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Manga / Angel Sanctuary

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Angel Sanctuary is a shoujo manga by Kaori Yuki, which ran in Hana to Yume from 1994 to 2000. It also spawned a series of Drama CDs and a 3 episode OVA that was released in 2000.

Angel Alexiel rebelled against God. As punishment, her body and soul were separated, and her soul was cursed to rebirth into an endless loop of human incarnations. This is the story of her latest incarnation...

1999 in Tokyo. Setsuna Mudo, a high school boy, finds his life interrupted by angels and demons. Both Heaven and Hell seek Alexiel's soul, housed within him, but Setsuna has his own life, with his own problems. Not the least of which is the internal conflict of being in love with his biological sister, Sara.

In the struggle to awaken Alexiel's soul, Setsuna's life is threatened and Sara dies protecting him. The bulk of this story follows Setsuna's journey to find and rescue his sister's soul; travelling through the afterlife, through Hell and Heaven, with the help and hindrance of angels, demons and other mythical beings. Through this journey, Setsuna learns important lessons that help him become the hero and saviour that Alexiel wished she could have been.

This series delves into issues such as morality, destiny and social conformity, told through beautiful art and themes inspired by multiple religions and mythologies.

Tropes used in Angel Sanctuary:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Angel Sanctuary -Digital Angels- is a computer game gaining popularity at both Setsuna's and Sara's schools. There have been reports of mysterious deaths and strange behaviour, possibly related to the game, but it's not until Sara's friend Ruri gets a copy that they find out the truth: What at first appears to be an interactive A.I. turns out to be a way to communicate with the Inorganic Angel, and a key component in Katan's plan to break the curse that's holding Rosiel prisoner.
  • Angelic Abomination:
    • Sandalphon's true form is that of a giant infant's head with six eye-studded wings. Even when he manifests through Metatron's body, he often suffers Glamour Failure and sprouts leech-like protrusion that end in fanged mouths with eyeballs inside.
    • After getting horrifically mangled in an explosion, Katan assumes the form of a shapeless lump of flesh and electric wires while he fights the effects of Rosiel's feather, which would restore him at the cost of his free will. He gives in to Rosiel and gets better.
    • Rosiel, the aptly-named Inorganic Angel himself was originally a lump of flesh and electric wires, and only got a humanoid form by slowly cannibalising his own twin sister Alexiel, the Organic Angel. His obsession with beauty and glamour is rooted in his insecurities about his monstrous true self.

