Mystlord: And thus Angel Beats! ends… And what a ride it’s been. The show has certainly generated some extremely divisive views, and judging from general responses on Twitter, there’s certainly just as much backlash and praise for how the show ended (I personally try not to read posts concerning animes I’m blogging before I finish the post). And well, as per the suggestion of Ryan on my previous post, I decided to bring ExecutiveOtaku along with me to give another set of impressions on the final episode and the series as a whole. So without further ado let’s dive right in! Oh, and there’s a lot of text here… Just a fair warning.
Impressions of episode 13
ExecutiveOtaku: It all felt a bit sudden for this episode, with the exception of Naoi’s words about gaining confidence and Tenshi/Kanade’s big reveal. While Kanade has progressed over the last few episodes, the way she was acting so friendly and in such a lighthearted manner during the graduation ceremony was still quite jarring. It didn’t feel natural, not the cutesy stuff, how much work she put into the ceremony, nor how quickly she took to Yuri as if she were a long time friend. Yuri for her part just felt like she dropped half her personality to become more friendly and moe-like for the start of the episode. How the characters interacted before and during the ceremony brought back to me that original criticism from when the show started…
“Oh [insert quiet kuudere character name], you really do like doing this stuff don’t you?” *moe blush and/or nod*. Sound familiar? Yuki playing the LoGH-style space sim anyone? The Yuri-Haruhi comparisons have been made long ago, in terms of personality, appearance, and role in the narrative. She even gets offered the ability to be god. Yuzuru? I’m sure you can see it too. Beyond the three main characters I may be stretching it a bit, but hear me out. In a way it’s like a going-nowhere, extroverted yaoi version of the love triangle between Kyon, Mikuru, and Koizumi. This is not to say that it’s a total rip-off and thus deserves to be instantly dismissed, but they way the writers suddenly modified some of the characters’ personalities to make them function in such a Haruhi-style chummy manner just did not feel right. Thankfully this personality shift did not carry over to the big reveals, discussed in the melodrama section.
Mystlord: I don’t think I’m alone in this opinion, but I personally found the character development in the final episode to be a bit… strange. First of all, I was really troubled by the complete disappearance of the remainder of the SSS brigade. I wish we had a chance to see a bit more of their final reactions, (and I’m sure TK would’ve done something epic too!), but unfortunately we were denied that.
Aside from that, I felt really confused and even angered by Yuri’s and Kanade’s sudden change in character. EO touched on the change in personality that Kanade and Yuri experienced, so I’ll just elaborate on why I really dislike it, especially Yuri’s change. For starters, and I know that this is a complaint I raised in the previous episode, there’s not enough set up. I didn’t get why Yuri suddenly became completely tsunmoe for the final episode, nor why nor how Kanade suddenly became happy go lucky when she basically didn’t have ANY dialogue for the past two or so episodes. Was she ever this carefree? If so, I certainly don’t remember.
But moving onto why I didn’t like Yuri’s development. It’s really rare in many animes these days to find a female character who’s as strong as she is. All too often you find female lead characters in anime that may appear to be strong, but once she encounters the male of her dreams, she just breaks down. Yuri looked like she was going to finish the series as a strong female lead, and one that rarely, if ever, showed such a weak side. Unfortunately episode 13 just shredded my hopes into little pieces, and thus I’m left with this image of a weak, moe-fied female character in my head. It leaves such a poor aftertaste when you consider just how strong she used to be.
But to end on a positive note, I’m really glad the way Naoi, Hinata, and to a certain extent Otonashi turned out. Naoi and Hinata stayed true to their characters, and I have to say I admire them for that. Otonashi was also fine for the majority of the episode. There’s one thing that I really disliked about how he turned out, but I’ll tackle that in the Plot Conclusion section because it’s all related to that 10 second clip after the credits.
Melodrama (Because it is a Key work after all!)
