Angel Beats 9 – Don’t Do It Maeda Jun!

Don’t do it!!!!!

Warning: Spoilers for Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22 near the end

I will start off by saying that Angel Beats Episode 9 is pretty much the best episode of the series to date. A believable story, good background information on Otonashi, not mixing in humor with drama… Check, check, check. Good job guys! Unfortunately, the fact that Episode 9 is the best episode of the series doesn’t say too much. First the animation was a little uninspiring this episode, which had a lot more still and reused shots than usual. Secondly and most importantly, the revelation at the end concerning just how thick Kanade is is just too much. So the same BS that’s happening in Durarara where you have the problem of no one talking to each other is happening here too? I can’t even begin to formulate my growing dislike as I continue to type this sentence out.

Well setting aside the character issues and the stale animation, Angel Beats needs to change the course that was laid out at the end of episode 9 or risk losing what makes the show great. If the last few episodes are really going to be about Otonashi and Kanade trying to make the members of the SSS forget their regrets, then I want to drop this anime.

The reason why I feel that I want to drop this show is because I have this running theory. And everyone get ready for it because it’s a BIG one. I have this strange feeling… that the show is going to end… Ok ready? I think the show’s going to end with Otonashi and Kanade succeeding. I know, a far fetched theory am I right? In all seriousness though, with a show like Angel Beats, that’s almost certainly going to be the end result. Angel Beats has failed to just completely blow me away with a plot twist, but since it’s Maeda Jun, I sincerely hope that he’ll do something crazy with the last few episodes.

The problem with my predicted ending is that it ruins what makes the show a good anime. When I watched episode 1 of Angel Beats, my initial reaction was something along the lines of: “Wow what a premise! This must be one of the top shows of the Spring Season!” Perhaps the optimism was toned down a bit in my original response, but the point is that I found Angel Beats interesting because of the plot and the mystery that surrounded the characters and the world that they lived in. I had a ton of fun just theorizing about exactly what kind of a world they lived in, the rules, the conditions that led these characters to be here, etc. Already by episode 2, we found out exactly what motivated Yuri to fight against Kanade. Her background, although presented in a rather hurried and cheap way, still made me sympathize with Yuri and her plight.

You want for her to forget this?

As each episode wore on, I felt that each one expanded my knowledge of the world and made me much more interested in precisely what was going on. Episode 4 (the baseball one) kind of made the momentum of the show slow down a bit, but episode 5 solidly expanded Kanade’s character while episode 6 introduced Naoi as a twisted individual. After episode 6, I was really wondering where they were going to go with the show.

Turns out that Maeda Jun decided to take the show straight to the pool of mediocrity. I never really understood why Naoi joined the SSS brigade, and Naoi’s post-joining SSS personality never really flew with me… But the greatest problem that I saw about the show starting from that episode was a lack of any further scenes that revealed more about the world itself. To be honest, it’s as if Maeda Jun saw the fan reaction to Kanade’s removal from the position of school president, and decided to make the rest of the show Kanade-centric. All I learned from that little Kanade-harmonics thing is that Kanade is a moron for using a technique she can’t control, and also that Kanade’s computer program thing is pretty complex, and that she somehow has an English manual that tells her how to create her character. The manual was definitely the most interesting part about those episodes, especially since we don’t know how she acquired it, but with the entire focus on Kanade, I knew the manual was going to get shafted in favor of her.

Yes, that book is really more mysterious than Kanade herself.

When I watched the end of episode 9, I realized that the focus for the last few episodes don’t seem to be on the mystery anymore. Kanade basically told us every nuance about the world that we would ever want to know. In my eyes, that was one pretty terrible revelation concerning the world. Now we know that the world is a place where kids who had troubled childhoods go to shed their regrets from their previous lives. The final question, and the one that I would want to see the show tackle in the past few episode is: Is there a God? I mean that’s the direction that Angel Beats appeared to take at the beginning, but it seems to have lost that question amidst the injection of personality into Kanade.

