Angels of Death, Vol. 1

By Makoto Sanada and Kudan Naduka. Released in Japan as “Satsuriku no Tenshi” by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Gene. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Ko Ransom.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes dip back into a genre that I’m not fond of to see if a new series might catch my eye. With horror, this has been something of a mixed back. When it works, it works seriously well – see Higurashi or Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. But for each one of those there are five or six “let’s gather a cast of people together and winnow them down one by one” that leaves me cold. Angels of Death is my latest look in to the horror/survival game genre. It’s based on a game which I believe you can actually get on Steam, and has an amnesiac heroine waking up in an abandoned building, where she’s informed she has to go from floor to floor and avoid being killed. What makes Angels of Death more interesting than most others of this sort is that the cast is kept to a bare minimum, which allows us to skip piles of introduction and get right to business. And also Rachel looks a bit more interesting than most faceless game protagonists.

The moment we see an adorable wounded bird get brutally slaughtered in a giant two-page spread, we know the emphasis here is not going to be on friendship, training or victory. She first runs into Zack, who is an absolute cliche of a serial killer and the sort of character you’d expect to get killed off pretty quickly in this sort of series, but somehow she manages to escape him. She then ends up on a different floor with Dr. Irie… sorry, Dr. Danny, who is very much like what Dr. Irie from Higurashi would be if he was deeply sociopathic and awful. To the manga’s credit, it doesn’t bother to try to convince us that he’s really another good guy – we already know there’s a killer on each floor, and he’s already so shady that it barely raises an eyebrow when he starts going on about eyes. Eventually Zack ends up chasing Rachel once more, but Zack is now put off by her personality so allies with her to try to get out.

As I said, the odd moments when Rachel shows off how broken she is are the best in the book. They manage to combine hidden tragedy and loss with a truly scary feeling, particularly when dealing with the bird. The artist, in fact, is very good at showing off the strengths of this genre – scary scenes, over the top faces, and a lot of bloody action. On the downside, unlike, say, Higurashi or Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, I doubt the final goal here is to show how a team can become true friends and band together to defeat the bad guy. The goal here is to frighten and shock. This first volume does a decent job of that, and therefore if you like survival horror, I’d definitely recommend it, though I likely won’t be reading further.

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