Truest statement ever made in this anime
Why do I even bother with you anymore Angel Beats! Your plot has me engrossed, but I’m even starting to find that really frustrating. At least there’s only one more episode of it left… Let’s see how MJ will wrap everything up in one episode! It honestly seems impossible from my point of view – wrapping up this entire shadow business and Otonashi’s plan. I have this unshakable feeling that one of those plot lines will get shafted, but what are you going to do at this point… Why MJ… Why…
I do honestly regret not writing down my impressions as I watched the episode, as I feel like some of my thoughts on the episode drained out of me by writing this so long after I watched the episode, but here goes anyway.
Angel Beats suffers from a multitude of problems, some of which I touched on in my Angel Beats 10 post. There is a strange disjoint of comedy and drama present throughout the entire series, which dampens the impact of a lot of key dramatic moments. The show is also growing more and more absurd with each episode, as we’re asked to believe more and more completely unbelievable character actions and motivations.
Yet there has been one realm of absurdity that the series never touched on, until this episode – plot absurdity (at least it jumped out at me during this episode!). What I mean by that is that the show seems to be throwing any coherent plot right out the window, and is just floating along, doing whatever the hell it pleases, and contradicting itself within the same episode. I think this is an indication that our beloved Maeda Jun has certainly gone crazy.
Just like Hidaeki Anno, MJ has incorporated elements of his craziness into Angel Beats! Now what may those crazy elements be? Well, let’s find out!
1) The origins of the Shadows – In the episode, we discover that someone is actively manipulating the NPCs in the Angel Beats! world to apparently trap everyone in this world forever. We also get this shot of an NPC transforming into a shadow:
Sucks for the NPC
But wait a second… Where did the first shadow in the series come from?
Woah wait. Any shadow can become a shadow enemy?
An actual shadow? So this criminal mastermind can also force people’s shadows to become shadow enemies? Hm. That’s interesting. Shame there wasn’t anything mentioning that in the episode itself!
2) The “numbers” of Shadows – You could sense this phenomenon in the Cloned Kanade arc, where Kanade could supposedly use harmonics as many times as she wanted to, but apparently only made enough so that there was one clone for each SSS brigade member. That was fine because you could posit that she had a time limit on Harmonics or something like that. But here, there are constant remarks about the growing number of shadows, but they’re oddly missing. Apparently the SSS brigade can still wander around campus just fine despite all these shadows roaming around. Who knew? I think during the ending sequence we got a snapshot of a lot of areas in the Angel Beats world – all strangely shadowless.
Shadow gone where?
3) Kanade’s Wings – Ok, following up on Otonashi’s wish for wings in the previous episode, Kanade actually coded wings into her program… For decoration right? Haha WRONG!
These wings WORK damn it!
And they just mentioned the wings being decorative a few scenes back… Unless Kanade was lying? I don’t really see the motivation behind that… But ok!
4) Following Orders – There are two instances of this plot hole. At the beginning of the episode, Yuri made an outstanding order to all SSS members to travel in groups! Alright travel in groups! Good job, when the SSS brigade on the field got attacked, they were in a group. Plot crisis averted! Wrong.
Didn’t you just get an order to travel in groups?
So apparently both Ooyama and Takamatsu were wandering alone eh? That’s ok, it’s possible that Ooyama just went to get a drink and Takamatsu didn’t want to go get one and so he stayed in this open area and waited for Ooyama but got attacked before Ooyama came back. Yes, that makes perfect sense.
The second time where those orders were disobeyed was pretty much during the end of the episode, when the numbers of shadows were increasing (supposedly), and danger was everywhere. Even with all that danger, the members of the SSS brigade like to stay alone in their own special corners. It confounds the imagination! (See the picture collage above to see what I’m talking about)
5) Number of “Players” in the Angel Beats game world – Kanade made a comment back at the end of episode 8 (or 9?), that everyone in this world is here because of a bad childhood. Ok, I bought that. In this episode, apparently there are actually NPCs in this world, and they can be turned into shadows. Obviously player characters can’t be turned into shadows, or the mastermind would just turn the SSS brigade all into shadows, which would save him a lot of trouble. So that means soulless NPCs exist. In that case, I think it’s a fair assumption that all characters who aren’t freaked out by the shadows and seek shelter somehow are NPCs. After all, it is an extraordinary occurrence. In that case, that means that the only real humans are the members of the SSS brigade?
