Kill That Rebel With Just Cause
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
<@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
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.