There are three selling points to Angel Links. One is the fact that its part of the shared universe of Outlaw Star, something that’s not done all that often. The second is the size of her chest. And the third is again the size of her chest. For me, the first selling point was all that it took.
What They Say:
Within the stars lie space pirates ready to take out unsuspecting vessels. Working to defend the transporters who can’t afford escorts is a company known as Angel Links. Led by the 16-year-old Meifon Li, they work to keep the stars safe for those just trying to do their jobs—and free of charge! But Meifon’s past is about to catch up with her and give them a hell of a time.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese lanugage track in stereo along with the previously created English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. What we get is pretty much a standard anime TV series design with the majority of the dialogue coming through the center channel while the effects and music make decent use of the stereo channels. Dialogue throughout is pretty clean and clear with no noticeable dropouts or other problems. The opening song is definitely the point you want to use as your maximum volume level, and it’s a good song as well, though we much prefer the ending song.
Originally airing in 1999, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a seven/six format. Animated by Sunrise, the release is one that takes the materials we’d seen before with the English credits instead of the Japanese ones and that means there’s a fair bit of dot crawl to be had, especially in the opening sequence. And that really takes us back a ways. In general, colors are bright and vibrant, darker areas are quite solid and a number of the deep night blue sky sequences are sharp and artifact free. The rainbowing that we saw in the past feels very reduced here in the opening and closing sequences and that helps some but it’s likely just how modern players deal with it combined with the new encode of the same source materials. I’m still hopeful for this to get some sort of Japanese remaster some day with some cleanup.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized clear DVD case with an o-card that replicates the same artwork. The cover artwork is a great key visual piece with the ship shadowed along the top while the cast dominates the bottom with all its detail and color. It’s appealing looking both when it was originally released and now since it stands out against modern designs and I like the color combination. The slipcover uses the red stripe along the top to denote DVD/digital only while the case uses a blue one, which feels weird. The back cover is nicely laid out with a look at the stars where the right side has a strip of good-looking shots from the show and the left has a solid summary of the premise, its origins, and a look at the extras inside. Inside the case we get the two discs against the walls while there’s artwork underneath them where it uses some of the Japanese release pieces of character pairings against a white background. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design is really nice as it gives us the cover artwork pushed a bit further down and with less ship along the right for both discs. It’s brighter and more colorful here with more detail visible that gives it a really great feeling as it sets the tone for the show. The left side has the starfield from the back cover laid out with the logo over it along with the standard selections, which keeps all the extras to the second disc. Access times are nice and fast and setup is a breeze as is navigating about.
The extras for this release are fun as we get the standard here with the clean opening and closing sequences but also a collection of commercials and some clips from it that highlighted the show almost like promos.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Way back in the day I had a blast with Outlaw Star, which at the time was somewhat controversial because a lot of people really hated the show – especially with comparisons to Cowboy Bebop. But for me, Outlaw Star was fun and I loved that it recently got a pretty sweet Blu-ray release. Within that show, we had another group that made an appearance with the Angel Links crew, which had its own run of light novels, a brief manga, and this thirteen episode anime series. For me, this is one of those oddities as you don’t get a lot of spinoff shows but it’s also one that even at the time twenty years ago felt like it was an old school kind of show. There are larger threads to be had within it here but it’s mostly just a lot of fun stories set in a familiar universe.
The focus of the show is on sixteen-year-old Meifon Li, a young woman whose deceased grandfather has requested she form a company that will offer free protection services in the space lanes for those commercial and independent folks who desperately need help from the growing number of pirates out in the universe. Her grandfather appears to be fantastically rich as Meifon has a top of the line ship, several others under her command, and a sizeable office which is in direct view of other similar companies who charge high fees for their protection services.
The crew of the ship is made up of some fairly stereotypical characters, you’ve got the handsome lieutenant, the blonde female that’s deadly and the alien Dragonite, that looks like a small humanoid with dragon skin, head, and a tail. The ship does have a larger crew, however, with a variety of basic humans in uniforms that get a small bit of screentime here and there and makes the show more enjoyable than the main characters doing all the work. Meifon also tests them through some the episodes, timing them to finish their tasks faster and faster.
There are a few other notable characters who interact with Meifon and the crew as they go about building up their reputation and getting more business, even though it’s for free. There’s the Leon Lau character whose the wealthy type that actually cares and has an orphanage that he helped build. This allows many cute kids to interact with him and gives him the ability to look good to women. Gordon Hoi early on looks to be one of the main nemesis of the Links Group as he’s a competitor to their business that actually charges for it. He initiates at least one plot to try and take down the Links Group but for the most part tries to keep his business going. There are hints of larger things through him though.