Small number of “real people”
This is it? These are all the humans who had a terrible childhood or had some regrets in life? Well wow! Guess there isn’t that much misery in Japan. What a great society. Guess where I’m moving to?
6) Yuri knows what Otonashi’s doing! – Ok, perhaps this isn’t a plot inconsistency per say, but I just found that entire part of the show to be completely unbelievable. I think it’s because the lack of any sort of set up at all. There weren’t hints dropped during any other episode; it was just thrown at us in the face. I didn’t even see any indication that she knew what was going on in the previous episode, though my memory could be fading on that.
7) WTF she’s not an angel?? – … You’ve got to be kidding me. This doesn’t even deserve a real entry. Didn’t we establish that she acquired her powers from her computer? Otonashi was present for the first raid into Kanade’s room, and I would hope that Yuri would tell the members of the SSS about the situation with Kanade’s program. I’m just… Never mind.
That reaction… It’s a joke right? RIGHT?
The inconsistencies in the show have reached a point where I feel like I’m watching Arakawa Under the Bridge. There’s far too much insanity going on that our minds, and even Maeda Jun’s mind apparently, are overloading. We can barely squeeze out a coherent plot anymore, much less separate comedy and drama. We even had Naoi crack his “I’m a God” joke at times when the mood was supposed to be serious (during Otonashi’s speech). That single moment just made me facepalm rather than pay attention to what was actually going on in the story.
But I’m sure that you’ve read enough posts that just lambast Angel Beats. It’s probably good to point out some things that Angel Beats does right, and it might even raise the show in my eyes a bit more. If there’s one thing that’s absolutely wonderful about all the characters in Angel Beats, it’s that even though they’re all unbelievable, they’re all living their lives to the fullest and with no regrets in this strange and hostile world. There hasn’t been one character yet that hasn’t done just what he or she wants to do. We haven’t seen someone like Otonashi in his past life, who barely has a personality. And that’s part of what makes Angel Beats fun to watch. The characters are just so full of personality that at times the absurdity even feels acceptable because it exaggerates the personality of each and every character. Even though we know nothing about the past of each individual character, the focus of the show is and always has been focused on this world, where the characters have moved beyond their pasts. What’s important is the here and now, and the show plays up that fact.
Lately, the focus on the background of each individual characters have decreased, as evidenced by Yui’s 5 second background. The focus of that episode was around the life that Yui is living right now, and the importance of doing just what you want to do in life. No individual in this world is living a false existence. Naoi is doing whatever the hell he wants instead of feeling restricted by someone else’s expectations, and Yui is doing what she wants as she couldn’t do them in her past life. The message present in Angel Beats is an optimistic one, and the emphasis in episode 11 is once again focused around the ability of each individual character to do what he/she wants. Fighting for the SSS, dancing your heart out, working/loving Otonashi, etc.
After all, the tragedy of Takamatsu’s transformation into an NPC is that he can’t do what he wants anymore. We won’t get to see him express his manliness anymore, and we won’t get to see any of his antics anymore. Isn’t that the ultimate tragedy? To have no free will whatsoever? Takamatsu’s death is heavily contrasted with the truly hyper representations of every other character in this episode. In the battle scene, we saw TK dance like crazy and Kanade act like a killing machine. We saw Naoi being… whatever he is, and Ooyama being a coward as always. Can you imagine the Angel Beats world with these characters having the personality of a post-converted Takamatsu? I certainly can’t. I can’t imagine any of these characters losing the aspect of their personality that makes them dear to me, and why I can even turn off my brain during some episodes of Angel Beats to just enjoy their antics.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’d feel sad to see him go…
But you know, now that I’ve written all of that, I feel like I have a greater appreciation for Angel Beats, where I feel that the show is rather justified in its absurd represen- … Wait a second… I just remembered the whole episodes spent on Otonashi’s background and the entire 2nd halves of episodes spent on character backgrounds… God damn it Angel Beats! What the hell are you? Comedy or drama? WHAT ARE YOU? Never mind – I still dislike this show (although I was serious in those last three paragraphs; please don’t write them off!)
Sometimes I wonder if Angel Beats is just a tsundere show. I-i-it’s not like I want to make you laugh! Just take the drama already!