Angel Beats! 13 and Review

And suddenly the heart beat makes so much more sense…

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

Character Development/Depth

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…

This happened.

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.

Plot Conclusion

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.

The OTP of the series… Their love transcends reality!

Overall Impressions

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Plot

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.

Themes

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.

Or maybe just hiding them under a sheet…

Pacing

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.

Overall Impressions

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.

Behold my metaphor!

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.

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37 Comments

  1. Posted June 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    “it’s inexcusable to end things without telling the audience more than was told”
    I have to say I disagree very strongly with this. Stories are more than allowed to leave bits of pieces free for the audience to interpret for themselves, especially stories that are more philosophical (or pretending to be, in AB!’s case) in nature. Think from Blade Runner to Total Recall (which was actually my first thought at that line). Given the nature of the show, if AB! tried to explain everything, Maeda would of just came off as trying to force his views of spirituality onto others… which mind, he’s already doing a lot of, and it’s already estranged a number of people who disagrees.

    Key has never been one for strong plot integration (all their works had huge deus ex moments stuck in). They’ve never been subtle in mood/tone fine tuning either… what gives them the ability to highlight melodrama is the same reason why their humor is carpet-dropped. IMO I don’t see what’s wrong with it but… meh opinions.

    • Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      But here’s the thing, I think that you’re in the right when it comes to when storytelling is allowed to leave things out. At least amongst the film watchers and friends I have at college, there’s a large split between people who want to know all, and those who just accept what’s thrown at them. Whenever I strike up a conversation with them about what movies they’ve watched, you’d be surprised at what the commonality is between the people who can enjoy not having everything explained. In my case, they always had one odd film to round off their experience; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, or some random esoteric film I don’t know about. I don’t know if the films I mentioned were good examples, but my point is made. Supposedly there’s an actual term for the technique of properly ‘leaving stuff out’ but I can’t be arsed to remember.

      I don’t know if this means that when I watch anime (or anything) that I am somehow okay with plot holes, crappy story, or inconsistencies, but it takes something incredibly stupid and insipid to stop me from enjoying the experience.

      • Matt
        Posted June 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        I think there is a difference between a show that has plot holes and a show that leaves out information. This might be a bad example that might get me in trouble, but in the LOTR movies, there was a lot of story left out. Mainly due to the shear volume of work but the thing that made it all work was that there was a consistent narrative that was strong and fleshed out and made sense. Yeah Tom Bombadil would have been nice, the Hobbit War would have been nice, but they were fluff to the main story, they didnt need to be told, but they would be interesting if they were in there.

        Compare that method to something like Angel Beats!. Im not sure there ever was a consistent narrative that was strong enough on its own that we could all muse afterwards things like “I wonder about TK, that would have been a good story but overall this show was solid”. Now we are talking about things like what happened to the other 20 odd characters that were there one ep and gone the next and seemed to be totally useless and their inclusion just made us curious as to what that was supposed to mean. Angel Beats seems to be made out of a bunch of threads that arent long enough, are often frayed and none seem to make it from beginning to some sort of end. Whereas something like the LOTR movies or even manga-anime adaptations that dont tell the whole story of the manga, but just a small chunk represent a decently well woven thread, they have the odd lose end and a few places where we could see a more extravagant thread, but on the whole, whats there does the job.

        Hope that analogy makes sense, I use to to just say that there is a major difference between information not told and information that seems really critical and we are constantly bothered by the lack there of of that information which inhibits the proper viewing experience.

    • Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I don’t 100 percent agree with that, either, but the difference between Total Recall and Angel Beats is that the former builds a world and story that make sense, and the ambiguity is just enough to leave the audience rocking at the end, whereas the latter builds a world and story that have a lot of logical problems and issues.

      Take the organ donor twist, for instance: It’s a good emotional moment, but it makes absolutely no sense considering how the world has been built to that point. (If Kanade dies after Otonashi, then how is she in this world — for a good while, no less — before Otonashi? Where is Otonashi that whole time? Does he just appear in the purgatory when it’s convenient for the show?) It’s an emotional moment born from sloppy writing and world building; it isn’t really earned at all. Frankly, I appreciated that scene more for the actual quality of the scenario itself rather than any emotion it stirred in me. (And I say this as someone who shed more than a few tears watching Air and Clannad.)

