I'm Gonna Be An Angel!
Yuusuke was just a normal kid going to high school. Then one day, the cute and be-haloed Noelle fell, quite literally, into his life, naked as a baby and every bit as innocent. Before he can even fathom what's just happened, Yuusuke is inducted into a rather odd family of otherworldly beings straight out of The Munsters. Papa is a Frankenstein monster with a taste for calisthenics. Mama is a gorgeous lady with a penchant for "round objects". (Really.) The eldest sister, Sara, is literally invisible, the brother, Gabriel, is a teenage vampire with an attitude problem, and the youngest sister, Ruka, loves inventing things. And there's the disapproving Grandma, who's a witch to the nth degree, and her vulture familiar.
All Yuusuke wanted was for the beautiful Natsumi to even notice his attention, but now he has an angel-in-training to follow him wherever he goes. And Noelle, too, has a guide on her path to being an angel, the mysterious Michael (or Kaeru-san).
From hearing the plot, you'd think this show is a derivative of Video Girl Ai, Oh My Goddess, and Mamotte Shugogetten all rolled up into one.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I'm Gonna Be An Angel is about a soul learning what it really means to be alive, and to love someone. Though Yuusuke is ostensibly the focus of this series, that's only because he's the center of Noel's world. And Noel is the true center of this series, and as such, could have easily broken it by being the whiny, so-cute-you-will-die C-ko type. But Kawakami Tomoko (who some will recognize from her debut as Chiriko in Fushigi Yuugi or the title character in Utena) somehow came up with the role of a lifetime. Noelle is genuinely innocent, kind, and actually not stupid at all. She just hasn't been in this world long, and unlike Mamotte Shugogetten's Shaorin and Ruuan, she learns from her mistakes. She doesn't go out of her way to impede anyone else, or steal the show - she's guileless, honest, and sweet, and after each episode you just want to go up and hug her. I can't believe anyone could pull this off without being annoying or troublesome, but Noelle is a real winner of a character, and you can't help but root for her, no matter how silly the circumstances are.
And I'm Gonna Be An Angel is a real winner of a show, too. The whole lead cast is just splendid, with well-written dialogue balancing out a lot of the physical humor of the series. The character designs are cute with a capital "C", and even Grandma comes off less as frightening than just humorously disapproving. Yuusuke is your typical earnest, kind-hearted lead, reminiscent of a less frantic Tasuke from Mamotte Shugogetten, but with every bit as much personality. And even the invisible girl, who could have been a gimmick for the whole series, becomes a very well-developed character especially after the predictable (but very well-handled) change in her situation early on in the series.
The gorgeous animation only helps the cause. (No surprise here, as these are the same people responsible for Shamanic Princess.) Though the visuals on a lot of the extras and the "villains-of-the-day" are just plain weird (going right along with Noelle's bouncing pururun cheeks), the art itself is solidly drawn, consistent, and appropriate for the atmosphere of the scene. The music is certainly no slouch, either, with a simple, catchy opening song complemented by an absolutely haunting ending. (This is another soundtrack I really want in my household.)
Where the show falters a bit is in the introduction of "bad guys". What Dispel wants with Noelle is irrelevant - the fact remains that he's so incredibly stupid about it that I frankly don't think he belongs in the show. The addition of a foil, Silky (who is every bit as passively sarcastic as Ruri from Nadesico) helps things a bit, even though she seems to be in the show mostly for fan service. (Note, though, that I say "seems to be".) The catgirl, Miruru, is utterly adorable and is a worthy addition to the goofy cast, segueing much more effectively into the "villain-of-the-day" (whether it be ambulatory restaurants or UFOs or robots made of jelly) than the annoyingly over-the-top Dispel could.
Of course, the plot finally starts thickening through the middle of the series, so Dispel's antics may in fact be a red herring after all, as the increasingly interesting Silky plays a much more active role in the proceedings later on.
Still, the focus of the show is really not so much on the family's repelling the various enemies they meet. In fact, in one episode I saw, the "villain of the day" doesn't even fight, but watches Noelle and cries because he's so inspired by her! Imagine that in Sailor Moon!
It's the interpersonal relationships that make this show absolutely shine, especially those between Yuusuke, Noel and her family, and the love interest Natsumi, who is intriguing in her own right. I'm Gonna Be An Angel simply refuses to bog down in gimmickry and innuendo and instead, is an essentially light-hearted, adorable show that is heartwarming and gentle, without being in the least bit boring. Unlike others, this show retains enough control over its weirdness to remain coherent as a story, and while being at times you'll be rolling in your seat with laughter, it's Noel's charm that stays with you long after the tape's back in its case.
Now this is how you make a feel-good anime. Paparapuu!
One off for the lame, distracting villain (of sorts) who steals way too much of the screentime early on. But otherwise, a wonderful show that rides the strengths of the adorable leads. The weirdness may put off a lot of viewers, though. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: There's some nudity, but it's not explicit, and it's mostly limited to two episodes out of what I've reviewed. There is also some fan service and innuendo. Mostly slapstick violence, and no sex or rough language. Okay for kids, though I'm putting the cautionary PG-13 tag because of the fact that more conversative American audiences may not see past Noelle being less than clothed throughout extended scenes of the first episode. (C'mon you people, it's not that big of a deal ... argh.)
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Partial (12/26)
I'm Gonna Be An Angel! © 1998 HEAVEN PROJECT / Bandai Visual / Studio Pierrot / TV Tokyo
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