I don’t tend to blog about anime much, but every once in a while, I come across a series that I find especially enjoyable. Granted I don’t have the time to watch many series, I try to approach each new anime with an open mind ready to be immersed in a new world and new story. Recently with the help of my friends, I found Angel Beats and fell in love with it immediately.
Angel Beats was developed by Studio KEY, the same firm that created the immensely popular Clannad series. Now, I found Clannad an emotional and strangely uplifting series (the first season at least), but I found Angel Beats affecting me even more so as I watched it. You know, I hadn’t noticed until someone pointed it out, but I tend to gravitate to school-life genre series in general. Of course, Angel Beats not only fit the bill, it gave my intellectual side a number of concepts to mull over.
While I would not consider myself a pessimist, I sometimes feel that I am bordering the mindset of one. I’m pretty sure I am an optimist by nature though– I can’t help to think in a positive manner. Unfortunately, too many things have happened in my lifetime that mask my optimistic tendencies. When making a decision, I always approach cautiously, evaluate all possible paths, then choose my mode of operation while still anticipating the worst case scenario. Sometimes however, the magnitude of the worst case scenario clouds my judgment a little, causing me to question myself or act a tad paranoid. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, improbability knows know bounds. In addition to these tendencies, I have something that too proves as a hindrance sometimes: intelligence. I’m sure you must be familiar with the adage, “ignorance is bliss,” a statement that points out that only those who possess a mental capacity and judgment capable of observing the mistakes of others are able to see what others don’t. Such people have the capacity to notice these mistakes and look down on others.
It is a combination of these qualities that really shake my faith in humanity– an ailment I share with a number of friends possessing these same qualities. True, open-mindedness helps a lot, but it has it’s dangers as well. A brilliant quote I once read stated that “the problem with an open mind is of course, the fact that people like to try and put stuff in it.” The key to this caveat of course is to be selectively open-minded, but in a world filled with bad news (just read any recent headlines), it really is tough to be hopeful of a brighter future. In addition, more and more people have been turning towards Atheism, fueled by their uncertainty. But why all this sorrow in a post expression my appreciation for Angel Beats?
Because sometimes one strong message is enough to reinforce one’s certainty in their own path.
I go through life with a certain honor; I don’t cheat in class, I don’t mistreat animals, I don’t try to gain unfair advantages over others… Sometimes I feel that it’s all for naught. Sometimes I wonder if I am the fool who clings to an intangible concept of honor while everyone else lies and cons their way into achieving the same goals I want to. Perhaps being a nice person doesn’t pay off in the end…?
As I watched Angel Beats, I found not only an enjoyable storyline with a rich assortment of characters, but also an anime that agreed with all of my core ideals. So much so, that I would take long breaks from episodes pondering over what I had just watched with a mixture of relief and approval. Due to the way the story was told, it was not laid out in the beginning that the characters were in a sort of Purgatory because of the nature of their lives on the mortal Earth. The characters had to struggle together and find their way through the curious after-life they had wandered into in order to discover its secrets. As the ones in the audience, we are filled with the same questions as the characters. “Why is everyone there?” “Why are people disappearing?” “Where do they go when they vanish?”
An emotional anime throughout, we eventually learn that each member of the battle front led an unfulfilling (and in most cases tragic) youth which resulted in their early deaths. The “after-life” they had been sent to was the universe’s way to give the children a second chance– to live an ideal life that they never had. (Wow… as I type, Brave Song, the anime’s ED song just came on. It honestly brought a tear to my eye, thinking about all of this.) The world that they were in was a perfect world for a student or youth to live out their life. Classes were held, after-school clubs met, part-time jobs were available… to the ones who never had any of this, it was a paradise. These children were afraid however, because those who “conformed” to this lifestyle disappeared from the “world.” In order to resist this, the battle front did all they could to not conform to the world’s ways and eventually gained a large following.
All the while, the anime’s protagonist, Otonashi Yuzuru, fought with amnesia and joined the battle-front wondering what type of life he led. After a battle with the battle front’s main enemy, Angel, Otonashi realized what the world around them really was. Angel was a seemingly emotionless entity that would try to make the battle front students conform to the world’s lifestyle, and was incredibly powerful as well. Otonashi eventually discovered that Angel was in fact, human and was trying to get people to conform for a very good reason. When one “disappeared,” it meant that their soul could be laid to rest, having finally fulfilled any regrets they might have had from their previous life. In an emotional scene, Otonashi also regains his memories– that he died trying to save the passengers caught in a train wreck. Moments before he died, he checked the box on his ID card to be an organ donor.
With his mind made up, Otonashi goes on a quest to set each of his friends’ souls to rest. It’s really a sad yet uplifting thing to see if you think about it. Eventually, the news is spread to all of the members of the resistance. They are given a choice: Seek to fulfill their life regrets and set their soul to rest (thus leaving the purgatory) or stay and oppose the lifestyle. As the main cast delves deeper into the world’s secrets, investigating the appearance of strange “end-game” monsters intent on capturing them, everyone is left to act on their decisions. At the conclusion of the final battle, everyone else had disappeared, their souls laid to rest.
In a somewhat saddening scene, the main characters held their own “graduation ceremony” from their school life with Otonashi and Angel (whose real name was revealed to be Kanade Tachibana) among them. As they disappeared one by one, Otonashi is left alone with Angel. With everyone gone, Angel reveals the reason she was brought to the purgatory– why her life was unfulfilled.
When Angel was in her youth, a heart transplant from a donor saved her life. All her life, she wanted to thank the person who saved her life, but could not… Until now.
With a final “thank you,” Angel disappeared.
Probably what got to me the most about this anime, was the message that in the end, everyone gets what they deserve. As I explained earlier, such a thing happens so rarely, that it was so, so, refreshing for me to see. All the characters we had come to love in the anime had a tragic youth, and somehow, the universe made up for it. Everyone was given a chance to live an ideal youth and do everything they missed out on, without fear of dying. The characters in Angel Beats no doubt deserved it.
Just seeing people get what they deserve made me happy. Just being reassured, even if it was in a silly anime world, that the universe has a balance of justice, made me feel at ease. Just watching the strong spirits of the students in the battle front made me want to live more ambitiously than ever. I knew that my ideals, my way of lifestyle, my path was right… and I was going to stick to it. If I had learned one thing from the ending, somehow, somewhere, sometime, everyone will get what they deserve.
I can’t help but wonder what the world was like when Otonashi and Angel stood together outside. It must have been awfully quiet. Quiet… But peaceful.