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Kill That Rebel With Just Cause

May 30, 2010

I’ve been down with Angel Beats since episode one. I’ve been digging the mystery behind everything that’s going on. Are they dead? Are they in a game? Will we even get an answer? Is it all just a silly backdrop used to illustrate some personal drama? I had my theories and stuff, but all I cared about was whether the ride along the way was fun.

Episode nine killed all of that. Barring some awesome twists in the next three (Or four? I don’t know.) episodes, my enthusiasm for this series has been brutally, ritualistically murdered.

It isn’t the fact that we find out “the truth.” I don’t mind that all of my MMO theories were all but crushed in this episode. I liked the fact that the series gave me the chance to theorize shit and play out all sorts of scenarios in my head. They’re in purgatory. They’re supposed to live a childhood without the regrets and pain that caused their lives to feel meaningless so that their reincarnation can be facilitated.

I’m down with that. What pisses me off is Otonashi’s reaction to this revelation: He dedicates himself to ending the conflict without ever thinking that maybe there’s a reason behind their rebellion.

Not everyone wants to resolve their pasts. Otonashi can’t bear to see Yuri regret her inability to save her siblings during life, and he essentially wants to erase those memories from her life by having her “move on.” He basically wants everyone to forget about their tragic pasts and “renew” themselves into the next life. It’s something of a reverse Logan’s Run. Otonashi has been a Runner up until this point, but he’s had an about-face and wants to become a Sandman and ensure that everyone takes a ride on Carousel and start life anew.

The problem is that in ridding Yuri and the others of their regrets, isn’t he robbing them of some aspect their personality? The band leader was able to resolve her regrets, but that’s because she was able to fulfill a wish from her previous life. In doing so she was able to complete herself, so her “renewal” makes sense. But with Yuri, her regret isn’t something that can be resolved in such a constructive manner. She doesn’t regret her inability to create music in life, she regrets not being able to save the lives of her siblings. Otonashi can’t help her strum a few chords in front of  crowd or have her catch a baseball in the big game in order to solve her problems.

Yuri’s problems can’t be resolved outside of making her get over the way she feels. The problem is that is this something that she wants to get over? Yuri is pissed at the world and how cruel it can be. Her siblings were murdered before her eyes for no discernible reason and she’s angry with the world for allowing such travesties to happen. Is it really wrong to be angry at the world for such cruelties? Isn’t it natural to be angry at injustice?

This is what’s ruining Angel Beats. This episode made it seem like we’re supposed to be rooting for Otonashi to solve Yuri’s problems. We’re supposed to see her anger at God as something that needs to be fixed in order for her to be at peace and move on. We’re supposed to see this resolution as heart-warming and touching.

Fuck being at peace. Sometimes someone has to take that burden on their shoulders and take it to the man in order to change shit. Even those annoying pseudo-pacifist characters I railed on in past posts (Vash, Kenshin, etc) got up and did something about the nastiness that abounds in their worlds. They didn’t lay down and accept everything, blindly accepting the good and the bad, and wishing for the next life to be better.

That’s exactly what Otonashi and Angel seem to be saying at the end of this episode. Yuri and the others just need to chill out and stop taking the world so seriously. They shouldn’t be mad at God for how cruel their lives may have been. They just need to have fun at this school, do what everyone tells them, and pass on– a few happy moments are all anyone needs to forget their troubles and love life.

Sorry Otonashi, that’s not jiving with me. The ideal that’s being supported here reeks of conformity for conformity’s sake. Rebellion in and of itself is bad because it messes with the established order. People just need a little positive stimulation and they’ll fall in line and conform, and anyone that acts overwise is a glitch in the system disrupting that which should be.

I’m really hoping this gets subverted before the end of the series (They’ve subverted quite a few other things before this.), but I have a feeling the creators thought this was the way to go.

Gah… this episode pissed me off like no anime episode has in ages. Even Sora no Woto was more of a middling annoyance. But this episode of Angel Beats rubbed me in ever wrong way possible. I’ll watch the last few episodes, but my enthusiasm is as dead as the cast.

