The home of Critic, Writer and Film-maker: Liam Walters

Anime

Anime Daze: Angel Beats! – Stairway to Heaven & Another Epilogue

So as you may remember, last September I wrote a review of Angel Beats, and in october, wrote
a slightly altered review for my Student Paper column, Screen Daze. And so, With a new year at hand, I have decided to create this Screen Daze type spin off column; Anime Daze.

For a quick recap, Angel Beats was a 13 Episode collaboration project involving visual novel company Key, anime companies Aniplex and P.A.Works. among others. Written by Jun Maeda,
who also worked on other key projects such as Air, Kanon and Clannad, the story does have a similar story themes as the aforementioned titles, whilst still being separated enough to have a sense of individualism.

As I stated in the review, I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and looked forward to the OVA that would be released in December. Well, December has come and gone, and I have watched the Angel Beats OVA entitled: Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven was an excellent addition to the Angel Beats Story. I would estimate that it was set between Episodes 4 and 5. It involves the SSS, as they try out a new strategy, called ‘Operation High Tension Syndrome’. Yuri’s idea is to have the SSS members do everything with high tension and excitement, so that they look like they are enjoying themselves and are fulfilled. This is so that Angel, who they think is connected with god, gets confused, since if the students are enjoying themselves with fulfilled lives, they should disappear to be reincarnated. Since they are not disappearing, Yuri believes Angel will panic, going to gain answers from God, at which point they follow Angel to confront god.

The SSS members are, at first, somewhat sceptical, and dont enjoy the thought of having to spend 12 hours doing things with high tension, though Yuri soon persuades them, as if they do not comply, or the mission fails, then the SSS members will go without food or drink for an entire week. The punishment works well, since, the members can’t exactly die.

It is a fantastic episode, and one to watch if you enjoyed the series. In all truth, there is nothing special about it, nothing which defines it from the other episodes of the series, apart from a quite humorous Tension Meter in the bottom corner of the screen… But with such a great series, why would you want anything too different?

[[WARNING: SPOILERS]]

So for those of you who have watched the final episode of the Angel Beats Series, you would have watched the Epilogue in which you see a young boy who resembles Otonashi, and a young girl who resembles Kanade. As the girl hums the tune to ‘My Song’, the boy looks over at her, before running after her.

Another Epilogue is quite a change. We see a boy with blonde hair looking distressed in class, before suddenly standing up, announcing that he knows that he has died with an unfufilled life, and questions what the point of the school is. Suddenly, Otonashi, now the student council president, walks into the school,as we hear the ‘Theme of SSS’. Otonashi challenges the boy, by telling him if theres something he needs to do, then just do it. Otonashi then asks the boy what is it that he needs to do.

The boy responds that he needs the courage to stand up to Otonashi, while at the same time, forcing Otonashi back, at which point, Otonashi relaxes. He tells the boy that he could do it, and says if he ever feels resentment or hesitation, then to come down to the student council room to see him, as he will always be there. The class explodes with praise as Otonashi leaves, returning to the empty Student Council room. It is said that he is waiting for someone…

I’ve been looking around, and it seems theres some debate whether this will lead to the proposed second series, supposedly titled ‘Angel Beats – Second Term’. Theres also the debate whether a second series would even be possible, as the characters disappeared at the end of the series.

In my opinion, there is every possibility that there will be a second series, and that Another Epilogue will lead into it. We never see Otonashi disappear, we hear him scream before the titles roll, and then we see the Epilogue. But we dont know how much time there is between the two. Since it is called ‘Another Epilogue’, it means that it is an extra one. Not an alternative one.

In the grand scheme of things, it could go Angel Beats > Another Epilogue > Second Term > Epilogue. You may be thinking that it couldn’t work like that, as Kanade and Otonashi are the same age in Epilogue. But for those who watched the series, you will know that Kanade got Otonashi’s heart when he died, and she regretted never being able to say thank you for it (until the end of the series, where she did and was able to disappear). This would mean that Kanade’s and Otonashi’s deaths were some time apart. Angel must have had some life with Otonashi’s heart before she died  and went onto purgatory.

