After Life, Angel Beats! and anime blogging

If the anime blogosphere is a living purgatory, then the bloggers are the helpers, themselves stuck, but willing to point others in the right direction. As we see our friends come and go, sometimes it feels like there’s only a few of us left, but seeing people change is fulfilling in itself, and there’s always new people to help. And the same old faces, too; seeing a change in them is the best of all.

After Life, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, is one of most interesting films I’ve seen. Set in an (unspecified) purgatory, it’s about dead people choosing one memory (and one memory only, the rest fades) to carry with them into (an also unspecified) eternity. Upon choosing, that memory will be recreated on a film-set and recorded with you as the star. You take the resulting VHS with you. The recreation is a massive team effort, with actors, props and all kinds of film-making devices.

If you can’t choose a memory, or simply refuse to, you become a part of the staff at purgatory, helping others to move on. One man has trouble choosing his memory, and so is given a big box of VHS tapes (containing his entire life) that he spends his time pouring over, trying to remember the things he did in his lifetime. Searching for something big and meaningful, eventually, he just chooses a memory with his wife and him; an old couple, sitting on a park bench, talking. The small things can mean so much.

The people in purgatory eventually just vanish. They choose their specific memory, star in its recreation, and then just… disappear. The last episode of Angel Beats! reminded me of After Life, too.

Similarly stuck in purgatory, the kids in Angel Beats! aren’t yet ready to let go of life, but they, too, eventually just vanish after finding a sense of contentment or inner peace. In the end, there’s just 5 students left in the empty halls and corridors. They stage a mock graduation ceremony, say their goodbyes and finally, exit, one by one, into whatever lays beyond.

I was hit by a massive sense of transience in this moment because that’s just what happens in a person’s lifetime. We’re constantly saying goodbye to the people we meet, our friends, family, school-mates and work colleagues. One moment they are here with you and then, nothing, but a memory. This is particularly clear after graduating from school, when classmates of more than 5 years just tend to disappear into whatever their lives have lined up for them.

It’s a natural thing, but quite sad, too. One just need look around the internet’s anime community to see it in full effect. The abandoned blogs, muted Twitter and forum accounts. These people just disappear; the whole point of being an “anime fan forever” is that I’ve always been counter to that notion of disappearing.

If the anime blogosphere is a living purgatory, then the bloggers are the helpers, themselves stuck, but willing to point others in the right direction. As we see our friends come and go, sometimes it feels like there’s only a few of us left, but seeing people change is fulfilling in itself, and there’s always new people to help. And the same old faces, too; seeing a change in them is the best of all.

But you aren’t ready to leave me just yet, right? Let’s keep going! Merry Christmas, my friends, and happy new year!

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

16 thoughts on “After Life, Angel Beats! and anime blogging”

  1. THE END is a scary thing, whether it’s the end of life, the end of a relationship or the end of a story. It’s strange how easy it has always been for me to let go of a relationship with a friend with just vague promises of keeping in contact, while the fear of death brings me to my knees and even the end of a story often leaves me teary-eyed, feeling empty. Still, the suicide of a friend a few months ago awakened me to seek more contact with my old friends. Today I’m going to a movie with a couple of them.

    I haven’t watched the last few episodes of Angel Beats yet, but I certainly will once I feel like it. It’s a pretty good anime, though nowhere near the best of the year. (BTW, that poll on the right is missing the top 3-5 best anime of the year in my opinion. I can’t vote!)

    1. Please do suggest what it’s missing? :) I basically just went through the list on MAL and picked up what was the most highly rated.

      Oh, and I hope you enjoy the film, man! Have a great new year!

      1. Thanks. We went to watch the newest Potter, and we all thought it was pretty good.

        Now, as for what the poll is missing…
        – Kaichou wa Maid-sama: A very fine adaptation of a very fine shoujo manga – one of the very few shoujo titles that I enjoy despite being male.
        – Nurarihyon no Mago: NuraMago is a difficult one to adapt, as it relies heavily on chilling coolness and nightly atmosphere, which in turn rely on the mangaka’s distictive art. The anime manages to capture the atmosphere and bothes up only a few of the coolest scenes, in addition to being better paced and giving several cool side characters more spotlight than the manga did.
        – Otome Youkai Zakuro: Another one with a wonderful atmosphere. Fantastic music and character interaction.
        – Shinrei Tantei Yakumo: It starts out less than outstanding, but the fifth episode is freaking great, and after that it’s been pretty good. The way this story deals with death is occasionally genuinely touching.
        – Senkou no Night Raid: I’m only halfway through this, but the production quality is superb and the settings are rather interesting, I think this deserves a place in the list.
        – To Aru Majutsu no Index: Simply immensely entertaining, and great musics.
        – The World God Only Knows: I had my doubts in the beginning, but the last episode of the Kanon-arc and the whole Shiori-arc (the two last major arcs) are freaking masterpieces. Great dramatization and music really gives the story, that is already great in the manga form, new dimensions. This adaptation turned out to be well worthy of the great manga, though the best parts are yet to come.
        – Yosuga no Sora: I’m hesitant to name this, since I’ve only seen the 3 first episodes, but I loved them so much that I didn’t want to watch the series one episode at a time, but rather all at once to get the most enjoyment out of it. Never have I watched an anime that would so strongly invite me to analyze it and praise its direction. There’s always a chance that something goes wrong later in the series, but the first episodes have immense promise.