But while Angel Beats is ruining the storyline with this ending, it’s also ruining the characters. After all, if Kanade and Otonashi succeed in making Yuri and the rest of the SSS brigade forget their regrets and move on, what kind of a message does that tell? That we should forget our pasts? That we should forgive and forget? That’s not the kind of message that I want to spread. We can’t forget our pasts. When we try to suppress them, we forget who we are and why we exist. Just like Vincent Law in Ergo Proxy, when he lost his memories and forgot his past, he lost his raison d’etre. What was his purpose in life? Why did he have connections with this other creature? I believe that the human personality is the sum of the human past. I’m a big Locke fan with regards to his tabula rasa theory that each person starts off with a blank slate that slowly fills up with experiences. If we erase a person’s past and memories, then that person loses his individuality, and that’s what ultimately makes him or her an interesting and great person. Following that line of thinking, I basically believe that Kanade-Otonashi are erasing the individual personality of each character that we have grown to love. I don’t want Yuri, Hinata, Takamatsu, Noda, Shiina, Matsushita, Ooyama, Yui, Chaa, Naoi, Takeyama, Otonashi, Kanade, and especially T.K to lose their personalities. Sure some of them might be annoying at times, but isn’t that why we enjoy watching their antics?

Don’t ever change T.K.

Making a connection to Evangelion, one of the major issues that Shinji had to come to grips with as the story continued was the idea of discomfort in life. Can one truly ignore the bad parts of life and merely enjoy the good parts? No, you can’t. It’s an idealistic view and one that can never come true. You can’t merely erase the bad parts of your life and pretend that they never happened. You can’t pick and choose the components that make up your life. If you have problems in your life, stop running away from them.

Stop running away damn it!

Instead, you should confront them with all your might. Anno realized that, and changed the story line of Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22 so that Shinji is now using his own power to change the bad parts of his life. Is he going to run away from Asuka and Rei? No, he’s going to enter Evangelion Unit 01 and kick the 10th Angel’s ass. Even when he runs out of power, his own willpower combined with that of his mother’s allows him to do the unthinkable and find his own inner strength to change the present. Kanade and Otonashi wants to stop this from happening. They want to stop each character from fighting the injustices in their past lives. Is that what we really want? For Shinji to run away again from the problems in his past?

If the essential end message of Angel Beats is that forgetting your regrets and moving on is a good thing, then I really don’t want to watch the show anymore. We can’t forget our past any more than we can seclude ourselves from the present. That just doesn’t work. Maeda Jun, please do something epic in the last few episodes of this show so we don’t lose what makes this show great.

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21 Comments

  1. pinecone2654
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    I agree with you and hope that the rest of the story isn’t devoted to the relationship between Otonashi and Kanade and their plan to help everyone come to terms with their pasts. I got to watching this episode as fast as I could after 8 ended with a cliff-hanger last week (I was 99% sure Kanade was going to be fine but I still HAD to watch) but now I’m a little disappointed and less optimistic for the rest of the series. Nothing to do but wait till episode 10 I guess :/

  2. Son Gohan
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    I disagree with you on a couple of points:
    1. Do you really think that Kanade explained all the truth of this world? But how does she know? If she is just a normal human, how did she get the Angel Player manual? And who wrote it? I think there is still a lot more to discover about this weird “Purgatory”.
    2. Forgiving is NOT forgetting! Accepting your past and moving on is not a denial of your individuality, it is a sign of maturity. Holding a grudge and having regrets is painful. Kanade and Yuzuru want to help their schoolmates to overcome their regrets and be happy. Even if this means disappearing from “Purgatory”.

  3. Crusader
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Sounds like I am missing out on plenty being stuck out here in the suck. I agree with Son Gohan though forgiving is not the same as forgetting, even so human memory is fickle we only remember certain things and even then only part of our circumstances. The past is to be accepted and grudges are only to be nursed if retribution is certain otherwise it is futile unless one wishes to derive a sort of strength from hatred.