  • Apocalypse Maiden: Many high ranking angels have the power or technology to destroy the world. This is part of God's experiment - He's waiting to see who will actually do it.
  • Ax-Crazy: Being murderous and unstable is culturally acceptable in Hell.
  • Big Bad: Rosiel - He wants his sister back. His theory is that if he can make Setsuna's life miserable enough, Alexiel will stop wanting to be this human boy and wake up as her original self.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Sevothtarte - He's a cruel dictator feared by all of Heaven. He's pulling the strings behind puppet king Metatron's back, but the high-ranking angels don't respect him (they don't even bother gracing council meetings with their presence), while rebels are plotting his downfall. Since she openly opposed his policies, he disposed of Jibril by causing her incarnation as Sara. Ultimately, Sevothtarte is revealed to be Lailah (an angel scientist branded as fallen after she had been gang-raped) and becomes a pawn to Sandalphon and Rosiel.
    • Sandalphon - He does pose a serious threat to almost everyone. He has the ability to manipulate his twin brother, Metatron, but he is essentially a child, and he overestimates himself. Because God has nicknamed him "Little YHWH" (basically God Junior) Sandalphon believes himself to be superior to the angels from previous sets of twins, particularly Rosiel. Although Rosiel is not as powerful as Sandalphon, he outsmarts Sandalphon, then absorbs and assimilates him.
  • Big Good: Alexiel - She once promised Rosiel she would kill him before his insanity made him dangerous, but when the time came to do it, she couldn't. She tries to keep Setsuna safe, in the hopes that he will fulfill the promise for her, but only Alexiel is a match for Rosiel.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: As products of a Creator with no morals, all anyone does is try to make the best of the hand they're dealt. From angels trying or failing to live up to their holy image, to demons fulfilling or rejecting adversarial roles, and with humankind in the middle, the importance, the quality and even the definitions of morality vary greatly.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: For the most part, this series has very reliable translations, however there are a few weird moments:
    • Moonlil is called "Riru", instead of Lil, for a chapter or so (VIZ).
    • Sandalphon's hair colour is originally described as "like peacock feathers". In English (VIZ), this is translated as "rainbow-coloured".
    • At one point, the German translation refers to Setsuna and Sara as twins instead of siblings (their ages are stated as 16 & 15, respectively.)
    • The names of the two vampire twins are rendered as Noyz and Boyz (from the Japanese "Noizu" and "Boisu") in the English version instead of the more logical Noise and Voice.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • Setsuna worries that this relationship will make Sara's life difficult, but their feelings are mutual. Even though both of them are consistently faced with opposition (whether from human society or from Heaven), their love never falters. They do, through the course of their separate adventures, mature and become aware of the sacrifices their allies are making to help them, and the impact their actions have on the people around them. In the end, they are reunited in Assiah (Earth.) When Kurai points out that they will go back to their human lives and still be siblings, Setsuna is convinced they'll find a way to make it work.
    • In Heaven, all close relationships are taboo, and all angels are related. But, with the exception of twins, they don't tend to think of each other as siblings. Though the dynamic is different, it still applies because if any of them have children together, genetic mutations are a valid concern.
  • Council of Angels: Heaven's affairs are conducted in a very organized fashion. High-level angels are well-educated, and each holy Choir has its own Think Tank. Each Think Tank is presided over by a particular angel, who is directly accountable to Heaven's Ruler. Protocol is adhered to very stringently, and Council Meetings are called to discuss any changes and keep everyone well informed and updated. However, under Sevothtarte's rule, this system becomes lax and ineffective, as the High Angels, at worst, undermine him, and at best, do not respect him enough to bother turning up.
  • Crapsack World: Earth? Doomed. Hell? Dangerous for most. But hey, it could be worse. You could go to Heaven...
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Wing Dropping punishment for angels. Not only are angel wings very sensitive, they function like an angel's immune system. First the wings are removed, then virus and infection set in, leaving the victim to live out their final days in a starving, rotting, zombie-like state.
  • Curse:
    • Earth Command Curse - During the Second Great War between Heaven and Hell, Alexiel uses this curse to imprison Rosiel within the Earth. This essentially earths the 'electric angel', as an alternative to killing him. - This curse is broken by Katan, one of Rosiel's loyal followers, using forbidden black magic.
    • Language Power Spell - During the same battle where Alexiel cast her curse on Rosiel, he seriously wounds her, facilitating her capture. This is the curse the Angel of Judgement, Uriel, sentences Alexiel to, during the trial in which she is branded Fallen. Her body and soul are separated; her body imprisoned in Angel Crystal, her soul sentenced to cycles of reincarnation in human lives. Always short, difficult lives, ending in brutal deaths. - This curse is broken by the Spirit from Alexiel's sword, saving her from suffering by performing a mercy killing in the life she had before she was incarnated as Setsuna.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Oppositions like "angel/demon" and "Heaven/Hell" do not indicate moral alignment. There are selfish and selfless angels, just as there are fallen angels who fight injustice or who live only for hedonism. In fact, a race of bat-winged, dark-skinned demons (not fallen angels themselves, but descended from them) are called "Evils" - they worship nature spirits and keep to themselves, but their existence is threatened by the violent conflicts between Heaven and Hell more than once.
