Another Manga Movable Feast is rolling by this week and it’s about another mangaka (Kaori Yuki) whose seminal work I haven’t read in its entirety. Luckily, this time I’m prepared! I just happen to have bought all of Angel Sanctuary at last year’s Fanime and hadn’t read it yet.
Now I’ve read volumes 1-3 of Angel Sanctuary before, but after rereading those volumes and up to volume 5, I can see why I prefer the Cain Saga and Kaori Yuki’s less “modern” works. Here’s a list:
1. The Whole Setsuna/Sara Relationship is Creepy!
This is the only mainstream manga where I’ve come across that’s featured incest so…romantically and NOBODY SEEMS TO MIND. Say what you want about Marmalade Boy, but at least those kids weren’t blood-related. Maybe I’m missing something here, maybe in the next 3/4ths of the series we discover that Sara and Setsuna aren’t actually related, but it’s still setting off all my icks. And anyone who opposes their True Love in the series is painted as an enemy. Um, hello? Incest is taboo for reasons other than sharing blood! 1) Your kids could have mental and physical health problems; 2) most incestuous relationships involve abuse of power, which brings us to: 3)most people in incestuous relationships are being raped or are the rapist. So I just don’t feel it’s entirely right to show such a relationship in such a completely romantic lens.
It also kills my suspension of disbelief when Setsuna calls Sara a bitch during a particularly spoiler-ific moment about three volumes in. That’s your True Love, dude. The one you spent most of the last three volumes pining over and fighting for. How could your True Love ever be a bitch to you, even if you’re mad at her? It’s like this moment of realness that happens in non-fictional relationships, except since Setsuna and Sara’s romance is so fictional the realness just makes it look even more fake.
2. The Angels in Nazi-like Uniforms Are Creepy Too.
Perhaps this is just a visual cue to emphasize the dictatorship that the angels live under without saying it, and I’m just being too sensitive about this. But even if there are no swastikas shown, I get the feeling that Kaori Yuki has fetishized the style of the uniforms and that makes me uncomfortable. I’ve seen too many instances of Japanese pop culture creators forgetting the horrors that the Nazis brought upon the world and making their iconography, or even the Nazis themselves, into something cute or sexy. That’s just wrong.
But this is a very personal reason why I’m not fond of this series, though, so you are free to discount it if Nazi-esque uniforms don’t bug you.
3. So Many Characters, So Many Secrets!
One of the biggest downfalls of Angel Sanctuary, from a more objective standpoint, is that the manga introduces so many characters so quickly, that all of these characters are important, and that you will have to remember them and their motivations because they are relevant even if they’re dead. Even worse, many of these characters have secrets or mysteries surrounding them, so you have to remember all that while new characters pop up. I’ve seen large ensemble casts in manga go well, but I’m already doubtful that this is going to be one of those manga. There is such a thing as too much political intrigue.
4. Setsuna is a Bit of a Gary Stu Sometimes.
I’m five volumes in and I don’t see much from Setsuna except massive amounts of angst-ing and convincing people that they shouldn’t get in the way of his incestuous relationship. Setsuna is surrounded by other people who either already love him, have just been persuaded to love him, or other mysterious people who are already on his side. These folks always save him from the scrapes he gets himself into. If he wasn’t saved by other people, he was saved by the secret reincarnated angel inside of him. By the way, that reincarnated angel is everyone’s savior. Setsuna would be Jesus reborn, if this manga was about Judeo-Christian mythology as a whole and not just the structures of Angelic society.
5. This Series May Be About Angels, But Enough with the Deux Ex Machina.
So far, the character of God has been asleep throughout the entirety of the series, so technically what’s happening isn’t necessarily Deux Ex Machina so much as Adam Kadamon Ex Machina.
Adam Kadamon, also called Seraphita, is the highest of the angels and a practitioner of lost magic that no other angel can perform (except Setsuna/Alexiel!) Of course, he mysteriously disappeared ages ago and no one’s seen him…UNTIL SETSUNA GETS HIMSELF IN TROUBLE. Then Adam Kadamon conveniently gets him out of trouble. Multiple times. Of course.
I like Kaori Yuki, she has her hits and her misses story-wise, but her artwork is so solidly gorgeous and fun to look at. However, it seems like she really dropped the ball when it came to writing Angel Sanctuary in ways that I can’t easily ignore. There are just too many characters and not enough of them are fleshed out nicely to make the story compelling enough for me to collect this series, had I not already done so. But, I am only 1/4th of my way through the series. Things could change drastically in the next 15 volumes, and I fully expect that they will like they did in the first five volumes.