Angel Beats 13 (finale)

Angel Beats 13 was, in one way, what I expected it to be: people making tearful farewells and vanishing from the world. I’m happy to say that it managed to do that without false tears, and that they managed to toss in a little humor as well. It wouldn’t have been Angel Beats without that mix.

We start with Yurippe waking up in the infirmary with the remaining SSS members at her side, and her confessing that she’s ready to move on, now. That makes everyone, though so far no one has explained what Kanade is doing there, and if she even can move on. But they take care of that later. For now, they go to the gym and hold a graduation ceremony. It’s a nice scene, and it’s here where the humor comes in. Not only is it a parody of graduations, with a school song (written by Kanade, expressing the joys of tofu mapo), Hinata dressing as the principal, etc, but now and then the characters break out of the conformity and act like the doofuses they’re capable of being, especially Naoi.

Golf claps for Otonashi's tearful speech.

It also works because for all the joking it is a sentimental moment. These characters are saying goodbye in a standard, ritualized way that helps them take the next step in life, or, in this case, afterlife. But they save the real goodbyes for when the ceremony is over.

They can’t hold off the tears forever and I didn’t expect them to. Each goodbye is brief. Important things are said. Each character moves on, until we’re down to Otonashi and Kanade. I expected them to be the last two, and I expected tears, but I wasn’t quite expecting how it worked out. First, Otonashi suggests they remain to help the next hapless souls who comes to this place (A terrible idea. Otonashi, you’re done your part). And then we learn why Kanade has come here. After Otonashi died, it was her who got his heart.

Upon her death she … lost her way, looking to thank the person who gave her life, until she realized it was him. A bit melodramatic, but it does mean that now she can properly thank him and leave. But Otonashi has fallen in love with her and doesn’t want to be apart. When she does leave there’s only a tearful Otonashi left, and for a moment I was afraid he’d lost his way to depart. But a major theme of this show is leaving your regrets behind and moving on to the next world. He must have realized that, because we get a flash-forward to the real world, Otonashi spotting Kanade and rushing to catch up with her.

I’ve seen my share of anime and have often marvelled at how they can mix themes and emotions together in unexpected ways, well, unexpected to us westerners, but I have rarely seen one that takes such disparate things and slam them together like Angel Beats does. Considering how it takes wild comedy and slapstick, to the point where deaths can be funny, and mix that in with the concept of accepting your own death and moving on to the next life, all stuck in a metaphysical high school setting … I’ve never seen anything quite like it. A good series, and certainly not what the first episode promised.

Confusion: Angel Beats 12, Daimaou 11

I don’t know what to make of Angel Beats 12. Let’s start with the parts that make sense.

Just about all the students not directly involved in the fighting move on, including Girls Dead Monster all at once. This raises the question: why is the SSS still there? What part of their existence remains unsatisfied? The show doesn’t give an answer, but I suspect it’s out of loyalty to Yurippe, the one person there who cannot accept what happened to her in her previous life, and who can blame her? But is she doomed to stay there? These are questions that come up later, when the show starts getting incomprehensible on us.

And there’s the fighting. The shadows are proliferating, and once again we see an NPC transform into one. The gang regroup, in one of those scenes where someone is about to be killed only to be saved by a newcomer, who tosses off a snappy line. It’s good enough, but we know not much will come of it until the source of the shadows is found and destroyed, and that brings us back to Yurippe, down in the guild’s lair, encountering monsters there, too. Here’s where it gets a little strange. A shadow takes her by surprise and she finds herself in a normal classroom. Asked to read a paragraph, she launches into a speech about her life, and how she has to accept it for what it is. Turns out she was nearly overwhelmed by the shadow, but Otonashi yanks her back. Apparently Kanade could sense her distress. Meanwhile, I shrug. Maybe it will make sense later.

Instead, when she finds the source of the shadows (and the reprogrammed Takamatsu) we get a lot of vagueness. Apparently the shadow program kicked in when love appeared in this world, and we can’t have that in the afterlife, can we? We also learn that Yurippe is the source, and that she could make this world a heaven on Earth. And that the programmer has turned himself into an NPC. After Yurippe destroys the computers and saves everyone, she considers herself a failure. I’m not sure why. Maybe because even if she protects everyone, they’ll move on and she’ll be alone. Maybe it’s because she still was unable to save her siblings in the real world. But then in an unexplained bit, the siblings appear and tell her she doesn’t have to fight any more. And finally she wakes up in the school infirmary with the remaining SSS people smiling at her. … It sort of makes sense, gobbledygook about the computer programs aside, and I wonder if now she’s found the peace she needs. I have a feeling next week is going to have a lot of tearful farewells.

