God is dead and, in his absence, sinfulness has overtaken his creations. Mankind is faltering in their faith while demons roam freely, infiltrating society where they can. Angels war and feud over power, occasionally dragging unwitting humans into their schemes. This is the setting of Angel Sanctuary, an OVA adaptation of a shoujo manga that ran from 1994 to 2000.
The story mainly follows Setsuna Mudo; a 16-year-old boy who is, unknowingly, a reincarnation of the angel Alexiel. She was cursed to live as a human for rebelling against her kind, with each reincarnation being doomed to suffer endless misery. For Setsuna, this manifests when one day his incestuous feelings for his sister are exposed to the whole school. He is bullied relentlessly and, when his family finds out, they arrange for the two to be separated forever.
At the same time, Setsuna comes under attack from all manner of supernatural entities. Demons, monsters, angels, everybody has it out for him. Setsuna tries dearly to hold unto his humanity, but may soon have to embrace his angelic destiny to protect himself and those he cares about. What this will mean for him, his sister, and the world as a whole remains to be seen.
For a shoujo manga, I was impressed with how Angel Sanctuary comes out swinging. Right out of the gate, it’s intense action with blood and death aplenty. It’s not as intense as the more gore-tastic anime from the 90s and 80s, but some scenes were certainly impressive. The story also knows how to set high stakes for its action scenes, especially in moments where Setsuna loses his self-control.
As for the romance, it is very shoujo. A classic tale of forbidden love, spiced up with supernatural elements. The drama is solid. Particularly once Setsuna is made into a pariah and his usual tough guy composure falls apart. This is not a situation he can fistfight his way out of and that horrifies him. I certainly felt for the kid and was eager to see where the lovestruck fool would go from there.
Sadly, as is often the case, this OVA is more a primer for the manga. It does round off a very cool storyline and is worthwhile to watch on its own, but concludes on a hook to get you reading the manga. Rightstuf appears to still be selling it, though most volumes are listed as out of stock at the time of writing. The series is also not on Bookwalker, so you may have to get creative if—like me—you were interested enough to want to read more.