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12 Days of Christmas – Day 12 – The Power of the Individual

A theme that appeared in a few series this year was the power of the individual – the idea that anyone can make an important contribution, and often also the idea that what makes people different is what makes them valuable. Sometimes, this theme was used well (generally, when the concept cropped up more subtly/not as forcefully). Sometimes, it was used not so well. Frequently, though – in my eyes, at least – it was used memorably. Minor spoilers for Railgun and Liar Game, and slightly bigger spoilers for Occult Academy under the cut.

Only her baseball bat could shoot it.

The power of the individual was a huge theme in Railgun. Of course it was; after all, Railgun was a series revolving around several super-powered people, and it enjoyed shifting its focus – when it wasn’t focusing on day-to-day adventures – to how its characters chose to use the powers they had. Supremely strong lead character Mikoto used her abilties to dole out justice in an often less-than-lawful way (even more so in the Sisters arc of the manga). Powerful (but weaker) sometimes-sidekick Kuroko also used hers to fight for justice, but she used the law as a tool. The actions personally taken by Harumi Kiyama were also motivated by a desire for a better world… and even later antagonist Telestina’s actions were, too, though her “better world” was decidedly warped. Yes, the theme of the power of the individual was employed heavily in Railgun – if you want to get critical, we were somewhat beaten over the head with it. The instance of this that was most memorable for me, though, was in Saten’s case. The superpower-less girl, who was so desperate to be among the ranks of the espers, was the finale’s true hero. Armed with a baseball bat, guts, and determination, she threw a major wrench into Telestina’s plans, and saved the day where her teleporting, electricity manipulating, and constant-temperature-keeping friends were unable to.

Railgun was set in a city in which those without strong powers were essentially taught that they were worthless. The message in Saten’s heroic scene was loud and clear: nobody is worthless, and everybody has the potential to do good. It was a message that popped up with regularity throughout the anime.

I couldn't resist the chance to make fun of Uiharu above. I just couldn't.

In Occult Academy, this message was something more like ‘even a wimpy, selfish jerk can save the world’. Fumiaki, also known as Bunmei, was easily unlikeable in the first three-quarters or so of the series, mostly because he was so incredibly quick to save his skin (even when it meant endangering others). As well as this, though, he, like Saten, struggled with feelings of powerlessness. And also like Saten, with a huge amount of bravery – which in his case was summoned up just in a nick of time – and aplomb, in the end he managed to save the people he cared about. Soon after, he gathered up even more courage, and sacrificed himself to save his friends and everyone else once again.

In addition to the two above, we have Takuto in the currently airing Star Driver, who is the new guy in a place where everyone else has deep ties to each other and to their home. He is quickly popular, but also very much an outsider. And he fights for what he believes is right, despite this meaning fighting against a force much larger than him. He stands out as an individual, and takes this completely in his stride, using this to his advantage or for fun.

Did I mention that Takuto is fabulous? Because I feel like that's an important thing to mention.

Earlier this year, too, we had Angel Beats!‘s Kanade/Angel/Tenshi, who strove to do her best and preserve order, even when she was the target of some (mostly unintentional) cruelty. She fought against alienation and loneliness, as well as the SSS brigade, to do the job she felt she had to do. She did it well.

I think my favourite ‘power of one’ moment of the year, though, came in the fourth round of the tournament in Liar Game. Yukiko Abe, member of one of the opposing groups in the Liar Game, was initially cold, pushing away main character Nao when she attempted to form a friendship. As the round progressed, however, the two were able to get closer. When Yukiko was called “useless” by the leader she had placed all her belief and trust in, she was shattered. She opened up to Nao, and we saw flashbacks to her childhood, where she was abused by her parents and told she was stupid, worthless, and a burden. Of course, Nao’s response to this was to tell her that “no-one is useless”.

Nao soon proved her words right, as Yukiko became of vital importance in a manoeuvre that led to the protagonists turning the tables. Many people played a part in said manoeuvre; indeed, the success of it depended solely on people, quite literally, standing together. Without the cooperation of any single one of them, all would have failed. Yukiko was seen as the weak link in the human chain and she was targeted, but she showed her strength and pulled through.

I can understand how the power of the individual theme could be annoying, given its prevalence in anime and manga – particularly in those aired over the past year. But I think it’s a nice sentiment, and I believe that, when used effectively, it can definitely add to a character and to a work.

That’s it for Borderline Hikikomori’s Twelve Days of Anime series! Have a very merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy 2011.

12 Days of Christmas – Day 11 – Importance of the Denouement

As this year comes to a close, I have been thinking about what shows or works top my “best of” list for 2010. Well, I didn’t think too long when it came to TV shows: The Tatami Galaxy took the title easily. It occurred to me that, in fact, The Tatami Galaxy was not only my pick for 2010, it was the first one to surpass in my eyes 2006′s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Other shows had come close, including 2007′s Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and 2009/2010′s Bakemonogatari, but The Tatami Galaxy was the first both to match it and to surpass it.

Then it got me really thinking: what was it about these works that had made me hold them in such high regard? One thing that immediately popped out to me was that each one of them had a strong, focused denouement, one that not only provided satisfying closure to the events of the show but also provided a peek into the new beginning of the new beginning of the changed lives of the characters. That last part in particular is quite important; the denouement should not only close out the current story but also acknowledge that life goes on beyond what’s shown on screen. This holds true as well for the show that I see as being greater than any of those mentioned above, FLCL. And for (at least, a classic narrative based show) a show to join the ranks of the elites, to be considered one of the greats, it needs to have such a strong denouement.

(Please note that this post contains spoilers to the endings to Bakemonogatari, The Tatami Galaxy, Strike Witches 2, Angel Beats!, Gunbuster, and various arcs of Amagami SS)

Bakemonogatari was a summer 2009 TV show, but due to delays, its last episode came in the summer of this year. And it was a fine example of a denouement done right. After the climactic encounter between Koyomi and Tsubasa Cat, things return to normal, even if, as Koyomi’s narration stated, things have forever been changed. To drive in the point that this is the end of the story, Meme Oshino leaves, without even saying goodbye, but we’re still treated to the main characters reminiscing about him while exploring his now vacant home. They hardly even exchange words, but their mere actions give that all important sense of closure. And finally, the show ends with the two protagonists, Koyomi and Hitagi, looking to the future to their relationship together. Koyomi’s narration mentions not only this but the fact that he is likely to encounter oddities again – the story of his life is far from over. But he has taken a step forward, and this is a new beginning, where he can face the oddities without Oshino’s help. The show properly ended the threads of the main story while still emphasizing the fact that life goes on.

There were too many great shots in the denouement to Bakemonogatari, but I decided to go with this one. The main characters happily saying goodbye to Oshino in their own way.