As we know, Otonashi fell into purgatory after Kanade, so as time does not work in the linear order we would think, there is every possibility that Otonashi did stay on in Purgatory, helping the lost souls who also ended up there, all the while waiting for the day when Kanade ends up there in a future incarnation.

Of course, this is all theory, but to me it makes logical sense using what we know. View Another Epilogue Below.

If there is a new series of Angel Beats (rumoured to be released in Spring 2011) then I will almost definitely watch and review it.

Did you watch the OVA and Another Epilogue? Do you agree or disagree with my theory? Post what you think in the comments section below.

Advertisements

Review: Angel Beats!

[ Review By: Liam Walters ]

[ Originally posted: 17/09/2010 ]

[ Contains Minor Spoilers ]

‘Angel Beats’ is a 13 episode anime series, created by ‘Jun Maeda’, and produced by ‘P.A Works’ and ‘Aniplex’. Jun Maeda, along with the character designer ‘Na-Ga’ are both from the visual novel company ‘Key’. You may have heard me talk about Key in the past. For those who do not know, Key have developed several animes based off their visual novels, such as ‘Air’, ‘Kanon’ and ‘Clannad’ (All of which are my part of my top favourite animes).

There’s something special in the writing of these animes. Something that just strikes an emotional chord, and with Key being part of the development process, I had high expectations when I first heard of Angel Beats. I am happy to sit here, and announce that not only did Angel Beats reach my expectations, but clearly passed it even in the first few episodes.

Here is a short promo video for Angel Beats:

Angel Beats takes place in a highschool, in the realm between the living and the dead (a somewhat purgatory). The students end up there when they have any lingering attachments from when they were alive, which they must learn to overcome before passing into the afterlife or reincarnation. The protagonist on this story is a young boy named Otonashi, who wakes up in this strange place, finding out he has no memories of who he is, or even where he is.

He quickly meets Yuri, who explains to him that he is dead, and asks him to join the ‘Like Hell I’m Dead’ Battlefront, although she adds that the name tends to change a lot. He see that she had a gun pointed towards another young girl with white hair, as Yuri explains that the girl is an angel, sent by god to erase those who appear at the high school.

Otonashi doesn’t believe Yuri, and decides to go down to the girl and ask her questions. She explains that she is not an angel, but the Student Body President. She also brings up that they are actually dead, although Otonashi is still sceptical of the idea, and asks for her to prove it. She does this by stabbing him through the chest. Yeahh, when an angel stabs someone through the chest, nobody says a thing, but when I do it, suddenly I’m a ‘danger to the community’.

Otonashi wakes up some moments later in the infirmary, shocked to see that there isn’t even a scar. In this world, no one is able to die, because they are already dead, although they can still feel the pain of death. Otonashi once again finds Yuri, and decides to join her battlefront, now named ‘The Afterlife Battlefront’, as he begins to meet all other members of the battlefront.

Throughout the series, they go on many different missions, fighting against angel, among some other enemy’s, and even turning some of those enemies into friends. About half way through the series, Otonashi begins to remember his past and the life he had led, as well as finding out about the lives of some of the other members of the battlefront.

Near the end of the series, the battlefront face a new enemy, one that is more dangerous than anything they have faced, and one that can even affect their entire existance in their world. The anime ends with some goodbyes, some feelings shared, and a lot of tears, although also gives us a glimmer of hope in the short epilogue.

The Main Characters of Angel Beats

My Top 5 Favourite Characters

#5 Otonashi

So it may seem weird to have the main series protagonist as far down as number 5, but I have my own personal reasons for liking the others more than him. Still, he is a great and interesting character, kind hearted and you really feel for him when you learn about his past. I think he does very well as a series protagonist, and is a very well made character.

