Completed: Angel Beats! – Watch the Bathos Drip Forth Like the Petals From a Wild Crafted Rose

bathos n.– 1. An abrupt, unintended transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect.
2. Insincere or grossly sentimental pathos

I’d say both definitions are fairly appropriate for Angel Beats – which isn’t a bad thing, by the way.

I’ve been looking forward to this show ever since I watched the first episode at the start of the season, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed – with the exception of some rocky moments (namely episode 4 and a lot of episode 5, which weren’t bad, just… rocky), I was impressed with every episode, and will come away from the series with vivid memories of events throughout. <- That sentence is about as much ‘review’ as I can give you, since I find this series hard  to talk about in a straightforward way. This post will be somewhat disorganized, but I hope you’ll bear with it.

My impression of Angel Beats is that it does what any good parody does – fully embodies the tropes that it also subverts. I felt that it was a series where comedy characters were put in a dramatic setting, somewhat like Mai-Hime (which did it with harem characters), and quite similar to Futakoi Alternative. This was, I think, both the series’ greatest strength and it’s greatest weakness.

I wouldn’t have enjoyed this series as much had it been a serious drama. I’ve got nothing against series creator Maeda Jun (responsible for Air, Kanon, and Clannad), but I have a hard time getting attached to his shows, because I feel that each is ultimately a series of well-scripted and beautifully executed dramatic events that I don’t really care about. Air, Kanon, and Clannad were three of very few anime that made me cry, but not for the reasons I get emotional about other shows. I always cry during the last episodes of Eureka Seven because I’m moved by the resolutions of characters whom I love to death. However, in the case of the Fuuko arc from Clannad that made me cry for 5 minutes straight, I didn’t really care that much about the story, and while I liked Fuuko, she isn’t even in my top 100 as far as characters go.

The drama in those series works so well because it’s orchestrated so well. Every emotional scene is brilliantly directed to show you exactly what things will touch you from the story; the animation kicks into overdrive, creating a dramatic tone; the saddest music imaginable plays; a bunch of A-list seiyuu deliver stirring performances. Emotional scenes are extremely hard to pull off correctly, but Maeda Jun somehow supersedes all other anime drama writers time and again, while the studios producing his adaptions understand exactly how to make it work (we can’t give all the credit to Kyoto Animation anymore, since Angel Beats was done by my favorite up-and-coming studio, P.A. Works.)

And I respect all of that. In fact, I think it’s incredible – I have vivid memories of many moments from those shows, and that’s a powerful accomplishment. However, it’s not necessarily what I look for in anime. I’m not big on romance stories, for one. I’m not much for a series making you feel sorry for it’s characters and flinging pathos around – I have a pretty hard time feeling genuinely sorry for anyone to begin with. I didn’t cry over the Fuuko arc because I felt sad that she had a rough life and was going to fade away; I was effected by the emotions of the characters themselves, and not by emotions born within myself.

So here I get Angel Beats, which doesn’t even slightly take itself seriously. The traumatic histories of characters are bounced off of their carefree and silly nature. The gravity of any given situation is betrayed by the hilarious ways that events occur, which you’d never see in a normal drama. Angel Beats still tugged on my heartstrings; it still had plenty of those beautifully-made moments that sent chills through my body, and boy, I cried at the end. I was breaking up all through the last two episodes, and then the final scene opened the floodgates.

But what’s important is that those weren’t the only reasons I saw to care about the show. The portrayal of the dramatic events is the same as it is in Jun’s other works, but in this case, the story doesn’t exist just for those moments. There’s an actual plot running through, and one I found very interesting; and the ending was particularly strong because it felt like everything had led up to those moments, and it wasn’t the show forcing me to cry – I actually wanted to cry, because I genuinely felt those emotions to some extent.

However, as mentioned before, the comedic characters are also the show’s weakness, for the same reason that characters are a weakness of most comedies. Comedic characters in anime are almost one-dimensional by design. Because each character is the proponent of a certain type of joke, they will tend to have exactly one personality trait. For instance, the guy with the spear is always a muscleheaded idiot; the student council vice-president is always clingy to Otonashi and otherwise sarcastic towards everyone; Yurippe always acts like a war vet driven mad with post traumatic stress disorder – you get what I mean. In terms of my character definitions from this post, comedic characters lack ‘depth’ and usually don’t ‘develop’ much, since they always have to fulfill their comedic role. The saving grace of great comedies is excellent ‘chemistry’ between characters, but Angel Beats is lacking in this department. Some characters have stronger relationships with one-another, but a lot of them are just sort of there, no doubt because the drama, mystery, and action elements of the series don’t leave time to develop that many relationships.

That’s a pretty big thorn in the series for me. I love every other part of it: production values, acting, and a story that gripped me a lot more than most. However, characters are pretty much the biggest deal for me, especially in a series like this. Had I been able to care about them more, then Angel Beats could’ve easily been somewhere on my ever-expanding favorites list, but as it stands, I don’t feel attached enough to the series to let it through. There’s a chance that my feelings could change over time, though, so I’m going to hold off on scoring the series for now.

Pacing is another noteworthy facet of this show, as it’s rather strange. The lengthier comedic scenes sometimes felt like a drag in the plot, whereas at any other time the story moved like fucking lightning. However, it would usually turn out later that the comedic scenes were still important, so they look better as an afterthought. The rate at which plot twists were pumped out was crazy – what, like every fucking episode? Which I did enjoy, because it always kept me on my toes and held my attention, wondering what crazy shit would happen next.

D'AWWWWW

I still had a bit of an issue, though, with the structure of events in the story. It felt as though the times and places wherein events occurred were ultimately inconsequential. In episode three, there’s a lot of focus on an episodic character, which is important to the story, but feels strange in that there aren’t any other episodes like it. Stranger still when the next episode doesn’t seem to advance the plot at all, and then every episode afterward takes the story in completely different directions. The revelations of Otonashi’s memories also felt very arbitrarily placed.

I feel that if a story’s going to have a unique structure, then it should serve a purpose. The mixed timeline in Haruhi, for example, was used to blend the important plot episodes in with the less important filler-type episodes, and put the dramatic climax at the end. There’s no meaning to the organization in Angel Beats – it just does shit, almost like a bunch of individual arcs being molded together into one continuing story.

Those issues matter most on the first viewing of the series and may be far less jarring on a rewatch, which is another reason that I want to hold off on scoring the series for now. I think it’d be somewhat silly to complain about these things if I ultimately liked how they all turned out, and I think the series will be easier to grasp with a prior knowledge of what I’m getting myself into.

What drew me to the story most was how over-the-top everything was. I really like immortal characters in stories, because I don’t really care much for character death, but I do love to see characters die. I was instantly excited that this show would have the characters get senselessly slaughtered again and again, and loved how even in dramatic scenes, the deaths were portrayed comically. I also really like guns, especially in the hands of girls, so that’s a boon. A lot of the events were unnecessarily excessive (they blew up the whole fucking base in the second episode!) which was, incidentally, why I loved every single one of them. So a lot of my interests were directly satisfied, and then the unpredictability of the plot never let me get bored.

Okay, now for individual notes and highlights~:

– Tenshi/Kanade was my favorite character, which I didn’t see coming, because I’m usually not big on the silent-girl archetype. Kana Hanazawa has also been very hit and miss with me because I didn’t care much for most of the characters I’ve seen her play (exception-Yuuka from Kyouran Kazoku), but I loved her voice as Tenshi, and it made me feel very a great moe. Her demeanor in the last episodes was adorable beyond words.

-Yuri really stole the show in episode twelve. I hadn’t cared much about her throughout the show, but her whole scene with destroying all the monitors was quite stirring. Her voice actress hasn’t had many roles, but I think this could be a breakthrough performance.

-Bonus points for daring to fill the show with dudes, and actually giving some of them major character status. TK is legend. GET CHANCE AND LUCK! The blue-haired best friend dude really came into his own as a character I cared enough about to feel for in the end (even if I can’t remember his name, lol.)

