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OVA Anime Review: Angel Sanctuary

Updated on August 18, 2016

Setsuna Modo is a typical boy, with not-so-typical problems. His parents are divorced, meaning that he's separated from his sister Sarah, but the two agree to meet up with each other regularly on what are basically platonic dates. He falls in both love and lust for her, but hides his feelings because he feels guilty about them. Setsuna is often bullied and beaten up, caught up in some gang activities for reasons that are not entirely clear in the OVA (original video animation, or a direct-to-video anime), but I'm guessing are shown in the manga.

Oh, and he also is the reincarnated spirit of a hot female angel, Alexiel, who rebelled against God because she found that people on His side, including angels, had become too corrupt. Now, various parties are hunting Setsuna to try to get him to awaken as Alexiel and take part in an epic war for the fate of the planet. So yeah, not your typical adolescent male problems.

Angel Sanctuary (OVA)
Source Material:
manga by Kaori Yuki
Hal Film Maker

How pitiful. Is this what angels have become? Their spirituality is weakened by lust and violence. The wicked have more integrity in their lack of pretense.

— Alexiel


In western animation, "straight to video" is code for "totally sucky in every way", meaning it was not good enough for a theatrical release or TV run. But with anime, OVA or original video animation series are often good. Without the constraints of censorship rules imposed on network television, original video and original web content is free to explore themes that are taboo, like in this case, an incestuous romance. Basically, with no network and no advertisers to please, an OVA has about as free of a creative hand as you can get. The unbound creative potential of the OVA format is a great way to tell the story of the Angel Sanctuary manga. The manga might go into more detail and give more information about the characters, but it was amazing to me how serious and epic this story could be in just three 30-minute episodes. This is an anime that manages to say a lot in a small amount of time, making it the opposite of those annoying long-runner shounens with tons of filler. Angel Sanctuary might be an acquired taste, and the manga is probably the better version, but the OVA does not disappoint in terms of excitement, mystery, and originality. I really like that Setsuna is unlike your typical male anime protagonist. He's troubled by deep guilt over his feelings for Sarah, and yet unable to stop those feelings from purely taking hold of him. In some anime, male heroes don't have feelings this strong, period, and regular anime usually don't deal with the pain of falling for someone forbidden. Setsuna's emotional nature makes him an interesting character, because he appears to feel much more deeply than everyone else. Add this interesting romance drama with the epic and chilling larger drama of the supernatural conflict, and you have one compelling story.

Rating for Angel Sanctuary (OVA): 7/10


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