Hoo-boy, and I thought Angel Beats didn’t make sense. Ichaban Ushiro no Daimaou 11 is so crazy and frantic that it makes last week’s episode look peaceful. And Akuto hardly appears at all.

Remember, he’s buried underneath the crashed airship. The rest of the characters frantically battle each other until he shows up again. Let’s see, we got Yamato trying to capture Keena, who is being protected by Fujiko. The two armies are after Akuto, I think. Meanwhile, the student council is going against Eiko, who has that puppet guy on her side.

Last minute rescue #468793 in this episode alone.

But it’s not that simple. Like the Angel Beats episode, this one is full of people saving the day at the last minute and uttering pithy lines. And they’re everywhere. One SC member saves Fujiko, then they come back and save the rest of the SC. Korone saves Eiko from Junko, who was saved earlier by Fujiko, I think. It’s all a blur. Oh, Keena undergoes a change of some sort, and Eiko’s father isn’t dead after all. I think he’s a cyborg now, or always was.

In all the craziness they do manage to do a couple things. First, Eiko is defeated. Junko’s house is sworn to Eiko, but she says fuck that and unleashes her magic sword, turning her back on the traditions that have carried her family yet has helped to perpetuate their share of wars. Instead she’ll fight for love. Rather like what Akuto intends to do with all this demon-lord-every-100-years nonsense. So that story part is done with for now. Keena goes off willingly with Yamato, but you know it’ll be more complicated than that. And Hiroshi/Braver is still around, reluctantly siding with Yamato for now, which sets the stage for next week’s finale. There’s no way it can top the fireworks in this episode, but that’s what I said after the LAST week’s.

Elevens: Angel Beats, Heroman

Angel Beats 11 brings us a new shadowy threat, while everyone is already busy dealing with the truth of their existance there. Because of this tug-of-war the episode feels distracted, or at least the characters do.

The shadows are attacking SSS people at random, first individually, then in a big melee which was good fun to watch. They seem to be proliferating, and Yurripe sees a NPC turn into one, which raises all sorts of questions. It’s possible that they’re around to force the students to “move on” as quickly as possible. Or is there a malfunction in this world? Recent Angel programs are checked but do not seem to be the cause.

The soulless and glasses-less Takamatsu.

It gets worse. Takamatsu gets “eaten” by one and the next day appears as an NPC, apparently soulless. I hope this isn’t the last we see of this character. Why should he die off so unpleasantly? So I guess SSS folks get eaten by shadows, transform into NPCs (perhaps a larval period), and then turn into shadows, which is not the way I would want to end, cool looking as the shadows are. Though I don’t now if Yurippe has followed this line of reasoning or not.

But she does come to some conclusion. She calls a meeting, ostensibly because of the shadow threat (though since the melee we haven’t seen any), but also to out Otonashi and have him reveal what he’s been doing in freeing people to move on. I have to commend her for not only figuring out Otonashi’s plan, but supporting him before the group. But after that the episode gets confusing. Everyone now has to think “Should I stay or should I go?” but meanwhile there are those shadows. And everyone ruminates alone, in spite of the orders to stay in groups. Everything stops except for Yurippe, who finds out some interesting things at the end. Nonetheless, with two episodes to go I still have no clue how this show is going to end, and I’m quite excited to find out.

Heroman 11 starts the next story arc in earnest, bringing in two new characters—okay, we saw Hughes last week, but this is the episode where he swings into action. However, it’s the other new character that promises to be the most fun.

Big sis Holly comes back after three years and immediately dominates the Jones’ household, especially Joey. You can see why he and Psy live in fear of her. Of course, she immediately goes to make their life miserable, having them show her around town for reasons she won’t say, except she’s lugging her guitar around with her. This neatly works into the Hughes’ side of the plot, where he and Minami are plotting to get to the bottom of this whole ghost business.

Amazing how Joey always finds something to hide behind.

By coincidence all of them are around the same area when news of trapped workers appears, and Joey is compelled to Heroman up, only to find it to be a trap. Nothing much to the scene. Heroman and Joey escape, but not before Heroman saves Hughes from falling rubble. I bet that will be a factor later on. Right now Hughes is a cipher. Working for the government would make him bad, but we don’t really know the reason for it except the government is curious, and they ought to be. I wonder if Hughes isn’t going to change motives after a while. As for Minami, I can’t take him seriously as a villain. So who is the bad guy going to be?

