Yuusuke Kamoshita is a schoolboy with a house to himself. Why, yes, this would be anime. Why do you ask? Yuusuke's parents are abroad, so he looks after himself, passing the time by fantasising uselessly about a classmate called Natsumi Suzuhara.
Then one day he finds a naked girl called Noelle in a ditch and accidentally kisses her. To Yuusuke's horror, Noelle decides that they're now married, so practically staples herself to his shoulder and invites her family to move in with them. The big twist is that she's from the Demon World, so her family comprises an ogre, a vampire, two witches, an invisible girl and a mad scientist. Noelle herself has a halo and soon decides that she wants to become an angel. In case you hadn't worked it out yet, this anime isn't exactly aiming for realism.
I'm Gonna Be An Angel is a loud, strange, childish-looking show that throughout kept me slightly off-balance. I want to like it, but at times it seems almost wilful in its refusal to settle down and come together properly. Most of its episodes are random silliness, which is fine except that there's also clearly some kind of story going on underneath. What's the plot? What kind of show will it turn out to be? What's going to happen in the end? You'll still be in the dark regarding some of those issues even halfway through episode 26 (of 26), which is impressive in its own deranged way but still makes for an unsettled viewing experience.
So what will you see? I've already described Noelle's family, but in addition we have we have bad guys sending monsters, infiltrators and wonderfully, deliriously strange mecha after our heroes. We have a blue-haired pretty boy writing data about Noelle into his Book of Chaos. I could tell that it was all heading somewhere, but that conclusion could fairly be described as unique. This combination of angels, demons, other-dimensional beings, puppet people and more gives rise to some criss-crossed existences. These beings have to choose what they're going to become. Do they want to change? Are they prepared to force the change on others, or alternatively fight it? It's a strange ending, but I like it.
That said though, this is all bolted on to an awfully familiar framework. It's a magical girlfriend show. The girl wants the boy, even though the boy keeps saying he doesn't want the girl. Aaaaah. Japan's been churning out these things for ever, although this one's slightly different in that there's genuine doubt about which way it'll go. These things are normally blatant wish-fulfilment for fanboys. However here Noelle loves Yuusuke, who loves Natsumi. The laws of this scary genre would appear to dictate that Yuusuke will end up with both of them, except it seems unlikely that this could ever happen. You can never be sure in anime, but I'm Gonna Be An Angel is the kind of saturated fantasy show in which one would expect love and relationships to work in a way which children can understand.
The show's also split into two halves, even though it wasn't. These days it's quite common for 26-episode anime to be produced as two 13-episode seasons and this one appears to have followed that pattern even though its fourteenth episode ended up being broadcast as usual the week after its thirteenth. That doesn't stop the plot from turning upside-down at the halfway point, though.
The plot has a more fundamental problem, incidentally. The mad villains don't interact with the heroes. They just lurk in their own mysterious dimension, merely sending minions after Noelle and co. This wouldn't have mattered so much they hadn't got so much screentime. In every single episode, off we go to Black Backdrop Land for goofy strangeness that has nothing to do with anything else.
So the story is likely to wrongfoot you. Well, so might the characters and the artwork. These might be the freakiest mecha in anime. Imagine the cartoon offspring of the Addams Family and Roger Rabbit, gorgeously animated by Studio Pierrot with wild colours and inappropriate cuteness. It's not like that all the time, mind you. The demon world is unbelievable, but all this gets toned down when the show is focusing on ordinary humans in the real world. Nevertheless even they have an Olde Worlde feel, a certain stylishness that doesn't evoke the here and now. I'll go out on a limb and suggest the 1930s. This is a clever and inventive show that practically begs to be watched on DVD, if not HD, but it won't be for everyone. It's silly and weird. Less generous souls have said "strange and unattractive".