    It is good to forgive but one should endeavor not to forget. Living means being screwed over from time to time without any justice being delivered. There are some problems that simply cannot be solved, un-employment right now seems to be in the cards for most college grads, there isn’t much they can do about it, sure one can rage at this and that for the lack of jobs, but one might as well make the most of that free time. There is a silver lining to every cloud, it sucks that there is a huge oil spill in the Gulf, but hey that means Title 14 orders for me instead of the unemployment line.

    • Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      I don’t even think that “forgiving” is the right word either. It’s more of the characters finding fulfillment in their “after-life” that they couldn’t in their lives.

      Watching the series, and it’s progression, I can’t be sure about Kanade being the center of attention for the rest of the series. The formula is group scenes of comedy, and every so often Otonashi learns of someone’s past including his own. I would predict the show will precede the same way it has been, a backdrop of comedy with flashback sequences of tragedy.

      I find it interesting that so many people are focused on the mystery of the Angel Beats world, it’s rules, it’s purpose, who/what created it… I find that the characters and their stories are much more interesting. I guess it just doesn’t matter to me if it’s some sort of god or Buddhist based system that governs this world. And if the studio is smart it that mystery should stay unsolved, leave religion out of it all and let the viewers believe what they want.

      • Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:29 am | Permalink

        It’s an extremely odd mix of the Catholic belief of purgatory, Buddhist reincarnation, the Matrix and Jun Maeda’s twisted thinking.

        IIRC, the Catholics believe that if you are not good enough to go to heaven but are not truly sinners (in the Catholic sense), you head over to purgatory where you toil until your sins are purged enough to be worthy to enter the Pearly Gates.

        Throwing away the theological reasonings for and against the notion of purgatory (as it’ll derail the discussion), I find it interesting that Maeda would use such a foreign idea as the stage for the show.

  4. Chronolynx
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    There is still one major mystery left: Kanade. We don’t really know anything about her past or why she’s there. Hopefully that will conflict in some way with the plan Otonashi laid out. Because I agree with you that that’s a horrible way to end the series, though for different reasons. If they really go that way, then of course they’ll have to show us the characters’ tragic pasts and all that, however rushed they have to be in order to fit. And then Otonashi will stay with his Angel or whatever because he’s such an obvious Christ figure and must sacrifice himself so she won’t be alone. God, I hope it doesn’t come to that.

    But I’m hoping that some combination of the mystery around Kanade and the manual come together in some what to derail their plans.

    • Akedus
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      I agree here… Besides being lonely (as far as being with real humans), Kanade is the role model for disappearance candidacy. Also, it is odd that the Angel Player software exists, and modifies Kanade’s abilities (this might be a matter of afterlife veterancy, though).

      I am somewhat hoping that Otonashi’s resolve at the end of this episode will be a red herring; I still have doubts that Kanade got ‘all better’ after absorbing dozens of souls which opposed, fought, and were betrayed by the ‘Front. The warning from the last Tenshi clone at the end of Episode 8 didn’t seem like something to brush off 20 minutes later.

      Either way, I’m personally satisfied that Angel Beats gave Otonashi the memories it did. I was completely expecting some BS along the lines of Otonashi not having any memories to recover, or some nonsense.

  5. Posted June 1, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Judging by the opening, I would say that Jun Maeda always intended to make the series Kanade-centric, and how successful that is will depend on what they do with the remaining episodes. Cramming everyone’s pasts and setting them free from their regrets will not only seem more rushed than whatever semblance of character development this series has managed to dump on us, but it will be boring as hell. I disagree that accepting their pasts is definitively bad, because as Son Gohan said, forgiving something/someone and moving on isn’t the same as forgetting about the terrible things that have been done to you. Otanashi remembers everything about his past now and seemingly his take on it isn’t “everything is A-OK now!” It’s more of a “thank goodness my life had some sort of meaning despite being pretty crappy.” I take issue more with the predictability of it all. Everything that has been deemed a big revelation and/or important in this series has been one gigantic info-dump after another, beginning with Yuri’s back story and continuing with Kanade’s recent explanation of the world that they are in. It’s poor storytelling by someone who should know a bit more about how to pace these sorts of things, and yet there’s been enough good parts to keep the viewer coming back, hoping that it will get better.