-I was indifferent about Otonashi. I didn’t dislike him at all, but his place in the story was just the usual bleeding-heart must-help-everyone guy, and there wasn’t much else to him. I like that he knew how to take action, but it’s more that if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have liked him. The subway scene was pretty cool though. I also liked his relationship with Tenshi, but that’s got more to do with her.

– Yui was really cute, but I wanted her to do something else – her constant confrontations with the others weren’t really funny to me (those gags never are) and I just wanted to see some variety from her. I liked her send-off episode, but I spent the whole time expecting some kind of message about how most people work exceedingly hard to achieve her lofty goals, and she should find something that she really cares about, etc., but I think I was reading a little too far into it. Nice ending scene.

– I wanted to give a special nod to a scene from episode 3. There was this spectacular piece of dialog where the original lead singer of Girls Dead Monster is describing the way that music had saved her life, and she says something to the effect of: “The vocals shouted for me. Complained for me. That the ones who pretended to be normal were the ones in the wrong, and the ones who were crying were the ones who were right. That those of us who were lonely were the ones who were more human. She shouted at the irrationalities, beat them, and destroyed them for me.” This has to be the best description of emotional music I’ve ever heard. You’ll hear many fans who believe that the lyrics are speaking the ultimate truth – that the lyrics have brought them to an understanding of the world. Of course, the truth is that the message is what the listener wants to hear and wants to believe in, not necessarily the truth, but the feeling that someone understands you and feels the same way that you do is nonetheless a powerful thing. I’d be lying my ass off if I said that when I can’t get my head straight, music can help turn things around.

-Did I mention I cried at the ending? The whole final episode was brilliant. It was such a thorough and solid set of events, and delivered the perfect amount of closure that I wanted. I was on the brink of tears the entire time, but OMG that last scene makes me want to cry just thinking about it. Very moving shit.

(Post title taken from the lyrics to Non-Objective Portrait of Karma by Circle Takes the Square)

57 thoughts on “Completed: Angel Beats! – Watch the Bathos Drip Forth Like the Petals From a Wild Crafted Rose

  1. Yeah, but I didn’t cry at the end ; I was already in tears over the Mapo Tofu anthem. Very moe.

    But anyway, TK’s just there to spout random cool-sounding English phrases – you have to admit that, huh? He has no backstory, no actual personality , in fact I doubt his name’s even correct. Minor character yet popularity higher than some of the main characters.

    The ending was kinda’ predictable too, seeing as how the entire show was a spoiler : Angel= Tenshi, Beats = Heartbeats, not to mention the heartbeat monitor used as scene transitions all the time.

    Although I do wish that the show could have been 26 episodes long ; it would have been much better than right now.

      • I think his voice was done with software or something

        Let me quote you, in that

        “Overall, I can safely say I really liked this show, despite the issues I thought it had.”

        My issues were mostly with the inconsistent pacing, which really detracted from my enjoyment of the show, and the fact that they spent too much time developing Yui.

        She was quite annoying. Quite.

        I detested her.

        Why the hell does she have a tail?

        The ending made up for all the faults this show had, though.

  2. You know, out of the whole show, I think the moment that will stick with me the longest is TK alone, in the dark, dancing his guts out. It’s the only thing we really know about him– he’s good at dancing, he likes to dance, he dances all the time. It was a gag, and it remained a gag afterwards. But somehow those few seconds really compounded to turn him into a very sympathetic, very human character.

    And they almost got me with that stupid girl and her stupid wind-up pets. But I have a heart of blackest coal and will never cry, never.

    ;_;

    • I was pretty touched by that moment myself. The icing on the cake was hearing the violent squeaks of his shoes out against the darkness. I’d never doubted that TK had some worth to the show as a character in some way, and that moment proved me right.

      • To me, it was a moment of reflection to TK, his way of soul-searching. Goes to show that you don’t have to have speaking to have a powerful moment.

    • Well, the characters in the series have a personality in direct opposition to their experiences in the real world. Singer girl in episode 3 sings because she had her voice stolen from her. Yui acts like she’s hopped up on sugar because she spent her life paralyzed.

