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The Mapo Tofu is a Lie

May 31, 2010

Got lots of good comments from my last Angel Beats post, a lot of them dealing with my off-hand bit about the series turning into “The Matrix where Agent Smith is the hero.” That was meant to be more of a joke than anything, but after reading the comments and thinking about it for a bit, I think there’s more credence to that comment than I intended.

The purgatory of Angel Beats is every bit of a “lie” as the computer world of The Matrix or the city-in-space of Dark City or the decadent domes of Logan’s Run. They’re all artificial worlds into which people have been placed to fulfill an arbitrary purpose, whether it’s to control the human population (Logan’s run), act as fuel cells for robots (The Matrix), unlock the human soul to prolong an alien species (Dark City), or to act as a means for people to get over their personal issues before reincarnating (Angel Beats).

The purpose of all of these worlds is to hide the truth from its inhabitants. The powers that be don’t want you to know that you can live beyond 30 or live in a world with sunshine or anything like that. They need you to be in the dark in order to further their goals.

Despite the seemingly benevolent purpose behind the Purgatory of Angel Beats, it’s just as much of  deception as the others. The world was constructed to give a happy childhood to children who lived unhappy lives. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but isn’t it going about it the wrong way? Rather than trying to help the kids cope with their untimely deaths or tragic pasts, the world is set up in order to try to make them forget about their pasts. It isn’t about friends getting together to help each other come to some sort of reconciliation– the world is set up so that you forget about the pain of your previous life and remember this childhood as your real childhood.

You’re supposed to go about your life normally, going to school and participating in clubs and all that. There’s no evidence of councilors who are there to help you work out your problems or anything that’s meant to help you cope with your problems. The only person we’ve seen who disappeared and did so by working out her problems and coming to a resolution did so outside of Angel and God’s system. She rebelled against the artificial school life presented to her, but at the same time she worked towards fulfilling that which she couldn’t do in life.

Angel is basically saying “get reincarnated MY way and don’t question MY authority.” It isn’t about the choice that the leader of Girls Dead Monster made or anything like that, it’s about falling in line and obeying the Men in Black/Sandmen/Strangers in order to get what you need rather than what you want. And the fact that Otonashi seemingly falls in line with Angel at the end of the latest episode really rubbed me the wrong way. He’s going to make Yuri and company follow Angel’s decree for their own good, rather than allowing them to come to their reconciliation on their own terms like their friend did earlier in the series.

It’s the fact that choice is being taken out of the matter that’s pissing me off. If this were a case where choice didn’t factor into things, it wouldn’t be so bad. Y’all know that I like dismal, hopeless shit, and I’d be down with it if this were a case where there was no way for people to fight back and do things their own way.

But that isn’t the case. We’ve seen one person “fight the power” and do things their own way. The world is set up to where people can create the means to rebel. Free will exists in this world, and we have proof that you can achieve reincarnation by means other than Angel’s Way. We’ve been presented with alternative means to reach the same goal, but the “hero” of the story is seemingly rejecting these alternatives in order to satisfy the whims of a quiet little girl that reminds him of his sister (And whom he wants to fuck.).

Yeah, Yuri, Otonashi wants to rob you of your free will because he wants to impress a girl.

Of course, like everything else in this series I could easily be proven wrong with the next episode. That’s been the case with all of my pet theories thus far. Otonashi could very well have something up his sleeves that turns the tables on Angel and Yuri’s plans. God could show himself and say “What the fuck are you doing, Angel? What’s up with you hacking and slashing people in my name? That Crusades shit is old!” Maybe the “bad” Angel personalities really did take he over after the merger, and the story she gave Otonashi is a big fat lie and he’s falling into her trap. They could totally bypass everything and end the series with a big musical number with dancing unicorns and scat-singing armadillos.

Anything would make sense at this point in the series, I’m just trying to work through it all in my head as we go along.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2010 1:23 PM

    Would be a mighty fantastic troll if Tenshi was being all manipulativly moe and I’d say there’s quite a good chance of that happening. Plus there’s the main message of the series being ‘rebel against god’, which suggests they won’t do this. I’m betting most of them will dissapear, bar Otonashi (because if he hasn’t dissapeared now then there’s clearly something still up), Yuri (goes against why she’s there in the first place) and TK (nobody can figure out what’s wrong with him). Then Yuri will reveal Tenshi’s bad side and all hell will break loose…or something.

