First impressions on Angel Beats! visual novel. What happnes if you don’t join SSS?

After disovering complexity of choice design of Angel Beats!, which allows you to say and do pretty much anything, I started to wonder – could I even not join Yurippe nad the others in their figth agains God? And indeed, game allows you to do that.

Now I went into that decision out of curiosity and at fisrt, I suspected one of two things to happen: either my choice will not matter and Otonashi will eventually join anyway, or I’ll get a bad ending. My first guess was actually the former, since that’s what visual novels usually do; making you go through meaningless decisions in order to create good illusion of choice. But this is Key and Maeda Jun (麻枝准) we’re talking about, after like five or so years of development of very complex net of choices with 200 achievements that deserves, and probably will get, its own post in the future.

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Anyway, as game tried to warn me for like the fourth time, I started to suspect the latter. You might have even read my yesterday’s tweet about getting a bad ending. I started to be fairly sure I’m going for one when game mentioned that this was my last chance to turn back, by nonchalantly literally saying  “this is your last chance to turn back.” And I didn’t turn back.

Few words on Maeda Jun’s style

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A caricature of Maeda Jun

So what exactly makes this ending so special that made me want to write about it? To answer this question, let me just quickly talk about Maeda Jun again. I know, we’ve bee through this during the Charlotte post, but there’s one interesting aspect of his style, that is essential to fully comprehend this ending. At least if you wanna over think it like I do. And I realize, that that alone could make an article on its own (again), and perhaps I should actually write it in the future too, but for now, to put it in nutshell, Maeda’s works usually follow the exact general formula, which consist of two parts:

Firstly, there’s what I call happy phase. He introduces us to main characters, makes us care about them, shows us all those seemingly meaningless little things. Like the fact, that some character can’t cook. He shows us rivality between characters, he shows us friendships. This phase is filled with happy moments and funny situations that makes you laugh.

Secondly, there’s what I call cutting an onion phase. This is where shit starts to hit the fan. Something happens, that renders happy life from the first phase not being able to last.

The ending is so interesting, because it follows this formula exactly. It’s short, very short, not much happens at all, but it still follows the pattern, with its own new original characters, almost making little sad story completely on its own, independent of rest of the game.

The Ending

After definitevily leaving principal’s office, Otonashi, determined to move on on his own and disappear, decides to look for Kanade, or “angel,” how he knows her at the time. She, being very happy in her Ayanami Rei-like way, helps Otonashi out with basics in the school – she brings him new clean uniform, shows him where dorms where he’s supposed to live are, and after Otonashi is not satisfied for not disappearing in a day, even hangs out with him after school, trying to figure out which club did he attend when still alive.

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Eeeeeeehhh — !!?? | Are you kidding me ——- !!

If your aim really is to disappear, then things actually start to look in your favour. Otonashi even learns his name from a math teacher, when being called to solve a problem. His classmates treat him like they’ve been together forever. Everybody knows name, they even seem to have fake memories of him. This also applies to his roommate, 阿部 (I’m actually not 100% sure how to read it, but I think it’s supposed to be Abe).

Abe is interesting character on his own. Though he doesn’t have a sprite, he becomes essential part in this short story and shows to both us and Otonashi, that NPCs, despite not being self conscious, really do act like proper human beings.

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Everyone here was looking at me strangely, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m right.

First, Abe gets angry at Otonashi for taking so long after school, because they apparently always eat lunch together. It turns out Abe was waiting for Otonashi and haven’t eaten yet, so they set off to dining room together. Here I was kind of expecting to see operation tornado from NPC’s perspective, but that unfortunately didn’t happen. Instead, we get to see some building Abe’s character, as he pays for Otonashi’s meal, because Otonashi doesn’t have money on him, or as he happily order and then talks about his most favourite food in the world – sauce katsudon (ソースカツ丼). Which, by the way, Otonashi orders as well, earning you an achievement “I ate sauce katsudon.” Yeah.

Because Otonashi and Kanade failed in their club search the other day, Otonashi doesn’t know what to do after school. Abe ensures him that he already does attend a club, however. That is moment of the last choice before reaching the ending. You can guess whether your club is baseball, track, or computer club. Perhaps because I was reading Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai (神のみぞ知るセカイ) the other day, I chose track, because… well, because I like Takahara Ayumi, but your choice doesn’t really matter, because Abe’s reaction is always the same: “See, you do remember.”

That might look like lazy design at first, but considering what NPCs are in this world, I’d actually call it nice little touch. Whatever you say is your club, becomes your club. NPCs’ memories change accordingly. Because that’s what they are here for.

Scene showing how you suck at your club of choice follows. Otonashi realizes, that whatever his hobbies or interests were when alive, it’s neither baseball, track, nor computers.

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Somethimes, I see people in weird uniforms.

After that, sad music kicks in. We get to see some views on gloomy colorless buildings, with Otonashi’s narrative. This part actually gave me really strong Clannad (クラナド) vibes and it was here that I’ve got to want to write about it. Narrative we read really resebles that of Tomoya; Otonashi describes how he just meaninglessly repeats every day, attedning morning classes, club activities, lunch with Abe, afternoon classes, day, after day, after day.

Then Winter comes. (How famous this line is in Maeda’s work by now?) Students change into their winter uniforms. Snow covers the campus. Physical ed classes and outside clubs move inside. It doesn’t bother Otonashi though, because dorms are close to the main building.

Winter is over and Spring approaches. The school is about to have graduation ceremony. Abe graduates and disappears. Because that’s what kind of world this is. That’s what happens to NPCs that graduate. They disappear and new ones appear as first year students in their stead.

Unknown students knocks on Otonashi’s door. He says he’s his new roommate. Otonashi checks the name signs on the door. Abe’s name is gone. Otonashi loses sense of time spent in this world.

The saddest thing is, he doesn’t actually disappear. I can only guess that that’s because he hasn’t fulfilled conditions properly, since from original anime we know that it’s not about attending classes and behaving oneself. At the very end, Otonashi mentions he sometimes meets people with different uniforms, but he no longer recognizes them.

Final Thoughts

Angel Beats! -1st beat- is definitely a visual novel with lot to it and quite frankly, after playing for just about five hours, I was already blown away by nomber of things. I’d definitely love to write something about their choice design and incredibly complex plot development system that comes with it. Being able to randomly confess to Yurippe, being dick to Hinata, or completely change some scenes just because you’ve decided to hang out with someone instead of being alone. And that’s just beginning. After those 5 hours I’ve only got 2% of achievements and 1% of CGs.

Nonetheless, since I’d like to keep a bit of diversity throughout the blog, my next post will most likely be about something other than Maeda Jun. I’d been keeping some (hopefully) interesting thoughts regarding Accel World or Madoka Magica, so maybe it’ll be one of those. Or maybe not, we’ll see.

There’s like three people reading this, but feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and follow this blog if you like what you see.

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