I’m a huge wuss when it comes to horror and, as such, it’s not a genre that I tend to dip my toes into very often. While there are a few horror series that I do enjoy, I usually don’t go out of my way to seek them out and probably wouldn’t have picked up Angels of Death if it hadn’t been recommended to me by an acquaintance of mine. Drawn by Kudan Naduka, Angels of Death is a manga adaptation of the horror game of the same name by Makoto Sanada. It should be noted that I haven’t played this game, so there might be references or nods to gameplay elements that I missed while reading.
Thirteen year-old Rachel Gardener wakes up inside a strange building with fuzzy memories of how she came to be there. She remembers being taken to a hospital for counselling, but the facility she finds herself in doesn’t seem to match up with her memories and there are no doctors or staff in sight. Rachel is eager to find her parents and go home, but, as she tries to find the exit, a voice suddenly announces over the intercom that she’s become a sacrifice and Rachel discovers that she’s trapped in the building with several murders who are hunting her as part of some kind of twisted game! Rachel barely manages to escapes her first pursuer, a crazed serial killer named Zack, but then the tables are turned when Zack is labeled a traitor for breaking the rules of the facility and finds himself a target as well. Realizing that they both have something to gain from teaming up, Zack and Rachel agree to escape the hospital together, but can their precarious alliance hold together long enough for them to make it out alive?
As I mentioned before, I’m not typically attracted to horror stories, however, while Angels of Death features plenty of blood and creepy imagery to create a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere, it isn’t overly graphic in its depictions of violence and employs gore sparingly, so I didn’t have any difficulties with reading this manga. The series also features a strong mystery element that drew me in as the story unfolded. What exactly is the purpose of the facility and the sick game our heroine is being forced to participate in? And how did she wind up there in the first place? There’s also the matter of the cryptic messages scrawled on the walls of each floor. What meaning do they hold?
Rachel herself is an intriguing character. She has an oddly flattened affect and there are signs early on that suggest that she’s mentally unstable. We know that she was receiving counselling because she witnessed a killing, but we don’t know any of the details surrounding the incident or why her memories are so patchy and vague. Several clues are dropped throughout this volume and I think I’m starting to get a picture of part of what happened to her, but there are still many questions that I want answers to. I’m also curious to see what will become of Rachel at the end of the series; the bargain she made with Zack doesn’t seem to leave much chance for a happy resolution, but I’m invested enough now that I’d like to see how her story ends.
There’s one element of Angels of Death that I wasn’t really feeling and that happens to be the deuteragonist, Zack. Despite being something of an enigma whose motivations for killing anyone he sees with a happy expression on their faces remains unknown, I found him to be pretty uninteresting. He’s kind of simple and lacks any self-awareness, which might have been intended to be humorous but, if so, the joke didn’t really land with me. Essentially, Zack is an idiot. I’m sure we’ll discover that he has some kind of a tragic backstory at some point, possibly relating to why he’s covered in bandages, but compared to the secrets surrounding Rachel or the other over-the-top killers that populate the building, he hasn’t made much of an impression on me. Well, aside from the one time that he loses his temper and inadvertently solves a puzzle by smashing everything in sight. That was pretty funny.
Angels of Death is an intriguing series and I enjoyed the suspense and puzzling over the various mysteries. I wish Rachel had someone more compelling then Zack to play off of as she makes her way through this gauntlet of murders, but I liked this book enough that I plan to pick up the next volume in the series and see where things go from here.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Yen Press’ website.
What do you think of this series? Have you played the game it’s based on or seen the anime adaptation? Let me know in the comments.