      Total Recall’s ambiguity works because it fits in with what the audience is shown during the movie; it also helps that the story makes perfect sense when viewed with and without the lens of those ambiguous plot elements. Same with Blade Runner. Neither movie is an especially deep example of world building, but they do just enough to support relatively logical stories. Angel Beats fails at that.

      I don’t believe everything in a story needs to be spelled out for the audience, but a world should be at least built consistently enough to support the story, even when it goes off in an ambiguous direction.

      • Chronolynx
        Posted June 29, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        Well, the organ donor thing does make some sense if you’re familiar with some of Maeda’s other works (namely Clannad). It’s possible that there’s no “time” in our sense of the word in that world, similar to Clannad’s Illusionary World.

      • Posted June 29, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        I don’t remember anything in AB! that claimed its time-space continuum is directly in parallel to our own. For all we know some of those characters may have come centuries from the future of Otonashi’s time. Multiverse-mechanics not withstanding, this is a detail they chose to left out for one reason or another and I don’t think it’s fair to just assume something in its place… especially when worldforging around multiple “dimensions” has always been a sticky issue.

        Maeda isn’t a worldbuilder, when one looks at his works he has virtually no experience in it. Henceforth I always think AB!’s world is meant to be a lot smaller in scope than we try to make of it. It’s also meant to be a world even the character’s don’t quite understand when the audience tries to seek a perfect understanding — not happening.

        • Posted June 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          I concede that, but I still believe that kind of detail is hoisting a bit too much on the audience and asking for an undeserved leap of faith. Saying that this is a world that the characters aren’t meant to understand is a cop-out to me. The audience is supposed to accept that what’s-his-face turned back from an NPC to a human for no real reason? It would be easier for me to accept those kinds of things if the story were built in a way that made me care about the characters — whatever inconsistencies exist in the worlds of Air and Clannad (and I’m sure there are many) have been overlooked by me because the story made me care.

          People bring up Lost in comparison to Angel Beats!; Lost made me care about the characters. I was annoyed at the lack of explanation at the end, but the emotional conclusions at the end overrode that for me because the show had successfully built that audience connection with the characters. Angel Beats! did not do that for me at all, so I focus more on those world flaws.

          • Posted June 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            I would agree with Shinmaru here. In works of fiction, Occam’s razor should always hold unless proven otherwise. I can’t be expected to create a convoluted explanation for why certain things work in the universe depicted to us. I can probably figure out a way to eliminate a lot of plot holes by finding some explanation. I can assume all I want, but when it comes down to it, the plot holes in AB just leave far too much to be desired, especially when such a large part of the show is contingent on the setting.

  2. Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Interesting take, and I agree with a great deal of what was said, particularly about how the comedy was too over the top to be really effective. I’d like to offer a critique to one comment, though:

    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.

    From my understanding, this misses the point entirely. Otonashi’s final temptation, driven by his love for Kanade, is to stay in this quasi afterlife forever, so he can be certain that he’ll stay with her forever. From the show’s perspective is sort of like avoiding heaven because you have a friend in purgatory. Otonashi’s reasons for staying all make a certain amount of sense, but ultimately they are justifications, excuses. He really wants to hang around because he’s in love with Kanade, who by leaving–which is obviously difficult for her as well–avoids that temptation herself and thus “frees” Otonashi to do the same.

    I think the key line is when Kanade begs Otonashi to help her believe that “life is worthwhile.” This afterworld is not life, not in the full: it’s a nevernever land where kids quite literally don’t grow up. For those within it, the point is not to stay in stasis, forever living the high school life, any more than it is to rebel against living a high school life. It is to come to terms with your life, and then move on. Real life is where you grow up, have a family, and try to share some good with the world. The world of Angel Beats! is only an imitation of the real thing, a training ground.

    Otonashi knows this: it’s why he spends all his time helping the rest of his friends to “graduate.” He hesitates only with himself because of his own weakness, not because he’s ready to take the lessons of his old life as an inspiration to help people in this one. Rather, he needs to learn from his own lessons, something that Kanade helps him to do.

    I agree that, with the concept of reincarnation firmly in play, this isn’t perhaps as appealing as it would be if it were a purgatory. (While Haibane Renmei keeps the heaven/reincarnation question completely open, I think that story makes more sense as a whole with Heaven as the end destination.) The memory reset that reincarnation is expected to trigger makes the idea of learning from past experience problematic, although the end scene indicates that it’s not total. Perhaps–and this reading would not be completely alien to some views of reincarnation–everyone who leaves that world comes away with some knowledge or insight that guides them in their next life. Iwasawa might know about singing, for example.

