At the start of the Spring 2010 anime season, Angel Beats was being compared a lot to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Perhaps that’s how it was being marketed, but after four episodes, while little glimmers of Haruhi may have shown up in Yuri here and there, I see very little similarity between any of the characters nor of the shows themselves.
Yeah sure, someone could be like “But Angel is just like Nagato!” but it’s not exactly like that character type is new. And that’s about where the comparisons end, because no one can convince me that Otonashi is like Kyon really in any conceivable way that doesn’t apply to a multitude of other shows as well. Indeed, I’m ready to smash the whole Angel-Beats-is-a-ripoff-of-Haruhi stuff right now.
However, there is a show that Angel Beats reminds me of. None of the characters in Angel Beats are directly relateable, but the story sure is. That show, which sits as the first show on the 2nd shelf of my anime bookcase, is Haibane Renmei. Yes, you heard me right. Angel Beats is (almost) just like Haibane Renmei. “This is an affront to Yoshitoshi ABe!” some might say. Perhaps it is, but time will tell.
Having said that, look at the similarities between the two shows so far:
- The characters appear to be in some sort of afterlife. The characters appear to have all gotten there after suffering some sort of grief or regret in their past life
- There is a distinct possibility that most, if not all, of the characters committed suicide
- It appears that a primary way to “disappear” from where they are is to forgive themselves for some regret that the held over from their previous life
- After the 4th episode of Angel Beats, we can now add the element that the primary character, at least initially, is very apprehensive to the idea of his (or her) friends disappearing
Will more things line up later as Angel Beats progresses? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell.
However, I’m stating to see strong similarities between the characters of Otonashi in Angel Beats and Rakka from Haibane Renmei. They both arrive in this new world, without memories from their past world (though that’s true of all the Haibane) and, after one of the people in their world disappeared, they become distraught at the idea of it happening again. I’m also beginning to wonder if Yuri is essentially playing the role of Reki as well, having the worst memory from her previous life, and really fighting the system more than going with it. I also think Otonashi will have to accept that getting over one’s regrets and vanishing is ultimately for the best, much like Rakka had to do, and that Yuri will realize that forgiving herself is also for the best, much like what Reki had to. And I rather fully expect Otonashi to aid Yuri in achieving this goal and disappearing, much like how Rakka aided Reki.
Of course, Otonashi and Yuri are quite different personality wise from Rakka and Reki, but their roles in the story may be similar. On top of this, there are obvious differences too. There is no time limit (that we know of) on how long anyone can stay in this afterlife, unlike Haibane, for example. But I’m not expecting Angel Beats to line up perfectly either. They are, after all, different shows. But the things that are similar are striking to me.
That brings up one final question for me: What analogous character, if any, might Angel have in Haibane? One possibility is that she could essentially play the role of The Communicator, in the sense that she’s there to guide everyone towards the path that will allow them to leave. If this is the case, it brings up several possibilities: 1) she’s just someone put there to guide them, or perhaps, 2) much like how people hypothesized about The Communicator, perhaps she somehow failed or ran out of time to forgive herself for something she did, and was kind of left behind to help others. The advancement of her weaponry, given that it’s made in the same way that Yuri makes their firearms, would present the possibility that Angel had been there for a very long time.
I’m looking forward to seeing if any other similarities pop up as Angel Beats progresses.