Based on: Episode 1 (Previewed at MCM London Expo, May 2005)
UK Distributor: ADV Films (DVD Only)
I've read a chapter or so of the D.N.Angel manga in a TokyoPop Sneaks preview book, it was quite fun and enjoyable, if a little unremarkable, so this is what I expected the anime to be like too.
After a brief intro in which two angelic beings fight, the story begins with the birthday of a young teen called Daisuke, who is attempting to pluck up the courage to tell Risa, a fellow student he has a crush on, his feelings about her. Unfortunately for him he quickly learns that she sees him as nothing more than a friend, and ends his day going home depressed despite making an unexpected friend in the slightly creepy Satoshi. However, his day isn't over - his pining for Risa is the catalyst to activate his family curse and turn him into a legendary winged thief called Dark! In order to change back he needs to steal a priceless artefact from the local museum, which unfortunately is very heavily guarded...
D.N.Angel is quite a popular series by all accounts, but this first episode does little to explain why. It does have its pluses - the European style setting is a refreshing change from the usual Japanese high schools where these kinds of series usually take place, the character design is quite good and there are some good moments of comedy (usually involving Daisuke's overenthusiastic mum) - but there are quite a few minuses too.
The main one is that the story is just not that original. Teens gaining special powers is hardly new ground for anime, and the clichéd characters and predictable plotting ensured it was only towards the end of the episode that anything vaguely interesting happened. It did start to display some promising signs near the end of the episode - particularly when Daisuke's alter ego Dark encounters Risa's twin sister - which hint towards some potentially interesting plot lines in future episodes, but I'm unsure if D.N.Angel has the strength to really explore them.
In fairness the series appears to be aimed more at a young teen female audience, rather than a cynical 24 year old male (the women at the Expo seemed to enjoy it far more than I did), and it really doesn't feel like the main plot of the story has kicked in yet. However, on the strength of this episode I would suggest that you try the manga before shelling out on the anime.
Best Bit: The morning ritual.