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Category Archives: Masterpiece Anime Showcase

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Nagi no Asukara, The Merits of Co-Existence, Tolerance and Adaptability Towards Change

“Having feelings for someone just brings sorrow to someone else. Someone always gets sacrificed and suffers. If this is what it means to fall in love, then falling in love is terrible.” –Hikari Sakishima

After their middle school from Shioshishio, a town under the seas, closes from a low student population, middle school friends Hikari Sakishima, Manaka Mukaido, Chisaki Hiradaira and Kaname Isaki are sent to a school on the surface. Despite friction with residents of the surface, the four begin adjusting to their lives and befriend Tsumugu Kihara. As the group learn more about their respective worlds, as well as seeing his sister’s life, Hikari come to care about the fates of those on the surface – with the gods’ powers waning, the world is cooling off, and that the only means of staving off global catastrophe is to perform the Ofunehiki, a rite that pays respects to the ocean gods. While Shioshishio’s residents have the capacity to hibernate and wait out the long winter, temperatures on the surface will result in a death toll, including Hikari’s sister. Preparations for the Ofunehiki take off in earnest from Shioshishio’s inhabitants, with the surface residents helping out. In the process, the mistrust between the two peoples begins fading away, but on the day of the ritual, calamity strikes when Manaka is knocked into the water, presumed lost. Five years later, Hikari, Manaka and Kaname reawaken amidst the frigid world, struggling to deal with the changes that have occurred in their absence. Miuna Shiodome and Sayu Hisanuma, who had initially attempted to sabotage Hikari and the others’ efforts in preparing for the Ofunehiki, have also matured. Miuna has developed feelings for Hikari, who remains in love with Manaka. Chisaki doubts her feelings towards Hikari, and Tsumugu develops feelings for Chisaki. Kaname remains fixated on Chisaki and is unaware of Sayu’s feelings for him. As they strive to resolve their conflicts and bring back Manaka’s ability to love, Tsumugu and Miuna realise they have ena, a substance that allows humans to freely breathe underwater. This had long been a source of tension between Shioshishio’s residents and people from the surface. Refusing to allow Manaka’s feelings to be sealed away, and with the fact that the winter is intensifying, prompts another attempt with the Ofunehiki in an effort to appeal to the sea god. During the ritual, he is knocked into the ocean and decides to sacrifice himself for Manaka, but at the last moment, a miracle occurs. The residents of Shioshishio awaken, and the cooling of the world is halted. With life returning to normal, Manaka and Hikari reaffirm their feelings for one another. This is Nagi no Asukara (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea, literally “From The Calm Tomorrow” and sometimes misspelled as Nagi no Asu Kara), an anime from P.A. Works that ran from October 2013 to April 2014. In its twenty-six episode run, Nagi no Asukara covers a wide range of topics and proved an enjoyable anime for many for creating an immensely vivid world whose characters were plausible, and whose struggles were relatable. Together with a moving soundtrack and exceptional artwork that brought this world to life, Nagi no Asukara‘s status as being one of P.A. Works’ strongest series is a well-deserved one.

Nagi no Asukara is sharply divided into two very distinct acts. In its first acts, the focus is largely on notions of tolerance and co-existence: Hikari, being the son of a priest, is very much prejudiced against people from the surface. However, when his older sister finds love on the surface, Hikari begrudgingly begins to learn more about how aside from their ena and customs, the surface people are not particularly different than Shioshishio’s people. Despite being a coming-of-age story, Nagi no Asukara‘s portrayal of prejudice and bias between peoples of two disparate societies does much to emphasise the depth of the world that Hikari lives in. Both societies’ perspectives are shown; this allows audiences to quickly empathise with both groups and understand where their beliefs originate from, and as such, when Nagi no Asukara pushes forwards with the impending freezing of the world, watching Shioshishio’s residents and the people from the surface collaborate becomes all the more rewarding to watch. Brought together by the shared desire to stave off calamity, the two separate groups discover, as Hikari does, that their mistrust for one another has been misplaced, and that the commonalities that both societies share outweigh their differences. Co-existence is a major part of Nagi no Asukara‘s first half, and while the anime might be six years old now, its theme has never been more relevant in an age where division and bipartisan beliefs have become prevalent. Fear, intolerance and hatred are an unfortunately accepted way of thinking, driving people to conduct heinous acts. However, all hatred stems from fear, and fear is countermanded with knowledge. Nagi no Asukara shows that the first step towards dispelling fear is to become acquainted with different people, and understand that aside from minor differences, people are ultimately more similar than they’d initially thought. This is admittedly an optimistic approach: Hikari learns to tolerate, and then accept surface residents through watching his sister’s interactions with people on the surface, but Nagi no Asukara does show that all progress must start from somewhere, no matter how trivial.

By its second act, Nagi no Asukara transitions into a more personal narrative, dealing with the group dynamics and their shifts after a five year time-gap. While the passage of time and its attendant changes are inevitable, the characters struggle to deal with these changes. In particular, Chisaki is hit particularly hard; because she avoided hibernating, she’s now five years older than her friends. Missing the time she’d spent with them and feeling guilty at having moved ahead of them, and is unable to accept that her feelings for Hikari have wavered and clings onto them, viewing them as a way to bring back this lost time. The age disparities among the group create new conflicts: Tsumugu had matured alongside Chisaki and fell in love with her, while Kaname has not moved on from his old feelings. Miuna has now fallen in love with Hikari, who’s still in love with Manaka, and Sayu’s feelings for Kaname have only strengthened over time. While this love tesseract could have been immensely complex, Nagi no Asukara masterfully weaves everyone’s stories together, striking a balance between drama and character growth to create a more credible tale of how everyone eventually comes to find a solution for their situation. Relationships are immensely complex, and like reality, Nagi no Asukara shows that not everyone ends up with their first choice. In spite of this, second choices always exist: being able to recognise this and then possessing an open mind, to adapt and change, allows one to seize these opportunities to make the most of a new future. Chisaki manages to let go of her past and come to terms with her feelings for Tsumugu, while Kaname’s eyes are opened when Sayu gives him what I found to be one of the most genuine declarations of love that I’ve seen in fiction. Especially for Kaname, being made to see that there is someone who’s been chasing after him all this time forces him to stop and reconsider his own goals, and brings about a closure for him: he accepts Sayu’s feelings and with it, begins to finally move on with his life, as well. Romance and love are among the most poorly-characterised but also most engaging components of humanity. If love had been understood with the same precision and rigour as something like Newtonian mechanics, then love songs, romance fiction and endless self-help articles dealing with love would not exist, and the process would be reduced to a series of unexciting steps. Nagi no Asukara is a visceral reminder of both sides of love, and having spent its first act establishing the world for its story, allows the characters to explore new directions in a world whose unique points are now familiar sights.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Nagi no Asukara was one of the toughest anime for me to write for because of how numerous its strengths are, and for the longest time, I had no idea where to begin. It’s time to take a crack at things: while Nagi no Asukara certainly did not initially strike me as a masterpiece, after watching it a second time in full, I realised that the sincerity and honesty in its delivery made it a series worth remembering. The series has two distinct acts, each with its own distinct theme, and originally, I considered doing two separate posts for Nagi no Asukara.