    The few things that could throw a figurative wrench in Otanashi and Kanade’s plans are, as Son Gohan and Chronolynx mentioned, the Angel Player manual and what Yuri’s reaction will be if she finds out that Otanashi and Kanade are conspiring against the SSS Brigade. I don’t think she’ll take what she’ll probably see as a betrayal by Otanashi lightly.

    Anyway, good post. It definitely provides a lot of insight as to what works and what doesn’t work about Angel Beats! Hopefully you do decide to continue watching the series, since I’m looking forward to what you’ll have to say about whatever comes next.

  6. Posted June 1, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    While a certain little pang of dread did occur in my mind when I saw Kanade and Otonashi deciding to work together, similar to the humans and wolves working together that sounded the death knell for Ookami Kakushi’s story, I’m still fairly hopeful that we’ll get a satisfying ending out of it. I have to disagree as others have with the forgetting/forgiving aspect though. My points of contention are of two different types:

    On a real life level, I think it’s perfectly fine and healthy to either overcome or forgive bad things from the past, and to forget as much as possible so long as it doesn’t go to the point of unhealthy repression that would just breed more problems. Some things are just not worth holding onto if they would just cause further pain or anger. Being the sum of memories and experiences is a passive state, even if it’s a feature of humans sometimes. But being able to be active in editing or interpreting that sum is to me what makes a strong individual. I’m more on Nietzsche’s side in this than what I understand of Locke from your words on tabula rasa. And I think that’s what the disappearance is in Angel Beats, finally being able to overcome something that was holding the character back.

    In terms of in-show logic, even if we assume that the characters’ personalities are wiped clean when they disappear and cease to be their current individual selves, that seems like it’s the natural order of the Angel Beats world. It seems like a Buddhist sort of reincarnation in a way, though they never seem to be told of what their next place in life will be or how that will reflect their merits and faults from their past lives. Whatever or whoever is running the universe seems to be merciful in that they allow people with a tragic death to experience some joy and overcome their issues as their present self instead of sending them straight into the life energy recycling system and into a new body in the world of the living. This sort of mechanic is something I really will need revealed in more detail by the end of the series if I’m going to be satisfied with the ending. As you mentioned, whether there is a god and the nature of the world is probably the biggest question in the show.

  7. Matt
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I love this show, and this is a great article because I share that same worry as you Mystlord, and i am almost positive that he follows through. Main basis for that is the other Key adaptations, the endings of them are always disappointing (not too bad a spoiler) and I think writing tragically can only be done so much before you have to give your fans a “happy ending”. He would typecast himself to death if this ends badly, so I have a feeling Otonashi and Kanade are able to get everyone but Yuri and we have a nice touching scene at the end where Otonashi finally succeeds, and liberates Yuri’s soul.

    Another problem, which kind of hurts alot of the story is the Kanade-moe factor. The three head moves at the end of ep 9 were totally fan bait, which causes me to wonder how much of this show I should take critically, and how much is otaku waifu bait.

    To your actual argument, I dont know if it is about forgetting your regret, but coming to terms with them. Regrets are in everyone, and if they aren’t properly dealt with they can govern your life and cause untold social problems along with depressions etc. Its not healthy to dwell on them and make your life around the things that you wish you did differently. I think the point of the show is to kind of let these kids have some normalcy. While all their lives took so much away, here they can just exist in a world where there is no tragedy, is no pain or suffering, and let them life the lives that they should have been able to live before it was taken away from them by things outside of their control. It almost seems like this world is meant to be an apology by God to them for having their lives be plagued by things that seem unfair.