The Tatami Galaxy did very much the same thing with its last episode. The climax came, of course, when Watashi leaped to Ozu’s aid, followed behind by a swarm of moths, only to fall into the river. And, just as important, there was him finally returning that doll to Akashi, allowing them to take a step in their relationship. With Watashi having learned his true path to happiness and escaped from the maze of his constantly repeated timelines, he finally gets started on his new, happy life, with Akashi and Ozu both beside him. The show is explicit in that Watashi and Akashi really are in a relationship, but also emphasizes that that relationship is not part of the show (Watashi’s comment that “there is nothing as boring as a story of successful love” both rings true and tells us everything we need to know). Similarly, we see Watashi make peace with Ozu, coming to see him as another human and a friend. Plus, he now gets to turn the tables on Ozu and torment him just as he was tormented. But, importantly, the show only tells us that that’s what is going to happen. The story of the show is over, and the denouement performs its job to show us that what follows is a new beginning.

The final shot of our 3 protagonists, ready to move forward in their lives together. Note Watashi's face, playing the role of Ozu to Ozu.

But it seems to me that this focus on the denouement is something that is all too often ignored by studios that seem happy to build everything up to the climax then call it a day. While a good build up and climax can make a show still be good, not having a proper ending keeps it from being great. There were a few shows this year that confirmed this to me.

Look at this summer’s Strike Witches 2, an otherwise excellent show that was happy with giving us a simple full stop immediately after the climax. The only glimpse at an ending we got was a brief scene of Yoshika taking care of a bird at her clinic back home over the credits. A real ending that showed how the lives of the members of the 501st went on afterward would have left the series on a high note and could have made the show great.

AIC’s other summer show, Amagami SS, had the same problem, but multiplied many times due to its parallel story structure. 2 of the arcs – Kaoru’s and AI’s – ended right after the climax with no closure or even an attempt at trying to show us how this marked the new beginning of their relationship. A couple others – Haruka’s and Tsukasa’s – gave limp attempts with brief “10 years later” scenes that showed the couple only after the real “next story” had occurred. These weren’t real endings; they were either awkwardly placed full stops or lazy failed attempts at providing closure. And though there was certainly a lot more wrong with Amagami SS, its failure to provide a competent denouement to any of its arcs was a major factor in why it is such a poor show.

It's not like this final scene was amazing - certainly not as good as the school gym scene - but it served its purpose and ended the show on a high note.

On the flip side, what about Angel Beats!, a show that was just as full of problems as Amagami SS, but which devoted the entire final episode to the ending, the main characters saying goodbye to each other? Though the show may have been horrible, this final episode gave us some genuinely heartwarming and hilarious moments (I’m thinking Mapo Tofu) between the main characters and an amazing school gym scene as the characters disappeared one by one. And though that last twist involving the shared heart between Kanade and Otonashi was detestable, the very final scene hinting at a new beginning for these 2 main characters left us with hope, instead of the crushing despair that the time we spent watching this horrible show is something we’ll never get back.

It’s commonly said that the ending can ruin or make great a piece of work. At the same time, there’s something to be said for the idea that it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. Of course, the rules of fiction are not set in stone, and this is not a dichotomy. For most works, the rising action, climax, and denouement are all things that matter. But there are works that comfortably break these rules and come out ahead thanks to it. The End of Evangelion and Gunbuster are examples that immediately come to mind. The problem is that such works need to be exceptional in execution to pull this off, and most shows aren’t exceptional. For a narrative based work of fiction to excel, it needs to have a strong denouement, one that provides closure and adequately shows the start of something new. In 2010, The Tatami Galaxy and Bakemonogatari stood as shining examples of just how much a positive impact a strong denouement can have to a show.

Gunbuster didn't NEED no stinking denouement to give us one of the greatest anime endings of all time and induce manly tears across the fandom.


12 Days of Christmas – Day 10 – Lumps of Character Coal

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I’m sure you all have had your fair share of sub par gifts. Sure, you may or may not get the new video game console or the newest version of the I-phone, but there is always one thing you can count on, and that is some lame present that you have no use for what so ever. Usually, these types of gifts come from some sort of third aunt, twice removed or cheapskates who are trying to weasel their way out of their holiday obligations, ala George Costanza. The same basic concept applies to the types of characters  found in anime.

Practically the only thing Simon did the entire series

While the list of characters who had no purpose to the actual story of their anime is too long to list, the biggest and most notable lumps of proverbial coal just this year were Majo from Ookami-san, Simon for Durarara!, and Matsushita from Angel Beats. Not only did these characters do nothing in their respective shows, it seemed like they would have more pivotal roles than they actually did. It is like looking forward to Christmas all year round, and then finding out on Christmas day that there is no Santa. Very disappoint.

While I really didn’t have a problem with Majo or Simon’s lack of screen time in their respective series, the excessive amount of minutes that I put into analyzing Angel Beats, and thinking that Matsushita was the one pulling the strings was a waste of my time. I truly thought that the he was the big bad guy given that he just sort of disappeared for several episodes, but in the end, we got some half @ssed explanation saying he was training in the mountains. What’s up with that?

Then again, all of Angel Beats was half @ssed

Call it being trolled, call it grandma giving you socks for Christmas, call it what you will, but misused and misleading characters are a cornerstone of all anime, just like the sucky present is to Christmas.

12 Days of Christmas – Day 5 – Side Character Fascination

I’ll start this post off with a confession: I have a thing for side characters. You know, the ones who don’t get as much of a turn in the spotlight as the lucky main few; the ones who aren’t the stars of their series. Maybe they’re the ones who should be or could be, though, and at the very least, they help the stars shine brighter. I love these characters. I’m not sure why, either. Perhaps it’s that the lack of character development allows me to theorise endlessly about potential hidden depths. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that if a character has less screen-time, there’s less potential for them to be irritating. Regardless, this side character fascination is certainly there. Throughout 2010, we were presented with a wealth of delicious flat characters – ‘flat’ in the sense of a lack of character depth, of course – in anime, and I want to take a look at some of them here.

I suppose the girl featuring in my current avatar is as good a place to start as any, eh? Aoi Yamada of Working!! is largely a mystery. What we do know about her is as follows: she’s a klutzy, incredibly blunt, drama-mongering, supposedly sixteen-year-old girl who fancies herself a ‘super waitress’, has a huge collection of disguises and is inexplicably good at bugging people. Aoi is also a fantastic comedic side character. She’s entertaining and charming, and she also brings out the funniest in everyone around her, whether they’re members of the main cast or not. To quote what I said in my final post on Working!!, “I honestly think that her addition [to the cast] directly or indirectly led to each character’s funniest moment of the series”. One more Working!! character who definitely deserves mention is Maya Matsumoto, who only had her first real lines in the last episode of the series. Her obsession with normality was what set her apart from her bizarrely-behaved coworkers… and it was also what makes her fit perfectly among them, as it caused her to act as strangely as the best of them.