#4 Yuri

Yuri is the leader of the Battlefront, and a very strong and capable leader at that. I was always two ways about her through most of the series. She seemed like a good character, but she didn’t seem anything special. But that changed in episode 11 for me, when I saw something that made me very happy. I can’t say what because I’m keeping spoilers to a minimum, but if you watch it, you’ll probably find out.

#3 Shiina

Shiina is a female ninja, who rarely speaks, and when she does, it is normally her signature phrase ‘How shallow minded’. I think the reason why I like this character so much is because of her abnormalities, as well as her eccentricities, such as her weakness for anything cute, or deciding to try to balance a broom on her finger for the entirety of episode 4, because she is mad at herself because Otonashi did better than her during one of the previous missions.

#2 Angel

Angel is actually a hard one for me to describe why I like. She just has some… aspects about her personality that seem to resonate within me. Unfortunatly, since I’m keeping spoilers to a minimum, I can’t go deeply into why she is one of my favourite characters throughout the series, but alas she still is.

#1 TK

TK is… Well… He is more or less a comic relief character. He is a member of Yuri’s battlefront, although no one knows much about him, not even his real name. I think I like him for the same reasons as Shiina, just his weird eccentricities, like the way he speaks broken English for most of the series, or the way he breaks into dance every so often. He rarely speaks Japanese, although does seem to understand what other people are saying, and will willingly sacrifice himself to help his team along.

This is one of the only times when I have chosen a comic relief character as a favourite from the series, although this just helps my point that this series is extremely well written, with fantastic characters, which are both well designed and well developed.

I also have to take a moment to talk about the music within the anime. Like Key’s animes and games, the music choices are excellent and well composed. I personally have the Clannad OST and the Air OST, and I would hope to get the Angel Beats OST as well. The ending theme I especially like, and I cant really say why, I just really love it, so much so that I’ve been listening to it whilst writing this review.

This anime is one of the reasons why I love the works of Key so much. There is just the right amount of laughter, but also the right amount of drama and sadness as well. It makes me upset that I have watched the entire series, because I just loved watching the episodes so much, it’s just a shame to let it end so soon, after only 13 episodes.

If you have watched the series yourself, then I urge you to comment and share your experiances with the story  and the characters. If you have not seen the series, then I urge you to do so, then come and discuss what you think of it.


Review: The Place Promised in Our Early Days

[ Review Written By: Liam Walters ]

[Originally posted: July 11th 2010]

8.8 / 10

[Minor Spoilers]

Introduction:

‘Kumo no Muko, Yakusoku no Basho’, translated to ‘Beyond the Clouds, the Promised Place’, or known in the English dub as ‘The Place Promised in Our Early Days’ is the first full length film made by anime director Makoto Shinkai.
This was the first time Shinkai worked with a full team of staff, since on earlier projects he worked on his own. With a plot involving terrorist bombings, towers, dreams of the universe and a plane made by two young teenage boys, it is certainly unique in its story.
So with that, lets dive into the thick of it, as we search for the promised place.

Synopsis (Taken from IMDB):

“The story takes place in a alternate postwar period, in 1996, where Japan is divided. Hokkaido is ruled by the “Union” while Honshu and other southern islands are under US authority. A tall tower was built on Hokkaido, which could even be seen from Tokyo. In the summer of 1996, three middle-school students make a promise that they’ll cross the border with a self-constructed plane and unravel the tower’s secret, but their project was abandoned after the girl, Sayuri Sawatari, became mysteriously ill and transferred to Tokyo.”

Characters:

The Promised Place has quite a few note worthy characters.

There are our three main characters Hiroki Fujisawa, Takuya Shirakawa, and Sayuri Sawatari.
Hiroki is our main protagonist, and also occasionally features as our narrator. He tends to be our playful hero with a big heart, although over time he becomes deeper and more serious.

Takuya is the geek of the duo. Sporting a pair of glasses and being the more obviously smarter one, he also tends to be the more serious one. It also seems as though the generally considered the more attractive one, as an opening scene shows us a young girl confessing her love for him, who he ultimately rejects.