  • While that could’ve been a good endeavour, my time simply does not accommodate for that anymore, so a single post will have to suffice for now. Right from the onset, Nagi no Asukara introduces viewers to a highly unique and nuanced world. Folks living under the sea have a special biological agent known as ena that protects them from oceanic pressure and allows them to breathe under water. While they can survive on the surface, they must consistently find a water source to soak in, otherwise the ena dries up and fails to function.

  • Chisaki, Manaka, Kaname and Hikari are the protagonists: this close group of friends are initially shocked about their school’s closure and of everyone, Hikari is the most resentful of the surface-dwellers. This change over time is noticeable in his character, and while he remains a hothead throughout Nagi no Asukara, he does exhibit concern for those around him in his own way. Manaka is an energetic and easygoing girl who is rather indecisive: she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Shirase Kobuchizawa in A Place Further than the Universe, Yukari Yukino of The Garden of Words and Your Name), while Chisaki is voiced by Ai Kayano (Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer and Mocha Hoto from Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?).

  • Because I only have a space of forty images to really discuss Nagi no Asukara, I won’t be able to cover every detail in the anime completely, and will massive leaps in the timeframe throughout the course of my discussion. Hikari’s initial goal was to bring Akari home after hearing that she was married to a surface-dweller, but after spending time with this new family and seeing his sister happy, he comes to understand the people on the surface might not be so bad after all. Hence, when it is revealed the world is freezing, he spearheads the effort in hosting the Ofunehiki festival, coming to learn how to work with his classmates and other people on the surface, as well.

  • The unique setting of sea and coast allows Nagi no Asukara to showcase highly unique and imaginative settings. P.A. Works pulled all the stops to create a visually compelling and detailed world, making use of light effects, colour and sound to immerse viewers into the coastal town and ocean that is Hikari’s world. While P.A. Works have always had consistently solid artwork and animation, most of their works are set in more ordinary locales: extensive use of water separates Nagi no Asukara‘s world from P.A. Works’ previous titles, and the quality has remained comparable even with more recent titles.

  • Like Angel Beats!Nagi no Asukara makes extensive use of comedic and everyday moments to familiarise viewers with the protagonists. Purely comedic or dramatic series tend to craft situations that characters must react with, and while these moments allow characters to show their best and worst, it does little to show how they are as individuals outside of more noteworthy moments. By comparison, giving a baseline of how a character is allows audiences to see how they normally act, in addition to seeing their best and worst sides; knowing someone better is how we come to empathise with people, and it is this reason that Key works like CLANNAD and Angel Beats! are so effective at moving their audience.

  • Strictly speaking, Glasslip‘s Tōko Fukami is a carbon copy of Manaka, featuring similar personalities and appearances. Similarly, Tsumugu and Kakeru Okikura resemble one another in appearances, as well as manner. The key differences are that Manaka and Tsumugu have more time during which their traits can be developed, and Glasslip feels as though it sought to reuse familiar characters while experimenting with a highly unstructured, atypical narrative.

  • While Hikari is initially quick to assume his classmates were responsible for vandalising the Ofunehiki doll they’d been working on, it turns out that the damages were caused by Akari’s daughter, Miuna, and her best friend, Sayu. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Miuna and Sayu are no longer nuisances and become an integral part of helping the others prepare for the festival. While Sayu can be seen as ill-mannered, her spirits quickly grew on me.

  • Chisaki and Manaka watch the tomoebi, a phenomenon similar to parhelion that is, incidentally, created by very similar conditions: whereas our sun dogs come from the refraction of light rays through suspended ice crystals in the air, tomoebi results from moonlight refracting off the sea salt-based snow crystals, which is subsequently refracted through cold water to create a false moon. While the friends had originally planned to watch this event together, but separate in the process.

  • Unified by the shared goal of the Ofunehiki, Hikari and his classmates now get along very nicely. While they remain committed to their heritage by wearing their school’s preferred uniforms, everyone is on cordial terms with one another. Working together for a common objective brings people together, and in the aftermath of Otafest, I attended a feedback session where one of the points I made was that it would be nice to get to know the other volunteers better, beyond the time spent working with them: knowing the team would reinforce the sense of community even further.

  • Admittedly, this stemmed from I’d experienced something I’d not expected during my volunteering for Otafest: during one of my shifts, a young lady, another one of the volunteers in my section who was helping looking after the panels, would look in my direction, and then break into a dazzling smile once my gaze returned from whatever I was doing previously. It seems that I could probably fall in love with a warm smile, and so, post-Otafest, I am left with mixed feelings despite the event’s overwhelming success and satisfaction from volunteering.

  • Watching the people of the sea and surface come together was immensely rewarding: there is a massive payoff in what Hikari and his friends have led, and while I might not remember every detail of Nagi no Asukara, the higher-level events stuck with me. One element in the setting that remains a bit of a mystery even now are the reinforced concrete pillars that dominate the landscape. While some have speculated they’re for supporting a sea-to-sky style freeway, or otherwise were meant to have symbolic value, they are never mentioned by the characters, nor do they seem to affect the narrative in any substantial manner, leading me to conclude they’re probably just a part of the scenery.

  • Sayu and Miuna head the support efforts: the entire community’s women have come forward to provide food. While perhaps not as intense as the scene in Avengers: Endgame where every female hero shows up to help deliver the Iron Gauntlet and its Infinity Stones to the time machine in Scott Lang’s van, it is a reminder that in any given project, effort or endeavour, things work at their very best when everyone is working together, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or beliefs. I greatly enjoyed seeing all of them women of the MCU come together in a titanic moment to help defeat Thanos, and Nagi no Asukara, pre-dating Avengers: Endgame by some five years, does a fine job of showing what cooperation looks like.

  • If memory serves, I believe this is the moment when Miuna falls in love with Hikari, seeing the sheer determination in his eyes as he hoists a flag in preparation for the Ofunehiki. Despite his brisque and rough mannerisms, Hikari is a respectable character who ultimately acts with the interests of those around him in mind. Watching him grow throughout Nagi no Asukara was one of the biggest draws about the series, and one of the things that I look forwards to most in a given anime is seeing how initially-unlikable characters mature into honourable people.

  • While the Ofunehiki is happening, Akari’s wedding to Itaru is also on the horizon. Seeing the union of two people prompts Hikari to attempt and confess his feelings to Manaka, who is unsure of how to react and seemingly rejects him. Meanwhile, Chisaki decides to do a kokuhaku to Hikari after Kaname did the same for her: I’ve heard that weddings can really drive up people’s desires to be together, and in the moment, the emotional tenour pushes everyone onward, although adolescence and the naïveté of youth means that misunderstandings occur.