Another creator of hilarity and easily one of my favourite side characters of the year was Railgun‘s Mitsuko Kongou. Mitsuko toed both the fanservice character and gag character lines, but got a bit of development as well and a crowning moment of awesome (or two, arguably) to boot. She’s essentially presented as the ojou-sama with the giant ego. She’s confident to the point of boastfulness, and self-assured to the point of narcissism, and I loved her for it. We got hints, though, too, of her private persona being quite different to this – she seemed a lot milder and kinder to her friends, albeit not less boastful, telling them stories about how she single-handedly brought down one of Railgun‘s primary antagonists with ease. I think she’s fantastic, but I don’t at all think she could have carried Railgun. (For the most part, it was too laid-back for all Mitsuko all the time.) She was, however, both an excellent rival to Kuroko and an excellent unknown rival/self-proclaimed friend to Mikoto.

Sometimes, side characters don’t have terribly much to say or do. If we’re lucky, though, whatever they do end up saying or doing is hilarious. Angel Beats! had TK with his nonsensical English backed up by an array of dance moves, Seitokai Yakuindomo had Satomi Arai playing another schoolgirl lesbian in the snarky and slightly depraved Ranko Hata, and B Gata H Kei had the permanently cheerful and cheerfully frank Mami Misato. But perhaps the ultimate scene-stealer of the year was Milky Holmes‘ unforgettable Twenty. Milky Holmes actually had a few characters like this – another notable example being Arsene/Henriette’s chest, which seemed to have a mind of its own - but even in a show full of people with little tethering them to reality, Twenty managed to stand out the most. Whether he was stripping at an alarming pace, showing off his incredibly pointy nipples to the camera, moaning and screaming in Engrish about how beautiful he was, or going on a date with a hug pillow of himself, he demanded attention.

There were the usual side character duos, too. Occult Academy‘s sardonic janitor Smile and cheerful goth JK begged many questions. Why were the two of them always together? How was JK able to consume so much pudding? Why was Smile permanently wearing a smiley face badge, and what the hell was up with his giant spanner? Even more mysterious were Durarara!!‘s Erika Karisawa and Walker Yumasaki. Prone to fast-paced banter and off-the-wall conversations on topics ranging from fandom to philosophy, the two also displayed a wide variety of skills and prominent sadistic streaks. In addition, they made an excellent couple.

Lastly, we had – or should that be ‘have’, given she’s in a still-ongoing show? – Ruri Makina of Star Driver. … Yeah, she’s kind of only here because she reminds me of Utena‘s Wakaba, somehow. I’d love for her to get even comparable character development to Wakaba; I really want there to be more to her than “Her specialty is meat and potatoes!”. Star Driver, I have faith that you’ll deliver. Don’t let me down!

Okay, that concludes day five of Borderline Hikikomori’s twelve days of Christmas. Who were your favourite anime side characters of 2010?

12 Days of Christmas – Day 4 – Reflection

Posted by Author | 12 Days of Christmas, Angel Beats, Anime Review, Manga Review, Rakuen | Friday 17 December 2010 11:00 pm

If you pay attention to the little author link at the top of each post, you might have noticed I haven’t been around very much lately.  I started Bakuman, and then… I just stopped.  It’s not that I stopped writing about Bakuman, I stopped watching it, and anime, altogether.  A lot of stuff has gone on in my life.  School started up again, but it in itself has never demanded my time and motivation so heavily.  I also had a job to take, which burned a lot of my energy.  On top of it, I had to juggle a relationship and other personal issues.  To say it’s been a drain on my resources would be a tremendous understatement.  We’ve gotten back to the 12 Days series of posts again, and while I came up with two ideas straight away, I had trouble coming up with the third.  Then I started thinking about the episode 11 of Angel Beats.

The show was pretty popular, both in viewership and the aniblogosphere, so I imagine you have some sense of the plot.  For as long as anyone can remember, the SSS brigade has fought.  Who are they fighting against?  Well, they think they’re fighting against God.  How do they know they’re fighting against God?  In all likelihood, no one else could possibly do these things.  Why do they want to fight against God?  Quite obviously they don’t want to disappear.  How do they know they’ll disappear?  Because other people did!  What’s so bad about disappearing?  Um… Shut up!  And so they go, day in, day out, fighting, dying, and respawning in a vicious cycle of violence.  For what purpose?  So they don’t disappear?  They can’t even definitively answer some basic questions!

Again, they’ve been fighting since they can remember.  They got so wrapped up in their “daily lives” that they never stopped for a second to reflect on what they are doing.  When their friends and allies finally disappeared from the world, they didn’t do it in pain or anguish.  They had finally become satisfied.  They went out with a smile.  Maybe disappearing is a good thing.  Maybe it’s for the best.  Well, they certainly got a kick in the pants when those shadows started to attack them.  Yuri issues an order for everyone to think about what each person really want to do with him or herself.  Do they want to stick around and continue to fight, or can they make peace with themselves and their lives and try to disappear themselves?

The key here is each person had to come up with an answer to the question.  To do this, they had to sit down and really think about what they’ve done in the past and what they want to do in the future.  Each of them takes the time to reflect in their own way.  Noda stares at a photo of the person he admires most.  TK dances the night away on his personal stage.  Fujimaki spends the night in intense prayer.  The list goes on, and in the end, they all come to a decision, perhaps punctuated by Christ publishing his final blog post.

Much of the time, we get swept up by the current of life, much like the members of the SSS.  We have so many aspects we feel like we have to juggle that we end up losing control over our lives.  We don’t take the time to think.  We just keep on reacting.  While you can certainly survive in this manner, is it really living if your life becomes completely reactionary?  For my first contribution to this series, I want to encourage you to take the time to reflect.  Think about everything you have done in the past week, the past month, the past year.  Decide for yourself if you are satisfied with the way your life is shaping up.  And if you’re not satisfied?  Decide what you plan to do to change it.  Don’t get swept away by the current.  Jump in your canoe and start paddling.

As for me?  Well, a lot has happened, some good, some bad.  Some things I wish had ended differently.  Overall though, I’m happy with how things have played out.  During the week that I wrote this post, I’ve been far more productive than I have been in the past three months.  I think that in itself speaks volumes for where I am right now.  I’ve worked out everything for the best in the end, and I’m ready to launch into the final semester of my university studies.  I hope you all determine that things are going well too.

Yet the Town Keeps Going 8 – Live Alive This Isn’t

Well, this one was a bit of a misstep. It wasn’t bad, it was amusing enough, but the style of humor was very different from the norm, resulting in something decidedly more run of the mill and boring than usual.

The first half turned out to be more about wacky vending machine food than anything else. Which was certainly quirky, but not all that funny. It was just cute girls doing cute things, without any hook, and that has already been done to death in the anime world. It’s not fun anymore. The faraway and silhouette shots, which Shaft usually uses to good effect, were actually kind of ugly and only served to remind us of how much money they must be saving. And I don’t know what to make of Harue’s surprise appearance at the end of the segment, other than that maybe they wanted to get their money’s worth from Ryoko Shiraishi, as she had to be in the 2nd half of the episode.

Seriously, this was this show's Chocolate Cornet Moment. I was impressed that Hotori knew what Esperanto was, though.

