So for the elder readers, does anyone remember an old show called Party of Five? I never watched it, but all I remember about it was it featured ridiculously hot girls and a lot of emo situations. Uh… not that I’m saying Angel Beats is anything like that.
So Angel Beats has come to an end and the big question is whether it came to a successful end, especially considering how careeningly out of control it became in the last few episodes. Reactions have definitely been mixed. Chaostangent thought the pacing, tone and focus was lacking, and echoed Mecha Guignol’s disgust with the epilogue scene. Over at THAT, both Mystlord and EO gave it Angel Beats a lukewarm grade, what with its positives (melodrama, character resolutions) slightly washing out its negatives (the unresolved plot twists, a world unexplored). Even the more positive reactions like from Janette, Xebek and Yume were tempered by the nods to the wack pacing and occasionally nonsensical plot.
Myself? I figure the 13 episode romp was worth it for the couple seconds of Yuri moe.
Just kidding. Sort of.
The last episode was sort of a microcosm for the series. Remember all that crap Merv spewed the last episode about the world being created by a lovelost nerd who turned him or herself into an NPC? Well, it wasn’t Kanade. And you can pretty much forget whatever he said, because none of it came into play during this episode. Also, remember the rest of the gang? Well, at least that’s one person, because they’re gone. Poofed. Didn’t even get to say goodbye. You mean to tell me they all would’ve left without seeing Yuri wake up? I find that hard to believe. Especially, the axe wielding Noda, considering he seemed to have a thing for her. But whatever, time constraints are time constraints.
Honestly, the whole graduation ceremony was probably the most boring scene in the whole show until they finally got to the goodbyes. I enjoyed seeing the scene between Yuri and Kanade, and like EO mentioned in THAT’s post, I ended up liking Naoi quite a bit. I never got used to how quickly people disappeared though. A hug and then the next moment they’re gone? We don’t even get to see them walk off into the sunset? It just feels way too abrupt.
Meanwhile, what to say about Otonashi. I didn’t dislike him. I thought he was somewhat likeable. But the two biggest decisions he made, I felt were out of selfish reasons. One – his decision to erase people – ended up working for the best. But his confession to Kanade to stay with him in the NPC world to save new wanderers? I would much rather he have been honest with himself and say he wanted to stay just for her. Otherwise, it feels hypocritical. Especially when you take his selflessness during life into account.
But here’s where things get interesting, because we learn that Kanade is the girl who received Otonashi’s heart after he died (how did she end up in the purgatory before Otonashi? I assume Otonashi wasted some time wandering around in some ether space without his memories). But it was sleeping on Kanade’s chest and hearing his heartbeat that he began to recover his memories.
When Otonashi realizes this, he realizes that Kanade will disappear if he repeats his confession again. While Kanade implores him to do so, he initially refuses. And I thought the melodrama in this scene at this particular moment was perfect. You could hear Hiroshi Kamiya choke on his words and you could feel his anguish.
But then instead of amping up the emotion when Otonashi finally does confess, Kamiya reins it in a bit. So I felt the final embrace between Otonashi and Kanade lacked that big OOMPH. It’s really ironic that I’ve been lamenting the missed melodrama opportunities in Angel Beats, consider my disdain for melodramas in general and past Key melodramas specifically. But there were a few moments throughout this show where I thought it was begging for that big, tearjerking feeling but it just came up short.
How would I have directed the scene above? Like I mentioned I would’ve picked up the emotion level from when Otonashi was choking on his words and then started off the final confession and embrace with the feeling you get when you see Otonashi frantically grasping at the air after Kanade disappears. I would’ve brought him to his knees and then embrace Kanade. Instead of just confessing his love, I would’ve had him begging, pleading for her to stay. Bargaining, trying something, anything. All desperately, desperately, desperately. And then poof, she disappears and we pick up with him grasping at the air. Basically, I would’ve gone over the top, I wouldn’t have left any of Otonashi’s self respect on the table. He should’ve been willing to turn himself inside out for her then and there. Unfortunately, I thought that was missing.
As much as I like Director Seiji Kishi, I gotta knock him for underdelivering in this scene. The choppy emotional escalation in the scene also seemed to detract from Kamiya’s performance, because I felt like he was all over the place. During some lines, he knocks it out of the park, and then during other lines, he seems to lack the necessary anguish. Would a KyoAni director have done this scene justice? I wonder.
And then finally, the infamous epilogue scene. Where a seemingly reincarnated Otonashi meets a seemingly reincarnated Kanade. Was it unnecessary? Yeah. Did it seriously detract from the show? I wouldn’t go that far. It wasn’t bad, a little cheesy. But more than anything, it’s just another of those scenes where the plot logic doesn’t seem to flow and it doesn’t make a terrible amount of sense.
All in all, Angel Beats was entertaining. I’ll give you that. Like many, I was disappointed by the pacing and the haphazard story, but throughout I was entertained and that was the most I would’ve expected from it. I know Jun Maeda’s previous works have been greatly admired… but let’s be honest, Air, Kanon, Clannad, none of them were exactly works of classical art. They were just over the top, harem-by-the-numbers creations with nonsensical fantasy elements of their own. I give Jun Maeda a lot of credit for trying to craft a more ambitious, cohesive story with Angel Beats. Whether he succeeded or not is up for debate I guess (and maybe the source material makes more sense), but for me, Angel Beats with all its warts, is hands down, without question, my favorite Maeda story.