    Heh, Angel Beats guesswork~

  2. May 31, 2010 2:30 PM

    Dunno. Maybe this episode reached the threshold of continuity where the episodes actually connect to one another. WHYYYY wasn’t this a 24 ep series (sigh)? But anyway I feel like there’ll be another twist where a general consensus is achieved and everyone gets their free will. Otonashi will probably realize he’s trying to impose his will on others – the OHSHI moment – fall down in classic orz epicness, cry, and then maybe Kanade or Yuri will comfort him, telling him it’s ok. Dunno…

  3. Taka permalink
    May 31, 2010 4:34 PM

    I dunno I just don’t see Kanade as trying to force anything on them. She didn’t interfere with Iwasawa’s final song at all in fact she stood at the door and listened. Some random teachers did but who knows how much of that can be brought back to Tenshi or brought back to the methods in which they are meant to pass to heaven or wherever they go.

    I still don’t agree with the matrix/dark city/logans run comparison. Mostly because in each of those situations they were attempting to keep those people in that purgatory. In this case; if this is indeed purgatory in the theological sense, the intent seems to be to send people on to heaven. So to me the question of if it’s wrong trying to get these people to move on with their afterlife hinges on whether where they are is better than where they are going. It also depends on whether you see whatever power that governs their purgatory as inherently benevolent or inherently malevolent or inherently impartial. I try to see Angel Beats purgatory as the actual theological concept of purgatory. Not as a false reality.

  4. FlameStrike permalink
    June 1, 2010 10:19 AM

    Ugh how the HECK did you come into these wierd conclusions? Kanade and Otonashi in NO WAY want them to forget their past by living a fake school life. I think you are massivly misinterpreting the whole thing. Did you forget the Otonashi’s whole speech to Naoi? “You’re lives were real!!” He screamed that while hugging him for pete’s sake. What Naoi was doing was similar to what you were mentioning, painting over the tragic memories with happy hypnosis.

    What both Kanade and Otonashi have been doing is to help everyone somehow attain peace similar to how Iwasawa did and how Hinata might have done. She had no intention at all of forcing anyone to do anything. However she was forced into making the Guard Skills because some people like Yuri and people before her were making firearms with the freedom allowed to them. They were getting violent and even taking some of the adults hostage. As seen in the light novel the principal (Yes there used to be one before the SSS kicked him out) was taken hostage at gun point multiple times. Yuri even suggested going on a killing spree of “NPCs” once. I don’t know how she got to the “we must not harm NPCs policy” now but you see how she is. The whole “follow the rules = peace” thing was most likely because many of the teens didn’t have all that big regrets like Yuri’s, and could become happy just by having another chance at high school life. Kanade needed Guard Skills because of Yuri went around smashing windows or killing people, she would ruin that school life some students like and deny them a chance at peace. Ugh in Yuri’s great crusade against some God that who knows if he exists ended screwing with the after life of other kids trying to obtain peace. Just to make it clear, Kanade isn’t forcing anyone to do anything unreasonable. She isn’t busting into the room and dragging them off to class. She’s just stopping them when they disrupt the everyday lives of other people who maybe WANT to move on. In real life you aren’t allowed to run around going crazy with guns either. Well stopping the GalDeMo concerts is a bit stiff, but it was the teachers that did that, and they didn’t react too much different to how I’d expect real teachers to react if you hold a random concert whenever you want when there are other ways to go about it properly (Well they were way too rough I’ll say that).

    Where did heck you figure that the afterlife was an “artificial world” made to fulfill the SINISTER PURPOSE of giving teenagers who lived poor lives and died full of a regret a chance to resolve those issues and die with happiness? There’s no evidence of any higher being hiding anything or forcing people to reincarnate in a certain way. There’s no evidence that people FORGET their said pasts either. Did Iwasawa forget her life when she finally fulfilled her wish and cleared her regrets? No, she found the true meaning to her life. Would Hinata have forgotten his sad past and the fact he ruined his old friend’s dreams if he caught that ball? No, but he’d feel much more accomplished.

    The way I see it this world is like a second chance. Wouldn’t it SUCK if you died with a horrible life, full of regrets, unable to do anything about your past? I’d sure hate that too, and the people end up there might also be like that. In this world with tons of freedom they have a second chance at life in which they can resolve their past lives like Iwasawa did or clear up their regrets.

