Angel Beats Episode 2: A Descent into Awesome

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I really didn’t think Angel Beats could continue to impress me like this. I was willing to chalk up a good amount of my excitement about this show’s potential to the hype, a solid first episode, and some nice music. But this week PA Works and Jun Maeda just kept it coming and convinced me once again that there is no better show yet this season. If you couldn’t tell by my last post already, I was entranced right for the start by the opening sequence. The second I saw Tenshi’s fingers on the keys of a piano my first thought was simply “oh no you didn’t”! But yes Angel Beats, you did, and I absolutely love you for it, I am a sucker for showing off random and awesome talents in this fashion. In that first 1:30 of greatness an expressive Tenshi and the beautiful voice of Lia guided us through an excellent OP sequence that highlights Yuri and Tenshi in contrast, showed a series of clips to setupt the episode (a trend I hope continues), and gave us a view of the afterlife-world beautifully illuminated in golden lights. The song itself has a very emotional feel and combined with the on-screen expression during the performance helped create a subtle sense of desperation and yearning amongst the characters trapped in this eternal struggle. The closing seconds also gave us some symbolism (or perhaps foreshadowing) and we saw Tenshi live up to her name:

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It was beautifully executed and had me at the edge of my seat before the episode even began. It should be noted that Jun Maeda composed these works himself and deserves all the credit in the world. Episode 2 again saw the SSS led by Yuri undertake another critical mission, this time descending into the depths beneath the school to reach Guild, their source of weaponry and supplies. But path isn’t easy and Tenshi once again makes an appearance to put a halt to their plans. Let’s continue this review after the jump:

The first major segment of the episode involved the SSS having to fight by some very creative and dangerous “Anti-Angel Instant Fatality” traps that bar their way to the mysterious Guild. The journey is difficult and thanks to  Oyama’s inability to remember ANY of the traps before its too late the unit suffers 80% casualties, many of them aren’t very pretty:

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As our last two members standing catch their breath we are treated to the most serious portion of the episode, revelations about Yuri’s past:

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Finally Yuri and Otonashi reach Guild and the episode enters its climax as Tenshi arrives and the action begins:

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We are left with some closing shots of everyone picking themselves back up, Yuri once again taking the reigns as Otonashi views her with newfound respect, and a nice ED sequence that features the entire SSS “family”:

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And on to next week:

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It sure looks like the production staff did a good job maintaining the show’s momentum from the opening episode. I am perhaps most impressed at the way Angel Beats integrates funny moments into its plotline without cheapening the feel of the story. The first half of the episode which features a whole host of traps that one might recognize from a  wide-variety of adventure and horror movies in years past allowed for some comedy while also deliberately showcasing the immortality aspect once again. The missions undertaken by the SSS are most definitely not just fun and games as “death” seems to wait around every corner.  We also got to see some of the individual weakpoints of our team members: being oversized, the inability to swim, forgetfulness, and a deadly weakness for cute things. I had a hard time imaging when anyone had the time or skills to set all those traps up….but then the thought of Tenshi falling for the puppy-in-peril angel-trap made me forget all about that particular concern (I agree with Otonashi that was definitely a Shiina charm point as well). The traps might have been a little cliche but honestly I felt the segment did an adequate job of giving a little bit of depth to our expansive cast. Production values continued to be high when it counts and while some frames leave a bit to be desired this anime is still very pleasant to watch.  On a technical note I also like the location notices employed throughout, while they aren’t immersive it adds an interesting game-like feel while also keeping us abreast of the characters progress and keeps the pace up.

Lots of character development for Yuri this week.  Yuri’s backstory includes one of the most awful events you could imagine and it is almost inconceivable that they were willing to weave such a tragic story into this story line. It is a tale of senseless and brutal violence inflicted at random against the innocent. Her inability to find any reason behind what happened would likely be the catalyst start her war against the heavens. I do have one complaint here though: her parents are idiots!!! alarms? babysitter? laser tripwires? dammit you can’t abandon your kids like that you useless sacks of %$^#!”.  I have a hard time believing Yuri’s insistence that she did not kill herself even if she is significantly older than the time of the murders. Her desire to fight manifests in her unwavering determination to press on and do what must be done. Her decision to evacuate and demolish Guild was obviously a difficult but prudent one that helped preserve her logistical team and supply base even if they will have to rebuild at another location. We are also shown that she is definitely not the hands-off type as her ability to fight Tenshi in hand to hand combat if even for a brief period. She forced Tenshi’s to use her newest matrix-hax, Guard Skill: Delay to keep from getting poked full of holes. It would be hard not to follow a leader who was willing to put themselves in peril to buy time for their subordinates to escape.