  • The Ofunehiki itself is a glorious spectacle even though the outcome is suboptimal: the wrath of the seas kicks in midway through the ceremony, bringing things to a halt. Manaka, Hikari and Kaname fall into the ocean, while Chisaki manages to rescue Tsumugu. The freezing of the world sets in soon after, with Chisaki being left behind on the surface while the others enter hibernation. A five-year time skip occurs, and with this, we’ve reached the halfway point of Nagi no Asukara.

  • A time skip of five years happens to be exactly the same time skip that was in Avengers: Endgame, and I must say that Nagi no Asukara actually holds its own. In five years, Chisaki’s matured into a young woman whose style is noteworthy, while Akari has become accustomed to life on the surface and has raised a rambunctious son, Akira. Tsumugu’s become a university student pursuing a marine biology degree, and Miuna is now in middle school.

  • As middle school students, both Sayu and Miuna have become sufficiently mature as to be considered peers with Hikari, Manaka and Kaname. Now is a good as a time as any to note that Sayu is voiced by Kaori Ishihara (The World in Colour‘s very own Hitomi Tsukishiro), and Mikako Komatsu (Sanae Kōzuki of Sakura Quest) provides Miuna’s voice. Seeing these two grow from being impediments to integral parts of the cast was rewarding, and a part of the dynamics possible, because of the unique world building, is watching these two deal with Kaname and Hikari as fellow classmates.

  • Of everyone, Chisaki is the only individual to have avoided the hibernation and therefore, ages alongside Tsumugu on the surface. When she meets with her friends, who are now biologically five years her junior, she struggles to come to terms with the differences and desperately tells herself that nothing has changed, despite having spent five years of time with Tsumugu and his family. Here, she waits for a bus on the surface, and subtleties in the environment, such as the shape of the bus stop signs and bus designs, show a world that is meant to be simultaneously similar to and different than our own.

  • After the time skip, Hikari grows more distant from Tsumugu, feeling him a rival for Manaka’s feelings and that it is unfair for him to not return her feelings. The two clash on several occasions, until Tsumugu reveals that he is in love with Chisaki. The flow of relationships in Nagi no Asukara is very natural: a sort of closeness develops in the group as a result of time spent together. Because Tsumugu has spent so much time with Chisaki, the two know one another as well as themselves: Chisaki may believe that she’s still in love with Hikari, but these feelings manifest as a result of her wanting to hold onto the past.

  • While time stood still for Hikari during hibernation, once he returns to classes, he holds a degree of maturity and seniority over his classmates despite being biologically the same age. A testament to his learnings during Nagi no Asukara‘s first half, Hikari gets along with most everyone in his classmates. Much of the conflict in Nagi no Asukara‘s second act comes from everyone trying to sort out their relationships, although now, Miuna and Saya take center stage, as they are the same age as Hikari and Kaname. Meanwhile, Chisaki and Tsumugu are removed from this equation, being five years older than the others.

  • With Miuna now a middle school student, she enters the same world of relationship challenges that Hikari had been dealing with. When Sayu learns that one of Miuna’s classmates intends to confess his feelings for Miuna, she becomes jealous. It turns out that, now that she’s the same age as Hikari, Miuna feels that she has a fighting chance to win Hikari’s heart even in the knowledge that Hikari loves Manaka. Hikari’s concern for her only serves to amplify her feelings for him.

  • Sayu subsequently attempts to distance herself from her feelings for Kaname: distraction from romance is one of the most frequently recommended suggestions for dealing with a broken heart. I can vouch for this: The Giant Walkthrough Brain from five years ago ended up being my distraction that saw me create something constructive. As I pushed into learning the Unity Engine and build what would become the starting points for my graduate thesis, I found myself feeling a great deal more whole than I had following heartbreak. While there would be days where I felt miserable, I continue to remind myself that there is more to life than romantic relationships.

  • Kaname does eventually return to the cast, joining Hikari and the others. Of everyone, he feels the most left behind, having seen first-hand how close Chisaki and Tsumugu have become. At the age of nineteen, Tsumugu has enrolled at a local university and studies Nagi no Asukara‘s equivalent of marine biology, participating in research. While still young, Tsumugu’s involvement with a research lab is not implausible by any stretch: undergraduate students interested in research are encouraged to find a supervisor and lab to work in during summer. My faculty was particularly forward with this, and after learning of a biological visualisation lab on campus, I decided to spend my summer working with them. This is how I met my supervisor, who would go on to oversea and provide guidance on my undergraduate thesis, the Giant Walkthrough Brain and ultimately, my graduate thesis.

  • The tensions between Sayu and Miuna reach an all-time high after Sayu runs into Kaname, who fails to recognise her. Feeling that her emotions have given her naught but trouble, she renounces them, only for Miuna to declare that being truthful to how they feel is more important. Both Kaname and Sayu experience the misfortune of having the person they’re interested in seem unaware of or are otherwise unable to return their feelings: I’ve been down this road before, and this is why for me, Kaname and Sayu’s stories in Nagi no Asukara hit me the hardest: I know what unrequited love feels like, to feel so desperately sure that things could work out, and fail nonetheless.

  • Of course, it’s a disappointing thought, but it happens all the same. While Miuna may cling onto her feelings for Hikari, she’s also able remain mindful of her surroundings. When it turns out that Miuna has inherited ena, and with it, the ability to freely move about underwater, she is ecstatic and becomes a new contributor to the research Tsumugu is working on. By using acoustics, Tsumugu’s supervisor is able to work out where to best enter Shioshishio: since the events five years previously, intense currents have surrounded the town, making the area inaccessible. However, given a chance to visit, Kaname, Hikari and Miuna decide to undertake this assignment.

  • For the first time, Miuna visits the middle school that Hikari and the others would have attended. The location feels like a haikyo, and here, Miuna plays with an xylophone. Reflections from the windows and the bright lights coming from outside create a very melancholy impression: while Shioshishio is a very lively town, having all of the inhabitants in hibernation creates an eerily still locale, a far cry from the Shioshishio that we’d seen during Nagi no Asukara‘s first act.

  • Aural anomolies were the reason that Hikari and the others descend to Shioshishio. When they trace them to its source, they find a graveyard of old Ofunehiki effigies, and Manaka frozen at the center. The mystery of where Manaka went is solved, and Hikari decides to bring her back. This action results in a disturbance, and Manaka’s memories are seemingly lost when she is returned to the surface.

  • For Miuna, Manaka’s return is a mixed bag. On one hand, a friend has returned now, someone who she can talk to and support as thanks for having done so much for her previously. However, Manaka is also a rival for Hikari’s feelings; her return means that Miuna’s feelings for Hikari may never be realised if Manaka’s memories return. In the end, Miuna picks a selfless route, deciding that bringing Manaka back for Hikari’s sake is much more important than whatever her own wishes are. This is the truest sign of love, being able to let go and hope for another individual’s happiness even at one’s own expense.

  • One evening, Chisaki decides to try her old middle school uniform out again for kicks. It is impressive that after all this time, her uniform still fits to a reasonable extent: besides being tighter in the chest and hips, she’s still able to wear it. In what is Nagi no Asukara‘s only cliché moment, Tsumugu walks in, coming face-to-face with an embarassed Chisaki who proceeds to throw things at him until he beats a hasty exit.

