House of Five Leaves 1, Angel Beats 3

House of Five Leaves looks to be a slow-moving affair, with lots of walking through picturesque scenery and slow yet profound conversations, with a little swordplay thrown in. It’s also … droll. Though by no means is this show a comedy, there’s something about the show that seems to chuckle about itself as the story gently unfolds.

I guess the drollery comes partly from the main character, Akitsu, a wimpy ronin looking for a job. Because of his personality disorders, which seem to center on a painful shyness, he’s not considered much of a samurai. Yaichi, a kidnapper who just happens to be searching for a wimpy samurai, for whatever reason, hires him to be his bodyguard before Akitsu learns what his occupation is. Along the way to learning this he actually has to act as a samurai, and to Yaichi’s surprise, turns out to be quite a good fighter.

It would be simplistic to say that the story is going to follow along the lines of a good man trying to remain so while surrounded by rogues. There’s more to it than that. Akitsu, though loath to accept his pay from a robber, admires Yaichi’s carefree attitude, and the fact that his choice of kidnappings could be seen as interventions in troubled households. Plus, his family needs the money. In addition, there are early scenes related to just such a household, apparently Yaichi’s memories, and we need to see how that fits into things.

Some people have been put off by the character designs, and they are different from your typical anime show, but since it’s the way the creator draws, well, accept it or don’t. I liked this first episode, its pace and its look; the artwork is great to look at. Definitely worth a second look.

Angel Beats 3 is the best yet for balancing the themes and moods the show likes to explore. We get more speculation as to the meaning of this place where people wind up, unable to continue or not wishing to get reincarnated as a water flea, another individual with a tortured life she’s trying to overcome, and the often stupid hijinks of the SSS and the girl band, GirlDeMo.

We start with the stupid, as the Yurippe unveils her next operation, breaking into Angel’s headquarters using GirlDeMo as a distraction, using their new secret weapon, a nerdy computer genius who wants to be referred to as Christ (given the spiritual overtones of this show that name ought to be significant, but I can’t think of any reason except the kid’s weird).

But the meat of this show concerns Iwasawa, GirlDeMo’s lead singer and songwriter, who tells Otonashi her life story, fighting parents, loneliness, until she listens to some music.

She learns to play an abandoned guitar, goes out looking for gigs, etc, until an errant bottle wielded by her father kills her before she can get the satisfaction she wanted out of her music. And she gets it. At the distraction concert, after being raided by the faculty, she breaks free and starts to play the ballad Yurippe had turned down as not distracting enough. Interestingly, the faculty do not stop her.

Maybe she's attained Nirvana ... no, not the band.

And she disappears. Just like that. Otonashi sees that there is more than one way out of here. While I’m wondering where she went. What is the next step? Is she now a water flea? Meanwhile, the raid was comically successful, thanks to Takeyami Christ, and they learn that Angel does not have heavenly powers. So is there a god?

I’m happy that such a silly show is pondering questions like this; it’s one of the reasons I’m watching. But it looks like the answer to Life the Universe and Everything might be to live up to your highest potential, which is mundane, though it is an answer. On the other hand, this is an entertainment series; how deep can it get? Meanwhile, Iwasawa’s story was poignant, but a little predictable, and the SSS squad was as silly as ever. The contrasts are staggering. I can’t think of another series that tries to do so many things and not be a total wreck.


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