My respect for Otonashi also increased this week. While he still takes a somewhat shocked and skeptical approach to the SSS and its activities he has become a very capable participant in his own right. While he did have to rely on some luck he managed to survive all the traps and remain alive to support Yuri on her trip to Guild. His ability to recognize Yuri’s need for some support when she began to doubt herself allowed him to diffuse the situation and likely helped to build trust between them which led to her opening up a bit as they rested. Later on he supports her during the fight with Tenshi and kept her from “dying” at a rather critical moment. It appears that Otonashi has become fully invested in their mission and is now determined to protect his friends. He has begun to respect Yuri’s competence and her will to continue fighting. It appears that some of the expected relationship development has also begun, starting with the human rope scene (where can I grab! lol) which showed that both Oto and Yuri are both still (dead) teenagers and continuing to the serious and personal conversations later on. By the end of the episode it is apparent that Oto sees Yuri in a new light. He is starting to understand why they fight and is beginning to value his own continued existence after learning of the terrible burden Yuri bears as she presses on, not to mention he thinks she smells nice. The producers also didn’t forget about the ladies as the Otonashi x Hinata moments have also begun and are quite funny.

I am liking the trend of ending every episode with the proverbial “bang” and I hope it continues. This week involved an epic fight between Tenshi and Yuri that highlighted the combat abilities of our female protagonist and also demonstrated just how unstoppable our little angel is. The demolition of Guild was a pretty awesome moment and the animation for the scene made it really cool. This might be over-thinking things but I am still very curious about how Tenshi operates. While she was obviously moving towards Guild just as she approached the SSS during the concert last week she still hasn’t initiated offensive action. I am not saying she isn’t there to stop them but it is rather interesting that the SSS has so far always struck the first blow. It almost makes me wonder what would happen if they chose to ignore her or if someone like Otonashi tried to reason or plead their case with her later down the road. But how dangerous must her full abilities be if a total evacuation is mandated for the simple reason that she has appeared. It can also be assumed that much of the SSS’s behavior towards her is based on their past experiences so she is obviously not to be taken lightly.

I also rather like the concept of Guild and how they can “breathe life into” any device from dirt and clay as long as they remember it from their past lives. I can see how it seems a little fishy but it makes the abundance of weapons and some high technology much more plausible. It justifies the importance of protecting the SSS’s “braintrust” and thus why Yuri had to make the decision to evacuate the work crews to Old Guild once their situation was compromised. For speculation purposes I obviously still find this to be another strong indicator of a computer-generated reality something I have heard Key has used in the past (Little-Busters) and I’m sure this will get developed later (if all of Tenshi’s 1’s and 0’s weren’t enough). Honestly at this point I think this speculation is basically certainty. The next big step for the SSS or at least Otonashi is rediscovering his memories and the reason the SSS is stuck in this world. For that I assume he will eventually have to go to the “source” and interact with Tenshi in some more direct fashion as the series continues.

[easyreview title=”” cat1title=”Angel Beats Episode 2″ cat1detail=”This week was a perfect mix of character development and more exciting action. Angel Beats continues to be as good as I thought I could be and sometimes even moreso. I will once again be drowning in anticipation for next week.” cat1rating=”10″]

Lets end today with a few more shots of our beautiful Tenshi at the piano and some stills of our characters for anyone who might want to save them to their harddrive:

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Thanks again for reading! Much love and see you all for this review again next week!

Here are your weekly Angel Beats links from around the globe:

Yin no Piano, Xebec’s, Bokutachi, Sea Slugs!, BlogSuki, Star-Crossed, Unmei Kaihen, Black and Blue Socks

****Update****

Here is a neat link to a Japanese character poll, looks like TK is currently running away with it among fans. 天使 or Tenshi as I lovingly know her is well represented though. (Credit: Scamp over at The Cart Driver)

Posted on April 11, 2010, in Angel Beats, Anime, Episode Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I do think the traps did help develop the side characters, and reminded us, that while death is temporary, it’s still an upsetting thing.

    I’m glad someone else liked her backstory. A lot of people didn’t, or felt it was thrown in for cheap drama. I disagree with them, I think it worked. I also believe she might have killed herself, though I feel a little silly saying that this early.

    Otonashi hasn’t won me over yet, but he’s doing better. 🙂

    Overall, I think a lot of this, while intense, was build-it to introduce concepts that will come into play later.

