Sunday, May 25, 2014

Angel Beats!

Angel Beats! is a short (13 episode) series with a really interesting plot concept.  A teen-age boy named Otonashi Yuzuru dies, and finds himself in high school.  The afterlife he finds himself in is a high school populated with other teenagers.   Otonashi is approached by a girl named Yuri who invites him to join her group of students who are fighting against God.   As she tells it, if you just accept this high school life and stay out of trouble, you eventually disappear.  Yuri and her gang don’t wish to disappear.  They want to know what’s going on, and why they died, and are just basically rebelling against God because they died with unresolved issues.  Otonashi has no memories of his life or how and why he died, so he joins Yuri’s group.

The person Yuri’s group battles the most in the beginning is the student body president, a girl called Tenshi (angel) who has supernatural powers, and whose job it is to keep the peace and keep the students like Yuri’s group in line.   Yuri-tachi attempt to find ways to best her and run various missions, using a girl-band made up of their members as a distraction during their missions.  Tenshi fights against them and always manages to foil their missions. 

This series has several surprise points to it – points where the series turned my thoughts around, switched bad guys and good guys, just basically did the unexpected.  One of the first was that I thought they were killing off cast members awfully early on, only to find that the students don’t die for good.  Members of Yuri’s group who are ‘killed’ in action, return later with no injuries.  Which I suppose makes sense since they’re technically dead anyway.  The only escape from the high school seems to be to behave and disappear.

Another surprise was the bottom line plot, which is this:  The afterlife high school is where kids go who can’t accept their death or are struggling with unfinished business from their life.  Once they come to accept things, they move on and disappear.  Tenshi isn’t a bad person, but is actually a girl named Kanade who is trying to help the students resolve their issues and move on, and has an unresolved issue of her own.  So about midway in the series , members of Yuri’s group begin resolving their lingering issues and disappearing – which is almost as jolting as the earlier episodes where they were getting killed in the battles.

Along the way Otonashi befriends Kanade when she loses her position to the student body vice president and even invites her to join Yuri’s group.  Eventually he remembers his life and death and begins working with Kanade to help the others resolve their issues and move on.   At the end he discovers Kanade’s issue was being unable to thank him for the heart she gained as a transplant from him when he died.  So in the end everyone happily passes on without too much regret, although Otonashi and Kanade probably love each other.

I had really mixed feelings about this series because it essentially ends with everyone dying.  Although I’m not sure I can actually say that since it starts with everyone already dead.  The premise and plot twists were definitely quirky enough to keep me interested, and the music is beyond gorgeous.  I’ve always been partial to piano music.  I’m glad I watched it, despite the ending.     

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