Sayuri is our female protagonist. Being friends with both Hiroki and Takuya. They both end of developing feelings for her. She always has premonitions about losing something important. After spending the summer with Hiroki and Takuya, she suddenly disappears from their lives.

Mr. Okabe play the rough and tough employer of Hiroki and Takuya at the Emishi Manufacturing Factory. He holds secrets from both Hiroki and Takuya, and knows more than he lets on, although it is shown that he cares for them both.

Maki Kasahara is the co-worker of Takuya when he goes to work at the Alliance Scientific Facility during his high school years. She does research of the parallel worlds, or ‘the dreams of the universe’. It is shown she has deep feelings for Takuya.

Soundtrack:

The soundtrack used in The Promised Place is quite simply, beautiful and amazing. Like with Shinkai’s other projects, the music was composed by Tenmon. With a mix between light tracks and heavier tracks, to suit the mood of the moment, it fits perfectly with what we see on the screen. Although you wont find yourself humming these tunes when you go around to the shops, you will find yourself going back and wanting to listen to them again, as I have done many times to draw great inspiration from the melody.

Dub:

The dub is, actually, really well put together. I have watched both, the Japanese version, and the English version, and there have not been any major changes within the scripts. I believe that there may be a few minor changes, but nothing that would really change the story or how we perceive it.
The voice actors for the characters were well chosen as well, with a lot of the English voices sounding similar to their Japanese counterparts, as well as sounding like the characters themselves look as they should, with slight changes in their voice as we see the characters grow older.
This is one of the many few animes that I actually prefer to watch in the English adaptation.

Artwork:

The artwork in The Promised Place is as with all Shinkai projects, just simply amazing. The characters themselves are typical anime characters, but the real beauty of the artwork is in the settings and backgrounds. There is so much detail and beauty placed within the artwork, that it helps to create the atmosphere of the whole film.

As with Shinkai, we do see some running things, which I will once again pick up when I get around to doing other Shinkai works. The two main notable running themes, are snow, as we see it at the climax of the film, helping to set the cold atmosphere of the impending war.
The other notable theme is sunsets, which may signify that a certain end is coming, such as the when the group watch the sun setting on that summer day, just before Sayuri falls Ill. In fact, that sunset scene is so well done, I currently have it as my desktop background.

[Major Spoilers]

The Whole Story:

“I always have a premonition of losing something, that’s what she told me.”

We see young man as he starts narrating. This, ladies and gentlemen, is our main protagonist, Hiroki Fujisawa albeit an older version of himself. I think this is to set it up as him being the one who is narrating the story as we go through it.
We are then in a classroom, as we see a girl with long brown hair stand up, and start reading off a book. This is Sayuri Sawatari, our main female protagonist of the film.
Next up we see Hiroki’s best friend, Takuya Shirakawa.
Takuya is obviously the geek of the two friends, as he is the one wearing the glasses. Now don’t get me wrong, not everyone who wears glasses is a geek, but in this case, they are.
What’s weird is Takuya seems to be very good at sports as well, as we see him skate around an ice path, passing the other contestants.
3 girls meet up with Takuya afterwards, where one of them confesses her love for him, but he rejects her.

We see Hiroki practising archery, something, like with Takuya’s skating, that is something that is never once again mentioned in the film. Maybe they just decided that school activities are dumb and gave up.
Anyway, Hiroki sees Sayuri waiting at the train station, as it turns out she was practising violin. Gee, I wonder if that will come up again.

Now do a lot of Japanese students take a train to their school? Maybe its just me, but surely there are closer schools they could be going to. I don’t know, maybe the north/south division left them with very little schools.

So Hiroki talks with Sayuri about how he and Takuya have a job. She is impressed, saying all she has is her club activities. Now, can anyone guess what their job is… BUILDING MISSILES!
I mean, I know that a war could happen at any time. But seriously. They’re like what, 15, and they’re making missiles for the military to use.