  8. Mabui
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Part of the problem with Angel Beats for me at least, has been the over the top violence that started out from the very beginning. I think they could have got a lot more traction out of it – if they had slowly ramped it up over time rather then bringing it to comedic massive points from the beginning.

    There are still plenty of things that can go wrong, and struggles ahead though, so I don’t think worrying about this particular pairing taking it down. Not forgetting that while Kanade was in the hospital they were continuing to alter her programming,

    Also, ‘god’ learns the ability of mind control – so I doesn’t seem to be outside of the realm of possibility for normal people to gain powers.

    Lastly, I think there is chance for a few very interesting and satisfying endings depending on the directions they take from this point on. Though, I too have my doubts.

  9. Posted June 1, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    A lot of good points made here, and on the point of forgive vs forget, the way I interpreted the series in that regard is that you don’t necessarily “forgive” to forget. Put in a more concrete way, there were three things that I had in my mind while writing the article – Iwasawa’s disappearance scene and Otonashi’s voice over with a bunch of scenes in the background near the end of Ep 9. Iwasawa’s disappearance wasn’t really acknowledging that she can move beyond her past, but rather she completely skirted around the issue. I never really saw any acknowledgment concerning her past. Instead, she felt completely caught up in the present and in her singing. That might be a case of bad translations though.
    As for the scene concerning Otonashi’s voice over, I interpreted that part as looking to the future and not to the past. The emphasis in that scene is on the lives that the characters will lead in their next lives, not acknowledging or getting past the wrongs that occurred in their previous lives.

    That being said, I do believe that there is a difference between acceptance vs forgetting. Perhaps the pessimist in me was raging out when I wrote that post hehe. I’ll be interested to see how the series ends up dealing with having to explain about 10 or so backstories and their solutions in the next three episodes, especially with Yuri’s backstory, which seems the most troublesome. I’ll also be watching how Otonashi ends up dealing with the multiple backstories, which will probably be more fun to watch on a purely aesthetic level.

  10. DriverBob
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see, what can I add that hasn’t been said…

    I think the forgive vs forget debate is actually the central debate in the show. Forget is represented by Team Yuri, who holds on to her pain as a defining part of her. Forgive is Team Kanade (I’m getting t-shirts made up) who knows the peace of coming to terms with your regrets. The truth, as usually, hides somewhere in the middle, represented by Otonashi. The fact is, no one is going to accept Kanade’s peace without raging against the machine, so in that sense Yuri’s group is necessary before one can reach enlightenment. And you can’t force it, which is where Kanade is going wrong. Otanashi now knows the path to travel from the Yuri side to the Kanade side, but I think he is going to run into the same problems as Kanade – you can’t be TOLD what the matrix is…OK, loosing train of thought here.

    In my perfect ending, Kanade, Otonashi and Yuri come to a unspoken truce, where Yuri creates the place for the newly dead to vent their rage at their former life, Kanade gives substance to that rage as a target, and Otonashi guides the soul to peace as a double agent. You can even keep some or all of the SSS as Yuri’s agents of resistance. Wow, that sounds more profound than I thought it would, if I had taken Comparative Religion 101 I could be drawing all sort of Buddhist/Christian or Lucifer/God allegories and stuff!

    What do I think is going to happen in the end? Not that…

    • Chronolynx
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Hmm. That could be interesting, but it does ignore what to me is the central question of the show: Who is running this place? Whether or not he’s god, someone or something made this place for them. We know a why — or think we do — but no who, no when, no how. And if the show refuses to tackle that question in particular, then it will have lost any respect I had for it.

      • Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        I dunno.

        I’ve always seen Angel Beats somewhat differently from most people.

        I don’t think the issue of forgiveness and forgetting was the point, but rather, that those who passed on were left with something that they did not do when they were still alive.