  • While Manaka is still unconcious, Miuna seeks out Lord Uroko, a minor sea god born from a scale of the original sea god. He acts as a messenger to the gods, and despite his appearances, holds a great deal of knowledge about the lore of the ocean. While typically flippant and unsympathetic, he appears to help if the situation demands it. Lord Uroko explains that Manaka’s sacrifice was to appease the sea god, and taking her back means taking something in return: when she reawakens, Manaka appears to be as happy-go-lucky as she had been during the first act once she wakes up, but lost her ena and recollections of Hikari.

  • Nagi no Asukara builds its lore in an incremental manner, showing only as much as is needed to drive the narrative forwards, and integrates this seamlessly into the story. Audiences never feel left out when details surrounding their world are presented, and each bit of knowledge helps viewers understand what must be undertaken for Hikari and the others to help bring Manaka’s love back. It is therefore unsurprising that Nagi no Asukara features many tearful moments such as these – where the most fundamental of human emotions are involved, people can become overwhelmed.

  • As Nagi no Asukara reaches its final episodes, everyone’s emotions come to the forefront. Hikari learns that Tsumugu had never had his eyes on Manaka and loves Chisaki, while Chisaki did return his feelings, fearing only that if she accepted them, it would mean discarding old friendships. Chisaki overhears his kokuhaku and dives into the sea; when Tsumugu goes after her, he discovers that he possesses the ena, as well. Lord Uroko later agrees to help out, since everyone has worked out a possible solution for the situation at hand: having taken back Manaka, the sea god demands another sacrifice. Manaka’s pendant, a special stone that seemingly holds everyone’s feelings, is suggested as the substitute.

  • As preparations for another Ofunehiki begin, the only person who feels left behind is Kaname – everyone is busy working towards setting things right, and having heard that Tsumugu and Chisaki accept one another’s feelings for himself, Kaname becomes dejected, even wondering if he had done the right thing in saving Tsumugu years previously. Despite being level-headed and wise for his age, Kaname’s unrequited feelings for Chisaki leave him feeling left out; of the characters, I relate to him the most strongly.

  • It takes a tearful confession from Sayu to force Kaname to accept that things are what they are now – she implores him to see her as a girl rather than a child and that she’d only had eyes for him for the past five years. Realising that there had been someone in his corner all this time, Kaname is shocked and decides to start over with her. While such outcomes seem relegated to the realm of fiction, reality can work in strange ways; Kaname accepting this turn of events show that he is not so stubborn as to see alternative paths, and this open-mindedness is what sends him down another means towards finding what he sought.

  • Nagi no Asukara‘s soundtrack, hitherto unmentioned, was composed by Yoshiaki Dewa and Masayuki Watanabe. They make extensive use of Spanish guitar in more relaxed moments, and piano when emotion kicks in to create incidental music that adds another level of depth to the anime: the soundtrack has two volumes, released two months apart. Together, there is a total of sixty tracks, and these well-composed pieces do much to convey the atmospherics within Nagi no Asukara.

  • With all of the secondary characters’ stories largely resolved, preparations for the Ofunehiki wrap up, and the ceremony commences. This time, it is with Lord Uroko’s consent, and as they had done five years previously, prepare a sacrifice with the aim of appeasing the sea god. This second attempt similarly disrupts the sea, and Manaka falls overboard. Miuna rescues her, and Manaka’s memories return, but Miuna is drawn into the depths, standing in as the new sacrifice.

  • Realising that Miuna was lost because of her intense feelings for him, Hikari implores the sea god to take him instead. The seas react to this: it turns out that the original sea god was unable to let go of Ojoshi, his original lover, who had turned her back on the sea for a life on the surface with a mortal. Devastated, the sea god froze the world, but realised that Ojoshi’s original feelings for him and the sea never wavered. He consents to allow the world to return to its normal state, and the oceans begin flowing again. Shioshishio’s inhabitants begin awakening from their hibernation, as well, signifying that the world’s climate is returning to its normal state. Hikari’s father greets him and notes that he accepts Akari’s marriage, expressing that he looks forwards to meeting his grandson.

  • The finale to Nagi no Asukara is optimistic; with the natural order back in the balance, lives begin returning to normal. I also expect that at this point, readers who have stuck out would have a nontrivial inclination to never read this blog again: I’ve made no fewer than thirty mentions of the word “feelings” in this post alone. In the epilogue, Hikari, Manaka and Kaname don surface middle school uniforms before heading off to classes, signifying that they accept in full the people on the surface.

  • An exceptional anime in all regards, Nagi no Asukara represents one of P.A. Works’ very best work since Angel Beats, covering an exceptional amount of material during its twenty-six episode run. With life-like characters and a vivid world rich in lore, Nagi no Asukara tells a coming of age story that fully utilised every aspect of its environment to convey a moving story. Masterpiece Anime Showcase will return next time with K-On!‘s first season – this series is celebrating its tenth anniversary and is counted as a masterpiece in my books for a very special reason. Other series that will be covered include Kanon and Your Lie in April: I know that some readers have expressed an interest in hearing my thoughts on these, and I look forwards to seeing if I can meet those expectations.

Because of its raw and emotional portrayal of what coming-of-age means for a group of friends, in conjunction with the fact that I still have nothing by the way of experience in this particular discipline, writing for Nagi no Asukara proved much trickier than I originally anticipated. As such, I did not write about this series despite making numerous references to it in other talks. However, after taking a look back through the series, I figured that even if I cannot readily speak from experience, the fact that Nagi no Asukara was so moving for me meant that there was much more at play that I could properly write for. Looking through the anime a second time, I saw a series whose enjoyment factor increased with time: watching it again meant being able to appreciate the subtle details that present themselves on a second visitation. Between giving the characters a unique world to grow in, the time to develop and the opportunity to watch them overcome their challenges, Nagi no Asukara gives audiences reason appreciate the characters and their struggles. In conjunction with some of P.A. Works’ finest animation and artwork, Nagi no Asukara represents a maturation of the learnings from Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari, inheriting highly relatable characters and exceptional visuals with a bold new direction in a fantastical setting. The incidental music further accentuates the atmospherics Nagi no Asukara intends to convey. All of these elements come together to create an anime that is timeless, recognisable and moving; Nagi no Asukara is something that I can readily recommend to all audiences because of its fantastic world-building, universally-relatable themes and strong execution. There are a lot of moving parts in Nagi no Asukara: its appeal stems from being able to cover such a diverse range of topics and explore them in satisfying depth; in conjunction with a world whose every facet is vividly-rendered, Nagi no Asukara stands out as one of P.A. Works’ more memorable titles that is well worth watching.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Angel Beats!, On accepting and making the most of the hand life has dealt

“Please let me believe in everything you believed in. Let me believe that life is great.” –Kanade Tachibana