Anyway, we find out the reason why they wanted that job is so that they could build an aeroplane… That’s right. Two 15 year old’s are going to build and aeroplane… Well, if they can make missiles, then why the hell not. Where are they going? To the mysterious tower that overlooks them.

We then move on to see Sayuri dreaming. She is running through an empty place. This will have more significance later on.
Anyway, Sayuri and Takuya happen to run into each other at a book store. Takuya is buying a psychics book, because apparently he is a stereotype. We find out that Sayuri’s grandfather was a physicist, although she has never met him because of the North/South divide.
As the talk goes on to Takuya and Hiroki’s job, Takuya ends up letting his libido get the better of him, and invites her to come along.

After they visit the factory, they take Sayuri to go see the Aeroplane they have been building. She is quite obviously impressed. We skip to later in the day, as Sayuri asks to two boys where they are going to fly to. Hiroki tells her they are flying the tower, even though he and Takuya both decided not to tell her, just earlier that day.

They invite her along, and she happily accepts the invitation to go flying on an aeroplane that two 15 year olds built. There and then they make a promise, that they will fly with her to the tower. This is where we are interrupted by the voice over.

Not much in the way of plot happens for a while now. They have apparently found a jet engine, as you do, to use with the plane, and so go to Okabe, their employer, to buy some jet fuel. They go to Sayuri, asking her to play something on the violin for them.
We then move on a few days, as they are working on the plane, trying to find a way to get around the radar systems as Sayuri reads a book outside.

She goes off on her own, going into an large empty shed that sits before a small lake. She sits on the open edge, looking at the tower. It suddenly goes black and white as the tower explodes, causing shock waves to collapse the part she is sitting on. This seems to be part of her dream. She grabs a hold with one hand and is left hanging there, as Hiroki’s spider sense tingles and runs off to save her. He grabs her just in time, but in true comedy fashion, they both end up falling in.
More hijinks happen when Hiroki pulls Takuya into the lake as well.
Sayuri then goes on to explain her dream to them.

The voice over comes in again, and says that he hasn’t seen Sayuri for 3 years since that day.
We skip ahead 3 years as we are I’m some kind of government building.
Who just happens to be working there but Takuya. Now in high school, he is apparently smart enough to be working for the government. It is about here as we get away from the silliness, and get more into the serious business.

Anyway, they are trying to connect and replace the parallel worlds. They manage to do this, but only replace several inches of the parallel world. We then meet our second notable female character, Maki. Maki and the boss start to talk about how they have found ‘The Key’ in Tokyo.

General chit chat happens between Maki and Takuya, we see that Maki seems to have feelings for Takuya, though Takuya seems to be obvious, though does she he ‘Thinks she’s kind of pretty though’. We then see Maki and Takuya go visit Okabe, as Maki explains her job. She looks into the dreams of the universe.
The parallel worlds are supposedly the worlds dreams. And these parallel worlds affect the dreams of living beings on earth, leading to premonitions… Right… So your telling me my dreams are affected by the dreams of the universe which change depending on the choices we make?

Sure, that makes a ton of sense.

Anyway, we learn that Okabe is going to Tokyo tomorrow as well… That seems quite a funny coincidence. And they just keep coming. It turns out, Sayuri is the key, and that she has been sleeping for 3 years, and is having a dream. Wow, If I stay in bed too long I start to get aches, but sleeping for 3 years, that must make one hell of ache. Anyway, it seems before Sayuri fell ill, she wrote a goodbye letter to Takuya and Hiroki, addressed to Okabe.

So it seems that the the boss, Takuya’s boss, whose called Professor Tomizawa, is holding some kind of power point show. Okabe comes to visit, keeping in the back and watching the presentation. It turns out these two know each other from youth, as they talk about old times. It seems that Okabe was the one who told Tomizawa about Takuya, and so that’s the reason why he ended up getting the job… I guess it does help to have contacts. It also looks like Okabe and Tomizawa may have made a aeroplane when they were younger.