And no sooner than I start drawing comparisons to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya does Yet the Town Keeps Going bring out a concert-at-the-culture-festival episode. I appreciate that it didn’t go the Haruhi/K-On/Angel Beats route of having (what’s supposed to be) a normal, poppy rock song, but rather stuck with the old timey whimsical tune similar to the ED. The peculiar collection of instruments certainly fit well with the whole off-mainstream feel of the song.

But they could have milked this culture festival concert story a lot more. I don’t even mean stretching it out over more episodes or even to a full episode, though either would certainly work given that over a month passes through the course of the half episode. I mean using the story to show us more interesting interactions between the protagonists. They are what have made this show entertaining, after all. Instead, the sequence of events was surprisingly straightforward. Futaba wants to perform at the culture festival. She gets a time slot at the stage. She recruits Harue on drums (with some manipulation using table tennis), learns that Toshiko and Hotori play instruments, recruits them, then they perform. Not much else.

The pan-up of Futaba before this scene was great. If Shaft still did the still-pan-ups that they used to do so much of in the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei shows, I would've had a great stitched shot of her.

There were many chances for humor that were simply missed or glossed over. How about that whole month when the 4 had to learn the song and practice? When did they choose to go with the maids theme, and why? Who made Futaba’s stunning outfit? Then what about the days of the actual festival? How did they spend their time? What sorts of fun misadventures did our unique heroines run into? They’re not for us to find out.

I did like how the ED sequence ended up being genuine; just as Futaba had been revealed to play the bass a couple episodes back, Hotori does play the accordion – an instrument that fits her eccentric nature, taught to her by the head maid – Toshiko does play the violin, Harue does play the drums, and they all do perform together in maid outfits. But then again, this sort of gag had been done before, in Lucky Star, with the OP sequence. Except that Kyoto Animation is much better at animation than Shaft is. As cute as the concert was, the fact that the instruments didn’t exactly match up to the music was a huge distraction. That’s just one of those things that I’ve come to expect in this post-Haruhi anime world.

This should look familiar to anyone who's seen the ending to Lucky Star. I am unfortunately one of them.

So this week’s episode was lackluster, especially after the both hilarious and powerful episode it was following. In fact, it was the worst since the bland first episode. The show bounced back strong after that initial misstep and kept going to this point, so I’m hopeful that it will start hitting its marks again next week and continue on to the end.

Angel Beats: Episodes 11 – 13

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime Review, Manga Review | Tuesday 24 August 2010 4:21 pm

This finally finishes off one of two series I was blogging from the Spring season.

Series: Angel Beats
Media: Mazui Fan Sub (Episodes 11 – 13)

These final three episodes dealt with the mystery behind the “shadows” that was hinted at in episode 10.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Yuri was well aware of what Otonashi was up in regarding trying to relieve the Battlefront’s member’s regrets, but was perhaps surprising is that she was supportive of the idea of members going that route if they wanted to, as opposed to being turned into NPCs by the shadows.

As for the programmer of the “shadows,” I wonder if the whole point of it was because they knew someone like Yuri would arrive someday, and eventually she would need a mortal enemy to “defeat” in order to finally disappear.  However, I felt kind of jipped that most of the people just decided that they wanted to leave, and so they left.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with so many people and so few episodes to work with, especially since two of the three episodes dealt with the shadow things.

I guess my main question is…if Kanade got Otonashi’s heart in real life, what was she doing there before he was?  Of course, it’s always possible that “time” in this afterlife and “time” in the real life have no relation.  Though given that we didn’t see any characters that looked like they were out of place in that timeframe, if there is some variance on when they arrive in the timeline of this place and when they die, it’s not a very big one.  Maybe only a few years, perhaps.

At the very end, I’m assuming Kanade and Otonashi are reincarnated in the real world some time down the road, where they meet again.  So I guess instead of this being a show where long-lost lovers meet in some reincarnated future, and then we learn about their past, in this show, we see their past, and then see the start of their future.

Overall, I’d say Angel Beats was a pretty decent show.  I think it could have been better in many aspects.  I’m not really sure the shadow thing was necessary or even vitally important (other than getting Yuri to accept her regrets) yet it took up 2 of the final 3 episodes.  I think this is definitely a series with re-watch value, even if it could have been better.

Top Picks – Spring 2010 Anime, Part 3: VMA Awards

It’s that time again – the voice, music, and animation awards – or as I like to think of them: the set of awards that are completely subjective and some of the most difficult awards to pick as a result. And this season was no different.

Best Male Seiyuu

Winner: Hiroshi Kamiya as Izaya Orihara from  Durarara!!, Hiroomi Souma from Working!!, Otonashi Yuzuru from Angel Beats, Kou Ichinomiya from Arakawa Under the Bridge and I think I missed some

The Overall 2008 Best Male Seiyuu and Summer 2009 Seasonal Best Male Seiyuu makes it a hat trick. Then again, it was essentially impossible for any other guy to win this time since so many shows featured Hiroshi Kamiya in leading roles and he continues to do a great job.


Best Female Seiyuu

Winner: Maaya Sakamoto as Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge and Akashi from The Tatami Galaxy

Runner-up: Yukari Tamura as Yamada from B Gata H Kei and Togame from Katanagatari, Aki Toyosaki as Yui from K-ON!! and Kena Soga from Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou and Satsuki Hyoudou from Kaichou wa Maid-sama!

Picking the best female seiyuu was a much different experience with a bevy of strong performances from many different women. In the end I had to decide on a tie-breaking criteria so I chose to pick the seiyuu with the best characters to win. And that was, Maaya Sakamoto, for voicing two female characters that came off as slightly odd at times but were really deep, interesting characters.


Best OP

Winner: Working!!

Runner-up: Rainbow, House of Five Leaves, Durarara, B Gata H Kei, Arakawa Under the Bridge

There were a lot of openings I liked this season but no one single opening was able to break from the pack to be the easy pick, at least initially, because I remembered the old argument about picking the MVP in a sport. Do you pick the best player in the league or the person that contributed the most to a team even if the team didn’t do well? In this case, I’m picking the opening to Working!! because I loved it and it was the sole reason that I didn’t drop the show. Working!! eventually got watchable, barely, in the last 3-4 episodes but before then, it was the desire to see the opening one more time that kept me watching.


Best ED

Winner: B Gata H Kei

Runner-up: The Tatami Galaxy, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou

And I’m picking the ending to B Gata H Kei because it was by-far-and-away the best ending and it was always like the cherry that one leaves to eat last from a piece of awesome cake.


Best Background Music

Winner: K-On!!

This award is one of the awards that I almost never feel real comfortable picking the winner because I often don’t remember the background music to most of the shows I watch. There are exceptions, in the case of K-On, the BGM is light and airy and it perfectly compliments the show which is what the BGM is supposed to do.


Best Dressed Characters

Winner: K-On!!

Much like the award for best action going to Full Metal Alchemist:Brotherhood was completely apparent and needed no justification, this award going to K-On is also completely apparent and needs no justification.


Best Animation Style

Winner: The Tatami Galaxy

Runner-up: House of Five Leaves, Katanagatari

I fell in love with the animation style of Masaaki Yuasa in Kaiba so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that I’m picking The Tatami Galaxy with it’s similar style to Kaiba. What kinda surprised me was the number shows that were more stylized in nature this season. When I see animators willing to experiment and these shows actually given air time, I relax when thinking about the future of anime.


Best Animation

Winner: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Runner-up: Angel Beats, K-On!!, Durarara

There were several very well animated shows this season but Full Metal had this award in-the-bag when it took it’s already great animation and bumped it up even higher this season for the final arc of episodes. Durarara was it’s closest competitor and might have pulled it out if there had been more cool action scenes.


Top Animation Studio

Winner: Madhouse

The Fall 2008 Seasonal Top Animation Studio and Overall 2008 Top Animation Studio makes it a hat trick this season as well by producing two of the best anime of the season – The Tatami Galaxy and Rainbow. Both were very original works that showcased the best anime has to offer viewers. Both works also turned out to be, surprisingly, heart-warming series that always left me impatiently waiting for the next episode. And it’s possible that Madhouse could win this award again in the summer season because Rainbow continues on which puts them in a strong position.


That’s it for part 3 of my spring 2010 anime awards. Stay tuned for my top overall picks of the season. :)


Spring 2010 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Spring 2010 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2010 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #8 – #5
Spring 2010 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1

Filed under: anime, awards

Top Picks – Spring 2010 Anime, Part 1: Cast and Character Awards

After one of the weakest anime seasons in recent memory (Winter 2010) and the accompanying apathy nixing it last time, the seasonal top anime awards returns to The Null Set for one of the most diverse and interesting season of anime in a very long time. We had alchemy, parallel worlds, demon kings, train wrecks, socially-inept samurai, pretty boy samurai, surprisingly deep commentary on what’s truly important in life disguised as a comedy about homeless people living under a bridge, a cute and sweet love story disguised as a comedy about one girl’s quest to bed 100 boys before graduating high school, an uplifting story of heroism set in post-war Japan, a neighborhood full of bizarre people in Japan, and a high school band known as much for the cake they serve in their clubroom as for their music, to name just a few anime.

Before starting, below is a listing of the shows that I watched this season and are the pool from which the picks for all the awards are coming from. Also a reminder, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but there’ll be some because of how they’ll relate to specific awards and for the continuing shows, only the part of the series that ran during this season is under consideration for this season’s awards.

Carry-over shows watched this season (3): Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Katanagatari, Durarara

New shows watched this season (12): B Gata H Kei, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Angel Beats, K-On!! Season 2, The Tatami Galaxy, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, House of Five Leaves, Working!!, Mayoi Neko Overrun, Rainbow – Nisha Rokubou no Shichijin, Hakuouki – Shinsengumi Kitan

Shows that got dropped (1): Heroman

Best Female Main Character

Winner: Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge

Runner-up: Yamada from B Gata H Kei, Yui from K-On!!

There was tough competition in this category but the self-proclaimed Venusian won out by being awesome enough that Ko still looks like he hit the jackpot by becoming her boyfriend even if it meant having to live under a bridge with a bunch of very weird people.


Best Male Main Character

Winner: Sakuragi Rokurouta aka Bro from Rainbow

Runner-up: Kosuda from B Gata H Kei

I love heroes with their ability to act contrary to self-interest for a greater good so I was unsurprised when I developed such a quick liking of Sakuragi from Rainbow. Alphone Elric almost made runner-up for the same reason but the large cast to Full Metal lessened his time onscreen too much. Sakuragi, much like Kamina from Gurren Lagann, also oozed awesomeness and had the gravitas to make being a hero look really cool.


Best Supporting Character(s)

Winner: Celty from Durarara

Runner-up: Ozu from The Tatami Galaxy

A headless mythical creature from Ireland, Celty rides a black motorcycle, wields a scythe, communicates by writing messages on a cellphone and somehow isn’t the oddest person inhabiting the Japanese neighborhood where Durarara takes place. She’s loyal and handy to have around in a fight and the only thing that really scares her is a tough-as-nails traffic cop. She was one of my favorites from Durarara (obviously) and pretty much had this award locked early on.


Best Screen-grabber

Winner: TK from Angel Beats

Runner-up: Misato from B Gata H Kei, Shizuo from Durarara

Screen-grabbers are characters that don’t have much screen time but make the little time they are onscreen very memorable. This season seemed to have an abundance of great screen-grabbers but TK from Angel Beats won this one pretty easily. Just goes to show you how far speaking nonsensical English phrases in a Japanese anime and just randomly dancing can take a character.


Best Couple

Winner: Ko and Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge

Runner-up: Kosuda and Yamada from B Gata H Kei

This was a super tough pick and I debated it back and forth for a long time. One could argue that Kosuda and Yamada should have won because they’ve done more couply things together but there’s just something about how Recruit and Nino interact with each other that’s so nice to see.


Best Character Ability/Power

Winner: Fortune Teller’s ability to send people to parallel worlds from The Tatami Galaxy

The animators never come right out and say it specifically but they show her living inside the clock that always runs backwards when Watashi jumps universes and she is aware of his parallel world jumping so I’m pretty sure she does have this ability. And it’s a very cool power, useful in gaining enlightenment or making a fortune by taking a popular invention from one world to another that never invented it.


Best Cast of Characters

Winner: Durarara

Runner-up: Rainbow, Arakawa Under the Bridge, B Gata H Kei

There was a plethora of shows with great casts this season but Durarara pulled ahead by having a large cast of very eclectic characters that somehow meshed well together and were truly awesome by themselves as well. At times I thought Durarara wasn’t trying it’s hardest but it was always the fault of the plot and not the characters.


Best Character Development for Cast

Winner: Rainbow

Runner-up: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I did not expect Rainbow would be as strongly character driven and focused on character development as it turned out to be though I should realize, by this point, that it’s often the most unexpected show that turns out to be. Just look at the past winners of this award – Railgun, Umi Monogatari, Cross Game, Asu no Yoichi, Toradora, Bamboo Blade. And I can’t wait to see where the characters go as Rainbow continues into the summer season.


Best Character Development of a Single Character

Winner: Watashi from The Tatami Galaxy

A look at the past winners of this award – Kemono no Souja Erin, Phantom, Toradora, Clannad ~After Story~, Natsume Yuujinchou, Ga-Rei: Zero – showcase some of the best anime that have aired in the past 2 years and The Tatami Galaxy is no exception. A common thread connecting these shows is the director and animation company excelled at telling a story that focused on a few main characters and allowing the characters to grow naturally. In the middle of The Tatami Galaxy, I was a little worried that all the reboots were not doing anything to help the show along but I should have had more faith in Masaaki Yuasa and Madhouse because the final episodes show just how in control of the story they really were.


That’s the end of part 1; I hope to have the second part up within a day. Comments and feedback are always appreciated – I’d love to see what others would pick.


Spring 2010 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2010 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Spring 2010 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #8 – #5
Spring 2010 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1

Filed under: anime, awards

Angel Beats! 13 – And it all came to an end. [Major Spoilers]

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime, Anime Review, Manga Review, Raphael | Sunday 27 June 2010 12:33 am

The finale of Angel Beats! was, like the rest of the series, a mixed bag for me. Several questions were left unanswered but despite this, I still felt quite pleased with the ending. I also felt that, with less to cover in this episode, the pacing was better here and even though we didn’t get all that much closure with regard to the plot, I do believe we got closure with regard to characters… well, at least some of the characters.

Yes. Cry, Otonashi. It's all over.

This episode largely focused on the relationship of Otonashi and Kanade, with the former actually confessing his feelings to the latter. I did like this scene, but I think that had more to do with Kanade’s response than it did with anything else. Kanade having Otonashi’s heart was, in my opinion, a very clever plot twist and not one I saw coming. While I wasn’t a fan of Otonashi’s hysteric moment after she disappeared (the overacting!), this was easy to let go of because if I was going to ship any couple in the series, these two would be it. I think it’s also because of this that I loved the post-credit ending, with the two of them being reincarnated together. Sure, it was predictable, but I thought it was really nice – dare I say ‘beautiful’? – and probably the perfect way to close things out. It was also handled excellently.

All of that being said, though, I do have a complaint about Otonashi and Kanade’s relationship: I don’t feel as though there was enough build-up. There was so much crammed into the show’s thirteen episodes that I don’t know if there would have been room to do more, but while their interactions were cute and definitely hinted at a possible romance, Otonashi’s “I love you.” seemed almost out of the blue to me. Comparatively, Working!!, another show airing this season, has done so much to develop its main relationship (and I feel it has been doing this very well, too). Granted, Working!! also has generally much less going on, so maybe I just want too much from Angel Beats!.

Love at first stab. <3

It was a rare Angel Beats! post that I didn’t talk about Yuri, and this final post on the series is not going to be an exception. Last week, I voiced my annoyance at how Yuri seemed to be turning into nothing but a typical tsundere. Here, the trend continued and her new personality was even commented on by the rest of the group. They noted that after she stepped down as SSS leader, her behaviour changed dramatically and she’d become decidedly un-leader-like. I agree. Otonashi, however, passed it off as Yuri being more of a girl, and this pissed me off a whole lot. Becoming more like a girl? Really? Yuri was a girl before: she was a strong girl! And I liked her a lot. I admired her courage, determination and fantastic leadership skills, and I even thought she could serve as something of a role model. By the end of the series, though, she’s become just a stammering, blushing blob and hardly different to any other tsundere out there. It can be argued that the strong independent leader wasn’t her ‘true personality’, and that’s fine, I accept that. But I really don’t enjoy it when being weak is considered to be more feminine. (Congratulations! You have stumbled upon another of Raph’s pet peeves.)

Definitely not!

This ranting aside, I do have to note that this was probably just designed to make Yuri more moe, and moe characters are par for the course in Key shows (and as I said earlier, ‘moe’ wasn’t a word you could use to describe just the female characters). This brings up something I found interesting: to me, it seemed as though as the plot tapered off in Angel Beats!, there was more emphasis on moe. It certainly happened to both female leads: Kanade’s awkwardness and shyness, which I feel was previously played up more for humour than for anything else, became nothing more than a moe character trait. I think this even applied to Naoi as well, with him becoming even lovelier to Otonashi as the series went on and with his tearful last goodbye.

Well, Angel Beats! is now over and it’s certainly been a wild ride. This ending didn’t deliver answers about many elements of the afterlife world or the side-characters (they all disappeared before the end, damn it!), but while I’m disappointed at that, I think it was well-done and definitely enjoyable. The series can’t be counted among my favourites by any means, but to the show’s credit, it was extremely entertaining. Interestingly, I also totally believe I enjoyed the show more for blogging it and watching it as part of the aniblogosphere. Reading other blogger’s posts on Angel Beats! was always really enjoyable – and the series certainly spawned a lot of them – and talking about it with online friends was fantastic too, no matter what their opinion was.

Finally, and also on that note, this is the first series I’ve finished blogging and I’ve had so much fun! I want to thank you guys for reading and commenting, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have.

Angel Beats ep. 12 – A Couple of Thoughts

Between birthdays, Father’s Day, trying to protect my garden (slugs, groundhogs, rabbits,  Japanese beetles, and a lack of rain) and finally getting to four different spring anime shows (Working, Rainbow, Night Raid and Hakuouki:   Shinsengumi Kitan) – I haven’t had the chance to post anything or reply to any of the recent comments like I’d want to. I have a bit of time, though, so I wanted to post a couple of observations I had about the latest episode of Angel Beats.

I like reading reactions to episodes such as episode 12 to Angel Beats because I get to see who else saw what I saw and who saw something different. For the screen shot below,

I’m glad many other people did not enjoy having  a new character appear this late into the show, since my sister and I felt the same way. He seemed familiar for some reason, though, and today I remember why. We do know the identity of this character, he was shown in episode 23 from Cowboy Bebop.

Medical accident left him in a vegetative state but his family must-have eventually pulled the plug.

He had delusions of grandeur and had a thing for tons of computer monitors.

So it has to be him. :)


There’s nothing new about mentioning how Angel Beats has a knack at reminding viewers of other shows. I won’t mention the obvious ones, it’s been done, but I found a new one in episode 12 and this time it’s a video game. I’d probably dismiss this connection but my sister had the same exact thought at exactly the same time so I’m not completely crazy. :)

Coincidence? I think what made me think Kingdom Hearts was the design of the Shadows (or should I say Heartless!!) and how it was 3 vs. dozens of Shadows in the screen shot and how the Shadows were relatively easy to kill. I’m still undecided; is Hinata Donald and Naoi Goofy or vice versa?

Filed under: anime, episode review, general anime interst

Angel Beats! 12 – Love Love Love (and Dislike) [Minor Spoilers]

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime, Anime Review, Manga Review, Raphael | Saturday 19 June 2010 7:13 am

I hate to start on a sour note, but honestly, I thought that this episode of Angel Beats! was even worse than the last. What little sense the show made almost seemed to vanish, the plot took a further turn for the silly, there was a ridiculous and rushed infodump, and Yuri’s character drifted into moe archetype territory. There was forward momentum in terms of the series, but things just seemed to move as quickly as usual while a barely-connected series of events played out on screen. What’s worse is that this looks to be the conclusion of anything truly happening in the show: the next and final episode is simply titled ‘Graduation’ and the preview featured only Otonashi making a tearful speech. In any case, by now, I don’t really have much hope left for the series to tie things together cohesively. But maybe we’ll be lucky?

I don't really think that love is the emotion emanating from me...

First off, I want to talk about Yuri – last week, I lauded the series for turning her into a more multifaceted character than she seemed to be at first glance. In this episode, though, things felt off for me with her: she seemed to be more of a typical tsundere than anything else. She blushed and stammered when some of the gang saw her with ripped clothing, and was treated as much more of a fanservice object than usual (speaking of which, what the hell was with that shot of her on the toilet?). I also found her behaviour during the scene with the guy created by the programmer (I’ll call him ‘the program’ from here on) strange. Granted, her power-crazed moment was all an act but I’d question the creators’ attempt of it because it just felt silly. To pull off something like that requires build-up, and if there had have been build-up, I might’ve suspected that Yuri was actually losing her marbles. But at first, it seemed like nothing more than yet another thing in the episode that didn’t make sense. To be fair, though, I will give Angel Beats! this: I’m glad that the creators didn’t make Yuri choose to become the God of the world (with her choosing instead to stay true to her friends). At least, in this respect, they stayed true to the character they’ve created for her.

It's stabby time.

Speaking of the scene with the program, I found that to be somewhat frustrating. We got some answers in terms of the origin of the afterlife world but we still don’t have much to go on regarding how the characters got to said world, and why they’rethere in the first place. I’m not entirely sure that these will be answered, either. In addition to this, I have to admit that I was irritated that it was the feeling of love that caused the shadow monsters to be born. Equally as, or more, annoying was “This is the first time I’ve detected so much [love]“; with Yuri destroying the room afterward, it felt almost akin to a Power Of Love type scenario. Despite all this, I don’t think the scene was so bad itself. Coupled with the rest of the episode (or even the rest of the series), though, it was disappointing. With all the possibilities for how things could have gone here, it felt like a bit of a cop-out. Similarly, I’m not sure how I feel about the use of a completely new ‘villain’, especially since, as Janette noted, there was great potential for Chaa or Christ or even Matsushita to have been behind it all. With so much ambiguity surrounding the mystery computer thief, it might have been nicer for him/her to have been someone we knew.

You can feel and look like Matsushita too! Join Weight Watchers today!

Finally, pacing must be mentioned here; I believe this episode would’ve been better if things had moved slightly slower and were spread over two instalments. GirlDeMo’s disbandment and the members’ leaving the world (which got about two minutes), the fight against the shadow monsters, Yuri’s daydream, the scene with the program – all these elements felt so rushed and so disparate. Indeed, the entire series has felt similarly rushed, but this took it to a whole new level. I’d usually forgive such pacing, but this is an anime original project – without being restrained by light novel/manga progression, I’d expect better series composition. On this point, I do think that Angel Beats! would’ve benefited largely from being extended to 24 or 26 episodes. The transitions from Mood A to Mood B (to Mood C) would’ve been less grating, because perhaps we’d have been able to actually get used to Mood A before moving on; more character backstories could’ve been explored; and things wouldn’t have had to be so generally manic. Granted, the romp-like nature of the series would’ve diminished, but maybe this would’ve been a good thing.

Angel Beats! has certainly been a wild ride so far, and things will be over very soon. True to form, with only one episode to go, Key has really kept me guessing as to how they’ll wrap things up. Anyway, I haven’t made up my mind about this (very polarising) series yet: I’d been really enjoying the show, but over the past couple of weeks, it’s lost favour with me. I’m withholding judgement at the moment, though, and my opinion of it will rest in the hands of episode 13. As I said, I’m not expecting all that much but I have hope. It will be very interesting to see how things go.

Angel Beats! 11 – Of an Ever-Shifting Plot and Never-Shifting Characters

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime, Anime Review, Manga Review, Raphael | Saturday 12 June 2010 7:19 am

I thought this episode of Angel Beats! was a bit of a mess. There was the usual drama-comedy mishmash and abrupt idea shifts we’ve come to expect from the show, but we also had shadow monsters, SSS members becoming NPCs and the supporting characters being given a decision to make. I didn’t enjoy proceedings nearly as much as usual, probably because of so much going on and a lack of focus. No one character really got a chance to shine, and this was generally more of a set up for a denouement than anything else. To top it all off, the humour – something I can usually count on Angel Beats! for – fell flat for me. Suffice to say, with Durarara!!‘s episode also disappointing (see Rakuen’s awesome post!), this has not been a good start to week eleven of the 2010 spring season.

A-at least there was everyone’s favourite yaoi l-love triangle, kyaaaa~!

To me, this episode really hit home how episodic the series is, because there was not only shifting in terms of the storyline but in terms of the antagonist; this is the fifth villain-shift we’ve had so far (we went from Tenshi to Naoi to no-one to the Tenshi clones to no-one to, now, the Mysterious Computer Thief). In any case, it’s pretty much a given that things will change at the drop of a hat in Angel Beats! and I’ve learned to accept that. In fact, I’ve actually always felt as though the plot has progressed quite smoothly in the series. My qualm is that I don’t feel as though, at the end of the show’s run, I’ll be able to look back at a cohesive whole. I think it’ll seem more like a loosely-connected series of events, and I don’t expect the last two episodes to be able to tie everything together either. Bigger fish have been designated for frying there.

Maybe you wouldn’t, but I can think of about a million anime fans who would.

Yuri’s acceptance of Otonashi’s goal was quite surprising to me. I predicted that she would be either hurt or angry, or maybe that there’d be fight between her and Otonashi about the matter. The way she actually behaved was very different to this, though, and added another dimension to her character-wise (finally!). Despite having very solid ideals, it seems like she’s willing to listen to other people’s ideas, and she cares predominantly about her own actions. That’s not to say that she’s narcissistic – she’s just accepting of other ways of doing things. I think that attitude is refreshing to see in a character as strong as she is. Said attitude also led to my favourite thing about this episode (perhaps the only thing I wholeheartedly enjoyed): the decision she asked the SSS members to make. I’m curious as to who will decide to disappear out of the afterlife world and who’ll continue to fight against their fate. It’s an interesting dilemma the characters have been presented with, and one I want to see the show explore.

Bouken desho desho?

Digital Boy’s excellent post on characters really got me thinking about how Angel Beats! goes about the three elements he discusses. I think the SSS members have solid chemistry together and that character depth is certainly present for those whose backstories have been shared. But what’s interesting to me is that there’s a lack of what Digital Boy describes as ‘development’ in Angel Beats!; for a show in which there’s oh-so much change, the characters remain remarkably steadfast in their behaviour. Think back to the people we were shown in episode one, and think of them in episode eleven. So much is the same! Even though some have disappeared and we know about several of their pasts (and perhaps even why they behave the way they do), the ways in which they behave haven’t changed. TK is still nonsensical and prone to random dancing, Shiina is still enigmatic and an efficient fighter, Yuri is still the leader with a mission, Hinata is still helpful and optimistic, and Takeyama is still asking to be called Christ. One could say that Kanade is an exception, but really, it’s not her that’s changed but the way we see her. The only true outliers are Naoi and Otonashi. The former is still the same person to everyone but Otonashi, and the only real thing that’s changed about the latter is what his goals are.

It’s clear that the show uses a set technique to build detailed portraits of – and to help us build relationships with – its characters, and that’s the flashback. The characters were all enigmatic at first but, as the series has progressed, we’ve been let in on the pasts of a chosen few. Through this, the motivations behind and reasons for the said few being the way they are (and more) have become apparent, and we’ve gotten to know and like them better. Once a character is ‘deepened’ in the show, though, things seem to end for them in terms of characterisation. They’re not going to change that much, if at all. I’m not opposed to this because I don’t view development as something essential for a good character; I’ve even noted before that I love the characterisation in the series, and this is a view I’ll stand by. But I do find it intriguing that a show which is essentially about leaving the past behind requires us to focus so much on the past to get to know its heroes better.

Angel Beats – Episode 10

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime Review, Manga Review | Sunday 6 June 2010 5:08 am

It’s Angel Beats episode 10, and Otonashi decides to try to heal Yui first, figuring that she’d probably be the easiest. However, she ends up being a tougher nut to crack than Otonashi thought. However, Otonashi ends up getting help from an unlikely person.

So it looks like that either Hinata either figured all along what the purpose of the world was, or figured out what Otonashi was up to and realized that he was right. It’s possible that Hinata had figured it all out when he had his own near-disappearance moment earlier in the series, and just didn’t want to say anything.

Things will be a bit easier now with two people working with Kanade instead of just Otonashi. However, the primary problem I still see is this: given that Yuri’s hang up has to do with not being able to protect her flock, so to speak, it’s hard to see how having all of her followers disappear is going to make it any easier to allow her to disappear when it finally comes down to that. In reality, having Yuri disappear sooner rather than later would make sense, but that doesn’t make for good TV.

Personally, I’m not to horribly sad that Yui is gone. I found her to be a rather irritating character, though she developed more depth in this episode than probably all the previous episodes, combined. Yui didn’t necessarily have a tragic life, in the sense that Yuri did, but it was still rather sad. Being hit by a car and becoming a quadriplegic when you’re young would make a lot of people regret not being able to do things that other kids could do. Once again, we never see how she actually died, and Yui seemed pretty healthy, given her condition.

At least Hinata’s true feelings for her are finally revealed. However, GirlDeMo has certainly taken a hit, with both of it’s last two lead singers disappearing.

Otonashi’s plans may have to wait, though, with the odd occurance at the end of the episode, with Noda defeating the “shadow.” Does this have something to do with Angel’s remerging, or is it perhaps the next stage in Otonashi’s plan, somehow, this time to disappear Noda? It was presented as being more ominous than that at the end of the episode, though.

It’s kind of funny to say this about a series whose entire setting is a supernatural world, but there hasn’t been very much what would traditionally be considered supernatural things that occur. Yuri and her group fight with guns and, when it comes down to it, Kanade is basically fighting with technology that allows her to do the things she does. However, there aren’t ghosts or demons or things like that flying around.

That’s why I have my doubts that this “shadow” is something of that nature. I figure it’s either a side-affect of all the evil Kanades, a side-affect of some new technology Kanade is creating (it’s clear that Otonashi is suggesting she make new things), or something Kanade (or someone else) is intentionally doing with the already presented abilities of the world.

Angel Beats! 10 – The Life and Times of Yui-nyan♥~ [Minor Spoilers]

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime, Anime Review, Manga Review, Raphael | Saturday 5 June 2010 7:16 am

I actually laughed out loud a couple of times during this episode of Angel Beats!, a feat because, despite considering the series extremely funny, these were some of the few times I have actually done so. The slapstick was well-timed and amusing, and TK’s grorious Engrish was in full swing, but the real comedic star of this episode for me was Kanade. I found her job on Otonashi’s plan totally hilarious (my favourite moments of the episode include “Because of your guitar, the band is dead.” and Kanade throwing said guitar far too high up into the air). Her social ineptness is quite funny to watch and also pretty charming, and I’m really loving her as a character. Of course, though, Kanade wasn’t the focus of this instalment… Spoilers ahead!

Yui-nyan♥ demands attention! And she will German Suplex you if you don't give it to her!

I quite liked Yui’s backstory. It was easily the simplest of the bunch so far, and had the least amount of detail. This was great because it didn’t fall into melodrama when it very easily could have. Her story was sad but understated (and those who’ve been following this series know that the latter is a rarity in this series) but at the same time, it was also very easy to feel sympathetic towards her. Her backstory also redeemed an irritating aspect of her personality, her hyperactivity, because she had a good reason to be that way. In addition to that, the simplicity of the concept – Yui wanting to live out the dreams she was denied due to her accident – really allowed for some great emotion (both sad and upbeat) which was focused in the present, and that was great.

Hell if I know.

This was definitely a Yui-centric episode and this is a fairly Yui-centric post, so of course I’m going to touch on this next point: I think I’m in love with the Yui/Hinata pairing. To me, the two of them seem to work brilliantly together, and I feel as though they bring out the best in each other’s character. I found the montage of their possible life together really sweet and touching, and if I had cried during this episode, it definitely would have been then. (I’ve actually never cried because of manga or anime before, but I do want to!) I have to say that I also loved how the creators worked their (maybe quasi-)romance in with the plot of the episode. It didn’t at all feel like something just thrown in for the shippers but, instead, like something important that was there to help advance Otonashi’s main aim, which is now the focal point of the series.

S-so, Otonashi is the pitcher, a-and the two of them l-like it?! Kyaaaaa~

Finally, and also on the topic of Yui and Hinata, the conversation the two of them had before the former’s disappearance really interests me. Yui was talking about going back into the world she ‘lived’ in; as opposed to reincarnation, it felt as though she thought she was going to be returning to the exact same life she had before her ‘death’. I’m not sure if this means much in terms of the direction of the show – it may all have been Yui theorising or I may simply have misinterpreted it – but it really got me thinking about another possible theory with regard to how the characters got to this world.

When you think about it, we’ve never actually seen any of them die. Yuri, Naoi and Hinata’s backstories were all cut short before their ‘deaths’, Iwasawa was merely seen closing her eyes in her hospital bed, and there was no mention of death anywhere in Yui’s backstory. One might say that Otonashi is an exception, but it was actually never explicitly stated that he was dead. (And even if he is dead, I can also see him as a character placed by God/fate into the Angel Beats! world to help those living there with their transitions out of said world.) Because of this, my newest theory is that all of those living in the afterlife world are not dead but merely unconscious – maybe in comas, etc. – and are living out their dreams in a world created by their collective imaginations. It’s also occurred to me that this world might not be the product of several imaginations but simply of one imagination (perhaps Otonashi’s). Wouldn’t that be a frustrating ending; something akin to “it was all just a dream”?

Let me know what you guys think! What are the theories that you’re currently touting?

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