So I’ve been busy last few days, mostly by playing Angel Beats! -1st beat-, but also (as expected) by reevaluating my entire life and the meaning of the Universe and stuff after I’ve finished the Iwasawa (岩沢) ending. Ah, all those feels… It also got me thinking: what makes a good fiction good fiction? My answer to that question is quite simple, even though it might not by applicable in general.
If it manages to make you have real feelings for fictional events, it’s a good fiction. It can be character death that makes you sad, because you grew liking the character, but that’s just one example. On the other hand, you can try writing a story, which fails miserably in the task, making character deaths/romance/whatever feel forced, unnatural, or just uncanny in some fashion. I’m not going to discuss here what I think makes good fiction in detail, because this will probably be long enough ride on its own, but this will do for Iwasawa’s route in Angel Beats!, because it really was one hell of an emotional roller-coaster for me.
I’m going to assume that you’ve either watched the original anime, or at least are familiar with the basic concept of the story. As much as I’d like to write a million pages long book, I want to keep this short, even though I suspect I’ll have to split it into more episodes eventually. And I want to focus purely on Iwasawa and her story line for now.
The game lets you have your first interaction with Iwasawa right after you join Yuri (ゆり) and SSS. One thing that made me a bit sad is fact, that in order to get it, you have to be a kind of a dick to Hinata (日向), because if you’re nice to him, he will follow you on your place of choice, effectively changing the scene you’re going for. Now I’m not 100% sure how much does it internally change things between you and other characters, like Yuri, but if you choose to visit Iwasawa, Hinata will actually stop you completely, saying that she has to practice with the band and you’d just be a nuisance for them.
This first scene is basically the one you can also see in anime, just much earlier (you can follow anime more precisely, but that will prevent you from entering Iwasawa route). As Girls Dead Monster (ガールズ・デッド・モンスター) practice, Hisako (ひさ子) breaks string on her guitar, interrupting the session. Whole interaction is little longer than in anime, because Sekine (関根), Irie (入江) and Hisako are also properly introduced, not having their screen-time cut short due to restricted time creators had to work with during anime. Which I’m particularly happy, especially for Sekine and Irie, who had such a little time in the original anime, that I’m actually not entirely sure whether they were even named there. And with right choices, you can even learn Hisako’s past.
Speaking about characters’ pasts, that’s another difference in this interaction with Iwasawa. While in anime, she immediately tells Otonashi (音無) her back story, in visual novel, she doesn’t do so until she trusts you enough. After they get back to practice, you can get an achievement for indirect kiss with her from the bottle she gives you.
More opportunities to talk to Iwasawa come soon after, starting next morning after the first operation tornado. The game gives you opportunities to visit some of characters usually twice a day, even though not everyone is available to visit every time.
By visiting Iwasawa after the breakfast, you distract her while composing a new song. She’s so enclosed in her head while composing, you need to get her to notice you by yelling “Yosh! Live concert, start!”
She’s not exactly happy about that, but she’s not really angry either. She asks whether you became fan of the band or something, whereupon you reply you have interest in her rather than the band, resulting her to pity you for that, since she’s total music geek with no other interests at all (ongaku kichi, 音楽キチ). But she gives you an opportunity to impress her with a subject you can both enjoy, starting little “sub-arc” of her story line.
Which actually gives you a ton of choices to pick from. My reasoning was to pick “talk about sound” or “talk about speed of sound,” since she said she’s music geek, but it turned out more than one of the subjects were correct. Or rather, very few of them weren’t, because from now on, whenever you come to see her, she’ll immediately ask you: “ah, you again? What are you going to tell me this time?” letting you pick from the remaining choices. Her welcome line changes, by the way, after few encounters, to: “Am I interrupting you?” “No, if you have some interesting topic, I’d like to hear that.”
Even though it turns out titles of those choices are rather misleading, since like all of them breaks down to “talk about science and try to impress her with how smart you are”. Turns out Iwasawa is into science ^^ sort of.
