Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Angel Beats!

K-On goes to Heaven: the cast's band, Girls Dead Monster, plays to an enthusiastic auditorium of NPCs.

Meanwhile, their male counterparts are firing on Angel.

Angel deflects a bullet using a melee weapon. Notice the spray. It happens so fast that it can't really be seen by the viewer, but the screenshot reveals that it's a spray of 1's and 0's. The afterlife is digital?

Categories: shounen, school life, music, fantasy, fights, Buddhism, guns, comedy, drama

High schooler Otonashi wakes up in the afterlife, apparently having died. The afterlife resembles a large Japanese high school, which seems to be a transit point for souls until they undergo a Buddhist reincarnation.

And here things seriously go awry, at least from a Buddhist point of view. A guerrilla army of dead teenagers, led by a feisty bishoujo, Yuri, are fighting against being reincarnated. Yuri is bitter about the whole reincarnation business, and thinks it's grossly unfair to have to spend your next lifetime as a barnacle or a water flea. Yuri's motto is, "No God, no Buddha, no Angels." She aims to take over the afterlife, and make metaphysics work in a manner that is fair to human beings.

'Take over', in this case, means an armed revolution. This show has lots of guns and fighting. The cast's enemy is a single heavily-armed bishoujo, known only as 'Angel', a silent, emotionless, blue-haired girl, whose true nature and purpose is unknown.

By episode 3 it's still unclear what the 'afterlife' is all about, and who's behind it. No gods have made an appearance. Note the spray of 1's and 0's in the screenshot above. Is this putative afterlife actually something like the Matrix? And what does it mean that students who cooperate with Angel disappear, presumably to be reincarnated? Is the show a commentary on Japanese high schools being little more than factories to indoctrinate generations of future salarymen and office ladies, as they are herded into lives of corporate drudgery? Is this what Yuri and her gang are really fighting against?

Angel Beats! began airing in Japan this April. Three of thirteen episodes have aired so far. Production values are impressive, fan service is minimal. Tone swings rapidly between comedy and drama. With its strong-willed and eccentric heroine, her bemused sidekick who provides the main POV, and the ontologic subtext, the show recalls The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The texture of Angel Beats! is quite different, though. The comedy is less subtle, often frank slapstick, and the action level is much higher. And there's an all-girl J-pop band. That's the 'Beats!', I suppose. Character concept and development are adequate, but unexceptional.

I can't tell where the show is going, and that's good. The mystery of the afterlife and Angel draw the viewer on, to find out what the heck it's all about. And it's a very pretty show to watch.

Executive summary: Recommended, as of Episode 3.
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