Last volume, my optimistic prediction for Burst Angel was that the series had already hit its lowest point, and that the next few episodes would show a distinct improvement. Unfortunately, the only thing this disc manages to prove is how completely and utterly wrong that assessment was.
The decline begins with the first episode on this disc, an instalment that could have been the start of a worthwhile storyline, but instead stands out as a wasted opportunity. The episode sees Jo confront Maria, a mysterious cybot pilot who not only bears a striking physical resemblance to Jo, but also seems to hold that all-important knowledge about her past- knowledge that suggests that both Jo and Maria may be something other than human. It’s a concept that may sound solid enough on paper, but some messy direction totally ruins it in the execution, with the episode taking a meandering pace through reality, metaphor, and a supposed alternate universe.
Worse yet, any momentum built up by this episode is swiftly diffused when the next one proves to be standalone story about a friend of Kyohei’s who has become involved with the mafia. As a fairly uninteresting tale that seems completely unrelated to the lead characters, this makes for a somewhat jarring inclusion that diverts time and attention away from more important storylines.
The second half of the disc is presumably meant to represent a shift towards some kind of main plot, but having seemingly run out of ideas, the writers are forced to resort to the most generic plot available- that of a main villain watching events on a large television from the comfort of his room, whilst coming up with various evil schemes. From an attempt to influence people via a special mind control device, to a new type of robotic traffic cop that executes wrongdoers, each plan is equally pointless and inevitably prone to failure at the hands of the heroes.
Just as the plot no longer seems to be going anywhere, nor do the characters receive much in the way of addition development in this volume. Sei, Meg and Amy are all sidelined in favour of one-shot and supporting characters (including the return of Takane from the Osaka arc), none of whom are particularly interesting. Jo fares a little better, with some strong hints dropped as to the true nature of her existence, but it does not seems as if this storyline can be resolved in any fashion that is not completely derivative and predictable.
Visually, the animation remains solid in this volume, although the nature of some of the episodes means that the onscreen action often verges on the bizarre and surreal. CG elements are perhaps a little overused here, with a simplistic “bullet time’ cybot battle between Jo and Maria standing out as the biggest disappointment; a one-on-one duel between the two would have been far more satisfying.
In previous instalments, Burst Angel was able to compensate for its flaws by offering something in the way light-hearted entertainment. By this point in the series, however, that is no longer enough, and where these four episodes could have at least provided an explosively over-the-top build-up to the finale, the series instead chooses to meander through a number of pointless and underwhelming storylines. The only consolation is that in four more episodes, the whole sorry mess will be over and done with.