Yuzuru Otonashi awakens to find himself in a strange world without recollections of his self, and encounters a girl aiming a bolt-action rifle at the student council president. After attempting to talk to the student council president and being impaled, Yuzuru comes to in the infirmary. He decides to join the Shinda Sekai Sensen (SSS, Afterlife Battlefront) and learn more about the world he’s in. As he bonds with SSS members Yuri Nakamura and Hideki Hinata, he discovers that the afterlife is a world for individuals who’d died in the real world and were given a second chance to experience an ordinary high school life. Fearing disappearance, the SSS constantly strive to undermine student council president Kanade Tachibana. Along the way, Yuzuru begins to piece together his own past as he participates in the SSS’ operations, realising that he was once a medical student candidate who died on his way to the admissions exam in a train accident. Between the various antics of the SSS and helping his fellow students out, Yuzuru comes to realise that individuals disappear when they’ve found fulfilment, and that Kanade is acting with the aim of helping the others out but because of her poor communication skills, became misunderstood. Yuzuru eventually helps the others make peace with their pasts and “graduate”, falling in love with Kanade, who reveals that his final act in donating his organs helped save her life. Immensely grateful she found the individual who’d given her live, Kanade is also able to move on. Running during the spring 2010 anime season, Angel Beats! is counted as being a remarkably moving and well-written anime despite its short length, striking a masterful balance between comedy and tragedy that, in conjunction with a memorable cast and solid world-building, created a captivating, compelling story that drew viewers in.

At its core, Angel Beats! is about acceptance of one’s reality and making peace with the past, specifically, how the right people can help one see things from another perspective and how a new angle can help one come to terms with their past. Each of the characters in the afterlife had suffered a past grievance while they were alive, or else held onto emotions that were sufficiently important that they did not dispel in death. Yuri’s siblings were killed during a break-in, Masami Iwasawa died with the anger of being unable to sing, Hideki regrets his failure as a baseball player, and Ayato struggled to find his own way in life, having been forced to become a potter after his brother died. Yuzuru was dissatisfied with dying before he could make a new future for himself in a situation outside of his control. Their misfortunes make them resentful of life, and initially, the SSS is motivated by a desire to take revenge on a god that would allow them to suffer in this manner. However, when Yuzuru appears, his new perspective on things slowly leads the SSS to realise that Kanade is not an agent of whatever gods there might be, and that in their time with one another, they’ve come to accomplish those things in the afterlife that they’d yearned to accomplish in life. Friendship, and the perspective it brought, helps each of Yuzuru, Yuri, Hideki and Ayato face their pasts, come to terms with it and realise that while things had been bad, they’d also come to appreciate the second chance they were given. With the SSS, Yuri has become a dependable, reliable leader that she had regretted failing when she let her siblings down. Ayato finds new purpose in life when he meets Yuzuru, and Hideki develops a close friendship with Yuzuru that must’ve been absent from his life following that failed baseball game. Yuzuru himself learns that he once wanted to go to medical school to help others, and while his actions in the afterlife are not medical school, he has, in a manner of speaking, been given an opportunity to help others now. The friendship and camaraderie in the SSS allows Yuzuru to open up and begin exploring his environment; he begins to wonder why the SSS is so intent on fighting Kanade.

Because of his intrinsic kindness and concern for those around him, Yuzuru is a major catalyst in setting the SSS along a path of reconciliation with Kanade. Despite befriending the SSS’ members quickly, Yuzuru is quick to question on the worth of their various operations, and sense of empathy leads him to believe that Kanade is an individual, rather than an agent of the system. After seeing Kanade’s quiet look of sadness when one of their operations deprives her of her favourite meal, he begins seeing her as more of a human, and makes active efforts to speak with her. While the SSS are bewildered with this behaviour, they also begin agreeing Yuzuru’s speculation that disappearing simply means accepting one’s past. By helping Yui make peace with her past and her subsequent disappearance, the SSS slowly begin to realise that Yuzuru has a point, and each member considers their own fulfilment in the afterlife. Yuzuru brought to the SSS a new set of eyes and new ideas; under Yuri’s leadership, their goals had simply been to wreck havoc and avoid disappearing. The SSS had become set in these ways and would have remained in limbo for eternity, but with Yuzuru’s arrival, things begin changing. Sometimes, it takes disruption to shake a system from the status quo, and the right individual in the right place can have a profound affect on things. With his natural desire to help others, Yuzuru’s actions create a profound change amongst the SSS; he manages to convince the members that life is about moving on rather than dwelling on the past, and as the other members begin accepting their pasts, he, Yuri and Kanade also form a close friendship. During their graduation ceremony, Yuri accepts Kanade as a friend and wonders why they’d not been able to support one another sooner. By contributing to helping the whole of the SSS graduate, Yuzuru’s arrival is meant to show that individuals with a strong sense of empathy and willingness to help others, as well as a steadfast commitment to their convictions, can bring about positive change in a system that has otherwise been entrenched in its ways.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the first entry in “Masterpiece Anime Showcase” series, I will establish the format posts of this style will take: they will be much larger than conventional posts, featuring a lengthier discussion and more screenshots. Even with this expanded format, it is difficult to concisely fit everything into such a space, and I’ve found that the screenshots I do end up picking will not fully convey everything there is about a series. “Masterpiece Anime Showcase” posts differ from Terrible Anime Challenge posts in that they deal with the series where, expectations going in notwithstanding, the end result was sufficient to change my world-views to some extent. Posts of this series will also feature more reminiscence.

  • The unusual setup in Angel Beats! works entirely in its favour, and after the first episode, where Yuzuru meets the SSS, I found myself immediately hooked. I still remember the days when I first picked Angel Beats! up: it was during the cold of the winter semester, and I was slowly pushing my way through a biochemistry, cell and molecular biology and fundamentals of bioinformatics course. Here, Yuzuru is formally introduced to the SSS – shorthand for Shinda Sekai Sensen, the SSS exist to wage war against the God for injustices they’d suffered in their lives.

  • Most of the SSS’ activities involve fighting one Tenshi (Angel), as the SSS’ leader, Yuri, believes her to be an emissary of God or similar. In their fight, they also hope to stave off disappearing, not understanding where vanished individuals go. Operation Tornado is one such activity: while various members of the SSS keep Tenshi busy with various firearms, the band Girls Dead Monster (Girl DeMo) perform a lively concert that distract the students. The acquisition of meal tickets is the end result, and it’s certainly a lively operation. The visuals of Angel Beats! are phenomenal, and the meal tickets resemble little more than glowing orbs of light, creating a surreal atmosphere.

  • While I have reviewed Angel Beats! previously, it was in a much shorter format at my old site. In this post, I will not be focusing on the various firearms the SSS use: their choice seems to be motivated largely by aesthetics rather than performance, and at any rate Tenshi’s own Guard Skills allow her to nullify the effects of firearms. During most confrontations, Tenshi prefers using her abilities in a defensive manner and never attacks unless actively provoked, hinting at her nature.