    The whole thing about the way you said “Angel and God’s system” bothers me a bit too. Kanade is just someone who saw that people who obtain peace or come to terms with the trauma in their lives disappear, and made a conclusion that this place is there for such a purpose. Thus, she wanted to help the teens move on, even if it means the friends she made become happy and disappear from her too. Even if some crazy self righteous group threatens people with fire arms, she’ll fight back and make sure everyone still has a chance to obtain peace in whatever way they want to.

  5. Landon permalink*
    June 1, 2010 7:46 PM

    How I see it:

    World sucks. People have bad shit happen to them.

    Instead of trying to find a way for people to understand the reasons why bad shit happens, God comes up with a consolation prize: If your childhood sucked, you get to live in an imaginary place where you live a normal life until you get to the point where you forget about that previous bad life and move on to reincarnation/heaven/Cthulhu’s belly.

    Angel, for whatever reason, tries to enforce this. She supports the idea that you’re supposed to follow the rules and obey God’s will– that being going to fake school and living out a normal, banal existence until you become content with this new life and “move on.” She enforces this by being the school president and doing her best to stop anything that breaks this strict behavioral pattern.

    Yuri looks at this, still pissed off at having her family murdered before her eyes, and says “I’m supposed to just shut up and start being happy because God gives me a cookie, pats me on the head, and tells me to run along and go to school? Fuck that noise, imma gonna get my glock and blow shit up!”

    Yuri has rebelled because she refuses to accept the equivalent of the Home Version of childhood. She was given a shitty one when she was actually alive, but now she’s being told that she’s supposed to just accept some false alternative second chance when what she really wants is answers. She won’t be happy reliving life, she’ll only be happy once she knows why her real life was UNhappy.

    The catch is that, with the way the world is set up, the ability for her to receive her answer seems possible. This isn’t some world where bad stuff happens for no reason. The very fact that a Purgatory-like state exists proves that there’s some superior force that shuffles the pieces around in the background, and that force has the means to answer these questions.

    In the real world, such questions can’t be answered as far as we know. We don’t have angels coming down from the heavens and openly mingling with humans or anything like that. If there is a God, he isn’t giving us commandments and the like nowadays. So “just accept things as they are and not worry too much” is a perfectly logical conclusion.

    In reality.

    The world of Angel Beats isn’t reality. It plays by different rules, and all of the rules presented in the series tell me that The Truth that Yuri longs for can be achieved if this God-like force gave a damn about Yuri’s plight. It should realize that these answers are what will allow Yuri to move on, but not only does this God-like force remain silent, it has an agent that is actively trying to silence her. The whole purpose of this Purgatory seems like it’s meant to silence anyone that questions the master plan by satiating them with a plesant (but uttely false) life.

    I’d be down with this if all of this was presented in a negative light. But the latest episode irke me because Otonashi says:

    “Precisely because I don’t want her (Yuri) to have to carry those memories forever that I want to save her.”

    Otonashi’s epiphany isn’t that he wants Yuri to get the answers she needs. His epiphany is that she needs to forget the reasons why she has questions to begin with. Only by being relieved of the root of her problems will she be freed from Purgatory and move on.

    Otonashi is falling in line with the agenda I see God and Angel carrying out: He wants Yuri to stop questioning why and forget these terrible things ever happened.

    Yeah, I’m sure I’m the only one that’s reading this series this way. I’m cool with that. And I’m cool with all of this being total bullshit in the end.

  6. Taka permalink
    June 2, 2010 12:54 AM

    So you see the god, at least in this series as having a more malevolent will? That is the conclusion I come to when I read your view. I’m not sure if I’m willing to make that leap myself. I also wouldn’t necessarily say that just because purgatory-like state exists that there has to be a sophisticated force behind it all pulling the strings. There could be a creator god that doesn’t actively take notice of the individual wills of all people. Often times I don’t even see Tenshi as an extension of any will. She doesn’t appear to get messages or any instructions from any higher power. She just sort of wanders around on her own will. Lastly, I don’t think that line from Otonashi necessarily has to be interpreted as forgetting her terrible memories. I think he simply hopes to help her come to terms with them.

