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Manga Review: Angel Sanctuary Vol. 1 by Kaori Yuki

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I picked up Angel Sanctuary because it’s a classic. There are 20 volumes in all, as well as a three-episode OVA series that ties into the manga. It was first serialized in a Japanese magazine but was then released in volume form starting in 1995 and has been in print since. And I have to say that it holds up to time well; the story still has an edge and freshness to it that I haven’t found in a lot of the older manga and anime.

But it is impossible to deny that the story line is confusing. There is so much going on, so many characters, besides who they were in another life, are introduced in the first volume that you would have to read the entire series before you understood how they all fit together. The first volume simply presents you with a few faces and lays the ground work for the long tale that follows.

At first Setsuna Mudo seems like your basic troubled high school guy; coming from a broken home he doesn’t have it easy. When we are first introduced to him he is getting his butt kicked, but besides that he doesn’t seem like he would be anyone special. Well, until we find out that he is the reincarnation of the female Organic Angel Alexiel. And oh yeah, he’s deeply in love with his sister Sara. But the blurb on the back warns you that Setsuna “harbors feelings for his sister that can only be described as incestuous” so that part isn’t a surprise.

We also find out that teenagers all across the city are dying in a mysteriously gruesome way. At the scenes a floppy disc (see I told you this was old school) called Angel Sanctuary is found and when Sara’s best friend Ruri is given one by a foreign priest on the street you know trouble is coming. Along the way Ruri meets Sara’s brother Setsuna and develops a crush on him. When Ruri asks Sara to set her up with her brother Sara freaks out a little and the reader begins to realize that Setsuna isn’t alone in how he feels.

Ruri starts to play the game on the disc given to her by the odd priest and finds out that the game is an Angel. Eventually the Angel takes over Ruri’s body and she becomes the home of the male Inorganic Angel Rosiel, the twin of Alexiel. The two have a bitter past and Rosiel is determined to kill his twin.

Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons, and humanity are at stake as the characters line up and take sides. Setsuna doesn’t realize yet that he is Alexiel, held to his human form because of his love for Sara, and this puts him a few tight spots as Rosiel gains a human body and starts building her army.

I’m not sure that I will continue reading Angel Sanctuary right away. The story is good, lots of twists and turns but all the gender-bending got to be a little much. I don’t mind some of that but when no one is who they say they are it gets to be a little confusing. But there's no doubt Angel Sanctuary is a classic and I know my curiosity will get the better of me. It’s only a matter of time before I pick up volume two.

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