ExecutiveOtaku: The melodrama was done to perfection in this episode. But at times the perfect can be the enemy of the good, and it did get a bit clinical sometimes. On the good side the whole ceremony setup was a great format to showcase the characters’ stories and changes. They didn’t even really need the last minute ‘friendliness up’ that the writers gave them to make the scene work. Sitting together they had a chance to engage in a ritual to formally (and melodramatically) put their experiences in the afterlife to rest. The diplomas were a nice symbol, almost over the line into clinical, blatant tear-jerking but not quite. And Yuri’s was a sweet, heartwarming touch, as was the Yuzuru/Hinata switching of places. What I felt subtracted from the scene was a case of the usual Angel Beats Syndrome where they throw random comedy in that just ruins the mood, the mapo tofu song, and then revert instantly back to serious. The other was the singing of class songs at the end, which just felt like blatant tear-jerkery to me. The scene already had tons of emotional impact, they didn’t need to overdo it by throwing in the standardized, plastic, cliche high school graduation songs.
The other major melodrama moment was the final scenes with Yuzuru and Kanade, which I thought was excellent. It wasn’t marred by any random, misplaced humor, nor did it fall back on too many cliches to deliver its point. Something that impressed me earlier in the show was how Yuzuru gave his death meaning by encouraging everyone to become organ donors before he died, and the show returned to that theme for Kanade’s thank you. It really is a theme worth promoting, and who knows maybe the propensity for otaku to buy or do anything done in an anime can have a positive social effect. (I was an organ donor before Angel Beats made it cool!) At first I thought her thank you was going to be some less original ‘surprise, I’m your sister!’ reveal, but when the organ donation issue was brought back up it felt very understated and satisfying. While the ending didn’t explain 90% of how the afterlife world works, the way it brought Yuzuru’s donation, Kanade’s heart, and the regaining of his memories together was nicely done. The scene got a tear out of me, which is more than I can say for the other attempts at emotional connection the show has had. I’m still on the fence about that Butterfly Effect ending though. I wonder if there’s a darker director’s cut ending to this too…
Mystlord: EO already said a lot of what I thought about the melodrama in this final episode, so there’s not much for me to add. I felt the ceremony was almost well done. The series got a lot of its comedic tendencies out of the way in the time leading up to the handing out of the diplomas, and after that I thought the ceremony would be smooth sailing to the melodrama. And then…
I felt the mood was perfect leading up to this point. The handing out of the diplomas as well as Otonashi’s address were really well done. I especially loved the montage of all the major backgrounds in the series thus far. Without the members of the SSS brigade occupying them, they really made me aware of just how much energy the brigade members brought to each location, and just how much I’ll miss them. The school anthem (or whatever that is) was also a great moment for me, as it really evoked a lot of emotions and memories about the characters. But then they decided to add in this random comedic moment, and it just broke everything for me. But thankfully the final speeches from Naoi, Yuri, and Hinata did not disappoint, and were really done well from my perspective.
And thus we move onto the predictable big Maeda Jun melodramatic moment of the series: Otonashi and Kanade. Definitely a good job in that regard. EO definitely said everything I want to say, and I do admit that I did feel empathetic at the end, but the final moments were too… overdramatic? I got impatient after Kanade said “thank you” for the third time without disappearing, and once Otonashi started clawing the air, I just couldn’t stop smiling because it was just far too silly (or maybe I have no soul?). The tortured scream into the air didn’t help matters either… Completely cliched, so I was a bit disappointed.
ExecutiveOtaku: Giving the overall plot and the world a conclusion is the biggest place where the final episode failed. The nature of the world, what the Angel Player is in it, the constant computer/coding references, what was going on with control room, all sorts of things weren’t explained adequately or at all. When a show has so much mystery as integral to its plot, it’s inexcusable to end things without telling the audience more than was told here. And what was up with Yuzuru getting into the afterlife world? He said that he got there by chance, that because he lost his memories he ended up there. So what, the god or super-intelligent computer or reincarnating will of the universe can be tricked just because someone has lost their memories? Did God/Daedalus/Buddha lose their memory too?
Mystlord: Going back to the disappearance of the SSS brigade, I’m totally troubled by the disparity between the effort it took Yui and Iwasawa to disappear, versus the (non) trouble it took to send off everyone else in the SSS brigade. I suppose it’s the best they could do given the time constraints, though I’m still severely disappointed by that. Oh well.
