Friday, October 15, 2010

Angel Beats: Not A Haruhi Clone

The three protagonists of Purgatory: Otanashi, Yuri, &
Angel/Kanade. Credit: P. A. Works & Aniplex.
                                             Angel Beats: Not A Haruhi Clone                      


                                                                        Jay Agan

      One thing I've liked about anime is the willingness of the artists involved to try new concepts & ideas. Unlike the "safe"strategies followed by our animators, the Japanese "school" of animation exhibits a much greater willingness to experiment. To be sure it's pretty much hit or miss, but when it does hit, it can be an interesting viewing experience indeed.

      One of these "hits" is Angel Beats. Even if an anime is seemingly of a sub-genre I don't care for, (In this case, cutesy, moe, school girl crap.), I'll take a chance if it has a plot/theme I might go for. Here, the high school schtick is merely part of the backdrop. In actuality, the show is a techno-theological, action thriller.

      I've read some opinions likening this to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, some even going so far as to refer to this (& one of the protagonists) as a Haruhi clone. I beg to differ. This series is so different as to stand on its' own. The only "sameness" I could find is that one protagonist bears a very superficial resemblance to Haruhi. How many other anime series feature "magical", assertive/energetic, schoolgirls? Not too sure but I THINK there may have been a few.

      On first viewing, I thought it was rather disjointed (Still do but much less so.) as well as violent & bloody. The final episode (More on this later.) however, made me want to rewatch the series.

      Theologically, it has something for every one. A Catholic(?) purgatory (In the form of a large high school boarding academy.), where those whose lives were lacking in some way come to resolve failed experiences/mistakes, and unload spiritual/emotional baggage before "passing on" (It must be Purgatory. The data tech there is Windows!). Reincarnation is a factor. There is even a "rapture" element in the way those who find peace leave the scene. (I'm what some would call a Christian fundamentalist though I don't subscribe to the "gospel" of Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye.) No matter what faith/theology one follows, anyone willing to see past what might be looked on as "pagan/infidel" & focus on what's compatible, may find this show intrigueing.

      The series centers around three main characters: The amnesiac, Yuzuru Otonashi who regains memory(s) overtime. Yuri Nakamura, a resentful girl who has it in for God due to a horrendous experience when she was alive. The target (Literally!) of Yuris' resentment is title character Angel/Kanade Tachibana. She's ostensibly there to enforce the "status quo" & help others find peace, sending them on their way. Due to Yuris' ongoing war with her, she's more preoccupied with countering (through VR tech-data manipulation) the operations of the Afterlife Battle Front, Yuris' band of "merry men". Thus all the gun & swordplay going on. Oh yes. Since you're already dead when there, you can't be killed. One usually "revives" a few minutes to a day later, either where you fall or in the schools' infirmary. Still hurts like,  uh.....purgatory, though. Ouch!

      The series is 13 eps long, packed with interesting twists & turns. Iwasawa, lead singer of the battlefronts' diversionary rock band (Girls Dead Monster) finds fulfillment in her music and disappears before one and all (ep 3). New enemies emerge (eps 5,7, & 10). (One, Naoi, joins the battlefront.) Differences with Kanade & Yuri are eventually ironed out (ep 7) then "rekindled" (ep 9). Yuzurus' memory is fully regained & back story told (Important!) (ep9). Yuri realizes the futility & waste in "fighting" God & has a "temptation of Christ" moment (ep 12).

      It is during these events Yuzuru & Kanade "connect" & later conspire with two others to help Battlefront members gain fulfillment and leave the scene. One they succeed with is one of the more endearing characters of the show, Yui, a girl who had been paralyzed when alive & wanting to accomplish much. (Along with her slightly "gothed" attire, she sports a set of little bat wings in the small of her back and a spearpoint tail. Took me awhile to notice. Makes one wonder who she's working for. My guess it's an insider joke.) The ending of this characters' last scene (ep 10) is poignant & touching to say the least.

      Many others, (Including the afore mentioned rock band.), partly on Yuris' suggestion & realizing the pointlessness of resisting God, life, & ultimatly, themselves, take their leave en masse (ep 12).  The departures of most of the "principle fighters" of the battlefront take place between eps 12 & 13 & thus are not seen.

      The anti-climactic 13th episode is a masterpiece of a heartbreaker that I guarantee at the end will .....TEAR..... YOU..... UP.  Aptly titled: Graduation, the three principal characters & two others (Hinata & Naoi), hold a do it yourself high school grad ceremony as cloture & say their goodbyes. (I hope I'm as joyful & matter of fact as Yuri & Hinata when it's my time to meet the Lord.) See this episode past the powerful credits ending for FULL IMPACT. You have been warned.

      "Let's meet again somewhere."

      "See ya, buddy!"

                                                Article copyright © 2010 Jay Agan

Angel Beats article: Angel Beats Redux here.

Angel Beats article: Episode 4.5 here.


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