  • Yuri Nakamura is the leader of the SSS, coordinating operations and occasionally stepping onto the field herself, where she displays exceptional combat prowess with both melee weapons and firearms. Calculating, forward thinking but also sensitive and protective of those around her, Yuri is a natural leader whose charisma and care inspire others to fight for her. However, she is also prone to moments of immaturity, and in Angel Beats!, the colourful character dynamics do much in contributing to the viewer’s concern for the characters.

  • During an operation to visit the Guild and resupply on munitions, much of the SSS are wiped out by various anti-Tenshi traps that were engaged after her presence was detected in the tunnels. Yuzuru’s tenacity allows him to reach the Guild, and along the way, Yuri reveals that in life, she was the eldest sister amongst siblings who were killed during a break-and-enter. Regretting her inability to keep her siblings safe, she longs to rebel against God for having allowed such a cruel turn of events to occur.

  • Yuzuru’s first descent into the Guild with Yuri shows that despite his unfamiliarity with the world, he quickly comes to care about those around him, as well. While some characters immediately have a bone to pick with Yuzuru, such as Noda and Fujimaki, Yuzuru gets along with most of the SSS’ members, and in time, comes to befriend Hideki. Here, he fights Tenshi alongside Yuri, armed with a Glock 17 – this polymer-framed, short recoiled semi-automatic pistol is of German origin that has become quite popular for its light weight. The police services of my home city use the Glock 17 as their sidearm of choice.

  • Despite lacking any augmentation, Yuri is capable of going toe-to-toe with Tenshi, whose powers are conferred by a software known as the Angel Player system. Combat with superhuman entities, firearms, coordinated operations and a desire to rebel against God coexist in Angel Beats! with everyday life at school, concerts and time spent with friends. This setup is quite unusual by all standards, but it exemplifies P.A. Works’ ability to weave in multi-faceted narratives: Tari TariSakura Quest and The World in Colours later would go on to use a similar setup to great effect. Being able to weave in multiple hobbies and eccentricities keeps the worlds in anime fresh, and even though the later anime are more constrained within the laws of reality, remain very entertaining precisely because of this approach.

  • Masami is the first of the SSS to disappear: a talented musician, Masami is the lead singer of Girls DeMo and resembles Girls und Panzer‘s Maho Nishizumi to a limited extent. Known for her spirited, high-energy songs, Yuri wonders if a ballad might be appropriate for their operations, and later, while breaking from practise, Masami encounters Yuzuru. She explains to him that she came from a dysfunctional family and found music as an escape, but during an altercation, she was struck in the head and was no longer able to play music. After telling this story to Yuzuru and performing her final song, she appears to have found solace and disappears.

  • The balcony overlooking the school grounds is a quiet location: the photorealism of this moment belies the fact that Angel Beats! is nearly a decade old. Between the reflections on the granite floor, reflection of sunlight along the railing or the shadows from clouds covering the forest in the distance, this location vividly remains in my memory as an example of how well-rendered Angel Beats! is. I vaguely remember similar weather conditions at the train station the day I was leaving Shanghai after visiting the Expo 2010: I visited Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou in 2010 with an iPod filled with Lia’s music, including “My Soul, Your Beats”. As our tour group travelled along the highways cutting across the plains of the Yangtze River delta, these songs played in the background. Besides checking out the Canadian Pavilion, I also purchased limited edition commemorative medallions from the event. Other highlights of this trip to China included visiting the Forbidden City, walking the Great Wall of China, a delicious dinner at a Hangzhou hotel while a thunderstorm raged outside, and various boat rides on the West Lake, Grand Canal of Suzhou and the Yangtze River in Pudong by night.

  • After coming home from that vacation, I returned to summer research at my old lab and forgot about Angel Beats!, but was compelled to check it out two years later. The music of the series is solid and was a motivating factor in leading me to give the anime a go. Here, the SSS capitalise on a distraction Girls DeMo has created via their concert to search Tenshi’s room. They find nothing out of the ordinary, but Yuri’s enlisted Takeyama’s help, and he quickly breaks into Tenshi’s computer, learning that she’s using software to create superhuman abilities. Yuri wonders why God’s emissary would need to develop her own powers, one of the earlier signs that Yuri’s impression of the world may not be entirely correct.

  • When she is introduced, Yui is presented as an energetic and somewhat irritating girl who loves Masami’s performance. Despite Yui’s ditzy nature, she is a capable singer in her own right. Yui immediately grates on Hideki, who does not hesitate to kick her ass whenever she crosses a line. In spite of this rocky start, and their continued clashes throughout Angel Beats!, both Yui and Hideki mature as the series progresses.

  • Hideki’s story is that he was involved in a traffic accident that claimed his life, and his biggest regret is that his failure to catch a loose baseball cost his team a major game. During an operation involving baseball, Hideki wonders if he should make a catch, as finding fulfillment in the afterlife may lead to his disappearance. Before he can make his decision, Yui collides with him, and an irate Hideki wrestles with Yui subsequently.

  • Tenshi’s real name is Kanade Tachibana, and she’s shown as a quiet student who goes about her business unless otherwise interfered with. In order to test the limits of their world, Yuri proposes messing with Kanade’s examination results, and she is subsequently made to stand down as the Student Council President. Kanade is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, whom readers will best know as The Garden of Word‘s very own Yukari Yukino, Manaka Mukaido of Nagi no Asukara (which, incidentally, is also slated to be featured in Masterpiece Anime Showcase) and Shirase Kobuchizawa from A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • After Kanade’s complete lack of resistance to the SSS’ latest iteration of Operation Tornado, Yuzuru wonders if Kanade is really just an ordinary student unrelated to whatever gods Yuri imagine to be an integral part of the afterlife. He tries the mapo duofu (麻婆豆腐) a Sichuan dish legendary for its spiciness and whose name takes after its pockmarked appearance. Yuzuru is overwhelmed with its flavour the same way Adam Richman was stopped by some of the spicy challenges, but after the heat wears off, he finds the taste to be pleasant. In his mind’s eye, he sees a solitary Kanade eating this dish on her own and begins to feel that their operations have taken away this simple happiness from her after her removal from the student council.

  • The SSS’ members walk through one of the bridges connecting the school grounds to the surrounding areas. While often unmentioned on account of being overshadowed by the emotional aspects of Angel Beats!, the architecture of the high school’s facilities in the afterlife are stunning: unlike conventional high schools, this facility is a mixture of older classrooms, a spacious gym and an ultra-modern canteen/gathering space. The vastness of the complex facilitates the diversity of events that the SSS experience, and its size is likely deliberate, mirroring the scope of the SSS’ members’ backgrounds and their interests.

  • After Kanade is removed from the student council, Yuri decides to determine if there’s another agent that might be acting on behalf of God or equivalent. She asks the SSS’ members to be deliberately disruptive in class. Slaying Mahjong and generally being pains in the lower backside (per the approach Yui takes, when she asks to go to the bathroom every half-minute) seems to have little effect, but when Kanade and Yuzuru go to have a morning meal together, Ayato appears and orders the two locked up.

