「エンジェリック・ハウルI」 (Enjerikku Hauru I)
“Angelic Howl I”
Let’s have a round of applause for Suou Amane, this season’s winner of the One Harem Male Sweepstakes! Her victory actually took me by surprise; Yuuji had maintained a more or less platonic distance with the girls in all his routes, and I didn’t think that he was going to commit in the scope of this show. Well, he didn’t exactly commit, but a confession is about the highest you can score in anime. I wasn’t actually expecting anyone to win any points, so great commendations to Amane for actually getting to something resembling the finish line.
Alas, there’s no time to celebrate the victory, because we need to launch directly into Amane’s deep dark secrets and her motivations for pursuing this relationship with the gusto that she’s had. It’s strange that Yuuji only really pushes the question after he agrees to upgrade Amane’s girlfriend status, and his persistence does violate his personal No Prying rule (which, admittedly, is emphasised a bit less in the anime compared to the visual novel), but it is, normally, a logical course of enquiry. Yuuji’s right; Amane is an awfully ‘convenient’ woman, to the point of suspicion. Normally harem leads don’t question women throwing themselves onto them, so it’s good to see that Yuuji packs at least this much common sense. If someone tried as hard as Amane to be my de facto, I’d be wondering if there was a catch, too. The catch is: traumatic past! Not a big deal, right? That stuff never gets awkward.
While Makina’s route may have exposed us most to Yuuji’s present work conditions and the one he called ‘master’, Amane’s has a stronger connection to his past, because it features, as main character, Kazami Kazuki (Tomonaga Akane), his sister. All of Yuuji’s self-assured smarmy was probably rubbed off on him by the older Kazami (who looks nothing like him). Part of the reason I liked Amane’s route in the original visual novel is Kazuki, whom I preferred over Yuuji in general. Narrator Yuuji had tendency for self-loathing melodrama, while Kazuki, whom we only see from Amane’s point of view, had a comforting snarky confidence. Frumpy Amane has her own charm too, and makes for a pleasant change of pace (and a necessary foil for Kazuki), even if her story is not at all a pleasant affair.
The entire disaster scenario is, admittedly at times, a bit contrived. It’s takes a bit of suspension of disbelief that a basketball training camp for schoolkids requires them to traverse The Most Dangerous Road in Japan (probably the same one as in Little Busters!). It’s a bit more to accept that it’s such a convenient deathtrap. It’s highly questionable to think that, if their bus flew off a cliff so high, any of them made it through the fall. Perhaps Angelic Howl is self-aware of how overplayed its premise is, because I could have sworn that at times it is framed like an old horror B movie. Popcorn might be appropriate. We already know that Amane’s supposed to be the only survivor, so we can already start taking bets on who dies first (not including those who didn’t make it past the preliminaries).
Fundamentally, though, what Amane and her peers are stuck in and how they got there is not really all that important. The point is to set up a Lord of the Flies scenario, and then let things play out from there. It is ulimately a human story, of vulnerable individuals dealing with (or failing to deal with) a harsh environment. It is a study of social interaction when society has been removed. There is potential for some gripping drama here. We’ve only passed the first day of Angelic Howl, and the ‘hell’, as Amane calls it, has only just begun. I’m looking forward to how they deal with the real meat of the story next week.
ED3: 「Rainy veil」 by やなぎ なぎ (Yanagi Nagi)