    It’s interesting that you mention Haibane Renmei as an example of a show where an open-ended conclusion didn’t matter. The first time I watched Haibane Renmei, I was actually quite annoyed that it left so many questions unanswered, but the longer I reflected on it, the more I realized that the specific questions of what lies outside the walls or what the whispers are don’t really matter, as the point are the themes of guilt, forgiveness, and grace. Here, there’s a lot more clutter–and I agree that the clutter is ultimately detrimental to what Angel Beats! is trying to do–but I think that in the end the same principle applies. The theme of Angel Beats! trumps any particular plot; that’s what Maeda and the rest of the writers really care about. It’s a pity they couldn’t have taken that lesson to heart themselves when writing it.

    Of course, Haibane Renmei is currently my favorite anime of all time, and unlikely to lose that role anytime soon. By contrast, Angel Beats! doesn’t even make my “buy” list, and part of that is because the latter reveals enough of the underpinnings of the world to lose the “it’s all mysterious” excuse, while not revealing enough to make it seem plausible. But the real flaws with Angel Beats! concern its lack of focus and unnecessary conflicts, all the distractions that cluttered a show which needed a much clearer and directed narrative. As you say, Maeda attempted everything and got away with far less than if he took the main theme and ran with it all the way.

    • Posted June 30, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      I know it misses the point. I know that Otonashi just wants to be with Kanade, as the typical romantic ending dictates. It’s just that “I would really have liked” Otonashi to do that. I can’t believe that a character who literally gave his life to help others would get broken down so much. It’s just painful to see that he gave up his rations in the other life, his only hope to live, so that other people can have a chance. And now… Well… Not nearly as selfless I suppose. I’m not sure whether that portrayal of love offered by the show is positive or negative. It certainly seems negative to me, where love apparently overcomes generosity. So I would have liked Otonashi to have stayed in the afterlife… But that’s personal opinion.

      Haibane Renmei was a show that focused on the characters. While there certainly was a mystery component to that show, and the “Day of Flight” plot point certainly introduced interest about the world outside the walls, in the end the focus was on Reki. Not only that, but the world also felt far more complete than the AB world. We knew everything there was to know about life inside the walls, with the only mystery being the world outside the walls. In Angel Beats, there’s still too many unknown factors of what’s going on inside the world to warrant any feeling of “completeness”.

      • Posted June 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I agree all the plot holes left in Angel Beats! were annoying, and made more so because they were caused by incomplete revelations, rather than by not explaining things at all. Haibane Renmei did not present anything close to a complete world–even within the city, in my opinion–but it left things so open that multiple explanations would be plausible. (I think I remember reading that the creator wanted the show to be open to interpretation.) With Angel Beats! there’s enough hints of the underlying reality to point to a systematic interpretation, namely with all the computer metaphors, but no actual understanding of where it all comes from and why the absentee God would let the system be so easily gamed. The show reveals just enough to get you confused, but not enough to answer those confusions.

        Still, if I’m going to complain about what was left of the show, it wouldn’t be plot holes regarding the setting as much as plot holes regarding the characters and their backstories. I think we’re in agreement that there was a lot of mystery regarding Yuri that could have been mined for good content, particularly the latter parts of her “earthly” life and her original relationship with Kanade. And why have all the named characters if you aren’t going to develop them past the level of quirky mooks?

        As for the portrayal of love, try this: Love is only love when it is focused on the good of the person being loved. If staying in the afterlife is ultimately not good, then loving someone necessitates wishing for them to move on when they are ready–as both of them obviously were. The positive portrayal of love is thus demonstrated by Kanade at the end, not Otonashi.

  3. Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    This show reminds me of LOST. A huge following, a show full of mystery, and a huge cast. But both shows took on too much and instead of trying to explain ANYTHING kept adding on more mystery and ended with an afterlife moving on scene that was suppose to satisfy everyone. But it didn’t.

    Nothing was wrong with Tenshi and Yuri in the first 12 episodes. Both had understandable personalities given their situation. But suddenly episode 13 comes around and both girls are totally different. Yuri pissed me off most with her giggling and blushy. Where is the strong girl we knew for months? And Tenshi magically loves Otonashi now? Yes how random.

