D.N.Angel Volume 1

D.N.Angel is a title that made quite a splash on the manga scene when it was released through Tokyopop late last year. ADV solicited the anime almost straightaway, yet it failed to attract the same popularity and praise that was lavished on its manga counterpart. As a result I was quite surprised to hear ADV were bringing this title to our shores, still as a fan of Yukiru Sugisaki’s work this has come as a very welcome surprise.

“For a boy in love, it was the darkest of times.”

Daisuke Niwa is a seemingly ordinary middle-schooler with an amazing secret.
Heir to a bizarre genetic condition, whenever his eyes meet those of the girl his heart desires an extraordinary change takes place. He is transformed into the legendary Phantom Thief, Dark. To break this curse he must steal the heart of his one true love, that may prove difficult however, how can he win the affections of a girl he can’t even talk to?

D.N.Angel gets off to a roaring if vaguely uninspired start, there’s plenty for shonen fans to get to grips with here, from bizarre love triangles, pulse-pounding heists and a rich vein of day-glo oft-kilter fantasy. There are niggles though, little doubts that will eat away at your enjoyment, and at this point I’m not entirely convinced the stirring but tenuous concept will have quite the same impact 20 episodes down the line.

The early episodes do, do a fair enough job of establishing Daisuke’s world, characters are introduced and some connections are cemented but there’s an importunate feeling of emptiness. The only real revelation comes at the very end of the fourth episode, although it was nice to see the series finally pulling in some more interesting plot strands, most viewers will have clocked the ‘big twist’ a few minutes into the very first episode.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are some promising signs which indicate things will improve as the series progresses and finds its fledgling feet, as I mentioned the first volume does a fine job of introducing us to all the main players, I can’t wait to get under Dark’s skin and have his mysterious origins played out onscreen, and the denouement certainly indicates his layered history will provide the series with some much needed dramatic thrust.

There’s also an energizing lack of exposition, which for the time being has allowed the creators to cut loose and have some fun. Another impressive touch implemented later on was Dark, popping up over Daisuke’s shoulder and cajoling him into action, having the two onscreen at the same time creates an interesting dynamic, their abrasive personalities caught in conflict and wresting for dominance adds a smidgen of tension.

I didn’t check my watch once during D.N.Angel, the pace simply cracks along; there are some fantastic action sequences that allow us to see the seemingly awkward Daisuke strutting some jaw dropping thieving skills. I was also glad to see the ‘hallway gauntlet’ sequence make the translation from the manga intact, and am happy to report it was every bit as good as I’d hoped.

Originally broadcast in 2003, you’d expect this show to come equipped with some serious visual sheen and it doesn’t disappoint. An unusual pallet that utilises shocking pinks, dreamy blues and deep purples has been employed to create a wonderful contrast of light and dark, which compliments the show’s overriding theme to a tee.

The music throughout is uniformly excellent, my ears perked up many a time as the jazzy, 20’s influenced score drifted across the speakers. It’s an ear-grabbing score, which really imbues the show with a sense of quiet cool, giving proceedings some much needed edge.

In Summary

D.N.Angel is a solid hour and a half of entertainment, nothing more, and nothing less. There won’t be anything here you haven’t seen a thousand times before, the central conceit puts a refreshingly unique spin on the romance/fantasy genre and the production values are excellent, but it’s all hindered by a distinct sense familiarity. Still it’s a strangely addictive series that will no doubt appeal to the younger set, I’m expecting some improvements when volume two rolls around and fingers crossed I won’t be disappointed.

7 / 10