        These are in the order that I found them listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:2010_anime I’m not sure I could put them in a particular order if I wanted to, but in the top three would probably be Yosuga no Sora, TWGOK and Zakuro.

        Now, I admit I’ve only checked out, like, 10% of all the anime this year, but I still say these names belong to the list from which the best ones are chosen.

        1. I will add your suggestions to the list, Krozam. Out of the 8 you’ve nominated here, I’ve only seen the first episode of Yakumo, but I’m quite interested in Kaichou wa Maid-sama and Otome Youkai Zakuro, so I’ll check them out at some point. As for the others, I’m more inclined to let the dust to settle and see if they survive the test of time.

  2. Well, I’m not gone yet! Your blog isn’t blocked by the GFoC, which means either you’re sneakier than they are or you’re not trying hard enough.

    What struck me most about Angel Beats is the difference from expectations set in episode one (a wild and silly episode, culminating in a performance by Girls Dead Monster) and a quiet acceptance of death that grew and took the series over by the end. I haven’t seen anything like it, even in anime.

    As for your poll, I am embarrassed to say I am slightly upset because I could only vote for three, meaning I couldn’t add K-ON!!.

    Merry Christmas to everyone!

    1. It’s fascinating to me that we both aren’t blocked and that you’re surprised that we aren’t! :) You should try writing something about your experiences as an anime fan in China, I’d love to read it! (Something tells me that you might be a bit too busy for that, though.)

      1. WordPress is blocked in China. But tonight it’s strange. I can access the WordPress home page, something I hadn’t been able to do before, but I can’t access any of my blog stuff. Come to think of it, I can access one other WordPress blog (I just thought of it), so I don’t know what’s going on. And for a while, tonight, I could access YouTube, but it’s blocked again now.

        Little to report about anime in China. At the hotel in Qingdau I found Naruto on TV, a two-episode block from 6-7, I think, dubbed into Chinese. But here in Heze I haven’t found anything more than regular cartoon fare. But I have no problem bittorrenting episodes from the usual suspects, so I’m catching up.

  3. Oh you watched Angel Beats! Good show that one. The last scene was a memorable one, with the empty corridors and just the main characters left. There was this feeling of sadness and emptiness. Its as if they were content in moving on, yet they weren’t that scared of what was ahead. Its a very thought-provoking idea, this whole what lies after they “move on”. And a Happy New Year to you too :) Heres to a fruitful year of healthy Anime blogging and many successes :P

    1. The feeling/tone of that last episode of Angel Beats really surprised me. The series was quite uneven overall, but the way things went in the end undeniably affected me.

      (Thank you for another year of reading this blog, too, Ivy! :))

  4. For whatever reason this movie reminded me of the Casper the Friendly Ghost live-action CGI movie, where Casper has to stay a ghost until he can solve his unresolved problems. I really like the one memory angle, it immediately made me think of what my memory would be. Did they say in the movie what the post-purgatory after life was like?

    1. No, I think the place beyond After Life’s purgatory is just referred to as “eternity” with your one, best memory. So, it’s not a physical thing. You live in that moment forever, which is a kind of heaven, I guess? :)

  5. I remember your writing in a similar vein about working life – that we spend hour after hour with people, then one day we never see them again – and found myself thinking about that a lot when I actually had to get a job.

    It’s quite different to all these melancholy-of-leaving-school scenarios (vote K-On!!) where the environment is supposed to be a formative ideal. I’m not sure what the ideal career is, but a lot of people nowadays seem to work in a way where everything (colleagues, positions) is constantly being shuffled around (dynamic!). To me at least, that sort of inbuilt impermanence, where few people really know one another, is more like blogsville than the emotional bonds and dramatic breaks which school involves.

    1. Yeah, I guess it’s just a matter of perspective with regards to how one sees all this. I used to look up to a lot of anime bloggers that have stopped blogging and moved onto something else or just disappeared completely, in the same way that I’ve lost contact with some old school mates. Thinking about it now, though, you’re probably right in saying that work is a better example for this sense of ‘purgatory’, because when someone does leave, there’s very much (for me, at least) a feeling that this is the last time we’ll ever see him/her again. At school, I was still naive enough to think that I’d know all these people forever! Angel Beats is weird, then, because it’s a school anime about accepting death, which is obviously contrary to what school is supposed to be about :)

      (Also, I’m flattered that something I said popped up in your mind outside of this blog. I hope I haven’t made you cynical or anything!)

  6. Interesting parallels being brought up into this post. Now that I think about it, Angel Beats!’s focus on the transience of highschool/life is an important point of the anime. But that focus probably was not brought out as well as it could have been. It’s definitely an important one as we go through life.

    1. It’s a weird series for sure, and quite uneven. It’s also weird to have a series about death set in a school, where the energy is all about youthful exuberance and eyes on the future.

      Anyway, I’m glad you liked this post. This was one of those that I wrote in one sitting and posted on the same day. I wasn’t sure about how people would react to it, but after a slow first night of reading, the responses have really given me a boost in confidence! :)

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