  • It turns out that Ayato has hypnotic powers that he abuses to harm the non-SSS students, and when the SSS confronts him, he utilises his powers to subjugate the non-SSS students. The end result is that the SSS are brought to their knees. After escaping their imprisonment, Yuzuru confronts Ayato, who is about to hypnotise Yuri, and learns of Ayato’s past: Ayato was born into a family of potters and was not as skilled as his brother, but when his brother died, Ayato was made to continue despite his ineptitude. With his main regret being unable to follow his own path, Yururu listens to his story and in the process of being the first to properly acknowledge him, earns his respect.

  • While aloof and arrogant, to the point of using his powers on any SSS member who displeases him, Ayato will stand down whenever Yuzuru forces him to. Angel Beats! succeeded in humanising its characters by giving them detailed stories, as well as a chance to bounce off the established cast, and audiences invariably will find Ayato’s dynamics with Hideki to be a riot. While the characters largely refer to one another by surname in Angel Beats!, I’ve taken to referring to all characters by their given names simply because that’s consistent with the approach I’ve taken for all of my other posts.

  • Spending more time in the afterlife and trying to make sense of everything, in conjunction with his own past allows Yuzuru to do what none of the other SSS could. His own story is one of tragedy: after his younger sister perishes from illness, he resolved to become a medical doctor with the aim of saving others from disease and injury. After the effort it took him to reach this point, the train he was riding en route to his examination was caught in a tunnel, and despite his best efforts to coordinate with the survivors, Yuzuru ended up dying moments before rescuers could reach him. His final act was to sign his organ donor card with the aim of saving at least one more life before his death.

  • Whereas Angel Beats! had been engaging up until now, after learning of Yuzuru’s own story and aspirations of becoming a medical doctor, which once paralleled my own ambitions, I immediately saw Angel Beats! in a new light: this was an anime that could capture genuine feelings and motivations to create life-like characters, and the lessons learnt were very relevant. That same summer, I was set to take the MCAT, and as such, drew a very personal connection with Angel Beats!. Here, Yuzuru and Kanade share a conversation in the school gardens: amidst the weather of a beautiful day, Yuzuru convinces Kanade to join him and the others for a cookout.

  • Seeing Kanade with the others reinforces that beyond her Guard Skills, she’s really just an ordinary girl who happens to be quite reserved and studious. However, another Kanade appears shortly after and attacks the original. By playing with the Angel Player system, the SSS have inadvertently introduced irregularities into the system. Here, I remark that because I am approaching Angel Beats! from a reminiscence perspective, there are some minute details I am unlikely to cover: this will apply to the other Masterpiece Anime Showcase titles I write for: it’s been many years since I’ve last watched these series, so I’m not likely to remember every nook and cranny there is to each show.

  • This is a sight that audiences are unlikely to have speculated about seeing early on into Angel Beats!’ run: the members of the SSS have gathered to see if Kanade is doing okay after her fight with a red-eyed clone. The gradually changing dynamics of Angel Beats! illustrate that the right person in the right place at the right time can set in motion events that have far reaching consequences – this brings to mind the events of Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers. Merry and Pippin might initially look to be Hobbits who’d gotten entangled in something of great complexity, but their actions ultimately play a major role during the War of the Ring: Merry helps Éowyn slay the Witch King of Angmar, while Pippin prevents the death of Faramir.

  • Kanade is taken deep into the Guild shortly after by other clones, and the SSS decide to rescue her, knowing that they need the original Kanade to limit the clones’ ability to replicate. Since the facility has been abandoned, all of the traps have been disabled, and like the first incursion in, the entire group, save Yuzuru and Yuri, make it. Incursions into the Guild are a source of humour: death in Angel Beats!‘ afterlife is only temporary, and watching characters melodramatically react to deaths is especially hilarious knowing everyone is going to return, alive and well, much later.

  • After Kanade is recovered from the ruins of the Guild, Yuzuru recalls the remainder of his memories in a dream. Once she makes a full recovery, she and Ayato return to their old positions in the student council. While the remainder of the SSS assume that they’ve returned to their old status quo, Yuzuru realises that the afterlife exists in order for people to be given a second chance and find fulfilment where they had previously been denied.

  • With Kanade in his corner now, Yuzuru decides to help Yui find her fulfilment first. Kanade’s mannerisms and demeanour strongly resemble  GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and attest to Kana Hanazawa’s skill as a voice actress: her delivery of Kanade’s voice with a quiet, polite quality is quite far removed from the mature, but hesitant manner of The Garden of Words‘ Yukari Yukino, or the spirited and easily-embarrassed Shirase of A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • Yui’s boundless energy turns out to have been a consequence of her original life: she was paralysed and thus, unable to move. Hence, in the afterlife, she bounces off the ceilings. Yui had also developed a longing to do the various things she’s seen on TV, Yui has Yuzuru help Yui do a German suplex, score a goal in soccer against five other players and hitting a home run. She manages to accomplish both the suplex and soccer goal, but is unsuccessful with the homerun. In spite of this, she is quite satisfied, and reveals one other wish – to become married.

  • While Yuzuru is unable to fulfil her request, Hideki steps in and decides to take up Yui’s proposal, arguing that no matter what separated them, they would be happy together even in spite of her paralysis. Fully happy that she’d found fulfilment again, and no longer bearing past regret, Yui disappears. While Hideki’s kokuhaku seemingly comes out of the blue, this turn of events is not too unexpected – Angel Beats! has shown Hideki as being the first to react to Yui’s antics, and she seems to make him her victim more frequently than anyone else. Despite the dramatic contrasts in their personalities, the two do get along fine, and hearing Yui’s story allows Hideki to understand her.

  • Having demonstrated that his hypothesis is true, Yuzuru prepares to pass this information to Yuri, but mysterious Shadows begin appearing and attacking the SSS. These shadows seemingly transform people into the non-player characters, and when Takamatsu (the healthy fellow who is often seen without his shirt) is taken, Yuri decides that the phenomenon must be dealt with swiftly. However, she also invites Yuzuru to present his discoveries to the SSS.

  • The other members of the SSS are initially hostile towards Yuzuru’s explanation, that the world was meant to be for making peace with their pasts and disappearing was a desirable goal. When Hideki and Ayato share their experiences as well, the other members begin to see Yuzuru’s perspective. There are a great many members in the SSS, as seen in this screenshot, and given the nature of Angel Beats!, it would stand to reason that every character here has their own stories to tell. The next morning, members of the SSS and the Guild decide that Yuzuru’s way of thinking is commendable, and realising that they’ve come to find the life they’d sought in the afterlife, peacefully pass on. Several members of Girl DeMo personally thank Yuzuru for having brought the change into their lives and helping them gain both closure and understanding.

  • Yuri decides that in order to combat the shadows manifesting in their world, she must strike at their source. In the hours before her operation, she prepares a KRISS Vector personal defense weapon. With its futuristic appearance, the Vector is often featured in video games and film: the weapon has a high firing rate and a rail for mounting optics: Yuri appears to use a reflex sight of some sort. I’ve utilised this weapon in The Division and Far Cry 4: it’s an entertaining weapon, but beyond its cool design, is outperformed by other weapons in their respective games.