      So what about TK? I’m pretty sure it means he’s an amputee, maybe even a double. When you think about it, it makes this bit character incredibly tragic.

  3. Blue haired guy is Hinata.

    Mm, I’ve already written 1000 words on my beef with this show, so I won’t repeat them…It just feels to me like they did not do a good job with the comedic drama parody thing they were attempting with this anime. It jumps around too much for the viewer to follow and settle into. I didn’t feel like it drew me into the episodes very well at all.

    But I do still need to watch the last three today, so maybe my opinion will change. Hee.

  4. I think the ending was crap and a but hypocritical for Otonashi, but like I have said, I think all Maeda’s endings were made of crap. It just a matter of preference I guess.

  5. The way you described your relation to Madeda’s drama is similar to mine – I actually don’t get that attached to most of his characters, but the way the emotions and drama are choreographed in his series is what gets me. I’m moved not because I’m very emotionally invested in the series, but because of the way it’s presented.

    I agree with you about the many one-dimensional characters in Angel Beats! and some of the jokes becoming stale after a while. I too cried in a number of episodes (episode 6 the most for some reason).

    I didn’t think Kanade would be your favorite, but you’re full of surprises =) Yuri is my favorite – I thought the “older sister/younger sister” relationship the two of them had going on in the last episode was so cute. Would have liked to see more of it.

    I would say more about Angel Beats! but I’ve already planned to post my concluding thoughts about the series later today =P

    • Yeah, I don’t know what it was about Kanade. She had this bit of pep others don’t. I think I really started feeling it when she got so lonely after the grades fiasco and just wanted to eat some damn spicy food. I was like ‘wow, she feels emotions all on her own’, I guess. Maybe it’s cuz she was voiced by Hanazawa instead of Noto lol (though I thought it was Noto for a while)

      I was touched and had chills on a lot of eps, but I’m hard to make cry. But I’m glad you get what I’m saying about Jun’s style~

  6. Heh, I might as well chime in..

    > I wouldn’t have enjoyed this series as much had it been a serious drama.

    No kidding, it’s way too hokey a premise to take too seriously. That and they didn’t exactly go out of their way to win us over on the concept.

    > The drama in those series works so well because it’s orchestrated so well.
    > it wasn’t the show forcing me to cry

    Come on :) It’s about as subtle as showing you images of dogs getting beaten while playing that song from Requiem for a Dream. That is, it will move you if you want it to, but in such a superficial way it doesn’t usually leave an impact.

    Maeda likes to hit the cute puppy, then slap it around, then run over it, then back over it a couple of times, and then leave it alive as a vegetable.

    I’m not saying subtlety and realism are requirements for my enjoyment, but I can’t take it seriously when I feel like I’m also supposed to be laughing at how convoluted his scenarios and backstories are.. especially when I can’t care about the characters being run over.

    > There’s an actual plot running through
    > it felt like everything had led up to those moments
    > Pacing is another noteworthy facet of this show, as it’s rather strange.
    > There’s no meaning to the organization in Angel Beats – it just does shit

    You can basically get the series’ full impact by watching four, maybe five episodes of it’s entire run. The rest feels like they’re trying to distract us from how hokey it is by padding it out with filler-ish material that was only lacking a “and now for something completely different” announcement.

    I didn’t mind the core plot, I’ve read one-shot manga that brought me to tears of both sadness and laughter at how unbelievable they are (like Forever Honey). But all the extra junk just detracted from my enjoyment, like I was watching two shows that had no idea how to co-exist. At times all it needed was the Benny Hill theme.

    > Maeda Jun somehow supersedes all other anime drama writers time and again

    I can’t really agree. Minus his meticulously-engineered melodramatic punchlines, the girls of CLAMP have him beat. They can make me care about emotionless robot girls and even jerkass blue puppets named Ioryogi. There are shows like Natsume Yuujinchou that move me more in one episode than the entirety of Angel Beats. Maeda’s ok, but dangerously close to hack writing.

    I can never really get attached to his characters. They’re just vehicles to deliver drama which you are waiting for with open arms. In Angel Beats this was a killer detriment, because the cast was tremendous and there wasn’t a single one I grew to care about. Even Working! managed to endear me to most of it’s large crew in the same number of episodes (and that’s after making me hate them for 3 or 4 episodes).