So where’s the nostalgia? Back in the early and mid-1980s, I and a lot of my friends were huge fans of an old TSR game called Star Frontiers. Being the classic pen and paper rpg’ers that we were, we built up some sizeable characters and companies for our games where we did almost the same thing as the characters in this show. We had characters that took to the space lanes, that dealt with alien cultures and got into a few fights along the way. In one sense, Angel Links is like a realized version of our games to me, especially with the Dragonite Duuz character.
The shows animation and character designs are pretty solid though with a few things I didn’t care much for. The blonde woman just doesn’t click all that much but the real offending part is the size of Meifon’s breasts. Interestingly enough, they don’t become focal points during the majority of these episodes. While they are visible, you don’t have the men gawking at her or going on about them. I almost feel that they were added to that level to help sell the show’s creation and then were promptly forgotten once funded. Other than that, I really enjoyed Meifon’s overall design as well as the numerous Chinese style outfits and the look. Duuz is nicely designed and has an interesting personality so far, especially the swishing tail, and Leon Lau looks to be an interesting character.
While we had a decent introduction to the circumstances of Meifon and the Links Group early in the series as we got the base stories underway, things get a bit more interesting toward the halfway mark. The sixth episode brings the point to home again with more details about Meifon’s rise to power and the first outing of the Links ship and her first crew. We also see how Duuz and Valeria were brought into the group and the ways in which Meifon convinced them to join up. Duuz’s was particularly amusing, especially in how she manages to win him over. The episode is laid out in a slightly awkward storytelling style, but in the end, it was one of the best ways to get so much information across quickly enough.
One episode I liked a lot was a character focus episode that sets its sight squarely on Valeria. The show goes into her background and past quite well, when one of the battleships from the Einhorn Empire arrives in their vicinity and the captain is an old acquaintance of hers from her days serving aboard an Einhorn ship. It does seem that the Empire is being manipulated though, as the ploy is to use Valeria’s possible desire to return to her military ways to gain her trust and to get her to spill various secrets about the formation of the Links Group and about Meifon. This episode works pretty well in getting to know something about Valeria, even if it is fairly predictable and a bit forced. It does provide some expansion into the powers in the galaxy as well as providing some interesting new information about Meifon’s family past history. It does feel sorta fillerish and could go that way, but does enough to push things forward. The animation continues to be somewhat off, but not as bad as the first episode.
That put everything in place for “The Ones Who Were Left” episode which firmly kicks things into high gear with the storyline. We’re introduced to a great-uncle of Meifon’s, one who was close to her grandfather, Chenho. He’s contracted the Links Group services for transport off of Altair, along with his granddaughter. Other than the really oddly way she’s drawn, noticeably the face and hair along her forehead, we’ve got the cute if socially inward girl in a dress. Meifon takes her out on the town, but finds herself horrified and disgusted when she discovers that this granddaughter is actually a robot.
With some interesting revelations that shake things up a bit but not too much, Meifon’s simply devastated. She’s completely unsure of everything and takes it out on anyone who gets around her. After demolishing her monitors, she starts dismantling and dissolving the Links Group. Her being the tool that she is brings her to the mindset that she can’t lead and she apparently has only the one goal, that of killing Goryu. This doesn’t go over well with everyone, but there’s little dispute as things start closing down. Kosei takes Meifon away while everyone goes about their business of transferring clients to other security firms and closing up shop. Duuz doesn’t exactly take things with a grain of salt though, and goes out and does some investigating. He relays some surprising information to Kosei, about the past of Meifon’s grandfather and Goryu. The revelations of just how close the two were in their pirate days is surprising and how their relationship soured proved interesting.
In the end, Goryu simply wants revenge on Meifon’s family. He’s actually had it unknowingly, but now that he knows what kind of abilities Meifon has, he intends to use her as the best product to offer in his arms merchant catalog. With Kosei now hiding her out in plain view in some remote village, he tries to give her the normal life that she seems to claim that she wants to have. She wants nothing to do with the Links Group or its mission, she simply wants to live out her days. This won’t happen though, as Goryu has plotted by sending a diseased young girl to her as well as the knowledge that Meifon was only given another month of life by her creator. She suddenly realizes what she’s been playing at is not her, and she must get back to what needs to be done, no matter the cost.
Angel Links isn’t a series that everyone is going to get into for a lot of reasons, including some of its predictability. I can fully see how many will find it to be repetitive and simply generic, but after finishing Outlaw Star recently and having a fond affection for just this type of show from my role-playing past, this series was just a lot of fun to watch. It’s got a great opening and ending sequence, music, solid acting, and solid animation, for the most part, all while not taking itself too seriously. It’s an enjoyable romp and one that doesn’t really play up the fanservice side as you’d expect from the cover. Science fiction shows are few and far between these days and getting a taste of it again in this release made me wish we had more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Commercial Collection, Launch Clips, Secrets of the Angel Links, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 6th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.