Tatsuyaki Nagai is quickly solidifying himself as one of my favorite new directors. His work on Toradora was superb, but with it having been my first experience with his work, I wasn’t sure how much I could attest to him when I watched it. He is currently directing the excellent To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, which shares a lot of visual commonality with Toradora, leading me to believe that he has a lot to do with the visual style. Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel confirms my suspicions as his style is carried through once again.
Nagai’s works tend to be shows that mix a lot of comedic and dramatic character interactions with bouts of great excitement, and it is in directing action scenes that he really shines. Nagai has a great sense of space – he takes care to create a definitive arena where the action will be focused and then carefully position and move the characters around the space. You can see perfect examples in the first episodes of all three of the shows I mentioned above (Taiga’s wooden sword scene in Toradora, Uiharu and Misaka fighting in Railgun), and it happens in the opening scene of Twin Angel when the girls fight opponents at the docks and then on a ship.
Another thing I love about Nagai is his sense of framing the characters on the screen and placing them within the scenery. He has a real knack for creating memorable locales to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if he drew out plans for various places himself.
It helps, of course, that most of the shows he’s worked on have had pretty fat budgets. This is very true for Toradora and Railgun, and while I haven’t seen his other shows: Honey and Clover Season 2 and Idolm@ster Xenoglossia, I know that they are also high-budget productions. This is, however, less true for Twin Angel. It is produced by the ever-decent studio Nomad (Rozen Maiden, Kampfer, Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou, Chokotto Sister, Sola) and while it’s not like the OVA is low budget (it probably looks better than anything else they’ve ever produced) it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t a huge production, either.
Luckily, Nomad seemed to put consideration into what parts needed to look good and put most of their money on the fight scenes, which are great. They may not be top-notch, but the decent animation is bolstered by Nagai’s excellent fight direction to create a fulfilling experience.
This means, however, that the art can flounder a little during dialog-heavy scenes. Most often the issue was the characters going a bit off-model (Nomad’s usual problem) and there were a couple of notable foreshortening failures. The only time the art really bothered me, though, was when some issues showed up during the most emotional scene of the OVA, but thankfully Mamiko Noto‘s excellent vocal performance held the scene together.
If there’s one element of Twin Angels that I did find disappointing, it was Makoto Koga’s character designs (he did designs for Aria, Dokoro-chan, Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, Sola, and Yoku Wakaru – can’t say I’m a big fan of any of their designs, but most are better than Twin Angel) I’m not really too fond of Aoi and Haruka’s sort of pudgy and almost disproportionate bodies (even by anime standards). The school uniforms were completely generic, and while Haruka’s magical girl outfit was decent enough, Aoi’s just looked silly. Perhaps it was because of her having more cleavage than you expect from a magical girl, but then again, that never stopped Cutie Honey, so who knows.
Mysty Knight was cool, but his design was a wholesale reference to Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, so I can’t give too many points there. The Baron of the Fourth Dimension was probably the most noteworthy design, as a mix of ‘old gentleman’ and ‘crazy magician’ complete with monacle.
Oddly, I found out that Twin Angel is based on a manga based on a pachisuro game wherein the girls look much better, so I can’t help but wonder why the hell they would decide to alter the look.
Anywho, sort of generic designs aside, the OVA looks pretty nice, and Nagai’s great visual style really sells the package home. I still have more to say about the various elements of this great OVA, so stick around! (That is, if anyone is actually reading >_<)