    > I really like immortal characters in stories

    This is probably why I didn’t enjoy the series as much as the next person. It’s HARD to make me care about immortals. If you’re going to try to make me laugh at their repeated deaths, then don’t be surprised if I can’t get emotionally attached to them. Especially if it turns out that they’re denying themselves the happiness that’s being offered to them to make up for their crapsack former lives.

    > Did I mention I cried at the ending?

    Lucky you! Seriously! I wish I could cry on cue like the series demanded of me, but I was just too distracted by the ridiculousness of it all. It wasn’t good enough as a Maeda drama (or as a parody of Maeda) to leave me feeling fulfilled. I felt more like I was supposed to go out and buy a TK figurine and one of the many music CDs they’re sure to release.

    I’m not going to bitch too much about it, because it was only a 13-episode series. It was still adequately entertaining overall to justify that length, and it’s been interesting as a case study in Hollywood-style writing in an anime.

      • Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” has really joined the ranks of dramatic theme music alongside Carl Orf’s “O Fortuna” and Mozart’s “Lacrimosa”.

        • It was fun to see it in the Lord of the Rings trailer, and parodied in Yugioh Abridged.. but it kind of lost it’s teeth by the time they used it for the Top Gear Arctic challenge.

          It’s still an epic track.

    • I can’t really agree with anything in your comment, to the point that I don’t even know how to reply to any of it. I hate using the phrase ‘agree to disagree’, but fuck, that’s a pretty huge divergence of opinion. I think the fact that I don’t care for most CLAMP shows and could only make it through 2 eps of Natsume Yuujinchou is all I need to know that this won’t work, lol.

      • To clarify, I’m not really much of a CLAMP fan either. I did, however, really enjoy Natsume Yuujinchou.

        But it doesn’t really matter — no one said we had to agree :)

        • But isn’t that ‘Agreeing to Disagree’?

          Anyways, yours was a rather interesting dissection of digitalboy’s post, though I must dissent on one small detail.

          “Maeda likes to hit the cute puppy, then slap it around, then run over it, then back over it a couple of times, and then leave it alive as a vegetable.

          I’m not saying subtlety and realism are requirements for my enjoyment, but I can’t take it seriously when I feel like I’m also supposed to be laughing at how convoluted his scenarios and backstories are..”

          I suppose that a puppy being beaten to death would be quite sad. I wouldn’t know. Cynophobe.

          Nothing by Maeda is very original, his stories all follow the basic “Nakige formula”
          – Which he and his team devised.

          But still, in a Nakige, the impact is there.

          The problem here, then, lies in the fact that Angel Beats had too expansive and diverse a cast for us to really get attached to any particular characters. So we don’t feel as much when they go *poof* and disappear.

          Generally, we also have more time to get used to his odd, odd settings, but the length of the series restricted that. The Filler-esque and misleading scenes were really an effort for us to understand the setting of AB, I’d say, but due to time constraints and bad pacing, it ends up being quite confusing. Quite.

          All in all, it’s not that great of a show, it’s not that bad of a show. But it has Kanade, so how about we just call it one step above Mediocrity and leave it at that?

          • > I suppose that a puppy being beaten to death would be quite sad. I wouldn’t know.

            Of course. I just meant that there are several lines that drama can cross, which take a tragic event from subtlety to pathos to overkill to cynical comedy (especially when I don’t already have an emotional attachment to a character).

            Maeda makes it tough to know which I should be feeling, which loses dramatic impact and makes me feel like he’s trying to make a deeper insight — which he isn’t in this case.

            > how about we just call it one step above Mediocrity and leave it at that?

            Sure, that’s what I meant to hint at at the end of my original comment.

