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”?

1 comment:

Lyrandar said...

Not bad; I think the message you've been getting from this anime is certainly important and correct.

I wonder whether your musings are "correct", inasmuch as that's possible, though. You mentioned this was currently airing, and as long as the anime is still airing, I feel like things might change in ways that render some of the statements you made incorrect. Actually, with Key, I'd be surprised if things don't change. Your point about bullying will not become any less important, but this anime may not be as good of an example in two or three weeks.