There’s still a lot to be desired in terms of plot conclusion. Open ended plot elements are fine in character driven animes like Haibane Renmei, but when the major catalyst for a lot of action in this series was primarily plot, the lack of information about the world and all its elements feels like a giant empty hole in the series. No explanation for really anything.
I agree with everything EO said, but the one plot hole that emerged in the final episode that didn’t get a satisfactory answer is precisely how Otonashi arrived in the world much later after Kanade. The implied answer is that Otonashi’s soul wandered for a while before finding its way to this world… But that would require knowledge of how he lost his memories in the first place… And we would also need to know exactly how this world works… And so on and so forth.
Final plot point that I felt was actually really silly was the ten second clip after the end of the credits. I felt, again, a little disappointed. Now this is pure opinion, but I would really have liked Otonashi to have stayed in the other world. I mean I thought that he had learned to be kind and selfless from his previous life. It turns out that apparently his own love for Kanade overpowered that urge, and I feel it made him a weaker character. I’m also surprised that his regret didn’t end up becoming “not getting to stay with Kanade”. But whatever. The ending also only served to remind me about the unfinished plot. How does Otonashi remember Kanade? Does that mean you get reborn? Is there a God? What is that world? I guess we all need our happy ends after melodramas or something.
ExecutiveOtaku: Melodrama and character resolutions ranged from good to great, but there was some definite personality tampering that in the end wasn’t needed, and an explanation of the world was completely lacking. If I were grading it I’d give it a C+ for an ending episode. If it didn’t do the character resolutions and emotions so well it would have gotten an F.
Mystlord: A mixed bag in terms of an ending episode in my opinion. Too many plot points left unresolved, character portrayals were all over the board, but the melodrama and sentimental feeling was good. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to compromise all those into a single letter grade, so I won’t.
Characters (Design, Development, and Depth)
ExecutiveOtaku: Design wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t particularly impressed either. The characters promised much depth, but only some of them delivered on it. Yuzuru, Hinata, and Kanade really shined through to me as they developed over the course of the series. Yuzuru regaining his memories was really key for making him a worthwhile character in my opinion. Contrast him to Yuri, who had a traumatic experience but when it came down to it, knowing what happened to her didn’t really impact how I understood her as a person. Hinata went from almost a background extra to someone who revealed much more of himself in the rushed Yui incident, then showed real development and courage in joining Yuzuru’s faction right at the start. Kanade’s development wasn’t perfect, but in the end she did have a nice surprise for us in her final reveal.
Mystlord: I have to say that on the surface, the characters are what made this show watchable and likeable for me. Unfortunately, most of the characters didn’t get fleshed out at all. Definitely a problem associated with the length of the show, but regardless of the physical limitations, it’s still something that I really dislike about the series. Those guys who just disappeared, were just always on my mind, and I have to say they made a far greater impression on me than Kanade, who turned out to be the most retarded character ever conceived. A completely one dimensional personality, little character background, and only good for moe appeal. Other than that I felt the main characters were overall well developed and very likeable.
ExecutiveOtaku: Promised much, delivered little. Mystery was central to this show, but it fed us lots of clues only to disappoint and not explain the vast majority of them. Unfortunately, I was left completely hanging as to the nature of the world and setting. Definitely more unrealized potential. The show also often derailed itself from the plot it was trying to explore by throwing in terribly timed, scene breaking bits of humor. If you’re doing a mostly serious show but want to have comedy, the comedy should be like a precision guided small diameter bomb. It should hit just where you want it to, and not have the area of effect spill over beyond the intended target. Angel Beats decided to use cluster bombs.
Mystlord: Very poorly done and also disorganized. I didn’t feel like the show had a coherent narrative at all. Instead, it was jumping around from random event to random event throughout the series, with none, if any, linking narrative. Aside from that, I felt rather cheated by the reveal that the fighting was caused by Kanade’s social awkwardness. It really drained the tension out of the first half of the series for me. Pair that up with Yuri’s stubbornness and… Well whatever. I also agree completely with EO in terms of how comedy just ruined the plot.