  • Demon Lords And Arch Devils: Called Archons or Satans. These were originally the powerful, highest ranking angels who sided with Lucifer during the First Great War. When Lucifer created Hell, they chose to reside within the deepest levels of Hell and become his Generals. They are known as the Seven Satans, each representing one of the seven deadly sins. They have no loyalty to each other. Some of them support Lucifer, while some are waiting for the chance to murder him and take his place.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Flaws, weaknesses and imperfections play a large part in what makes all of these characters so interesting and compelling.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: More bittersweet for some than for others. Setsuna works hard to keep his friends safe, and he always says he'll make it so everyone will be happy. It is his influence that convinces some beings from warring races to work together to free the universe from God. After all this, he finally gets to go home, with Sara by his side.
  • Elemental Powers:
    • The interplay between elements is so delicate that the four angels who serve as their guardians must remain alive at all costs. However, preserving their brains would be enough, judging from Sevothtarte's plans for Jibril's future...
    • Angels use the Grigori to maintain elemental balance around them while they use magic.
    • The fifth element, which is controlled by Adam Kadamon, is the fabric of creation. Being split-cloned from Adam Kadamon, Alexiel and Rosiel can also control the fifth element. So Alexiel's power over nature and Rosiel's electromagnetism could create any world they wanted if they worked together.
    • Setsuna defeats God because the source of His creative power (access to the elements through Adam Kadamon) is sealed away by Michael, Uriel and two of the elemental dragons summoned by Kurai.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Although "evil" is relative, Setsuna faces hostility from various factions that also oppose each other - even within Heaven and Hell, respectively. In Heaven, Rosiel is plotting to reclaim his throne from Metatron and Sevothtarte (Sandalphon eventually joins this conflict), while in Hell, the Satans struggle to cooperate with each other.
  • Fallen Angel:
    • Angels convicted of crimes are branded as Fallen -Alexiel is one of these angels. Some are imprisoned. Some have their wings removed. Some are turned into Stakers. Some escape to Heaven's slums to continue a life of crime. Some go to Hell. And some have more luck hiding their shameful pasts. For specific examples, see the character sub-pages.
    • The first fallen angels were the ones who sided with Lucifer during the First Great War. See: Demon Lords And Arch Devils or Our Demons Are Different.
    • The Grigor. See: Our Spirits Are Different
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: Averted big time: angels and demons alike come in all flavours of male, female, and any non-binary, gender-bending shades in-between. Probably deliberate, considering how the two factions are explicitly portrayed as being similar.
    • The only straight example might be Djibril (Gabriel), possibly the only non-corrupt angel in heaven, who is a woman and a Proper Lady to boot.
    • The aversion and zig-zagging of this trope is best exemplified in the twin siblings Alexiel and Rosiel: the former is female and a fallen angel, the latter male and sided with heaven (subverted); except she’s heroic and level-headed while he’s evil, manipulative and ax-crazy (played straight). To further blend the lines, while unequivocally feminine Alexiel is more physically imposing than her slender, Bishōnen brother.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: Subverted. Most angels, including most fallen angels, have large white bird wings. The Evils have bat wings, intimating their race, but not their moral alignment. Lucifer's and some of the Satans' wings are deliberately tainted black to symbolise their rebellion, but Elemental Angel Uriel's black wings are naturally occurring. Af has bone wings, and he is an innocent i-child (illegitimate angel). There is also symbolic art of Sandalphon with peacock-feather wings, of Belial with butterfly wings, and of Setsuna with one bird-one bat wings or with bone wings.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: YHWH (God) - Alexiel's rebellion was justified. The universe was God's experiment, which he deemed a massive failure. To save everyone, God must be 'killed'.
  • The Legions of Hell:
    • First Great War: Angels fighting angels -this war lead to the creation of Hell.
    • Second Great War of Heaven and Hell: After the Angel Army invades Anagura (the top level of Hell), leaving a trail of death behind them, Alexiel creates and trains her own army of what's left of this country's people, the Evils. This is the army she uses to invade Heaven, with no help from the demons from the deeper levels of Hell.
    • Third Great War of Heaven and Hell: The only war to involve Hell's entire army. They are less organised than Heaven's army, but still manage to pull together to stage an invasion. The Evils, and Heaven's rebel group, Anima Mundi, join forces with Hell, though they switch sides to fight alongside Heaven part way through.
