Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spring 2010 - Angel Beats!

If the name "KEY" rings a bell from your exposure to the anime industry, you've probably been paying quite a bit of attention to dating-sims and visual novels for the past decade, if not playing quite a few yourself. After all, they have been responsible for games (and eventual shows) such as Kanon, AIR, Clannad, and Little Busters! and have set standards for idolatry to new heights. The initial games were strictly for the "adult" and otaku crowd (to the point that they heavily pushed products at yearly Comic Markets to capture those audiences).

However, KEY's success has also drawn competition from other visual novel titles (the Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Fate/stay night franchises), as well as a forced evolution away from adult-themed games. While Kanon and AIR were initially eroge (erotic games), the overall swing towards character popularity and the need for a new target audience may have shifted attention towards non-erotic titles like Clannad. However, KEY's ventures always started with the game and resulted in other media; this time, KEY has opted to create the animation first for their next title, Angel Beats!, a cooperative effort with Aniplex, Dengeki G's Magazine, and P.A. Works.

Angel Beats! starts with our amnesia-struck protagonist, Otonashi, waking up in the middle of a stand-off in school grounds. While he's unsure of why the students are fighting with guns and weapons, he's told by Yuri, leader of the SSS (Shinda Sekai Sensen or "Afterlife Warfront"), that he must joint them as a fighter in this purgatory to keep from being claimed by God. After all, he, like all of the others, is already dead, a hypothesis proven when he wakes up hours later, still "alive" after getting a blade through the neck from "Angel", the apparent terminator in the afterlife.

So what's to do in Purgatory? Well, apparently it involves keeping up appearances as a student in the unnamed school, attending classes with "non-player characters" while planning strategies on how to keep Angel at bay. This war on school grounds involves plenty of heavy artillery, but the SSS's secret weapon is an all-girl quartet called "Girls Dead Monster", a rock band who distracts the NPG's and Angel with music. That's not to say that Angel herself isn't talented, as she appears to fight well on her own with computer programs, but what exactly are the sides fighting for if the other side's death isn't the means of victory?

Angel Beats! seems to involve a very complicated formula comprised of other visual-novel concepts. Not only are the students forced to fight a war unseen by regular students, a plot seen in Fate/stay night, but they can apparently do it without the bodily definition of death, which was also explored in the Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni games and anime. Therefore, you're likely to get tons of serious death scenes, only for them to appear later on as if Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan was constantly reanimating them. It's an interesting concept to have the characters fighting against fate and resisting acceptance of death, but there just seems to be some sort of underlying script rejected from Lost being used for the show--we even get flashbacks of how the characters "died" in the past.

I do want to recognize Angel Beats! as something trying to stand up as a talented story, as there are some well-animated sequences (especially the opening theme with Angel playing a piano) and consideration towards a unique background, but the framework just leaves something unfulfilled, and the characters seem somewhat...familiar. The fact that we have the "SSS" fighting in an alternate dimension against an emotionless girl piloted by computer programming, all while being fueled by an all-girl band, screams the obvious.

Take a good look at Yuri and compare her to another well-known figure in anime:
I'm not saying this is a blatant rip-off, but...come on! It's the SOS-dan with guns!

It really sours to see the commonalities between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Angel Beats!, as the latter had potential for a really good anime without having to resort to character types and devices that existed in the former. The story may eventually drive the series past these obvious similarities with its questioning of a just God's existence, but even that direction could lead to territories explored by other sensô-gokko ("pretend war") shows such as Full Metal Panic and Kämpfer. Angel Beats! does merit more watching with its philosophies on religion, but it just feels we've been led down this road before...

1 comment:

  1. I know right and Shana from Shakugaun no Shana
    looks like Miss Asahina?