It’s all nicely spiced up when Holly, looking for Joey, spots Heroman flying right above her. Now, she says, she has a reason to stay in Central City! As I said, Holly is the more interesting newcomer. Unlike Hughes, she has no agenda. She’s a wild card. She can cause trouble in all sorts of interesting ways. As for Joey, he’s like many Marvel characters: when he tries to do the right thing it only makes his life more complicated. The new story arc is off to a good start.

Tens: Angel Beats, Heroman

The new strategy begins in Angel Beats 10, with Otonashi and Angel teaming up to make everyone happy enough to move on, one person at a time. Meanwhile I’m a little worried by the two working together like this. Surely something bad will come of it.

They start with Yui, and an absurd plan to get her alone with Otonashi involving the confiscation of her guitar, all to get him alone with her. It doesn’t work, of course, and why should they bother? Surely it can’t be that hard to get her alone, but it adds to the comedy. Trouble is, guitar is only one of the things she wanted to do when alive (and paralyzed, so she couldn’t do much of anything).

The dreams of a young girl.

Along with scoring a goal against five defenders, like Maradona, hitting a home run … Otonashi (who has infinite patience) helps her along with all of them. What’s nice about it is that she will never hit that home run, but in the end it doesn’t matter anymore. She had fun being active. However, the final wish is going to be a little harder, until Hinata steps in.

This dispelled some of my misgivings about Otonashi’s strategy. He’s discovered he has an ally. As for me, I take it as a loss of a character I liked. When they finish with the romantic song and flashbacks to Hinata and Yui’s happy life they cut to a scene of Otonashi and Hinata on the baseball diamond, with no Yui. She’s passed on. Good for her, but a loss for those still around. I’m wondering if regretting the loss of someone makes it harder for the rest …

Heroman 10 takes a breather, content to push a little plot forward here and there, but mainly showing life in Central City recovering after the Skrugg attack.

Joey brings up a nice point. The danger, for now, is gone, and the new heroes are those people rebuilding the city. Denton gives him a nonsensical speech about how only he can use Heroman. But use it on what? So he’s been doing clandestine repair work on his own in the middle of the night. Not a good idea, as the government, convinced, of course, that Heroman could be an enemy in spite of all the good he’s done, is beginning to take notice of this “ghost.” What gets me is that they don’t seem all that concerned about investigating the destruction of the Skrugg base …

Then there’s Lina, heartbroken because Will, still in Skrugg form, has decided he can’t be around people anymore, and has left. I wondered how they would take care of that problem. Will’s right; he can’t go around like a Skrugg. I only hope the show will get back to him. Otherwise it feels like the show is punishing him for being heroic for the wrong reasons. Anyway, Lina is determined to ask Joey out, but gets all tongue-tied when she tries. Plus, he’s too busy at school, his job, and the aforementioned late night construction work. So she has to get kidnapped for him to take notice.

I think you've just blown your cover.

It’s a nice, albeit silly scene, giving the government some clues, which was its point, of course. And some more plot moves forward. But the overall impression I get from this show is a battered but still-standing community coming together to rebuild. The construction crews are happy, the diner is happy because the crews come in for coffee, the whole town is happy. There was a happy atmosphere to almost the entire episode.

Five Leaves 6, Angel Beats 9, Neko Overrun 8

House of Five Leaves 6 continues with characters only explaining what they have to, and little if anything to Akitsu, but it’s notable in that Akitsu actually does something. We carry on with the story of Senkichi, the man who asked the Elder for money last week. The blackmailer, Denshichi, won’t leave him or his past alone.

And there’s more to it. Denshichi’s boss is coming to Edo, and apparently Denshichi wants Senkichi and his skills to join them, whether Senkichi wants to or not. What’s more, Denshichi wants to know where the Elder is living, to get the money he thinks the Elder is giving Senkichi to give him. Maybe he’s just trying to eliminate the middleman. Anyway, with lots of threats and accordian music, it takes us to a confrontation at the Elder’s, where Akitsu is still recuperating.

Interesting that Akitsu says this twice, both times of the presence of a man who everyone, including Ume, considers a “saint.” But I suppose Akitsu’s motives, like everyone else’s, is his own.

