This review currently only reflects my opinions on the show as of the end of the original television broadcast that aired from July 6th to September 21st and does not put the 4 last ONA episodes into consideration. It will be edited to reflect the entire show once all four episodes of the ONA have finished releasing.
Two years ago, I wrote an editorial about a seemingly constant request in the RPG Maker fanbase for every single short special little game be turned into an anime. While I was generally opposed to the idea — seeing as interactive experiences being adapted into linear non-interactive experiences usually doesn’t end well — when a company that had recently began pushing RPG Maker hard announced an anime for a fairly new game, it caught my attention. In addition to being animated by my old favourite animation studio, J.C. Staff, and having an opening and ending theme done by Vocaloid scene veterans Deco*27 and Jin, Kadokawa’s Satsuriku no Tenshi anime was shaping up to be practically asking for my attention. So, were my superstitions from two years ago that RPG Maker games would never make good anime right, or did Satsuten prove me wrong? Let’s find out.
At the bottom-most basement floor of a mysterious building somewhere in the world awakens the innocent and unsuspecting Rachel Gardner. With her last memory being of her going to a hospital, she quickly gets thrown into the fray of a unique predicament. The building she awoke in is comprised of six total basement floor aside from the one she woke up on, each of which belongs to a crazed murderer that was given the go-ahead to do whatever they like on their floor so long as they stayed there.
As she progresses through the floors, Rachel encounters two of these murderers, one of which hyper and relentless with how he chances her throughout his floor, the other being the true nature of a doctor Rachel was going to see in the last memory she had before waking up. After these two floors through a wild chain of events, the former of the two, Isaac “Zack” Foster, is doomed to the same fate as Rachel, having to climb through each basement floor to escape, and Rachel comes to the realization that she shouldn’t be alive and wants to die. As such, Zack promises to God that he will kill Rachel so long as she helps him escape.
Overall, this is the premise for Satsuriku no Tenshi and where it’s roots first become fairly obvious. The entire first two floors on Rachel’s journey have a lot of “because video game” moments that fall apart a little when you aren’t someone expecting the show to play out like it’s source material. While it’s incredibly faithful to the original game, it often does little to make moments that work in a video game setting work in an anime setting. While a few of these things are forgivable since non-video game adaptations fall to the same fault, for example Rachel speaking text descriptions of interactables out loud, others are a little harder to overlook.
Nonetheless, as poor as the execution of adapting an RPG Maker game can be at times, the concept is one that I like a lot. I view this kind of set-up as near-perfect for a horror mystery series since it plays nicely on a hiding the threats and allows for a pretty open playground where anything can happen. Some floors are normal building floors while others raise the question of whether or not Rachel is still inside of a building. There’s never any telling what’s waiting on the next floor and every time Rachel and Zack escape it feels like they did so by just a hair.
That being said, there is one fairly major place where Satsuten falls apart when it comes to its story — that being the pacing of the show. Every episode feels like it’s always going at a blisteringly fast pace even in moments when it makes no sense and as such never really gives the audience a chance to take in the perfect setting and idea. It often feels like Satsuten is giving you two options: either think about and try to understand what just happened or mindlessly continue consuming the episode with very little room in-between. Due to this, there’s a lot of times where an episode ends and you stop to think “Wait, did literally any of that actually make sense?”
While it does a fairly decent job of retaining its audience, since it’s either hang on or get even more lost, that becomes a problem when the characters in the show are by far its weakest point. Each character can be boiled down to a handful of adjectives and as such act entirely how those adjectives make you think they would. The “misunderstood violent idiot” acts like a misunderstood, violet idiot all show long, and sans for Rachel and Zack each character just stays there with nothing interesting to offer. A lot of the fear of the unknown gets thrown away when you can guess each character’s next thought or action is going to be; especially when the most mysterious and interesting horrors the show has to offer as far as characters go is its lead.
Normally, if a horror story told me its main character was the most interesting horror it had to show that’d make up for a lot of flaws depending on how it’s spun. However, with each off putting thing about Rachel being more or less glossed over by the show, it does nothing for the character department. Had the show explored what was wrong with Rachel more or not ended on a cliffhanger in the last chapter of the game that explores her to her fullest, I likely would be saying different words, but unfortunately the show didn’t do that.
One positive I can say about the show, however, is that it doesn’t fall to the same problem many shows that have a stack of broken down cardboard boxes as its cast where it feels like flooding said room with cardboard boxes would somehow fix the problem. Instead, Satsuten reuses characters in admittedly interesting ways. It would be nicer if how they reused their characters meant anything for the development of said characters, but when shenanigans revolving around who’s really dead begin to emerge it is a nice touch that prevents me from saying only negatives in this field.
As far as the visual department goes, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t what I’ve began to expect from J.C. Staff either. It definitely had moments where it shined like how Cathy in her entirety was animated, but often it was kind of just bog standard. Something that was at least nice was seeing the somewhat crude designs from the original RPG Maker game drawn by J.C. Staff which definitely did them a lot of justice.
It was nice occasionally seeing callbacks to the RPG Maker game as nice visual references, like Zack’s original sprite being on a wanted poster in the introductory credits, and the layouts of every floor were identical to their layout in the games which was a nice touch that could have easily been cast aside without me even batting an eye. In a way, how faithful the Satsuten anime was to its source helps it out here, since the show looks fine regardless but fans of the source will have plenty visual details to pick out and appreciate.
With all these negatives, surely Satsuten must have done something well… right? Well, yes. The way this show sounds is perfect. To elaborate on that confusing statement more, Satsuten’s greatest strength is breathing life into elements of the source that once had no life (because they couldn’t have any due to various constraints). Zack’s laugh, Danny sounding like he’s constantly on-edge, Cathy switching between emotions on a dime, every single one of these things feels as perfect as I could ever imagine them being. Lines that previously were just a little weird from the game were pushed all the way to spooky town on their delivery alone.
The soundtrack (as seems to be a running theme with my opinions on these) was a little standard and not really that special, but the moments that Satsuten chose to leave in complete silence were a crazy smart stylistic touch and made up for there not being really any stand out tracks from the soundtrack that I really remember. Pair that with phenomenal theme songs (opening song “Vital” performed by Masaaki Endoh, ending song “Pray” performed by Rachel’s voice actress Haruka Chisuga) from some of the first Japanese artists I started listening to actively, Jin and Deco*27 respectively, and you have a wonderfully sounding show. Quite literally.
With all of that done and said, how good is Satsuten actually? Honestly, not that great. However, something about the show was very fun to watch. It didn’t really fall face first into the pitfalls I was the most worried about when it came to RPG Maker games being adapted into anime and maybe it’s just personal bias speaking but it’s kind of imperfectly wonderful. In a way, I see Satsuriku no Tenshi’s anime to be a perfect test case for more story involved adaptations of these games if Kadokawa for some reason continues pushing RPG Maker as hard as they have been recently. So, if you like RPG Maker or just like unique stories that kinda fall apart if you poke it in the right way, give Satsuriku no Tenshi a shot. In no known universe is it even remotely close to being for everyone, but for those who like stuff like Ib, Mad Father, and the like, go wild.
5.83 out of 10
Reviewed by Tsuyuki.
All of the images in this post, including the featured image, were taken from television anime series Satsuriku no Tenshi (Angels of Death). It is available for legal streaming on Crunchyroll.