Angel Cop: The Manga

Angel Cop is rightly considered a classic of terrible anime. Released in six parts from 1989 to 1994, it perfectly embodies the violent ethos of much of that era’s direct-to-video animation. It’s even offensive in ways that most anime series never ponder. Resembling a brainless and anti-Semitic Ghost in the Shell, Angel Cop favors a near future where the thuggish members of Japan’s Special Security Force take down Commie terrorists as bloodily as possible. Then they learn, in a last-act Big Reveal, that it’s all part of a Jewish-American conspiracy to take over Japan.

It’s a horrible series, but it’s never a boring one. Directed by Ichiro Itano well after he animated those amazing Macross dogfights and written by Sho Aikawa well before he scripted Fullmetal Alchemist, Angel Cop is fast-paced pulp with a delightfully profane dub from Manga UK. Consequently, the series never goes three minutes without someone shooting, swearing, exploding, roasting alive, tripping a landmine, torturing a suspect, delivering some bizarre phrase in a masked British-Brooklyn accent, or ranting about how the Vietnam War was just a weapons test for Uncle Sam’s military contractors. It’s best summed up by this helpful compilation.

However, there is another version of Angel Cop. A shorter, lighter, and shockingly cuter version.

Not long after Angel Cop started production, it was accompanied by a manga adaptation in Newtype, Japan’s biggest anime magazine. Itano and Aikawa are credited with the original story, but the comic was drawn by Taku Kitazaki, now better known for gentle, introspective fare. Kitazaki was just starting out in 1990, and his one-volume adaptation of the Angel Cop saga is a strange assembly of soft-looking characters and grimy, Akira-style punk violence.

It’s weirdly upbeat for something connected to an exploitive bloodbath like the Angel Cop anime, with Angel herself providing a good gauge of the changes. In the OVA series, she’s a brusque, uncaring, profanity-spewing hardcase. She thinks nothing of leaving her partner Raiden bleeding in the street or of pumping a few extra rounds into a terrorist who’s already splattered across a wall. In the manga, she’s a chipper young Special Security Force recruit, throwing peace signs and not really hiding a rather obvious crush on Raiden.

Then again, the first few pages show her shooting off a suspect’s hand and beating him insensate, so in some ways she’s still the Angel that anime viewers grew to loathe.


Final Fantasy IV: The After Years arrived on Wiiware last week. Some have praised it, and others have complained about paying roughly a dollar for every hour of playtime. Such are the wages of download-only titles that have overly faithful fan bases.

The After Years is a conflicted little sequel. It’s unnecessary in concept and quite mercenary in building itself from the original game’s graphics and music, yet it evokes the mood of the original Final Fantasy IV so well that I can’t help but enjoy it. It’s comparable to getting a pet that looks and acts just enough like one you had when you were twelve. You’re not the same and neither is this new creature, but the connection is there somehow.

One interesting point of The After Years concerns Rydia, the summoner who started off Final Fantasy IV as an orphaned little girl and finished it as a grown woman, all thanks to the sievelike logic of video games. Rydia didn’t wear much in the original game or its DS remake, and she wore even less in the illustrations for the Japanese cell-phone version of The After Years. Square decided to change that for Western audiences.

This is how Rydia appears on the official Japanese website for The After Years.

And this is how she appears in the official art for the game’s North American release.

I refuse to pretend that the changes aren’t for the better, as Rydia’s frilled metal bikini now resembles actual clothing. It’s not the sort of thing you’d wear into caves packed with slavering beasts, but I learned not to demand adroit realism from Final Fantasy a long time ago.

Of course, we could always go back to Katsuya Terada's Rydia art from Nintendo Power’s first Final Fantasy IV feature in 1991.

We probably shouldn’t.