Winter 2017 First Impressions – Gabriel DropOut

Gabriel White graduated at the top of the class at angel school and attends a human school on earth in pursuit of knowledge, but then gets engrossed in a web game and decides its too much trouble to go anywhere.ANN

Streaming at: Crunchyroll

Number of Episodes: 12

Source: Manga

Episode 1 Summary: Gabriel is the embodiment of angelic behavior. She graduates at the top of her class in angel school, then descends to earth in order to observe humans close up and make their lives better. It’s a lofty task, but her inherent kindness and helpfulness keeps her on the straight-and-narrow, as one would expect of such a divine being. It’s this trait of helpfulness that turns out to be her eventual downfall, however; while playing an MMO, Gabriel becomes tempted by a weapon that she can use to heal other characters, and soon gets sucked into a life of gaming and skipping school. She’d play hooky every day if not for her friend Vigne, an unusually straight-laced demon with a strong sense of responsibility. Gabriel also shares her school days with Satanichia, another demon who fancies herself the future Queen of Hell (but who’s afraid of dogs and can’t even manage to get away with not turning in her homework) and Raphiel, another angel with a vile personality.

Impressions: In the continuing saga of no one being able to predict what I’m going to find funny, I went into this show with zero expectations and actually laughed out loud a couple of times by the time the credits rolled. I guess I’m just not as self-aware as I think I am.

The show itself is deceptively simple, and seems to revolve around one particular concept – angels and demons behaving in ways that are generally thought of as being contrary to their very nature. Gabriel and Raphi are both blessed with various shades of shitty attitude, while Vigne and Satanichia are either overly-kind or ineffectual, depending on the moment. It’s a gag that ought to run out of steam really quickly (and it very well could after a couple more episodes; I don’t really know what to expect at this point), but it definitely just works. By the time Satanichia was ranting about not doing her homework, I was definitely laughing to myself.

Part of what I think really gets me going is that Gabriel’s situation is pretty relateable. I played an MMO for a period of about three months many years ago, and never quite got into it much until I was asked by some other characters to join a raid. I got sucked into the experience completely, and spent an entire Sunday’s worth of daylight playing the stupid thing. After it was over and we all went our separate ways, I looked to see that more than six hours had passed since I’d started; probably not that impressive to many of you, but it was a huge amount of time to me. Whereas I made the choice then and there to stop completely, though, Gabriel lets herself fall further and further down the rabbit hole, essentially screwing up her life in the process. I think seeing her flaws laid out and knowing full well that I could have become something similar, given the chance and the inclination, makes her story amusing to watch on some level.

I read some other anime blogs, of course, and in poking around I learned a new term for Gabriel’s character type -she’s a trash character (side note: Anime Feminist is a great blog – whereas I tend to be more broad and incorporate my own feminism into my anime examinations, they are very focused on the subject and are good at pointing out some of the things that I might overlook. Check them out!). Trash characters are those characters who, for whatever reason, have stopped caring about social propriety and let their real, harsh opinions and bad habits fly free for all to see. The iconic ones tend to be young women who stop caring about putting up appearances – one example that I can think of is Yukino from His and Her Circumstances, who appears to be very put-together at school, but who becomes a lazy slob at home. There are of course some questions as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing as far as women’s representation; to summarize some of the good points, these characters seem to reject traditional femininity but at the same time it’s usually in service of some moé appeal. In short:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ As usual, interpretations are in the eye of the beholder.

As for myself, I’m aware that this story was likely written to appeal to males on some level (the story originally appeared in a shounen magazine, after all), but I’m the type of fan who tends to overlook the hard demographic markers and take things for myself, since there isn’t nearly as much material created specifically for my particular demographic (anime made for mid-thirties women is in short supply, sadly). This has been a very roundabout way of saying that I identify with what Gabriel is going through in that its so, so easy to fall off the productivity wagon, lose hope, and become cynical about life and towards others. Most of the time I find it easier to stay inside and screw around on the computer than to leave the house and go do something more “productive,” so despite her specific situation being more extreme, I find that it makes sense to me.

I think if Gabriel were a lone lead, though, the show would get irritating quickly. It’s the ensemble cast and its members’ variable personality quirks that really make the episode entertaining. I mentioned Satanichia’s inflated perception of herself as being memorable (just look at that accompanying image to the left – I think it’s pretty representative of her personality), and it rings true for almost every scene she’s in. I think a lot of other reviewers have found her to be outright grating, but I tend to like noisy, clueless characters (think Yukko from Nichijou) so I think that’s why she hit me the right way. Vigne just tries so hard to be a demon and yet can’t seem to help but be a goody two-shoes sweetheart. And Raphiel… when I say “bad personality” I don’t think that properly encapsulates how rotten she is. She’s truly a bully, but in a manipulative way that worms its way around your conscious perception and catches you by surprise. She’s the type of character I would despise in a more serious setting, but as a foil for Satanichia I think she works well.

Overall I’m reminded a bit of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, which has a similar story premise (but a more adult, vulgar outlook). In that series, there’s a constant questioning of what acts are actually “good” or “bad,” to the point that it actually becomes fairly serious and broad-reaching inquiry regarding morality and being judgmental about women’s behavior. Right now the characters in this anime are maintaining a solid, humorous balance and I suspect the show won’t really be asking those big, serious questions at any point. As I mentioned before, though, I worry that something more will have to happen in order to keep up the level of interest, because a one-gag show is rarely funny for twelve episodes.

As with most comedies, there are a couple of questionable gags. One in particular (that I admittedly laughed at anyway – sorry for being a flawed feminist and human being) involves Gabriel attempting a divine teleportation to make it to school on time. Ultimately, the only thing that transports is the pair of panties she’s wearing (it’s implied that the rest of her is so corrupted that the spell just doesn’t work), and they appear over her desk in class. A group of teenage boys sees this as a divine miracle. Despite the scene being about a minute long, I feel like there are a lot of things I could pick apart – teenagers are not always the smartest, but I think the assumption that teenage boys are so goofy and sex-starved that the act of seeing a pair of a girl’s underwear is a miracle makes me roll my eyes. I feel like the rest of the show is funny enough on its own merits that it doesn’t have to stoop to this level, so it’s a little bit frustrating to me. But again, I still chuckled at it.

I truly have no idea whether this anime series can remain funny beyond the first episode (I recall my experience with Himouto Umaru-chan where I found the introductory episode chuckle-worthy but the subsequent couple of episodes so profoundly flat that I dropped it like a turd), but I liked the introductory episode quite a bit. As of this writing, the second episode is available, so I might just go check it out. In any case, if you have a taste for somewhat low-brow comedic antics, I would definitely give this one a look.

Pros: Its simple premise provides more humor than might be apparent from first glance. The characters’ personalities are over-the-top but meld well into a comedic unit. Gabriel is relateable.

Cons: Some of the gags are maybe too low-brow and/or cynical. There’s the potential for one-note gags as the show progresses (or doesn’t, as might be the case).

Grade: B

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