Angel Beats (Anime): First Impressions

Sentai Filmworks, 2010. 13 episodes.

I don't know if any of you, Dear Readers, have ever worked with kids in a creative capacity, so let me share with you. They are overwhelmingly creative. They are endless fonts of insane detail and additions. Whether they are working with art, crafts or language they are on imagination overload. Ask them to invent a character for a story and you'll get undercover princes/princesses who are ninjas who work on construction crews and command animals telepathically and can also breath underwater and whose parents are astronauts who are stranded on a planet occupied by jelly monsters with a thousand eyes and lobster hands who can float through the air and live on lunchables (no punctuation!). And that's just for starters.

This is, sadly, kind of the feeling I get from my first viewing of Jun Maeda's Angel Beats. I am overwhelmed. The complications are illogical. In short, I am confused. 

Oh, so you say there's a high-school in the afterlife where: 
  • The lead character "wakes up dead" with amnesia.
  • There are school uniform wearing machine-gun hotties.
  • There is a group of "rebels" having trouble with the name of their rebel troop ("Not Dead Yet Battlefront"). They are the expected, stereotypical cast of weirdos. I could go down a checklist. (Glasses guy, violent dude, precious girl, relax-bear, etc., etc.)
  • Their mission is to fight against God. (???)
  • There is a pretty girl with a sword-arm whose goal is to "kill" the dead. The anime uses the word obliterate, but still. 
  • The dead are "obliterated" so that they may be (now this is just the presumption the rebel troops make) reincarnated as sea creatures. 
  • They have a secret hide-out on campus with secret words and booby traps and espionage. 
  • Everyone is ultra-violent, and there is copious blood loss, but all of the injured survive to fight another day (which makes me question the logic of any of it really). 
  • Their enemy, sword-armed Angel (who may actually be an angel) is actually a digital creation in this semi-digital high-school purgatory. (When did it go 0s and 1s?)
  • The first nefarious mission for Not Dead Yet Battlefront is to "shred school lunch tickets." (Yes, from the cafeteria in the afterlife.)
  • The diversion they plan is an impromptu concert from an all-girl rock band. 
I have no freaking idea what is going on anymore. I am so confused! There seems to be some sort of "logic" that's either missing, or escaping me personally. It's a high-school in purgatory? Are there consequences for not attending? Who teaches the classes? Why the elaborate wait-station? Why does someone have to be "killed" there to be reincarnated elsewhere? Why would a dead person have amnesia? What about all the other people populating this "place?" When one character hypothesizes that the non-fighting characters might be NPCs (non-participating characters, like in a role-playing game), that doesn't make things clearer...only more illogical. Why would you need a diversion for NPCs? Why would a NPC, or any of you, need to eat? And if you did need to eat, why eat school lunches? Who is paying for them? Do you have to get a part time job in high-school purgatory? Do you live in the dorms? Who assigns them? Where is the administration? Are Japanese kids so education-minded that they could effectively run and organize a learning institution on their own? What does "god" have to do with this? Is that lady really a computer? Is this like a Tron thing?
Is that Kyo from FuRuBu back there? No. Okay.

Cover Art by Sentai/Aniplex
courtesy of Wikipedia

Now, maybe, just maybe these questions are answered sufficiently in further episodes, but I will never know, because BLEH! Here's what's surprising to me. This is a celebrated anime with very positive reviews and that too baffles me. This review by Theron Martin on applauds the complexity of the series. I agree it is complex, but for me...that complexity seems purposeless, and erratic, and just weird.

This one is a no-go for me, but if you've seen it feel free to chime in and argue for this series. I want to know what I'm missing.

No comments: