Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Angel's Lament

So there's a new anime airing in Japan at the moment, called Angel Beats! (Yes, the exclamation point is part of the title.) It's being produced by Key/Visual Arts, which is a company known for producing some damn good stories in the past. And by that, I mean the computer game Kanon. That game is one of the most well-known visual novels ever, and the story is nothing short of amazing.

With that to recommend it, it didn't take much convincing to get me to watch Angel Beats. (No, I am not going to put in the exclamation point every time.) In keeping with Key's typical mode of operation, the story varies between "depressing" and "really freaking sad" with a few glimpses of hope thrown in occasionally. It's surprisingly effective at getting one to care for the characters of the story, as both Kanon and Angel Beats demonstrate quite readily.

But I'm not really sure who exactly I'm supposed to be finding sympathetic. I guess the two obvious main characters from the beginning have been Yuri and Otonashi... but the third main character (or, possibly, antagonist - certainly she appeared to be that at first) has inevitably drawn a great deal of my attention. That third character? Tachibana Kanade, all too often called Tenshi. Those familiar with Japanese will know that "tenshi" in Japanese (天使, if anyone was curious) means "angel".

I would give a large deal of money to know how and when she got that nickname. To be fair, the anime is set in the afterlife. More likely some section of it, for the people that have had really, really crappy lives. And I mean that. Every backstory we've heard (Yuri, Otonashi, Ayato Naoi, Iwasawa, Hinata) has been damn near hellish. This is the driving force behind Yuri and her Battlefront: her goal is to go find God and have a word with Him. And somehow, I doubt that word will be "thanks"; considering that Yuri owns a number of weapons, it may not even be a word at all.

And that brings us to Tachibana Kanade, aka Tenshi. At first, she was the student council president of this fine part of the afterlife. (Did I mention that this section of the afterlife was a Japanese high school? No? Well, now I have.) Tenshi was thus charged with keeping order in the school. And she could: she's a short little white-haired emotionless girl that doesn't look like she could be a physical threat to anyone, until she says "Guard Skill: Hand Sonic" and summons a freaking armblade from thin air. And uses it to deflect bullets.

So that's why she's an angel! Except... no, actually. She developed those abilities herself, in what was implied to be a similar manner to the way that Yuri, Otonashi, and the rest of the Battlefront get their weapons. Oops. She's just Tachibana Kanade, another of the girls at this school in the afterlife, trying to maintain order as best she can, not because she has to, but because she wants to.

Not that Yuri cares. This "Tenshi", a nickname that the Battlefront themselves tagged her with, has been the target of their operations merely because she could be the link to God that Yuri's searching for. She's going after Kanade because Kanade is one of God's angels... except she started calling her that in the first place. Who's supposed to be the villain here?

What I'm trying to say here is this: when one is deciding on a course of actions, isn’t it a good idea to actually think about it a little first? Tachibana Kanade shouldn’t have had to develop an ability that gave her armblades to keep order in a school. She shouldn’t have ever had to use something like that to keep students under control. And yet, the Battlefront goes even more heavily armed as a matter of habit. Their target was a lone girl who was just trying to do what she felt was right.

Maybe I’m just biased. I’ve been teased before. I spent a large part of my middle school years as a target, or so I imagined. Never quite to the “friendless” extreme that anime characters like Kanade end up representing, but it felt that way sometimes. My personal experience aside, it just seems wrong to intentionally go after someone, either with words or weapons, unless one is damn sure of what they’re doing.

You don’t have to have a reason for everything you do. I blog because I like to express myself, or try to. (My update schedule does suggest that I don’t worry about expressing myself that often.) And for all that I argue that video games or anime can be educational, I enjoy them because they’re fun. I’ve never tried to claim that the benefits are anything more than side effects of what is primarily supposed to be entertainment. But if you’re going to do something more, something that affects other people... for anything from making jokes at their expense to shooting at them, don’t you need a better reason than just “it’s fun”?

Friday, May 7, 2010



I would try to say something here.

Perhaps "damn, I've let this sit for nearly a year with no posts."

Perhaps "damn, my writing sucked back then."

Perhaps... oh, screw it.

It has now been two years since I started this blog. This blog has sat unused, dormant, for most of that second year.

Was that a mistake? Perhaps not. I did say that I would post when I was inspired to do so. That is as true now as it was a year ago. And it's only recently that I've been inspired again, only recently that I've had ridiculous thoughts running through my head with no outlet for them.

Until I realized that I do have an outlet. One that I've let languish, yes, but it still exists. So perhaps, in a week or two when finals period is over, I'll go back to that wonderful habit of expressing myself on the Internet for all to see.

I make absolutely no promises. My update schedule doesn't exist, clearly. I'm worse than Megatokyo, because at least Piro updates his website occasionally. I, apparently, don't update at all.

That will change. I've changed in the year I've let pass. Perhaps, even, a title change is in order: I've played a lot less video games lately, and spent a lot more time with anime. My enjoyment of the Japanese language has become an absolute obsession, and I'm studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan next academic year, from September to April. ("An Otaku's Perspective"?)

None of that changes what I'm trying to do here, and what I really should be trying to do more often. I wax poetic about what I've gained from my leisure time. Every time I hesitate before telling someone that I play video games for fun, every time I hear someone lump them, and anime, and any other kind of game into some lower category (like my ethics professor, and discussing the details of utilitarianism, and the distinction between "higher" and "lower" pleasures)... It is, quite simply, not where they deserve to be.

So let me try this activity one more time. I've got webcomics (the aforementioned Megatokyo), games of all kinds (including some truly unusual kinds, for Americans at least), and a host of new anime series to think about. I've been ranting on AIM occasionally with my close friends about some of these things. Perhaps I should share those rants with the world.

Once more, then, perhaps I can try to blog. I would say "hopefully I'll do better this time", but I lost that right the last time I wrote a "Sorry I haven't been posting" post. So, here and now, the only thing I have the right to say is what I said a little earlier: I can make no promises.

So here's hoping you have the chance to read a new post from me sometime in the near future.