It’s very often that something leaves with so many mixed feelings that I can’t tell if I like it or utterly hate it. Angel Sanctuary has left me with so many mixed feelings that I want to buy a box set, burn it and cry over the ashes.
For those that are unfamiliar with it, Angel Sanctuary (or 天使禁猟区, Tenshi Kinryōku, in Japanese) is a fantasy manga for girls that focuses on a teenager named Setsuna Mudou and his incestuous love for his sister Sara and his struggle as the reincarnation of the rebellious organic angel Alexiel.
The manga was written and drawn by Kaori Yuki which is well known for her very distinct and almost CLAMP-like art style.
Like what happens with CLAMP, the art is very beautiful, charged with romance, fanservice and even sexuality, but like CLAMP the art only holds so much until I start thinking about the plot and watching everything fall apart around me, so let’s get this out of the way: Angel’s Sanctuary‘s art is beautiful. It’s amazing, despite nobody being ugly (for the most part) and everyone looking almost the same. The level of detail put into the clothes, environments and even in the action and objects is downright impressive, but like I said the characters look almost identical and I had a very hard time telling them apart because there was almost anything that could tell me who is who. Understandable in the case of twins, not so understandable when you think that Lucifer and Uriel look like they’re twins.
My biggest issue with the story, however, it’s main characters and their romance. Setsuna and Sara are blood-related siblings and, I don’t want to sound like a judgmental bitch, incest bothers me a lot probably more than it should. I know I shouldn’t take it too seriously because they’re reincarnated angels and not actually brother and sister or something along those lines but it still bothered me to the point that I wanted to drop the manga and never lay my eyes on it.
Setsuna and Sara’s relationship is seen as something pure and romantic, something good that every couple achieve and honestly, I cannot see such a thing when they’re brothers. I’m sorry for all you romantics out there, but no, I cannot bare it and for me, it is the fatal flaw of the manga. It wants us to think about them as a beautiful pure couple that is fighting against impure corrupt angels from a dirty heaven, but I can’t think about it in that way. Their love is not pure, they’re brother and sister.
I live in a country where marrying your cousins is allowed and that bothers me let alone brother and sister having sex because herp derp our love is so pure and innocent, just let us go God.
Because of this relationship and because Setsuna has to save Sara all the time, the plot takes ages to go anywhere and we’re introduced to a million characters in a million subplots and go nowhere and only serve to make manga longer and more confusing.
The manga has a lot of characters and feels much longer than what actually is. I felt tired and frustrated reading most of it because I had to re-read it a lot of times because I was lost again on who is who and I was confusing characters and I no longer knew who the villain was or what we were looking for and I just wanted it to put me out of my misery.
It reached the point where I didn’t care about the grand plot against God or the angels or the incest or all the forbidden love, I just wanted to know what next insane thing was Rosiel going to do and how that is going to affect his relationship with Katan.
That was the part of the manga that felt truly genuine to me. Through all the madness and jealousy and idiocy, I knew that Rosiel truly cared and liked Katan right until the very end. They liked each other, they relationship is very fucked up, but none blames the other or dislikes each other for it. Yes, it is wrong, but there is a sense that they hurt each other because they like each other and they’re trying to hide their weakness from each other. This is especially true by the end of the manga, when Rosiel’s true nature is starting to be revealed and he tries to hide it from Katan. It even reminded me a bit of Berserk.
Another interesting issue locked within the manga is that of gender. Although only touched very softly, I liked the way the manga tried to addressed issues of sexuality and gender and how that affects one’s identity and preseption of self. It’s never taken to tumblr levels of attack helicopters but it’s addressed and then the story continues.
Belial is the epic tone of this issue and it’s done beautiful, in a way the complements the beauty in flith that Rosiel and Sevothtarte started.
And surprisingly enough I do not have much more to say about the manga because I feel almost nothing about it. It was a maddening sit, yes, but it wasn’t a particulary good one. I enjoy the manga, the main characters and the ending ruined it for me. I honest wished it had focused more on other characters like Kurai, Aranche, Belial, Sevotharte, Rosiel or even Alexiel rather than on Setsuna and Sara because it would made for a much less boring and dragged story.