  7. Pingback: Angel Beats!: concluding thoughts and inquiries | 毎日アニメ夢

  8. All right lets break it down episode by episode:

    Episode 1: Alright series shows certain promise. Kamiya Hiroshi again.
    Episode 2: Downright hilarious minus yuri’s confession in the middle
    Episode 3: Hacker story completely overshadowed by Iwasawa’s exit which was well done.
    Episode 4: Right, okay, that wasn’t bad. A little anti-climatic. I like yui.
    Episode 5: Rocket Chair gag one of the best of the shows. Daww ending to the episode. Mapo Tofu fanart ensues.
    Episode 6: Tenshi’s hand sonic steals the show. Otonashi hugging Naoi was gay. What was Naoi’s regret again? Shinji cries.
    Episode 7: Otonashi’s back story stupid. Giant fishing trip was pretty awesome. What a TWEEST ending.
    Episode 8: Kinda cool? What was the point of this episode in the larger scheme of things? Was it just to rehash the guild episode? Ohnoes Tenshi gonna have her personality overcome by evil Tenshi’s!…
    Episode 9: Except not. Okay…organ transplant typical Maeda. I’ll admit that one almost got me going. Otonashi decides to help everyone move on. I argue with Landon over whether this is a bad or good thing.
    Episode 10: yui-centric episode. Pretty good. yui x Hinata got me but not too horribly. Uh-oh hot-dog shadow monster.
    Episode 11: Ending montage while everyone debates the decision of whether passing on is the right thing to do. Existential dilemma overtones throughout the end. Quite stirring.
    Episode 12: Uh what? Shadow monster is weak. yuri meets the architect. My IQ drops 10 points. Somewhere inside me wonder if I should watch LOST. Ishida Akira talks about love and yuri shoots up some monitors and umm yeah. Wait that’s not the end?
    Episode 13: Graduation got me. Confession thing at the end was pretty powerful. Better ending to the series than I would have thought given the last episode.

    So yeah, I guess it wasn’t that bad. It was just all over the place. All in all…I expected more. TK owns, Tenshi owns the rest of em I could probably do without.

    • You’re impressions are pretty much the exact same thing I thought haha. (I just use a lot more superlatives and hyperbole when i talk about it :p.) Even I thought ep 12 made no go damn sense, but by the time Yuri was shooting monitors, I didn’t give a damn anymore, lol.

  9. “The drama in those series works so well because it’s orchestrated so well. Every emotional scene is brilliantly directed to show you exactly what things will touch you from the story;”

    Yes, this is exactly the same sort of sentiment I got from Clannad. It hits you hard and leaves you raw, but so does a sucker punch; it’s not any less of a cheap shot.

    Bathos is a really good word to describe Angel Beats! – you’ve really hit the nail on the head. It lays the entire structure bare and open – to borrow the punch analogy above, it’s like a sucker punch you know is coming and can observe in minute, slow-motion detail.

  10. Looks like the Aniblog Tourney got you another reader, for what it’s worth.

    I really liked Angel Beats! I, like most of the complainers I’ve seen, would have been happier if it had been longer. But, you can’t really call something bad because it was too short; if it was really terrible, you’d probably want it to be even shorter.

    I think most of the conversations above have exhausted any possible dialogue we could have, though.

    I’d give you a ‘B’ on your picture selection You can do better.

    To quote TK: “I’ll be back.”

    • Welcome to Fuzakenna! I’m glad to get readers from anywhere~ it’s always exciting!

      As for the picture selection, hm… I really liked the intro pic, the third one, and the vuvuzela picture, but yeah, I probably could have gotten more good stuff if I shopped around longer. I don’t customarily spend much time at all on picking out images, but I post a lot of the cool stuff I find on my tumblr: scarletmonochrome.tumblr.com

      To quote TK: ALRIGHT! LET’S DANCE!

  11. I can’t say.

    To clarify, I may have come across it on Pixiv or something, but I never took the time to identify the artist.

  12. To really get this anime you gotta rewatch it you see all the little details about Kanade and Otonashi that you didn’t see before

    if u said you saw the ending where Kanade has Otonashi’s heart that’s utter bullshit sure if gave quite a few hints but perfectly not enough so that you didn’t piece it entirely together

    anyone else think that 1st ep where Kanade stabs Otonashi was utterly hilarious?

  13. Pingback: 2010 Anime Review | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

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