    Naoi and Hinata were more stable throughout the series thus were more enjoyable characters. Otonashi lost his damn mind by wanting to stay in that world and not moving on to be with his friends.

    But I think the weakest point of the last episode was not seeing all the SSS members move on. They deserved more than a two line explanation on what happened to them. :( So disappointing.

    • Matt
      Posted June 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I really like the idea of a comparison to LOST in structure because I feel it is very accurate in the way both shows pace themselves by having a very ambiguous place that is populated by alot of characters and then the writers seem to want to operate as if they are ADD children told to write some fiction.

      Just I few thoughts while reading this, firstly, I did not mind the humour and how it was utilized in this series. I see the point that because the show had a serious nature that when they put it in it felt out of place, but to compare something like this to a Clannad we’ll say, it works better in AB! because the way the show comes at you makes it hard to take it with full seriousness, Clannad with a different setting being largely in the real world and not having as many fantasy elements as well as being very tragic, the 100 hit combos etc felt really out of place there.

      Secondly, I am really shocked by how a show that is designed like this can get made, all of us here can agree that the show is almost fundamentally flawed in pacing and design. It seemed to die a horrible death without even having a chance. The last episode is a great example to many of Jun’s episode designs. Prime example is the fishing episode. It was a chummy, moe, throw away episode only to be treated with an actual plot for about 20 seconds at the end, total right turn, caught me totally off guard and kinda disappointed. This end episode feels like it encapsulates this notion of the doorknob question, everything is kinda centred to an extent and then massive right turn, or plot change or something else for the end. Like what the hell? with the last ep? Did the focus groups decide that they werent going to sell enough blu rays that they decided to throw away a different ending episode that kinda made sense for a moe-laden ep that is pure otaku service? Epic failure and disappointment.

      All in all, I liked the series mostly because I was intrigued of where it wanted to go, I wanted to see really badly where we were going to end up and I got a mediocre view at best. Need a KyoAni Key collaboration to see if Jun can make something approaching Clannad which I think is his best work, but they all kinda go meh after awhile that Im not sure anymore.

      • Posted June 30, 2010 at 12:26 am | Permalink

        I will admit that I was really annoyed at not letting the other SSS members say their farewells or something. Even GirlDeMo got to say bye, but no farewell from TK at least??

        I felt the humor was far more out of place in AB than in Clannad. In Clannad (not After Story. Completely different sentiment there), each arc was primarily separated into comedy/build up half and then drama half. Rarely, if ever, did you see comedy inserted into moments that were meant to be dramatic or emotional. The 100 hits combo in Clannad were fine because they never intruded into something like when everyone was forgetting Fuko. You can bet that in Angel Beats!, Hinata and Yui would be going at it during that episode or something.

        Obviously the show was made for the money. I’m pretty sure all the GirlDeMo singles, no matter how terrible, all sold damn well. Kanade is probably going to generate the largest amount of fanwork devoted to a single character at the next Comiket or something. The DVDs and Blu-Rays… Oh god….

  4. Posted June 28, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Should have been 24 episodes, yeah.

    Ok, before I start, I’m going to apologize for not having nearly as much to say as everyone else. But, I’m just one to tritely summarize what I think (a problem in writing classes).

    On the Nature of the World:
    For me, the world made sense, at least somewhat. As we know, it’s a place where people (kids) go who couldn’t realize their dreams in life, or something like that. Now, think of it this way — the afterlife is made up of many different mini-worlds. Upon dying, people make a subconscious choice where they go. This may be kind of hard to understand, since in life we have to voice our desires and needs, or no one will understand us. Even when we do, we might not be able to communicate it properly. In the afterlife, the dead are no longer bound by this form of communication — whoever the ‘director’ is (the true kami-sama), directs the soul to a place based on its deepest needs. Now, why it Otonashi end up there, if he had already fulfilled his dreams? There are at least two options. The first is something like what Otonashi surmized: that souls unable to remember anything (for some reason) are unable to communicate their ‘deepest need’ to the director/system, and are left to wander into whatever mini-world they happen across. The other is that the director/system doesn’t have the set rule to send people where they ‘belong,’ but instead where they’re ‘needed.’ Thus, because there’s a ‘blockage’ in this certain world, the director/system sends Otonashi, whom they/it knows will ‘clear’ the ‘blockage’ of souls.
    As to why Kanade appeared in that world before Otonashi, well, there’re also two options. Either Otonashi took a while to wander (existence of time), or — this being the afterlife — there is no time outside the mini-worlds. I prefer the second option, but whatever floats your boat.

