Angel Beats! (Is It) The Complete Package (?)
AKA “Angel Beats! Why its ending does not suck” Just like my article on Fractale this will not be a review but me expressing my opinion on the very much despised last quarter of the Angel Beats! anime. This post WILL have spoilers so if you have not seen the show I suggest you only read the description and then go watch it now because it is an epic series and then come back and voice your opinion. Well then lets begin with the plot.
The viewers are suddenly thrown into this mysterious world set in a highschool (boarding ofcourse) where the lead character who has a bad case of amnesia and is oblivious to everything that is going on discovers that he is dead and is probably in the afterlife. He meets an eccentric lively girl named Yuripee or Yuri for short who tells him that this afterlife has some rules that he has to follow in order to stay ‘alive.’ Yuri tells Otonashi to stay away from ‘Angel’ the student Council President whose sole job it is to obliterate any students that are opposing Gods will.
From the get-go the plot sets up a scenario where Angel is labeled as the enemy. In the first scene Otonashi calls BS and walks up to Tenshi to ask her what exactly is going on and why Yuri has a gun pointed at her, she tells him nearly the exact same thing Yuri did and he asks her to prove that he is indeed dead and in the afterlife, Angel then proceeds to stab him in the chest.
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLexQsC?p=1 width=”596″ height=”334″]
This first scene is absolutely pivotal to the entire script and for the tone of the series, it was both gory, tragic, funny and haphazard, one would almost say random. Keep those traits in mind as we go along on this discussion.
Angel Beats! is all about characters and character development, the series tells you, no it screams this to its audience on many occasions. The first episode has a scene in the SSS HQ where each and every important character introduces themselves and their quirks, Id like to add that the dub version of this scene was especially hilarious. The Ending credits also have all the characters in the show pop up in a certain order that is rather expository, in retrospect watching the ending is both sad and funny.
The addition of Girls Dead Monster, the all female rock band was ingenious and worked as both a plot device and was good for marketing and merchandise. It also gave the show a certain depth many other anime don’t.
The demise of this series and the common complaint among fans is the series pacing, director Seiji Kishi who is currently working on Persona 4: The Animation is not exactly known for slow paced story telling. Some episodes would begin with a serious ‘operation’ such as trying to stop Angel from getting to the Guild (Their Secret Underground Base) but then suddenly turn into a comedy fest with each of the characters ‘dying’ in extravagant ways and then suddenly switch to extremely emotional drama with the backstory of certain characters.
Having all of this in one episode was very hard to get used to and the viewers are forced to train their minds to adjust to this form of story telling that seems undecided.
The Afterlife Explaination
Okay in case you have not seen the show and are still reading, this is where it gets really spoilerific.
The main plot of the show was trying to fight against ‘getting Obliterated’ in this new afterlife. One of the ways to get obliterated or to disappear from this world was by conforming to its rules and regulations. Any students that acted normally would disappear, This was the main reason why the SSS made it a point to go against the Student Councils rules and is why the Student Council President was their arch enemy.
Initially, the members of the SSS did not want to get obliterated. The mere fact they got a second chance to live after leading such terribly unfair lives was reason enough for them to not want to rest in peace. It wasn’t until the disappearance of the first SSS member that the true meaning of obliteration was understood. This world was God giving kids that had lived horrible lives a second chance to enjoy life and obliteration was the point at which an individual had come to terms with their situation and was satisfied with how they had lived, in short it was resting in peace.
The core part of this series was discovering each and every characters back story, or the story of how they lived their lives when they were alive. All of the backstorys helped the viewer understand why each character acted they way they did in this new world, for example;
Iwasawa the lead singer and guitarist of Girls Dead Monster who came from a broken home found solace in music and learnt how to play the guitar. She held street performances and even auditioned at some studios. However, she lost the feelings in her arms after one of her parents accidentally hit her during one of their fights. Iwasawa could no longer do the one thing that kept her alive, play the guitar and perform her heart out for the masses. The one thing she did to get away from all the stress at home was taken away from her, now bedridden she lost all will to live and died.
Iwasawa was given a second chance in this new world and ended up becoming the lead singer and guitarist of a rock band, its only after she realised that she had finally lived and fulfilled her dream that she got obliterated or disappeared.
Another good example would be Yuris’. Her home was broken into by robbers and in order to find as much money or jewelry as they could they held 3 of her sisters hostage and forced Yuri to find them valuables, every 10 minutes that Yuri was late the robbers would kill one of her sisters. Yuri did not find anything of value in the end and all her sisters were killed right in front of her.
She felt her life was unfair so she gained a rebellious spirit towards God, which explained her rebellious and eccentric personality.
The entire series goes along focusing on one character per episode fleshing out their back-story and then getting obliterated and this is where the problem lies. At about the 10th episode there are more than 4 characters left and not all of their stories have been told, fans expected to be given these stories but given that the length of the series was only 13 episodes the writers had to focus mainly on the main characters from this point on. Enter, Otonashis flashback.
Otonashi was a high school aged kid with a sickly little sister, he dropped out of school because he had a very apathetic care free view on life, he basically had no purpose or so no reason to work hard. His soon realised that he lived for his sisters sake and did everything in his might to make her happy, he got more jobs and worked really hard. Inspite of all this, his sisters condition got worse and she died. Otonashi had lost his reason to live but decided to continue pursuing a meaningful life and career, he wanted to help as many people as he could. On his way to University Otonashi is involved in a train accident that leaves its passengers trapped in a tunnel,he uses his expertise to help as many people as he can but ends up using most of his energy and collapses, just before his final moments he authorises the donation of his organs for emergency use and then passes away.
The Ending and Tenshis’ Purpose.
It turned out that Otonashi could not get obliterated because the only thing that would put him to ease was helping others and he also fell in love with Kanade. On the other hand, It also turned out that Tenshi was not an Angel afterall but a normal human, Kanade Tachibana. The reason she had not been obliterated was because her purpose for being in this world was to thank the donor that had given her a heart when she was alive. The mere act of her getting to thank Otonashi was enough for her to vanish.
The entire story was about kids coming to terms with the hardships in their lives and living life to the fullest despite all of the unfairness that may have befallen them. Each and every characters story played an important role in achieving this goal. The scene after the credits where Otonashi stumbles upon Kanade once again is left to the viewers interpretation, is that heaven, is that them in the real world reborn, does it even matter?
The story has a clear beginning, middle and solid end and I fail to see what more any fan would want from this show.