Getting them right by the way, isn’t difficult task at all, even though – as I got to know during revisiting some of the scenes for purposes of this post – the order matters. At least to certain extent. Picking “talk adult stuff” is one of correct choices, but if you pick that on your first encounter, you’ll leave her not impressed. Also, I still can’t wrap my mind about how “talk about animals” was no-go, while “talk about physiological effects,” which was essentially talking about farts, was correct topic. But the hell I know about girls’ hearts, right?
I don’t know how many you can get wrong and still get to her route, or how many encounters can you actually miss. Which can happen, for example because of Hinata’s disturbance at the beginning, or by picking to visit other people when Iwasawa is available. You can also attempt to save Fujimaki (藤巻) during descend to the Guild, which will actually trigger scene of him visiting you during free time, preventing you to visit anyone else. Fortunately, Iwasawa wasn’t available at that day anyway, but stuff like that can happen. I suspect, you actually have to trigger every scene with her and can’t screw up the topics, but I haven’t tried that out.
I started about descending to the Guild, but I’m not going to talk about it much. I’m actually not going to talk much about whole common route, as it doesn’t really have much to do with Iwasawa. Just keep in mind that about first half of Iwasawa route is interspersed with various story arcs you know from anime. About descent to the Gild, let me just say I’ve enjoyed it. It gives you tons of choices with various results at every trap, including your death and thus ending the arc. I, for example, ended up with both my legs chopped off at the laser trap, triggering some rather funny moments later on.
Invasion of Angel’s place follows. If you remember from the anime, Iwasawa first plays her new song, My Song, to Yuri, who says ballad will not do. Unlike in anime, at this point, after Iwasawa leaves, you can follow her, which will lead to choice between “I liked that song,” and “I fell in love with you.” I thought it’s way too early in the game for confessions, so I picked the former, which turned out to be the correct choice (assuming it wasn’t meaningless choice, which may be possible, too).
After that, you get the last chance to visit her before the operation, which can actually also be your last talk with her all together, if you fail saving her from disappearing on stage. If you didn’t miss any scene with her up until now, this one will actually start with extra small talk, before proceeding to one last pick from nine topics presented at the second meeting. Four of them should be remaining, by the way, with three of them being no-goes.
I’m not going to translate whole conversation here, but it starts with her, saying with a smile something like “You again? You really are enthusiastic, continuing to visit me this often.” You then remind her you said you have interest in her few encounters earlier, which makes me think that was actually very essential choice for the route. The rest of the conversation is basically the two of them joking around about what is there to like about Iwasawa. Of course, with several opportunities for you to screw up by answering too seriously. Or at least that was the feeling whole scene gave me.
Then, there’s the mission itself, again, with several opportunities for you to screw up in many ways. But saving Iwasawa is actually fairly simple, you just have to disobey Yuri (making her angry at you later on), abandon mission, and run towards the gymnasium, where the concert takes place.
Unlike in anime, you see the whole thing purely from Otonashi’s perspective. Noticing the music stops, then silence, until Iwasawa starts to play My Song, without any context on what’s going on in the building you’re running towards. The game actually plays My Song at the background, narrated by Otonashi’s thoughts:
It was the song I heard only once before at headquarters, that ballad.
It wasn’t just from the gymnasium. I could hear it from school speakers, too.
Why, I wonder. That makes me anxious.
Her voice sounds so refreshed. There’s no other emotion.
When I first heard Iwasawa singing, there was pain in her voice. It was crude.
But this time, it’s so beautiful. There’s no hesitation.
And I suddenly realized…
That this is the last song Iwasawa will ever sing.
After that, you’re presented with a choice to stop her by thrusting inside and yelling on the whole gymnasium: “Don’t sing anymore!”
And I think this is good cliffhanger to end the first part at. It’s already way too long. I’ll do my best to write and upload next part as soon as possible, even though new semester has just started this week at my school. Feel free to follow if you don’t wanna miss the next part.
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 (coming soon)