Gantz Goes Moe
Watching the first episode of Angel Beats, I kept thinking back to Gantz. Like the title says, it’s as if Gantz got an Extreme Makeover by the Key peeps and they turned it into a moe anime. At least on the surface.
Both Gantz and Angel Beats feel like they take place within a video game world. Weapons are strung about, readily available for no logical reason other than “this is how this universe functions.” Both revolve around seemingly absurd conflicts against opponents that, again, don’t make a lick of sense when taken out of the logical context of “this is a video game and this is what you do when you’re a video game character.”
Angel Beats, if you believe Yuri’s exposition, is based around the idea that one must fight against “god” in order to maintain one’s existence within this purgatory-like world. If one ceases to rage against the machine, one ceases to exist and apparently “reincarnates,” possibly as a barnacle or a flea or a moeblob. We gotta take her word for it, since we haven’t seen anything along those lines happen yet. We’re just as clueless and strung-along as Otonashi. Not even the characters who claim to be in the know actually know this to be the case. They simply assume it based on their religious beliefs from their previous lives.
The key difference between Gantz and Angel Beats is the way death is handled. In Gantz, death is permanent. If you die, you die. It takes an oldschool mentality to video games. Angel Beats is of the hand-holding, rez-pointing, infinite lives school of modern gaming. You die, you get right back up and keep playing with minimal penalties. The only way you can “die” is to quit playing the game, hence why people who cease to “fight” are erased from the world. In Contra, once your lives are up that’s it. Game Over. Gotta start over. In a modern FPS game, you keep playing and playing and playing, going back to the latest save point when you die, and you never “lose” unless you essentially chose to do so.
That’s the vibe I get from the first episode of Angel Beats. The people are in a video game world. Said world’s backdrop is “afterlife where you have to fight against some angel chick to stay alive.” Otonashi is the latest PC that’s dropped into this MMO FPS game. Being a new PC, he has “amnesia” and doesn’t know what’s going on, since he was just generated and has no backstory or whatever. He’ll go through a series of events that will unlock his background, hence revealing his memories to him. Everyone continues their existential fight against Angel and God and whatever, using guns and ammo that conveniently spawn for them in this world to do so, until someone cracks the secret behind everything and everything gets really tripped out and weird.
That’s my premature, based-on-one-episode prediction. I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong very soon, but that’s what I’m going with for now.
As for everything else, I’m digging it. I rather liked the concert scene. It played like a heist scene out of some Ocean’s 11 movie or something like that. Create/utilize a distraction. Have a team of peeps set aside to act as a diversionary force when the fuzz arrives. When the time is right, pull the trigger and make off with the goods. The whole scene was pretty well-staged, and I was surprised to see something like that pulled off in the first episode. This is the sort of set piece you expect at the climax of an arc or in the final episode, not right off the bat. Angel Beats gets cool points for that.
I also dig the ideas it’s getting at. In order for one to make their place in the world, one must fight against the established order. If that means railing against god and the natural order of things, so be it. No one becomes “somebody” and is remembered in history by playing by all the rules and blending in with the crowd. Sometimes you have to snipe a Yuki-from-Haruhi cosplayer while dressed up as Haruhi in order to let the world know you exist. That’s just how shit goes down. Considering how pro-establishment most anime series tend to be, what with how most series tend to put down anyone that dares to step out of their “lot in life” and strive to be someone they’re not, it’s cool to see an anime series that bucks that trend and goes for an anti-establishment concept. We’ll see if it plays up that angle.
Angel Beats has the goods to be the best series of the season. It has an interesting premise that can go in all sorts of directions. It has a cast of characters that seems to have lots of potential. It has good production values and a great sense for how to pull of awesome set pieces. There’s a few things that kinda suck (The afterlife is a high school? Did y’all really need to go there?), but they’re more issues of taste than quality. Angel Beats looks to be pretty awesome. Hopefully it lives up to that assumption.