    Sudden Personality Switch
    Yeah, I wasn’t too keen on this either. Again, this series needed to be longer, so that the transition was smoother. Yuri went from a strong leader with traumatic memories (not that she was traumatized by them, BTW) to… that. How did she come to terms with her memories? By having her dead siblings tell here ‘thank you?’ ‘Thank you’ for what? Getting them killed? Remember, these are children — they’d probably think this way. Unless they’re not actually her siblings, and just a figment of her imagination. Which then just turns the entire thing creepy.
    Naoi’s switch can be excused, because it made him and awesome, funny character. At least that was given a little realistic explanation (someone finally recognizing him for himself), albeit a little brief. Why he didn’t disappear right then and there is beyond me.
    Like Yuri, Kanade’s personality switch can be chalked up to not enough episodes. Even then, I would’ve liked her ‘happy-girly’ personality to be a little more subdued. Another plus would’ve been some foreshadowing of her relationship with Yuzuru (which I will call him in this case, because Kanade saying ‘Yuzuru’ made my inner shipping fanboy kyaa with glee). Which leads to…

    The Love Story & Afterward:
    Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarm.
    As to specifically what I mean: here’s a GIF. With that out of the way… I found the final scene to be really touching — bumped up my rating from a 6 or 7 (/10) to an 8. As soon as Kanade said she had something to tell Yuzuru, I paused the video, and like others, said: “She’s his sister, right? You damned trolls.” Then I unpaused, an was blown away by the revelation. One thing I really wished they had done was fucking kissed, but I guess it worked much better the way it was.
    But before that, I though Yuzuru got a little selfish with his request for Kanade to stay in the world with him. I would have much preferred to see Yuzuru & Kanade get closer during the course of the series, along with some foreshadowing about their relationship (as I said). Of course, they wouldn’t have become romantically involved — that ‘realization’ was handled fairly well the way it was. Here’s how I see it: Yuzuru (and assumedly Kanade) are already close, and Yuzuru’s about to suggest that they do the equivalent of getting together. Then Kanade reveals their connection, and POW, they realize they really love each other, by which time it is really too late. Kanade knows it’s better to leave (since that’s been her goal for everyone else along anyways), and we assume Yuzuru eventually made the same decision. Tying back into the nature of the world, maybe the souls that go through a purgatory mini-world are the ones that get reborn, maybe with their memories, or maybe just a buttload of good karma. Anyways, I was glad they found each other in the end, and can only hope Hinata was able to make good on his promise with Yui.

    Comedy:
    Overall, I didn’t mind the comedy too much. It was a little awkward in very serious situations, which made me groan. Angel Beats! definitely did not handle comedy in serious situations with as much finesse as Kuroshitsuji. You have to have really good timing to do that, as well as a slightly twisted sense of humor. So yeah.
    But the rest was pretty good. While it was in danger of becoming over-played, personally I don’t think they used the cannot-die thing quite enough in the later episodes. Which pretty much goes for everything in this series — just not spread out enough, just not balanced enough.

    Well, I’m running a little low on things to talk about here, so I’ll wrap up for now. Looking back, it looks like I had a little more to say than I first thought. If there’s anything new and interesting I said, or if there’s something I missed or didn’t say, feel free to comment/discuss/whatever people do on the internet.

    • Posted October 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      I too had a similar ‘troll’ moment but mine went more like

      “it’s obvious that you know how you’re famous for silly melodrama, and the silly melodrama that fits with her being in the world for ages (and becoming really powerful) is for her to be the sister – but I am too smart for you, and I see that the whole long dialogue with Yuri mentioning the programmer-turned-into-an-NPC is actually a setup! Kanade is the programmer-NPC, and Otonashi has *finally* come back! It explains so much! Hah – I ARE SO SMART”

      And of course I was absolutely wrong. But we never did get an explanation of whatever happened to the programmer (or even what the heck that whole arc was about), did we?

  5. bearzerger
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Just one minor thing. I think the conclusion we should make is that “God” put Otonashi there to make the SSS and especially Kanade pass on. We know that he’s been adapting the programm so no one stays forever. When Otonashi came the SSS and Kanade were in a stalemate and Kanade was a special problem in so far as she understood how their world worked, but still was unable to pass on because she had a regret which could never be fulfilled.
    So bringing Otonashi there was his newest hotfix,

    • Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink

      I don’t really feel like there’s any evidence to support an active involvement of God in this world. In fact, as far as we know, the world of AB might be like the fate of those trapped in the world in .hack//sign. They’re just unconscious… There is no evidence to support or refute either that claim or your claim.

    • Posted October 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      If the God ever did intervene, then shouldn’t he have fixed the Shadow bug? I mean, the programmer found it, realized its implications, weaponized it into a program, and then actually used it. The programmer couldn’t do more to call it to God’s attention if he had sent God a polite email with attached patch.

      And the programmer is implied to have been in the world for years/decades/centuries… More than enough time. Yet the bug is still there for the action of Angel Beats!.

  6. Onion
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    “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 thought it made sense. Yuri formed her own idea of what that world was and was charismatic enough to pull the SSS members along with her. We know at least some people passed on before Iwasawa because they know people disappear. They just hadn’t sussed out the cause yet. The SSS members where out running operations, fighting Tenshi, building GUILD, and whatever other distractions they could think up. They were having fun. It wasn’t until things got bad that they knew enough about how things really worked and were in a position to think things through and let go.

    • Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      In Yui and Iwasawa disappearances, they disappeared by confronting what they regretted from their pasts. When GirlDeMo disappeared, it was just like “we disappear now kthx bye”. And I don’t even know how TK, Matsushita, and those guys disappeared. Yui didn’t disappear because she did whatever activities – she disappeared because she wanted to do a specific activity that she could never do in real life. That just wasn’t the case for the majority of the SSS members who just disappeared basically because they wanted to disappear.

  7. Posted June 29, 2010 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    From very early Angel Beats! has struck me in a very meta way; like 2DT stated, the pathos and comedy is just liberally loaded on/off, rather than delicately and precisely applied and blended like in say, CLANNAD, the other big Maeda work.

    It sort of raises the spectre of the whole idea of “bad art” – I mean, is this just an unconsciously sloppy effort, just something to pay the bills? Or is this a more subtle exercise in seeing how far the tropes can be pushed? Are the similarities to Haruhi just a cash-in on the flavour of the week, or are they a parody of those sort of fads? With Angel Beats!, I really can’t tell, although it certainly was an amusing ride.

    • Posted June 29, 2010 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      I don’t know about the Haruhi cash-in, but I do know that he spent a lot of time on this.

      It was his pet project, so to speak.

      • Posted June 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, that’s part of what contributes to my bafflement in a way – this did seem like a very pet project – was it just flawed because Maeda’s a hack writer? Or is Maeda simply trying to appear like a hack writer?

        • Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:26 am | Permalink

          Hm I’m making the same comment again… Well anyway, I think Maeda Jun was just way out of his comfort area here. He’s clearly a good story writer, but when it comes to him to write 13 episodes while cramming in all the stuff he loves to cram in… This happens.

  8. Posted June 29, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    I, for one, believed that the story was all over the place. Barring my interactions with the less desirable people of the communities I frequent, I’ve gotten the general impression that Angel Beats is, for the most part, a badly-written, horribly-executed show that held great promise in it’s premise.

    Throwing aside the so-called bland character designs (if you don’t like how Yuri looks, you’ll hate Na-Ga’s style, that’s all I’m saying), the humour was slammed at us with the accuracy of SATURATION BOMBING WITH CLUSTER MUNITIONS and INCENDIARY BOMBS after that. Episode 5 notwithstanding. Undue violence, to me, is always funny.

    The best parts of the show was when Iwasawa and Yui finally got over their regrets and moved on. Assuming I got what the show was going at (which to me is about regret and getting over it), these episodes were clearly the best, in terms of driving home what the show was all about.

    And of course, it’s worth noting that Maeda Jun should leave world-building and writing to the professionals and not indulge in anything BUT making music. It’s pretty apparent that his idea of writing a story is not just unacceptable, but also flies in the face of everyone who has had to sit down and actually write a fictional narrative. It is of my impression that he was clearly supervised when he wrote Kanon, AIR, CLANNAD and Little Busters. (And thankfully, he wasn’t overtly involved in planetarian, which is by far the best of Key’s works).

