Episodes seen: 13 of 13
Meifon Li is a remarkable girl. She's not only blessed with huge 'tracts of land', but her recently deceased grandfather has left her his multimillion-dollar corporation and a space battleship with which to fight pirates...for free? That's right, Angel Links is a free security service offered to help out the little guys. She's recruited a team of experts and things appear to be going well...until mysterious information about her past starts to surface, and offering for free what other security agencies do for money doesn't exactly make Meifon a lot of friends in the biz. What is hiding in Meifon's past, and who's this strange bishounen philanthropist who's taken an interest in her?
Herself the Elf sez: You may recall seeing the Angel Links in an episode of Outlaw Star--this was our first introduction to Valeria and Duuz, the tactical officer and platoon commander for the Angel Links. Meifon didn't appear in that episode, and I have to wonder if she'd been thought of yet. As a character she isn't horrible, but she isn't great either. Thankfully she isn't so saccharinely cute that it's unbearable, and she is quite good at a lot of things, but unfortunately this means that the rest of her crew doesn't get a hell of a lot to do. Most of the time they're just sitting around and filing their nails (Valeria), polishing their sword (Duuz), planning which restaurant to go to (the helm girls) or serving tea (Kosei). Valeria, Duuz and Kosei each get one episode devoted mostly to them, which does help a bit with the character development (and shows us that Kosei is a real hottie when he lets his hair down and isn't being Meifon's lapdog), but it just isn't enough. There are hints that Kosei's in love with Meifon, and one would think that that, combined with her romance with Leon Lau, would create an interesting love triangle, but it never goes anywhere.
First of all, those huge shiny balloons on Meifon's chest are a massive (pun intended) distraction and seem totally incongruous with the rest of the fairly serious show--it's like they couldn't decide if it was going to be a fanservice show or not, and as the breasts are not presented as comedic elements it's difficult to know how one is supposed to take them. Then there's the winged cat (that turns into a sword) living in her cleavage...I'm not kidding here. She has a cat living in her boobs. No, I don't know why...it is never explained, and nobody in the show seems to think it's weird. Maybe in the far future boob-cats are quite common...? Oh yes, and apparently in the far future they also have spacesuit fabric through which you can see clearly defined nipples. And small asteroids have their own (breathable) atmosphere. And there's a remote planet that looks just like rural Switzerland. Didn't you know that?
They appear to have pulled out all the stops in attempting to make this show look cool--a couple of times on the bridge Meifon uses this weird holographic thing to create multiple images of herself and personally give orders to various bridge crew...why? The bridge isn't that big...it's completely pointless. Almost all the bad guys are so overdone they're ridiculous (yet somehow still not funny), and the first four episodes are extremely dull, with each episode involving a pirate-of-the-day scenario and culminating with Meifon yelling 'Links Cannon...SHOOOOT!!' each time. Not to mention playing that goddamned launch sequence EVERY SINGLE EPISODE...it's duller than the launch sequence from the first Star Trek movie. Later on in the series things pick up a bit, and it focuses more on the Meifon Mystery and less on pirates-of-the-day.
Even the space battles, which you'd think would be the real draw, aren't that impressive--the Angel Links is too big to be particularly maneuverable, so most of the time we just see laser beams all over the place (and, in the grand tradition of animated laser beams, not hitting anything) until Meifon shoots that damn Links Cannon (which, by the way, looks like a dorky Wave Motion Gun) and blows everything up. Whee.
The art and animation, on the other hand, are very nice, with excellent CGI melded smoothly with the clean cel work, and the music is pretty good as well. As for the dub, most of the voices are okay, although they do suffer from the common problem of over-exaggerating nearly every phrase. Some of the minor characters, however, are so bad it's painful, and Kosei's voice makes him sound like some dumb surfer kid. It's not the worst dub I've ever heard, but it's certainly not the best either. A plus in the subbed version is Hikaru Midorikawa (Zel-kuuun!) as Kosei.
The overall impression I got is that they seemed to think that if they put in all the elements of a 'cool' show it would turn out cool, but it just falls flat. It's not bad, and parts are fairly entertaining, but nothing really grabbed me and demanded that I watch more. Despite its numerous flaws, however, Angel Links is mercifully short. With only 13 episodes, there wasn't much time to waste on boring and pointless episodes. Sure, there were a few, but most of the episodes were used for advancing the main plot, and for that it gets some points. It's a very average sci-fi adventure show, and everything here has been done better elsewhere, but at least it doesn't drag on forever and ends neatly. It's a shame that Angel Links isn't better, as I was so excited to see more of the Outlaw Star universe, but it just doesn't compare. It's not awful, mind you--it just ain't 'Outlaw Star 2' like so many of us wanted it to be. Recommended as a rental.
(Oh, and for those of you wondering if anybody from Outlaw Star makes an appearance, the only cameos are Fred Luo, who does a walk-on in ep. 1, and Iris the waitress in ep. 5.)
Available from Bandai Entertainment.