So after six episodes Akitsu has had to fight twice, and this time he merely disarms Denshichi. It takes Senkichi to do the killing. So the Elder is safe for now, and able to continue his peaceful life of retirement, taking in the occasional kidnap victim. But let’s not speak about such things, shall we? In this show there are always things that must not be said …

Angel Beats 9 is where Otonashi learns the truth about Kanade, though I suspect everyone watching will have figured it out already. However, it does so in a rather clumsy way.

Kanade/Angel is in the infirmary. The SSS gang are wondering which version of her will wake up. The odds aren’t good that the nice one will. Meanwhile, Otonashi, holding a bedside vigil, falls asleep, and we learn there was more to his death than he first thought. Sadly, it doesn’t work too well. It was nice to see that he initially survived the rail crash, possibly saved the lives of some others, and in his dying moments filled out his organ donor card to save even more. In other words, his belief that he died without accomplishing a single thing is false. The whole survivor sequence goes on a bit long and is fairly predictable, not to mention maudlin; this show has a tendency to do that. It also feels clumsy, like the creators were plugging a plot or motivation hole they had forgotten about.

The conversation with Kanade when he wakes up puts things back on a even keel (for this show). Kanade’s role in all this is to guide these high school kids who had had rotten lives to a more happy existence, so they can smile and let go. But she’s so awkward about it that it’s driven everyone to this bizarre state of war. It’s a weird conversation, with Otonashi agreeing to secretly help her, but presents us with a nice point: Now that Otonashi has seen his true past, he still hasn’t moved on. Is it because of Kanade? Because he wants to ease Yurippe’s distress? Perhaps a little of both.

For a moment I thought I was watching Saki all over again, but no, it’s Mayoi Neko Overrun, a show that’s not afraid to try weird concepts, and half the time, fail. This episode, happily, pretty much succeeded. Chise invites the gang to test a new game called Superblocks. The concept isn’t new. You have to pull out blocks from a tower and place them on the top. The twist comes from the fact that if you succeed you have to follow the directions written on it.

Naturally, Chise is cheating. She’s getting information on where the safe and non-humiliating blocks are. And naturally, it begins to go wrong. So basically what we get is a half-hour of watching Chise’s manipulations, and watching the characters forced to do silly things. It passes the time.

Interesting crisis at the end, concerning who will get to pull out the “Kiss a member of the opposite sex” block when Takumi is the only male left. If Fumino, who sees the writing, chooses it, she’ll have to kiss Takumi. If she declines, Chise would be happy to take it. Goodness knows if (meow) Nozomi will or not. And what if Takumi takes it? They stretch it out too much, but overall it was a fun episode that makes up for the botched experiment they tried last time.

Eights: Heroman, Angel Beats

Heroman 8 has some good battling, but there’s something humorless about this episode. Not that I expect people to stop in a life-or-death crisis and crack jokes, but for some reason it just wasn’t that fun to watch.

I take it back. Denton's invention at least is funny.

Having lost Joey on the walkie-talkie, Denton and Psy press on to disarm the dastardly bowling ball technology, only to be spotted. The Skrugg sensors are tuned to look for white, and Denton’s wearing his lab coat. They whip out their ultrasonic attack and run away a lot. If I hadn’t remembered the plan from last episode I’d be wondering just what their aim is now. Kogorr (a typical Marvel villain name if ever I heard one), the head Skrugg, goes down to kill them himself. Fortunately, Heroman shows up.

The ensuing battle is rather one-sided at first. Heroman is too slow and can’t fly. But you figure he has to do something, so we patiently wait until that something happens. In the meantime, as I said, it’s really not much fun to watch. Heroman gets hit, Denton, Joey and Psy gasp in worry, and I’m wondering why I’m not getting into it. Then it gets ludricrous. Joey mysteriously gains a new super power!

This is the second time this episode Joey has pulled a new ability out of his ass. Earlier, he flew in order to pull Psy out of the way, while I thought “How the hell can he do that?” Now, he’s got super speed. Mind you, he doesn’t have much else apart from a force field, so I don’t really know why Kogorr is so concerned. Meanwhile Denton talks a lot about teamwork and how they should have fought like this in the first place.

So it’s just a back-and-forth battle. In the end, Joey is injured and Heroman will fight alone. Previews show him going beserk. That might be fun, or it could be as joyless as this episode was.