Okabe then asks about what type of bombs to use against the tower. This is where the terrorism plot begins. This is quite interesting, as you don’t get many romances that’s mixed with terrorism.
So, guess who else is in Tokyo. Well, he’s been absent for the last 15 minutes or so. Yes, its our protagonist, dreaming about Sayuri doing the voice over for a change. I guess he got bored of the job. But yes, Hiroki moves to Tokyo for high school, after what happened to Sayuri… And my god, has he become emo. All he talks about is how bad he feels and how alone hes been for these past 3 years.

We find out that they never flew the Bella Ciela (the aeroplane), as they were too upset over Sayuri. Hiroki chose Tokyo as he thought he wouldn’t see the towel, unfortunately, when the air was clear enough, he still could. And on those days, he would be even more emo about it.
We also see that in the memory of Sayuri, he has taken up learning the violin.

We go back to Okabe, who is holding a secret meeting about the terrorist attacks. Their plan is found out about and the forces come after them, and shit starts going down, with Takuya ends up getting shot through the arm as they try to make their escape.

We cut back to Hiroki, who has received a letter. The one that Sayuri wrote when she was in hospital. The Sayuri in the dream world starts running, then stops in horror as she see herself in the hospital bed.
Hiroki goes to the hospital, and the dream Sayuri sees him. He can sense her spirit in the room, and as they go to touch, they are magically transported to the field near their plane, as they once again promise that they’ll go together to that tower.

Takuya finds out that Sayuri is in his building, and goes to visit her. After visiting the terrorist meeting, He then gets a phone call off an old friend who happens to be in town. Its Hiroki of course.
The two catch up on old times, and talk about dreams, terrorist plots and Sayuri. As Hiroki explains his plan, Takuya gets all ghetto, pulling out a gun. My, how people change in 3 years. Anyway, Hiroki and Takuya have a little fight and go their own way.

Hiroki goes to visit Okabe the next day, who puts a gun to Hiroki’s head also. It seems like people who plan terrorist attacks are serious… Well. He would be, if he didn’t give the job of blowing the tower up to Hiroki… I’m not even surprised by stuff like this at this point.

Takuya also has a talk with Maki, eventually turning to the side of Hiroki. He tells Maki that he would like to see more of her when this is over. He then goes to Sayuri, who is naked and only covered in a sheet. And takes her. He places her in the car, and she is now fully clothed. So I can only guess he went and found some appropriately sized clothes, and had some fun playing dress up with a girl in a coma.

So lets wind this down.
Hiroki and Takuya make friends. They finish the plane. Hiroki plays the violin for Takuya. With Takuya’s bad arm, and the plane only having two seats, Hiroki and Sayuri go in the plane and leave Takuya behind. They get to the tower. Sayuri wakes up, but forgets the feelings she developed for Hiroki. And then they fly off and shoot a missile, destroying the tower in flames, before there’s one last voice over of Hiroki, and then the credits roll.

Just one more thing… What about when they’re older. Its implied that Hiroki and Sayuri start going out, but what then. I mean, this is one hell of a story to tell they’re kids.
“Daddy, how did you and mommy start going out”
“Well son, mommy fell into a coma for three years, so to wake her up I went and did a terrorist bombing on a tower, killing many innocent lives.”

Summary:

So as much as I made fun of it, I actually really love this. Sure the story can be quite unbelievable, but its anime, its suppose to be unbelievable. Hell, I only took the in-depth look for the comedic factors. This is an amazing film still, and I would recommend it to any anime fan. I do believe it is the weakest of Makoto Shinkai’s work, but I have seen a lot worse in my time, and I still like to watch this time and again.
This also is quite special, as not only is this my first review on this site, but it was also my first and only review on another site, although this is much more in-depth.

In the end, its a great piece of work with well developed characters with an amazing soundtrack and beautiful artwork.

Plot: 7 / 10
Characters: 9 / 10
Soundtrack: 9 / 10
Dub: 10 / 10
Artwork: 9 / 10
Final Score: 8.8 / 10