    BEWARE SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

    (And this doesn’t even cover the fact that Maeda Purgatory was actually THE MATRIX. If I could rage so hard over Utawarerumono revealing that their fantasy world was a science experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong, this would also make me flip my lid.)

    • Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:21 am | Permalink

      I think Maeda Jun just doesn’t know how to work with 13 episodes at all. He mostly likes to take things easy and slowly develop things to a point. Angel Beats and its 13 episodes + tons of information definitely threw him off. At the same time though, the type of story telling in Angel Beats is also different from MJ’s usual style. He’s not usually one to try to move things forward by plot introduced by outside influences. He likes to take an element of his characters and weave a plot around that. In the end, I think he’s still a good storyteller, but only certain kinds of stories.

      • Posted October 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        A good point. Look at the early episodes, like the baseball episode or episode 5 with the testing. That’s a significant chunk of the series gone to shenanigans, with only small movement or info on Kanade/Tenshi. This would work in 26 episodes, perhaps, but not 13.

  9. Matt
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Just read this on a wakachan post, so I wont take credit for thinking it up myself, but the title of the OP is My Soul, Your Beats. Does that not foreshadow the stuffing out of Kanade being a heart recipient? So terrible, ugh, should have caught that.

    • Matt
      Posted June 29, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      EDIT: Sorry if anyone already pointed this out, sorry for clogging up posting space.

  10. orpheust
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    “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 actually would have been annoyed if Otonashi had stayed in the other world by himself out of pretensions of selflessness. I don’t think what he got out of his sister’s death in the previous life had anything to do with kindness or selflessness at all. Rather, Otonashi wanted to recapture the sense of purpose coming to see his sister and cheer her up gave him. He wanted people to thank him like his sister. He found himself exploring his own value as a human being, whereas before he was really apathetic and didn’t give a damn what happened to himself. And in the other world he found the kind of camaraderie he had never known except in the final moments of his life, and I guess he found his love for Kanade. To give up all that development as a human being, to throw it all away simply for the role of shepherd of the dead would actually be going a step backwards in my opinion.

    • Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:02 am | Permalink

      Matter of perspective I suppose. I still feel that he let his feeling of love overcome him. Besides, if Otonashi is looking for self-fulfillment, wouldn’t acting as a “shepard of the dead” be the ultimate form of self-satisfaction? People would thank him like Kanade did as she passed on, and he’d get that feeling of purpose that you mentioned. Regardless, he still didn’t make that choice, so in my eyes, he’s still a rather pathetic character.

  11. Posted June 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Definitely a fair review. Key’s a bit less confusing with this one, but it’s still rather unclear. It would have been better to add a few more episodes in there to focus on some of the other members of the brigade, but maybe they wanted to avoid the usual “arcs”. Either way, the last episode was the best episode, and let’s hope that KyoAni/Key learn from the mistakes to create an even better series next time around.

    • Posted July 1, 2010 at 1:54 am | Permalink

      If anything, I think they worsened the problem with the “arcs” in this one. This time, the narrative that tries to connect all the arcs is completely incoherent and much weaker than in other Key shows. This was an interesting experiment by Maeda Jun into something that lied outside of his comfort zone, but honestly, I’d tell him to stick to what he knows.

  12. akani
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    You really shouldn’t put all the blame on Maeda. Remember, he’s the writer, not the director. Also, the topic’s been beaten to death by now, but given the time restraints there was no way they could fit ALL of what Maeda wrote for Angel Beats! There was no time to explore the world and flesh out the backstories of that many characters like how it was possible in Kanon, AIR, and CLANNAD.

    As for how Otonashi got there after Kanade, there are three possibilities:

    1. Otonashi is a bug in the system. He fulfilled his life by being able to save the people in the train, but when he died the shock gave him amnesia and his soul wandered around until it found that particular world.

    2. Time is not necessarily the same as in the real world.

    3. Since Otonashi donated his body parts, those parts of him would technically be called “alive.” So when Kanade and other people lived with those parts in them, he wouldn’t actually be considered dead by the world and had to have all his body parts die before he could pass on.

  13. Layfon
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I just finished the anime…I think it was the music that REALLY sucked me into the story.

  14. Posted July 9, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    All fair points. There were so many flaws to this anime. Still, I like it for going over the top. The music is really nice too.

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