  • When she runs out of ammunition for the Vector, Yuri picks up an M4A1 carbine modified with the Close Quarters Battle Receiver. Classified as the Mk 18 Mod 0, the M4A1 Yuri carries is set up with an EOTech holographic sight, foregrip and beta-C drum magazine. This assault rifle is intended to provide operators with a weapon rivalling a PDW for compactness while at the same time, firing intermediate rounds. However, the combined toll of exhaustion from fighting the shadows, coupled with her own dejection, leads her to wonder if this endeavour is worth it. She dozes off and dreams of life as an ordinary student, but before she can succumb, Yuzuru and the others arrive. They eliminate the rest of the shadows, and Yuri pushes on ahead, eventually learning that school computers are powering the Angel software.

  • A mysterious male student questions Yuri on her intentions and, like the Matrix’s Architect, the individual here explains that love has introduced an imbalance in the system, and the shadows are a result of this systematic anomaly. He eventually offers Yuri the option of becoming the new God of this world, but Yuri rejects this, feeling that in light of all of her experiences, becoming God would stand contrary to her own beliefs. Like Neo, who rejects the Architect’s terms,  Yuri destroys the computers, and the individual vanishes. She later slips into a dream and is reunited briefly with her siblings, who tell her that they’d never hated her for what happened and ask her to move on.

  • When Yuri comes to, she’s in the infirmary. The others inform her that the SSS have taken Yuzuru’s remarks to heart, and after understanding that this world gave them a chance to find their second chance and overcome the regrets they’d carried with them into the afterlife, have parted ways. Hideki, Ayato, Kanade and Yuzuru are the only remaining members now, and the others wonder what Yuri experienced earlier. I admit that Yuri is probably my favourite of the SSS’ members, and her hot-bloodedness adds to her appeal.

  • We’re now entering the twenty-fifth day of the deep-freeze over my province: it’s a far cry from the warm and inviting weather of Angel Beats!, and after a brief warm-up, the temperatures have plummeted back to a low of -30ºC. Last night, I stepped out to dinner with a long-time friend from university: over a flavourful and fresh Vietnamese short rib and spring roll vermicelli, we caught up on all sorts of things since we last hung out in December. It’s not lost on me that we’re into the end of February now: the flow of time is relentless, and on the horizon are the Captain Marvel and the long-awaited Avengers: Endgame movies.

  • It is certainly true that, were it not for their initial misunderstanding, Yuri and Kanade would’ve been friends. The two regret not sorting out their differences and coming to terms with one another sooner, but it is better late than never. The graduation ceremony of Angel Beats! is one of the most poignant moments in any anime I’ve seen – the joy of watching this cast come so far brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it, and the graduation represents the culmination of everyone’s learnings.

  • Graduation from the afterlife means having come to accept that, with the second chance given to them, each of Yuzuru, Hideki, Yuri, Ayato and Kanade have come to use the afterlife to find fulfilment. Regardless of how unfair the real world had been to each, the very existence of a world that gave them this opportunity to experience the things they were deprived of seems to indicate that on the whole, the universe is at least benevolent enough to recognise where individuals were wronged and give them a chance to approach it from a different perspective. In the end, the system can be seen as being more fair than initially expected, and Yuzuru’s arrival was precisely the catalyst that helped the SSS realise this.

  • P.A. Works’ phenomenal attention to detail is most apparent in the graduation ceremony, where the reflections of lighting and items are visible in the highly polished wooden floor of the gymnasium. It has been quite some time since I’ve attended any sort of graduation, with the last being my own some two years previously. Even though I’ve been out of school for some time, my memories of being a student remain fresh in my mind, and I remember that, after finishing Angel Beats!, I would go on to finish the winter semester of my third year in a satisfactory manner.

  • Kanade’s own reason for staying in the afterlife was so she could properly thank the person who’d given her life: when her heart failed, it turns out that Yuzuru ended up donating his heart to her. This forms the basis for Angel Beats!‘ title: it refers to the heartbeat of an angel, here, referring to Kanade. After all they’d been through, Yuzuru has fallen in love with Kanade, and the two share an embrace before Kanade disappears, having fulfilled her own desire to give thanks to Yuzuru for his selfless actions.

  • LiSA’s Ichiban no Takaramono is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard for an anime bar none, and I typically avoid listening to it, or the Yui version, because the song brings tears to my eyes. The original version speaks of falling in love and parting ways, and even though I’d not experienced that myself when I first heard it, the songs were very moving. These days, having gone through just this, the songs remain a powerful reminder of what good music can accomplish. With this, my reflection of Angel Beats! comes to an end. It’s been nearly seven years since I first watched Angel Beats!, and even now, the anime remains a veritable masterpiece in my books, bringing to memories so many things that happened in the spring some seven years previously. I intend to continue with the Masterpiece Anime Showcase this year: upcoming titles I will be writing about include Nagi no Asukara and Your Lie in April.

When I first watched Angel Beats!, I was closing up my third year of university and preparing for an MCAT. My original interest in Angel Beats! was motivated by an interest in seeing the series that had utilised Lia’s “My Heart, Your Beats”, which one of my friends had recommended to me two summer previously. I’d taken the music with me on a trip to the Shanghai-Suzhou-Hangzhou area during the Shanghai 2010 Expo, and subsequently, decided to give Angel Beats! a go. Upon watching it, found myself thoroughly impressed with the considerable depths the characters were presented in. In particular, seemingly antagonistic characters were humanised and came to cooperate with the protagonists, humanising the characters and improving how one relates to them. The large cast of unique, noteworthy characters creates an environment where a variety of scenarios can be explored: from the development of firearms, to performing live music, or even antics associated with exam season, the sheer number of people and their backgrounds in Angel Beats! allows the series to build a multi-faceted world that covers a great deal. This approach was used in Tari Tari, Sakura Quest and The World in Colours to great effect in P.A. Works’ subsequent productions. The joys of such diversity creates a very compelling group of individuals whose time together is marked by discovery and comedy: they become much more relatable for this. The strong characters of Angel Beats! also create the anime’s singular flaw: thirteen episodes is far too short of a time to adequately explore everyone’s stories. TK, to Shiina and Matsushita are just a handful of characters who could’ve had exceptional stories, but these remain untold. Beyond its short length, the characters, in conjunction with a phenomenal and emotional soundtrack, clean and crisp artwork and solid animation, result in an anime that is exceptional. Yuzuru’s journey in the afterlife and the revelation that was was a medical student hopeful also provided me with a source of motivation: I myself was gearing up for the MCAT, and the examination seemed overwhelming. Seeing Yuzuru’s commitment to doing what was right gave me the resolve to push through the summer and study for the exam; Angel Beats! ended up helping me approach the MCAT with a new perspective, and for having a tangible impact on how I approached things, I have no trouble in counting it a masterpiece. Even in the absence of such an impact on other viewers, Angel Beats! remains a standout anime in its execution, and it is something that all individuals interested in anime would find enjoyable.