ExecutiveOtaku: I’d have more to say here if I felt that Angel Beats utilized its main theme of acceptance and moving on more fully. As it was, it felt like the show barely scratched the surface of what could have been a very interesting topic. There could have been and interesting back and forth between the Yuri and the Kanade-Yuzuru points of view about integration of the past vs moving on from it, but alas there wasn’t. I’d really, really have liked to see that debate in Angel Beats. The show pretty quickly took the ‘accept and move on side’ though, and in a way did so somewhat cheaply because it felt more like a ‘throw it away, move on’ approach represented by the graduation ceremony. I didn’t feel so much that the characters accepted their pasts so much as they left them behind.
Mystlord: One of the few things on which Angel Beats! was able to stay somewhat consistent. As Aorii over at Major Arcana said, the show heavily focused on the theme of life, and it was definitely a prevalent theme. Someone in the comments also pointed out the theme of mono no aware (transiency of life), which I thought 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 especially with the members of the SSS brigade being able to go “poof” like that, I felt that they weren’t confronting the feelings that made them want to stay and fight God in the first place.
ExecutiveOtaku: Initially it felt pretty right, but once the Kanade-Yuzuru alliance was formed it felt like it was going far too fast and suffered for it. The final episode was a nice return to a suitable pace though.
Mystlord: Anyone who’s read any of my posts know that this is my biggest problem with the series. The pacing in this show leaves a lot to be desired, especially considering just how well done the pacing was in Clannad. At points the show moved extremely quickly, only to slow down by the latter part of the same episode. The amount of dialogue stuffed into episode 12 definitely threw me off as well.
Animation and Sound
ExecutiveOtaku: Excellent in terms of quality, above average in terms of artistry. PA Works has done great things in their few series to date, and Angel Beats is no exception. I would have liked a bit more creativity in terms of shot composition and artistry, it wasn’t the most original in that respect through much of the series. But overall I really liked it. The background music didn’t really strike me, nor did the ED (though it was used to great comedic effect in the first Guild episode), but the OP was one of my favorites of the season. Having the Yui rock version of it was also very cool. Loved the animation in both OP sequences as well.
Mystlord: Above average. There’s definitely some inconsistent character designs floating throughout some episodes, but the animation was consistently fluid. The backgrounds are also very detailed, which I really loved. Very well done by PA Works on the animation front. The sound was.. a mixed bag. I didn’t feel that there was a lot of background music, but instead the silence was filled by very light ambient sounds. The silence didn’t really help the mood when I was trying to connect to the characters, and I would have liked some more melancholy pieces to add to the character backgrounds. The OP and ED were very well done and animated. The Insert songs though… I think the reason why Iwasawa was removed in episode 3 was to get rid of marina. No offense there, but it felt like she didn’t know how to sing. Lisa is a slight improvement, but still not too much better. I think it’s telling just how poorly marina did if they release a Yui version of all her songs… I wish they could have found someone better to sing the songs.
ExecutiveOtaku: The character of Naoi is actually a pretty good metaphor for how I feel about Angel Beats. When he first showed up I hated him, but then quickly began to like him, even if he didn’t make much sense in terms of how he operated according to the rules of the show. But for all that I really wanted to like him and found him genuinely entertaining. And at the end he had a great final moment of character resolution before exiting the stage. But when he did, nothing, not a thing was explained about his place in the world, how he was god, why he suddenly fit into the group, why he suddenly was infatuated with Yuzuru, and why he would join the Kanade-Yuzuru side.
In the end, from Naoi and the show in general, I got some weird mixed up humor but a likable character, and some touching character resolution but a complete lack of crucial explanations. He is Angel Beats in one character.
Mystlord: I feel that it was an overall average series. The length was a major issue here, and some characters, even the main characters, didn’t get the kind of development I felt they needed. I think what I said in a previous post sums up my reaction fairly well: Identity Crisis. This show didn’t know what to do, so it ended up doing everything decently, instead of doing some things well. There was a lot of potential for this series, but it all ended up getting wasted. I’m not exactly sure who to recommend this to, because the people who like and dislike this series are seriously all across the board. Just try it out for a bit I suppose.