Angel Beats 8 starts out rather joyless, too. The second Angel has appeared (Suddenly I’m having Evangelion flashbacks), tries to kill everyone, until the original angel, let’s call her by her real name of Kanade, intervenes.

Let’s see. Yurippe discovers Angel can clone herself. No one knows why she did such a thing, but there’s odd talk about unconscious wishes. Meanwhile, the hospitalized Kanade, the original, is abducted, so that she can’t recall her clone. Yurippe reprograms the system to undo the clone after ten seconds. Here’s where it gets senseless. Going back to the lower depths where so many of them died comically earlier, they discover more clones. They were made before the reprogramming. Yet their goal to get Kanade to use the program is still in place? Make one new clone and the others will vanish when the new clone does? It contradicts what they were talking about. And now they’re trapped between clones. Happily, this is when the show decides to get silly again.

The SSS members take turns sacrificing their lives so that the others can go on. It’s a reprise of the previous lower depths episode, but it’s no less funny. With each Angel, a member does some trademark thing and gets himself skewered. The survivors respond in a “Omigod! You killed Kenny!” sort of way. The repetition makes it more amusing. Rarely has gruesome death been so funny.

It works. Yurippe and Otonashi make it down to the bottom and rescue Kanade, only to have a monkey wrench tossed into their plans. Well, I didn’t enjoy the first half of this episode, but the second half made up for it, not only with the humor, but with well-done action sequences, and with the fact that I have no idea where the show is going to take us next.

Yumeiro 26, Angel Beats 7

After a long delay I finally have a new episode of Yumeiro Patissiere to play with! And we get the dual adventures of Kashino in Ojou’s camp and Ayukawa’s slow redemption.

I don't think she can hear you, Chocolat.

Kashino, naturally, is appalled over the slavish attitude Ojou’s teammates have, while Ayukawa, not needed now that Kashino’s there, is relegated to substitute. Really, she should have seen that coming. And it’s that, frankly, that makes the episode work. Kashino’s seething is to be expected, and for a while nothing much comes of it. Ayukawa, who did bad things for Ojou, is now reaping what she sowed. What’s more, it turns out she’s quite a good confectioner. She takes criticism from Kashino and improves her test sweet tenfold, which earns his respect. Meanwhile, Ichigo has seen her working on her sweets late at night. The path to her redemption is set.

But it takes Kashino to turn the tables. After Ojou tells him he can do anything he wants, he insists that she become the substitute and let him run the team, which is too much for Ojou, and just like that, he’s fired. I was frankly disappointed by how easily he managed to get away; they could have milked it further, but I guess the show wants to press on. And it means Ayukawa is back as an official Ojou team member, and it’s her sweet they’ll be using in the final. Redemption complete, especially after she takes the time to thank Kashino for all he’s done for her.

As for team Ichigo, none of them save Ichigo herself (who seethes a lot) are too worried about losing Kashino. They expect he’ll be back soon enough, and even help him with a test sweet he makes for the other team. So mainly they stay on the sidelines for this one. And Ichigo cannot find it in her heart to dislike Ayukawa for what she did earlier. Ichigo has the strangest heart.

Judging from the previews it’s a return to fairyland next episode.

Angel Beats 7 has a maudlin first half and a more typical, insane second. In the first, Naoi, now a member of SSS, hypnotizes Otonashi in order to recover his lost memories, and naturally, we get the whole story.

And for the most part it’s pretty saccharine. He had a sick sister who longed to do things and enjoy life, while he found life not worth living. Before she dies he snuck her out of the hospital to see the Christmas lights and have a good time, realizing at the time that she was his reason to live. Of course she later dies, but inspired by her he gets his ass in gear and qualifies for medical school—only to die in a train crash. In other words he failed to accomplish anything he wanted to do. This realization in the afterlife salvages the scene. Sick girls dying isn’t very dramatic. Changes they make to characters is.

Then it’s back to the fun, with a few twists. The SSS decide to go river fishing, and there’s a really big fish they encounter. The former Angel, now just Kanade, invited by Otonashi, reels it in and kills it. They cook it up and serve it to the regular students, wondering to themselves just how they’ve come to this. A volunteer organization rather than a combat unit! And it made me wonder, too. With Kanade and Naoi both on their side they have no enemies left to fight. I can’t see this bunch doing anything else. They’re not equipped to intelligently discuss their existential state.

Until, ahem … Well, Angel Beats does like to keep us guessing …