Sunday, March 28, 2004


The second disk of the I'm Gonna Be an Angel! anime just came out, so to commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd post a review of the I'm Gonna Be an Angel! manga which I wrote for the AnimeonDVD Manga Forum. This is not only the first manga review I wrote (I've edited it a bit), but the first manga I ever read in the original language. Unlike other manga I've discussed here, this one won't expand anyone's view of manga; in fact, it would fit comfortably into the current lines of most American manga publishers. But you may find the review of interest anyway.

Tenshi ni narumon'!
Manga: Tetsuya Ohno
Original plan (gen'an): Nishikiori Hiroshi
Kadokawa Comics, 2 vols
vol. 1: ISBN 4-04-713295-0, 540 yen
vol. 2: ISBN 4-04-713310-8, 560 yen

The basic set-up of the Tenshi ni narumon'! manga is the same as that of the anime, which is being released here under the title "I'm Gonna Be an Angel!" For those who haven't seen the anime, a brief precis: Yuusuke, a high school (?) student who lives by himself because his parents have been transferred, on his way to school one day falls off his bike and lands on top of a naked girl with a halo floating above her head, inadvertently kissing her. Instead of punching him, the girl, whose name is Noelle, joyfully greets him as her "groom," instantly falling in love with him. Yuusuke is at first intrigued, but this turns to dismay when Noelle appears in his school as a transfer student, publicly embraces him, and keeps following him around. To make things worse, when Yuusuke gets home he finds that Noelle's "family" has moved into his house. This consists of various supernatural beings, including a witch, an invisible girl, and a Frankenstein's monster look-alike (the "father"); and they all take Yuusuke's "engagement" very seriously.

Noelle has a good heart, but is very naive (a less charitable way of putting it would be "thick as a brick"). When she finds a letter Yuusuke wrote to the girl he really loves, calling her his "angel," she jumps to the conclusion that Yuusuke loves real angels, and determines to become an angel for Yuusuke--hence the title--despite having no idea of how to accomplish this. Though Yuusuke is initially quite annoyed by Noelle's devotion, he gradually comes to feel an affection for her. But there are others who are interested in Noelle, though their connection to her isn't clear at first: a mysterious young man named Michael, who keeps showing up around Noelle; a sinister figure named Dispel, who keeps a young woman named Silkie in chains and who seeks to prevent Noelle from becoming an angel; and Dispel's minion, the cat-girl Miruru. Following a pattern common in anime, the first volume is episodic, with much of it given over to the stories of characters who are minor to the series as a whole; the second half is more intense, as the plot gathers steam, with several characters turning out to be more, or less, than what they first appeared to be.

Most of the people who would be interested in this manga, though, will probably have seen the anime, at least what's been released in the U.S. So how does the manga compare with the anime? Plot-wise, they aren't too dissimilar, at least up to episode nine of the anime, which is as far as I've seen. The manga completely lacks the monster-of-the-week aspect of the anime; and Noelle's family is much less of a presence in the manga than in the anime. But so far, the major events of the anime correspond to those of the manga.

In terms of tone, though, the manga and anime are quite different. The anime often feels like a cartoon for young children, though there are also aspects that would go over their heads. The manga, in contrast, seems aimed straightforwardly at the adolescent male audience that reads series like "Oh! My Goddess" and "Video Girl Ai." This isn't necessarily to the manga's advantage: the schizophrenic nature of the anime is part of its charm. Noelle's character is also toned down a great deal in the manga compared to the anime. Her extreme naivete and ignorance are a lot less in evidence, as is her hyper-cuteness.

The artistic styles of the manga and anime also differ quite a bit. The animation of the anime is some of the most imaginative I've seen in anime, reminscent of some of the wilder 1930s Warners cartoons. In contrast, the art for the manga is pretty conventional. Which is not to say it's bad -- while it's not spectacular, it's expressive, and does a good job of telling the story. Backgrounds are generally very simple, when they're present at all; the elaborate and imaginative depictions of the interior of Yuusuke's transformed house present in the anime are absent from the manga.

Judging by what I've seen of the anime so far, the manga seems to move at a much brisker pace (not surprisingly, since the anime is twenty-six episodes long but the manga is only two volumes). In fact, the first volume of the manga feels rushed. The characters of Yuusuke and Noelle especially suffer from this. They aren't given enough time to develop, and ultimately don't transcend their templates: Noelle as the girl who's not too bright but has a heart of gold, and Yuusuke as the typical male protagonist of a magical-guest series (though with less interest in sex than the norm). Several of the secondary characters are quite interesting, though, particularly in the second volume.

Despite the reservations above, I recommend this. While it's not a groundbreaking manga, and people are unlikely to fall in love with the manga the way some (such as myself) have with the anime, it's enjoyable in its own right, with an intriguing plot and a satisfying resolution. And those who were intrigued by the idea of the anime but can't take the hyper-cuteness, or find the anime Noelle just too annoying, may want to give the manga a try. And at only two volumes, it's short and sweet.

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