Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews > Angel Beats! Episode 2 – The Pits

Angel Beats! Episode 2 – The Pits

This site’s first post was on Angel Beats!, and unlike my co-blogger I’m not quite willing to throw this show to the wolves quite yet, even if the first episode didn’t quite seem to know what it wanted to do with itself. Of course, the second episode also doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do with itself, but it manages to not know in somewhat more interesting ways. The original episode switched between dark comedy and action, with some J-Pop thrown in for good measure. This episode switches between dark comedy and action with some drama in between, and manages to be better comedy, better action (only somewhat, because the action in the first show wasn’t bad) and surprisingly effective drama, given that wasn’t even part of the original presentation of the show.

The episode begins with Yuri running a standard meeting and and noting that supplies are running low. It seems that firearms, explosives, and ammunition is not standard school issue; there’s a factory deep underground that supplies the above-ground team members with their arsenal. The path to it is loaded with ingenious death traps of the over-the-top variety, but Yuri calls ahead to let the depot (called “Guild”) know that a resupply group is coming. So the traps are turned off, the crew loads up, and everyone goes on their merry way. The episode ends, and … oh, wait, that doesn’t happen at all.

This is even funnier with the musical accompaniment

It turns out the traps are still active when they head underground, signaling that they were reactivated to defend against Angel, who seems to have entered the tunnel ahead of them. Of course, the first warning they have of this is when one of their team is butchered. Rather than be sensible and decide to let Angel take the beating for them, Yuri leads the charge ahead, and the team members get wiped out one by one until only Otonashi and Yuri are left. (Those of you surprised that the rookie member/protagonist would make it to the end, raise your hand now.)

Watching the team get slaughtered is actually a lot more fun than it sounds. Knowing that everyone will ultimately recover for their injuries anyway means that there’s no need to really feel concerned about everyone’s fates, and the cliched nature of the traps combined with careful discretion shots make the resulting carnage too—pardon the expression—cartoony to create any real empathy or concern as they make mulch out of the hapless adventurers. (I had some flashbacks to a couple sadistic dungeons from my days as a D&D player.) It helps that quite of few of those deaths happen thanks to the abject stupidity of the various supporting characters, making you feel better for laughing at their misfortune.

Why they thought this trap would be effective against anyone with three working brain cells is beyond me

Misfortune comes in many forms, however, and once Yuri and Otonashi are alone, the fearless leader gets reflective on seeing the loss of her followers. Unlike Otonashi, Yuri remembers her former life, where she was the eldest of four children in a happy, privileged home—until robbers came while the parents were away. Unable to find anything particularly valuable, they ordered Yuri to find it for them, or they would kill a sibling every ten minutes. Yuri didn’t know where the valuables were either, and all her siblings are dead by the time the police arrive. How Yuri dies sometime after that is still an open question, although we’re told it wasn’t suicide.

To say this is a change in tone is to put it lightly. Previously any sense of drama came from the original panic of Otonashi trying to avoid the pain of (temporary) death or the threat of dissolution, and this didn’t last for that long. Now we’re actually getting hints that at least some of the characters might be more than one-note wonders, with the audience finally getting an idea for why Yuri is so driven. She isn’t trying overthrow the system to keep herself from being reincarnated, but to stick it to whatever deity is running the world (and thus the afterlife) however she can. Everything she does, even to founding this group in the first place, has been done with the goal of defying God.

With a real world like this, no wonder everyone wants to stick around in fantasyland

A “rage against the heavens” plot may be just as derivative as “high schoolers goof off and occasionally play music” as far as anime is concerned, but it’s rare to see such a plot introduced so early in a series. Normally you have to wait until mid-season before the heroes discover that God’s a jerk and deserves a smackdown, so seeing such a turn for the series—particularly in a show which was previously indulging in the most excessive slapstick I’ve seen this side of the Simpsons—was a bit surprising. Of course, anime is a genre known for pulling massive mood swings within a single episode or even a a single scene, and I’ve seen it done worse.

Anyway, Yuri and Otanashi finally make it to Guild just before Angel is about to show up. Yuri then gives instructions to blow up the physical location and have the workers relocate to an older, still undiscovered facility. It turns out that creating inanimate objects from any other inanimate object is possible so long as you can remember the object you’re making, and the (very impressive) facilities at the current Guild location are just to speed things along. Our heroes fight Angel as a delaying tactic to give the crew time to rig the place with explosives, and then one impressive boom later they’ve cleared out .

The action animation and choreography are still amazing

There’s several convenient contrivances in this episode—like the timing of Angel’s arrival and the progression of slaughtered characters—as well as a few gaping plot holes. (Weren’t they coming down to Guild to actually get some needed supplies?) There are also some interesting questions about how long this rebellion has been going on, how many people are part of it, and why all the intelligent, normal, well-adjusted people seem to be underground where it’s safe making weapons rather than at school fighting against an unstoppable divine being who can and will kill you in painful ways if you resist … ok, maybe that last question answers itself. But while the show hasn’t yet transcended the original concerns that bear raised in his original review, it seems to be on the way to mollifying them. That, plus the gorgeous fight animation, is enough to keep me watching for at least one more episode.

You can watch the episode here.

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