Was talking with a buddy of mine on IRC as I finished this post. Told him how I hated this episode. Here’s how the conversation ended:

<@Landon> The main girl saw her family get murdered before her eyes and she’s mad at God for allowing such stuff to happen, but the anime basically says “What? She should be happy God is letting her live in a Japanese school for a little bit having a normal life. She should stop being unhappy and reincarnate.”
<@Landon> It’d be cool if all of this was happening but it was seen as the WRONG way to do things. Like, it was the villains trying to make people conform while everyone was rebelling
<@Landon> Like The Matrix and refusing to accept the computer world and such
<@ThreeDark> right
<@Landon> It’s like The Matrix where Agent Smith is the hero
<@ThreeDark> I would love that movie
<@Landon> Yeah, saying it that way makes it sound cool
<@Landon> But in this case it isn’t
<@Landon> Heeheehee
<@ThreeDark> Indeed

Yeah. Angel Beats is basically The Matrix where Neo is branded a villain for daring to Rage Against the Machine and Agent Smith is the hero. Except it’s nowhere near as cool as that idea. Because, yeah, Agent Smith is that much of a badass and Otonashi and Angel aren’t really badass at all.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Taka permalink
    May 30, 2010 2:45 AM

    I’m not sure if I 100% agree with you. Mainly because purification so you can go to heaven is sort of the point of purgatory. I guess it all depends on whether heaven really is a better place than wherever they are. Besides I think yurippe’s I don’t think it’s yurippe’s anger at god that holds her back. I think she’s probably more angry at herself for not being able to protect her siblings. In a sense I think Otonashi and yurippe’s regrets are similar. Anyway I don’t think it will just be a “everyone stays in class and is happy” etc. I think Otonashi will have to actually deal with what is holding them back. Otherwise it wouldn’t make a great story…though it would make a more Japanese story. Remember individuality isn’t as highly valued in Japan as it is in the states.

    Also I’m not sure about the Matrix comparison. Simply because I don’t know if the Matrix would necessarily be equivocal to purgatory.

  2. May 30, 2010 3:06 AM

    I wasn’t fond of the direction the show took either (although clearly not to the extent you were) but there’s definately another plot twist waiting in the wings. Things seemed to perfect with this episode. With the pace Angel Beats has been moving at thus far, there’s no way in hell they can go three episodes without changing the rules somehow

  3. May 30, 2010 3:22 AM

    Your post reminds me of this clip my friend showed me today
    RSA Animate – Smile or Die : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo

    And I agree with Scamp, there’s definately something more in the last 3 eps, not just “kicking Yuri and comrades out of this place” stuff.

  4. May 30, 2010 3:32 AM

    So essentially, the episode is the equivalent of Otonashi and Angel being nosy relatives who don’t “get it” when something happens to you and tells you to just “move on”. For instance, if your parents were just gunned down in front of you by street scum, and they expect you to just get on with life and enjoy the fortune that was left to you.

    When really, what you need to do is become Batman.

  5. Zaku_Fan permalink
    May 30, 2010 9:27 AM

    About Yuri and Otonashi (what i understand from it)

    Yurippe’s problem is that she is holding herself responsible for things that were beyond her control (regarding only the siblings factor). Her personality seems to be the sort that will feel even worse if you forgive her (episode 9) as she cannot forgive herself. In the end it is not about god or what not as what i see is that Otonashi wants to help her out of friendship.

    An example. A close friend of yours breaks down mentally/emotionally due to some event in their lives. Do you help them or do you feel that “nah its their choice i shouldn’t get involved”?

  6. May 30, 2010 10:39 AM

    I’d say it’s more like Neo teaming up with Agent Smith to fight against Morpheus. It doesn’t matter to me, though. All I want to see is Tenshi being happy in the end, with Otonashi. ;_;

  7. kxt71@yahoo.com permalink
    May 30, 2010 6:12 PM

    Eh I don’t think the matrix analogies work. Yuri’s regrets are understandable, but the thing is she ISN’T fighting “the power” that caused all that. It’s not like matrix where you rebel against the machine control. There are some things in life that just suck and that’s the truth. I mean say a meteor fell from the sky and killed someone you know, what, would you spend the rest of your life mopping around feeling shitty and thinking ‘LOL GOD SUCKS HE MUSTA SENT THAT METEOR, SO UNFAIR!” It’s doesn’t seem to be an issue of conformality and etc to me. If your parents were gunned down, then going batman or becoming a kick ass cop is a fine way to go. However Yuri’s already dead and no longer in a position to do anything to fight against injustices of life. It’s a whole different thing is the SSS were actually rebelling against SOMETHING that caused an injustice in their life, but that’s not what they are doing. It seems to me that Kanade and Otonashi want to help people resolve their past regrets and make them feel at peace with themselves, but they are NOT saying that the world’s injustices are OK. Hell I’d be pissed too I was a random victim, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try my best and continue to live (Or in the case of those who already died, to move on) instead of being all QQ about it.

Trackbacks

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