        The reason the SSS fight was because they were unaware of why they were here and what was it they had to do to get out, only driven by their regrets of not having lived their lives. They attacked Kanade, who they assume was a representative of the powers that be that was responsible for their sad lives. After all, for those who live sad lives, they’d be angry at said higher power too.

        In episode 3, we saw what it took to get out: Doing that thing you regret not doing and overcoming said regret. I thought it was rather nice to see Iwasawa finally doing what she really wanted to do, and then finally laving without regret. Which I think was the point of the whole show to begin with.

        • Posted June 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          I don’t really think forgiveness is Team Yuri so to speak. After all, they don’t want to deny their past; they feel haunted by their past. Haunted to the point that they feel the need to take action against those who they feel are responsible. I think it’s a bit too early to tell where Otonashi lies, though for the moment he’s in team Kanade.

          The Iwasawa scene still troubles me because, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, she never really confronted the part of her story that caused her to (presumably) join the SSS in the first place – her injury. When she “overcame her regret”, she acts like her parental issues and her subsequent injury never really happened, which I construed as her ignoring those issues completely.

          • Chronolynx
            Posted June 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

            I think maybe you’re misconstruing what happened. She wasn’t so much upset by her parental injuries as she was upset that they got in the way of her dream. She wanted to perform on the stage, and she did. (Although I’m still not entirely sure of what happened there.) Likewise, the blue-haired guy in the baseball episode; he regretted no catching that ball, so if he had caught it there he probably would have disappeared. The point isn’t to overwrite their personal tragedies, but to live out the dreams those tragedies prevented.

          • Posted June 3, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

            That’s what I meant. When she joined the SSS, I assume that Iwasawa was cursing her fate. She had this great voice and great talent, and then the fact that she was born into this abusive family ruined it all. Why is life unfair? Why did she get the short end of the stick? Why did God, if there is one, prevent me from singing my song for the world to hear? When Iwasawa disappeared from the world, she didn’t ask or answer a single one of those questions. Being able to disappear from this world by blocking out the bad memories of your past life just doesn’t fly with me.
            The case with Hinata confused me because it seemed like his entire “problematic” childhood was all his fault, and not the work of some external force/event. It did end up making me realize that this world is probably more than just a place where kids with troubled childhoods go. His case didn’t really deal with the question of the unfairness of his fate as was the case with Iwasawa and Yuri. If his regret was not catching the ball (and to be honest it’s a pretty crappy regret haha), then yeah, I can see why catching the ball would “save him”. I still kind of treat that episode was a filler-like episode with loose connections with the storyline though :P

  11. Posted June 3, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    A belated welcome comrade – currently on hols, so will look forward to reading and commenting on your stuff properly later… :)

  12. Posted June 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    NOT THE PUPPIESSS!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

  13. Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I know I’m coming to this thread late, but there are some great discussions and insights here for me to chew on, having just caught up with Angel Beats at last.

    To synthesize a lot of what has been said already by previous commenters: in a way this is like a purgatory without fire, reincarnation without karma. I’m especially intrigued by Matt’s phrase that this world, in some ways, seems like an “apology from God” for the difficult lives these characters led. At the very least, it represents the ultimate Second Chance, the fulfillment of the wish all of us have had when we feel regretful–”if only I could have…” That they get one is a kind of grace, perhaps, and one that not everyone recognizes as such at first. Yuri’s attitude sometimes reminds me of CS Lewis’s comment that perhaps Hell’s door is only locked from the inside, not the outside.

    I’ll be organizing all these disparate thoughts into a real post tomorrow. Thanks for the stimulation!

2 Trackbacks

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    [...] expressed by FlareKnight. Similar sentiment but expressed with a different (Lockean) framework from Mystlord who compares it to Evangelion. I had some unease with the messiah complex but I suppose it should [...]

  • By Angel Beats! 13 and Review on June 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    [...] was actually really fitting. Aside from that, the ending did nothing to change my opinion from this post. As EO pointed out, the characters’ backstories were kind of swept out of sight, and [...]

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