a bit quickly talk about its plot.
The anime starts with Rachel, a thirteen year old teenager being admitted to the hospital after witnessing two murders. She is there for counseling but she falls unconscious and when she wakes up, she finds herself in an unfamiliar room. As she makes her way outside, she finds the corridor littered with CCTV cameras with an elevator leading upstairs. Upon approaching the elevator, a machine generated voice interacts with her and designates her to be a ‘sacrifice’ for all the residents on the floors above. With no other option available to her, she presses the elevator button that sets in motion a chain of inevitable events that will change the very course of her future.
Who is Rachel Gardner?
The characters will not come as a surprise to those who have played the game before, but for those who haven’t, major spoiler alert here. Any information provided beyond this point has the potential to reveal the overall plot of the series, so viewer discretion is advised. So with that out-of-the-way, let’s talk about the first main character that you will meet in the anime, Rachael. Rachael is a thirteen year old teenager who is suffering from loss and depression. She is intelligent, eloquent and attractive but fails to find a footing in her life due to her troublesome childhood. This has rendered her alone and helpless as she struggles with her vision of a perfect family. However, visions are merely a shadow of reality and with her mental stability deteriorating fast; she finds comfort in her waking dreams.
As she struggles through the various floors of the institution, an extremely unusual characteristic is revealed. Optimism! For a thirteen year old who is suicidal, she is very optimistic about her and Zack leaving the building. This is something that is not highlighted in a lot of characters and is something that I found quite interesting. When you play the game, your main motive is to survive, so that bit does not come off as optimism. However, in the anime, you expect her to behave in her natural manner, and for a suicidal kid to want to escape, is something precious. This brings us to the next main character in the anime, Issac Foster or as we all lovingly know him, Zack.
Who is Isaac Foster?
Zack is one my favourite characters in the anime and is the only one I could relate to personally. Don’t get me wrong here; I am not a psychopathic serial killer. However, the decisions taken by Zack during tough situations are probably the ones I would have taken if I was facing the same. This makes him extremely human, even though his previous actions say otherwise. This is one thing that we found to be striking about this anime. The characters within it do not really act like their backgrounds dictate they should, and this gets more interesting as the interactions between them increases.
Nobuhiko Okamoto does a brilliant job of portraying the character of ‘Zack’, with timely changes to the tone in order to highlight the mood. This shows in the sheer brilliance of Zack’s tenacity when he encounters Danny. Zack knows what the situation demands of him and how he should take advantage of it. This is evident from his promises of taking Rachael’s life just so that he can use her intelligence to escape the building. This is one character that makes the show feel like an anime instead of a game. Human characteristics are extremely important when it comes to the development of a main character, and Zack is a perfect example of that.
Who’s Daniel Dickens?
Danny is the counsellor who is responsible for getting Rachael involved in the first place. When Rachael visited the hospital to get over her traumatic experience, Danny found her personality interesting and brought her to the institution. He has an obsession with eyes, being blind in one eye himself since birth, and Rachael’s expressionless eyes were somewhat of a treasure for him. He had a rather tough childhood and this can be linked with his obsession later towards his life. When he was approached by Gray to be a master of his own floor, he was more than willing to help. However, he had no intention of killing anyone and proceeded to dig graves for the victims of other floors. Rachael was the only one he truly desired, and the fact that he could not have her drove him to madness. He swears to kill Ray and bury her in a grave he dug with his own hands. This is also a character I really like and his constant refrain ‘The Plot Dickens’ is bound to stick with you for some time.
Summary of the Plot
Now that we have most of the characters in the storyline covered, we can start to understand the themes that Makoto Sanada wants to highlight through this one. One recurring theme is horror, which is quite evident from the ambiance and the tone of the anime. However, there is a much more sinister tone to the whole thing when we introduce religion into the mix. This is another aspect that is not that spoken about, but plays a crucial role in the development of the plot.
There’s not much reason behind setting up an elaborate institution and conduct experiments if they did not further your own faith. The anime is the epitome of self awareness where the residents of a whole community are planning their own suicides and inventing new ways to kill each other. This is fueled by Abraham Gray, a religious fanatic who is obsessed with his own experiments. Right from the get-go, the anime fosters a sense of dread and despair among its viewers that quickly shifts to moments of righteous behavior at key moments. This makes it easier for the audiences to grasp the events and relate with it even though the main storyline revolves around self harm and death.
The introduction does little to guide the viewers through the experience, and this is a good thing. It’s always good to keep expecting from an anime rather than knowing the premise of the following episode. There are no cliffhangers here and you will always be keen to know about the events that follow next. I think this is extremely crucial for any anime, more so for this one as it has been adapted from a game.