    • Yeah there is lots being done that is basically “here is how the world works” kind of stuff, so that later we won’t question it when they use those concepts again.

      I mean while its obvious she didn’t kill herself immediately suicide is hardly out of the question, or perhaps something she did that was “suicidal” while trying to protect someone else later on. It seems very plausible.

      Its a weird set up they have going, on one hand death is only temporary on the other its hard to fathom how these guys have survived without suffering from PTSD give how they still feel all that agonizing pain in the moments leading up to their “death”.

  2. I have to agree the parents were pretty damn stupid. I can let the babysitter thing slide. Yuri seemed like a capable girl and keeping her siblings in line really shouldn’t be that difficult. You don’t hire babysitters to be bodyguards (unless your in a movie). Maybe they could have included a babysitter but that person would have been killed pretty fast. Alarms I agree with you. I’m not sure what home security is like in Japan, but if your pretty well off you should at least have some security.

    Other than that I don’t put that much directly on the parents. In the end it was a pretty senseless crime. Criminals break in, get frustrated at not finding wads of bills [since you know anyone well off just leaves thousands/millions (however well off they were) just laying on the floor. Then they break what valuables are there like TVs and paintings and are left with doing all of this for nothing. So probably not expecting anything play a sick game with one kid to at least get some kicks. Really those guys were just trash. What a horrible thing to go through.

    Considering Hina’s “sacrifice” I think asking where to grab was a smart move by Otonashi. I mean you can guess what Hina did to get dropped to his death. But yeah the human ladder did build up something between them. I also think Otonashi is throwing himself into this since he still doesn’t know about himself. So best to support someone like Yuri with everything he can since he can’t look inward right now.

    I’m just not willing to jump in on the virtual reality speculation just yet. Considering that most people here remember their deaths it’d be tough that all of them are just plugged into some virtual life support thing. I think it’s just as good that this is a kind of purgatory. After all a world between living and moving on (heaven, reincarnation, etc) how they make things isn’t odd. I mean if God did make that world then any rules wouldn’t be strange.

    In some respects I can admit the computer-generated reality has some legs. While Yuri denied suicide I have a theory. This is a world where people who committed suicide are plugged in to simulate being back in school. If they can prove they are able to reintegrate themselves then they are erased = wake up. If not they keep sleeping. This world lets them work out their aggravations with an enemy (Tenshi) that they can fight. Tenshi exists so if someone like Yuri who wants to fight on shows up then those who are cooperating are protected. They feel the pain of dying and so realize that it hurts. Eventually they would give up on suicide and rejoin the people cooperating.

    Of course there are issues with this. One it’s pretty unethical to have a world that simulates the pain of death. You would be messing up minds with people dying over and over again. If you want to help people giving them PTSD from numerous deaths isn’t the way. Unless laws were passed I don’t think you could hold people like this. Also if this kind of technology exists shouldn’t one of the SSS have heard of it?

    Wow for a person who doesn’t quite believe the computer based theory I sure made a decent one.

    • Thats a neat theory, especially since your aren’t actually a supporter of it yet haha. I agree that basically anything is possible in this world assuming “God” has created it. But while I may be taking some stuff at face value there are a few things that just scream VR, including of course the constant explosions of 1’s and O’s during fights and the way the damage around the schools is seemingly electronically reset after battle. Tenshi almost seems to be activating protocols more than anything with her guard skills. Some of these things seem too absolute to just say “Oh God wanted a world inspired by the matrix or something”. I’m exaggerating a bit but I doubt the nods to an electronic world are just for asthetic purposes.

      I am not sure where Maeda is going to take this show yet but I am almost certain that the SSS still do not truly understand what Tenshi represents and especially the reason they are here. I feel that a time will come when Tenshi will not be defeated but rather serve a radically different purpose for this group of teens.

  3. Tenshi is catching up to TK in the poll by the way, be sure to vote if your willing to get on the bandwagon!

  4. Loved the review of the episode! XD nice work, i be allways loved Key’s work because its sooo real! man poor Yuri…, but i mean why the parents lets their kids alone at that age!!, they are very young!!, they need at least someone to care of them…, i also rate this episode 10/10!! it was very nice!, the op was AWESOME, tough i wanst soo excited , because this op was more like a visual novel opening but still it was a great op! (already downloaded the op XD), the song was really nice that im thinking about ordering the CD, i really want to see the episode focused in tenshi!

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