  7. FlameStrike permalink
    June 2, 2010 1:23 AM

    I think you’re getting the wrong idea about Kanade. She is NOT god’s agent. That’s just some arbitrary title Yuri bestowed upon her so she could justify fighting her. In fact it was Yuri and other violent students that forced her into self defense in the first place. Ugh in the Light Novel prequel it pretty much went like this: Yuri sees Kanade stopping some crazy gun manic’s rampage with her Guard Skills. She thinks “OMFG THOSE SKILLS ARE GODLIKE! SHE MUST BE AN ANGEL, NO SHE IS AN ANGEL!” Then literally tells her “I dub thee Angel” and doesn’t listen to anything Kanade has to say. There was even a point where she busted into Kanade’s classroom, rode her horsey style and screamed “WHERE IS GOD?! DAMN YOU ANGEL!! BRING ME GOD!” Ugh she coulda taken care of her with her Guard Skills but refrained since she wasn’t using firearms. The teachers had to pull her off him and Hinata helped restrain her too (He almost died trying at that, getting his face bashed bloody by Yuri’s fists). Well the be fair Yuri was going through some tough times as well so she overreacted.

    Back on topic, I think the main part where our view points diverge is the whole question about god’s existence and his role in the lives of other people and the whole reasons that can be answered thing. In the real world and almost everyone’s case the reasons bad things happen is either bad luck or shitty humans abusing their free will and causing misery to others (Like those thieves). You can’t really blame GOD for these things unless there’s proof in this world that he caused them to happen, which I don’t believe at all (Why the heck would god bother to on purposely cause bad things to happen?). And if you believe in the Christian god, then he couldn’t have done anything to stop human actions because he gave them free will. The existence of the purgatory world itself does not prove that there’s a reason for all bad things or that there’s a god capable of explaining them in the way you described. Maybe god can’t explain everything perfectly? The real world in AB seems to be just like our real world too, some things are just unfair (How can you EXPLAIN away why people like the thieves or Hitler do evil things?). Ah but that’s another topic.

    You seem to be under the impression that the purpose of the world is for people to be content in school life and go “LOL IT’S OK NOW”. That’s not the way I see it, and from Otonashi’s actions/worlds probably not the way he sees it. The second chance at school life is only a means to find your own answers or satisfy your own regrets, and that is where you move on. As I said in the previous post, the other people disappearing during school life is most likely because somewhere in that peaceful school life they were able to do something that resolved their regrets, like how Iwasawa found the meaning to her life during her final song. It’s not that they become content with their current after lives and forgot there old, it’s just that by being in school was a means to resolving their questions or regrets. Basically, this second life is a place for teens to do the things you said they should on their own, find answers to their questions, or do the things they wanted to do, without god babying them along the way explaining every damn thing (It doesn’t work like that in real life either). That’s probably why so much freedom was given to them (They can make anything they remember in their lives too. That’s a lot of freedom). It also ties into why Kanade is protecting the order of the school. If Yuri and her gang were smashing windows and killing teachers etc (She seriously wanted to do stuff like that before discovering Kanade to fight) then it will get in the way of the other people trying to attain peace and find their answers. Hence Kanade tries to exert damage control as the Student Council Prez. If you recall, Kanade has been strictly defensive, she has NEVER initiated an attack or started violence. Red Kanade not withstanding, she’s much more like the Angel you described.

    Now the school life route obviously wouldn’t work with Yuri since her past is MUCH more intense then almost everyone there. It’s not something a bit of school life can resolve, hence her rebellion and etc. However, that’s exactly WHY Otonashi wants to help her and the rest of the SSS. If you recall in the episode he wants to LEARN their pasts, then help them come to terms with them. Not learn their pasts and have them LOL forget (That’s Naoi’s way). When he said that he didn’t want Yuri to live with those memories, I interpreted it as him meaning that he wants to help Yuri find her answers and resolve her regrets so she can die happy instead of full of anger the way she did in real life. If he was going about things the way you suggested he was, it would contradict his character and his previous actions. He even uses Hinata and Iwasawa as examples of what he wants for the others, understanding and fulfillment rather then apathy and fake contentment. When Otonashi remembered his past he wasn’t like “LOL LIFE SUCKS BUT WHO CARES, IT’S OK NOW”. He looked into his own past and was glad he was able to see meaning in his life.

    You seem to be putting an overly pessimistic tint onto the world they’re in, insisting beyond proof that there’s a god that’s trying to run their lives and force them to do things a certain way. In reality (How I see it) they’ve been put into a semi-familiar land with people similar to them and a place where they have almost total freedom. If Kanade wasn’t their to minimize Yuri’s rampage, she could be using that freedom the wrong way (Like trying to draw out a god that either doesn’t exist or couldn’t do anything about her problem) when she should be trying to find her own answers.

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