Since, the ending of the anime is clouded in mystery and extremely open-ended, it is important for one to understand the plot in order to make meaning out of the ending. Rachael, after using the elevator comes up a floor and eventually meets Zack. Zack, knowing that Rachael is out of bounds has all the reason to kill her but then decides to use her to escape from the facility. Rachael does not intend to put up a fight though. Delirious and exhausted from her situation, death seems like a welcome end to her traumatic ordeal. Zack, however, plans on using the gut instincts of Rachael to traverse through the building and find the escape route. He promises her that he would kill her and put her out of her misery if they manage to escape the compound together. It is during this interaction that Rachael starts to admire Zack.
They both start making their way across the facility where each floor is controlled by a master of death. They are referred to as ‘angels of death’ and are a part of an experiment being handled by Gray. He wants to see how far people are willing to go in search of the religious truth, and frankly going by the state of affairs within the compound, we are forced to conclude, a lot. The main rule for the compound is that one is able to kill anyone that comes to their floor but they are not allowed to move to the other floors in search for a kill.
Rachael on her way to the top of the building comes in contact with Danny who wants to kill her. Zack manages to intervene and save Rachael, killing Danny in the process. However, since Zack was out of his own dominion, he violated one of the most basic rules of the institution. The closed circuit cameras relayed his actions across all the other floors deeming him as a ‘sacrifice’ in addition to Rachael. The two faces a major crisis and decide to form an alliance due to their similar fate.
They start making their way to the final floors where they face a number of different opponents. Each of them try to take the duo down but they eventually manage to escape using the dexterity of Zack and the intelligence of Rachael. This is a pretty vague part of the anime that follows a very repetitive story arc which I really did not like. It follows the basic principles of storytelling where the antagonist does something to the protagonists, the partner does something to jeopardize the safety of the group but they eventually escape because of the timely thinking of the main character. This goes on for some time till they reach the final floor of the institution where they come face to face with Abraham Gray. It is here that they come to know about the truth behind the facility as Abraham Gray reveals himself to be the creator and the mastermind behind the project.
The Ending, Explained
‘Angels of Death’ features one of the most abrupt endings that I have come across in a while. It is not one that is neither satisfactory nor descriptive, but one that actually fits the premise of the anime perfectly. As Rachael and Zack make their way to the top of the facility, they face Abraham Gray who reveals the truth. Zack is seriously hurt from his previous fights, especially the one against Cathy.
In a dramatic turn of events, Abraham actually allows Rachael to go down to the fifth floor of the facility in search of medicine. This is completely unprecedented as the man who is after their lives actually tries to help them. Rachael considers her options but decides to go down to the fifth floor anyway. After going through a procedure where she needs to confirm her identity, she reaches the fifth floor through sheer determination alone. She needs to face her own consciousness and is forced to reveal her own selfishness in order to save Zack, a move that cleanses her soul. Zack at this point learns that Danny is still alive. Danny had faked his own death in order to get out of the situation at hand and to stay true to his promise to Rachael.
Danny thickens the plot, revealing to Zack the truth behind Rachel’s identity through nefarious means. He sets up a room filled with fake flowers and two corpses sewn up together. The scene drives them both insane as Danny tricks Zack into leaving Rachael alone. This is the moment where Danny puts his master plan into action. Danny reveals to Zack how Rachael had killed both her parents and then sewn them up together in order to make them ‘perfect’ and then ended up at the hospital for treatment. This is where he became fascinated with Rachael and brought her into the facility in order to make her the master of the final floor. Rachael, realizing the implications of the situation, shoots Danny in the face and attempts the same with Zack. However, Zack manages to bring her back to her senses and they both renew their pledge to get out of the facility together.
The duo proceeds to the exit of the building with Rachael guiding Zack through the traps on her floor. Danny, as a last act of defiance, presses the self destruct button of the building that immediately sets up the whole facility in flames. However, Abraham having reached the end of the experiment through the help of Rachael and Zack shoots Danny one final time taking him out of the mix. He allows the duo to escape as the building is left burning to the ground.
The police arrive at the scene and arrests Zack due to his previous crimes with Rachael pleading for his innocence. The authorities take Rachael away thinking that she is insane and is put in a mental facility. Zack escapes from prison and breaks into the facility and takes Rachael away in order to fulfill his promise of killing her. They are seen disappearing into the distance with the curtains flowing in the chill winter night and a trail of blood left in their wake.
‘Angels of Death’ is an anime that is best watched after playing the original game as it builds the foundation for the characters and introduces the viewer to their quirks. However, if you are coming without any previous influences, then do not expect a complete experience. The character development is extremely limited, the plot surreal and the ending can be called wonky at best. The best thing about the anime is the fact that it stays loyal to the original game. It should be treated as a peripheral that builds on the original experience rather than a primary format.