The characters of course might have been designed to induce spastic fits. I don't mean Noelle's family of course, who are great. Who wouldn't like a hulking blue Frankenstein's monster with old-fashioned manners and a gullible nature? There's Gabriel, the vampire wolf-boy who's scared of cats. There's Grandma the witch and her vulture familiar, who hate humans and in particular Yuusuke so take every opportunity to bully him. There's Sara the Invisible Girl, Mama the Rehab Witch, Ruka the Home Inventor... This lot are the stars of the show. Eating fried eyeballs, doing weird dances and cooking with chainsaws and guillotines, they're outrageous and funny. No problems there.
More of a hurdle are the villains. They're not much sillier than the rest of the show, but being stuck in their own pocket dimension makes them more of an acquired taste. They're good characters, but not always well used.
An bigger problem is Yuusuke. In fairness they're trying not to make him the usual "insert your face here" nice guy. He's direct to the point of bluntness, which in the early episodes can make him harsh with Noelle and her family. He doesn't even pretend to be in love with Noelle and openly keeps up his interest in Natsumi. I've seen him described as selfish and spineless, which I think is unfair, but I would admit that his usual story role is merely that of playing straight man to the rest of the cast.
However the greatest stumbling block might be Noelle, a braying loudmouth with the brains and emotional development of a four-year-old. Many reviewers have hated her with a passion. She talks like a squeaky toy, she's entirely ignorant and she has no sense of how to behave with other people. Furthermore she's another of those anime girls who fixate upon a boy and want to clamp upon him limpet-like until the heat death of the universe. Nevertheless despite all this, I liked Noelle a lot. Ignorant doesn't mean stupid. She's affectionate, cheerful and perfectly willing to amend her behaviour if asked. Admittedly she's loud and would probably be a bit much in person, but in the context of her family she's practically the normal one.
The key to Noelle's character is that "four-year-old" bit I mentioned above. Physically she's the same age as Yuusuke, but mentally she's four. One could argue that she's five, but she'd definitely look immature compared to a six-year-old. Her speech patterns, mood swings, indignation and irrepressible optimism are all at a pre-school level. Viewed in that light, everything comes together. Noelle's character flaws aren't flaws at all, but simply traits we all had at that age. I like four-year-olds and in particular I like Noelle. She's a good girl. She's kind and unselfish, never resenting Natsumi as a rival for Yuusuke's affections and sometimes even trying to help her. Because of all this, it's obvious that nothing ever happens between Noelle and Yuusuke when they sleep together every night. It doesn't even occur to you to think otherwise, despite the fact that when Sara teasingly offers to do the same there's a whole other set of implications.
There's also nudity in episodes 1, 5, 8 and 9, but it's tasteful.
So that's the show. Another matter entirely is the official R1 DVDs. This was Synch-Point's first venture into the anime market, some time before it really started collapsing. They started by releasing the first of six volumes on VHS and only several months later putting out a DVD version. That was April 2002. Sales were unsurprisingly disappointing, so they then waited two more years to release volume two in March 2004 and a further year until volume three appeared in April 2005. Their licence then expired. Admittedly the thirteen episodes on these three discs comprise an mini-season with its own season climax, but it's still a sorry state of affairs. I watched the rest of the show as fansubs, which is a shame for such a visually arresting series.
This show is surprising, vivid and imaginative. It's basically comedic and daft, but it can turn surprisingly serious. Its plot twists can involve the metaphorical becoming real, since here it's not always easy to distinguish between the two. It's also more thoughtful than it looks, with surprising parallels lurking under the surface if you look for them. Both Natsumi and Noelle in their own very different ways have a "little girl grows up" subplot. There's also a triangle of love triangles, one for each of the three potential angels.
I still wonder if the show isn't more strange than good, but still I'm glad I bought it. It's silly. I like silliness. I'm less wild about inconsequential, to which the show isn't immune, but at least the production's never obviously dragging things out in the run-up to the last few episodes. It has fun music and jokes. I make no promises about how any particular viewer might react to it, but I'd recommend experiencing at least one episode of this show. It's playful and rather brave, in both cases almost to a fault.