  • Light Is Not Good: See: Dark Is Not Evil.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Subverted. Setsuna checks the Family Register to make sure, but he and Sara look related because they are related. He's disappointed, but not surprised.
  • No Woman's Land: Justified - Through God's laws. Heaven's society does not go easy on anyone, but misogyny makes career advancement much harder for female angels. The few women in high-ranking positions are met with envy and suspicion. Victims of sexual crimes are blamed for being "temptations" and branded as Fallen. With Sevothtarte in charge, the situation becomes worse, as he has no sympathy for women at all.
  • One Size Fits All: A notable offender is when Lil and Sara (in Jibril's body) swap clothes. They're different sizes and body types, but somehow their clothes fit perfectly onto each other without appearing too baggy or too tight.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Called the Children of God. The Angelic Hierarchy is God's military, run by a specially created Monarchy. Their job is to promote peace on Earth and take care of humankind. However, their latest divinely ordained Ruler is a perpetual toddler, and power falls into the hands of his Prime Minister; a tyrannical dictator. God's laws are enforced sporadically and often brutally. Without a competent leader, the angels succumb to class division, and many turn to crime. This also inspires an organised rebellion from within their ranks. Truly holy angels are the noteworthy exception.
  • Our Demons Are Different:
    • Evils: Descendants of the offspring of Fallen Angels and humans. Inhabiting the top level of Hell, Evils are demons, but they are human-like enough to pass for human at first glance. They have no loyalty to the angels or to the pure-blooded demons, and they're not fond of humans either. They keep to themselves, taking care of their own kingdom. With no ties to God or the Devil, the Evils revere the Shinryu (Holy Dragons) and nature spirits.
    • Demons were originally the angels who fell from Heaven when Lucifer rebelled, and now Hell is also filled with their descendants. They are decidedly less human-looking than Evils. They follow no laws and there is no trust or loyalty between any of them. They'll do whatever it takes to get what they want, it's every demon for himself. Even loyalty to Lucifer is a rare thing. For Satans, see: Demon Lords And Arch Devils.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: The very lowest angelic rank, the Grigor. Once the worker class angels on Earth, they had bodies similar to humans, so they were tempted by humans and sometimes produced demonic offspring. When their crimes were discovered, their intellect and emotions were suppressed, and they were stripped of corporeal form. Now a class of spirit angels, they inhabit the air all over Heaven, and continue to spawn bodiless offspring. A small handful of these offspring regain the ability to think and feel. Grigor are invisible and are paid little attention by the angels, beyond being a limitless energy source. By receiving the astral waves from the wings of angels, Grigor are used to balance the elements to support holy magic. Their life force is so weak that performing one task is a death sentence. For Sister/Stakers, see: Servant Race.
  • Servant Race: Extremely high ranking angels have maids called “Sisters”. These are made by creating a female angel body for a Grigor. While the regular Sisters (identified by their long skirts) have the limited intelligence of the Grigor, Grigor who can think are turned into Stakers (identified by their short skirts and the marks on their foreheads). Grigor who can think are rare but particularly smart. In order to keep them from logically questioning orders, small, needle-like micro-devices (which limit their intellect and reason) are driven into their brains. This process is also inflicted on some fallen angels to create soldiers. These servants and soldiers have become a status symbol, the more an angel has, the more important the angel is seen to be. For Grigor, see: Our Spirits Are Different.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Setsuna speaks of the Lady Hawke movie, unknowingly speaking about Alexiel and Lucifer.
    • When Rosiel gives Kato "drugs" in capsule-form, Kato says it reminds him of the movie AKIRA.
    • Lucifer gets called out for his Scissorhands outfit.
    • Lucifer's castle is based on the Goblin King's abode from Labyrinth. Lucifer's throne room, in particular, looks very familiar. A few other references to the film are more subtle.
  • Title Drop:
    • Angel Sanctuary is the name of the computer game used in the ritual to break the curse holding Lord Rosiel prisoner.
    • Atziluth (the domain of God; the highest Heaven) is also called Angel Sanctuary.
  • To Be Continued: Keeping with the computer game motif, each arc (save for the sixth and final one, for obvious reasons) ends with the words Game Over Or Continue in the style of a computer interface (white font on black), complete with a cursor in front of Continue.
  • Winged Humanoid: Most angels and many demons are humanoid with wings. Their wings are not always visible, but usually emerge for flight or with the use of certain powers. In addition to channelling astral powers, wings also function like an immune system. The vast majority have two wings. One-winged angels are a shunned minority. God's most perfect creation is a six-winged hermaphrodite, and His attempts to recreate this being have resulted in supremely powerful sets of twins, with a division of six wings between them. For example, Michael has two wings, while his twin, Lucifer, has four; Alexiel and Rosiel have the equal divide of three each.