Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ANIME: Hallelujah Essaim! "Gabriel DropOut" is for all the honor students who stopped caring.

So, I was a good student ever since I was... like... six. Some of my earliest memories are of being in first grade and being sent up to the third grade classroom for "advanced reading." (Actually most of my memories are of a boy in that class named Aaron that I had a crush on -- always liked older guys, apparently.) I switched schools to enter a gifted program, took AP courses in high school, was in the National Honor Society, was seventh in my graduating class by way of grades, and got to live in the honors dorm in college.

Then once I was in college, I blew off my honors project and got into anime and bad sci-fi. Because here's the thing -- if you're a good student, someday you will hit the point where you no longer care. And you'll either hit that point competently and find your middle ground that keeps you from becoming a complete slug, or you'll bottom out completely. And that's the story of Gabriel DropOut in a nutshell.

Gabriel DropOut is a winter-season anime based on the manga of the same name by manga writer/artist Ukami. In the world of this comic, angels in training have a study-abroad program where they attend human high schools and guide the people of Earth. Gabriel White Tenma (the blonde) and Raphiel Ainsworth Shiraha (lavender hair) are the school's top two angels. Gabriel is downright saintly, but falls from grace when she discovers the great study-killer: MMOs with microtransactions.

Soon, Heaven's top student is a sweats-wearing shut-in, watched over by classmate Vignette April Tsukinose -- who's so responsible and kind that it's hard to believe she's actually a demon. (Yeah, demons have a similar study-abroad program.) Also in their class is demon Satanichia McDowell Kurumizawa, who seems pretty sure she's set to become the next Queen of Hell but whose scheming is at about Pinky and the Brain levels, at best.

In fact, none of our main cast seems quite at home in their chosen role. Raphiel, while still responsible and well-kept, is a brakes-off masochist whose actions tend to be less about helping humans and more about trolling literally everyone. Somehow the four still manage to keep from going so off the rails that their stipends are cut, but that line is walked on a regular basis.

Gabriel DropOut is a 21st century mainstream high school anime, which means it's not above fanservice and occasional awkward dirty jokes. They aren't the rule of the series, but the first episode would definitely lead you to believe otherwise, with Gabriel teleporting out of her panties and Raphiel forcing classmates into some borderline pervy stuff. If that's not your game, rest assured the whole show isn't like that... but it does keep that in its arsenal.

For me, this was definitely a dessert show: something I watched when I was in a bad mood or tired and didn't want to think too hard about what I was watching. While there are some running plot threads, this feels more like a gag anime most of the time. And minus a recurring character or two, there's not a lot of continuity that needs following. Gab is a lazy gamer. Vigne is a sweetheart. Satania sucks at being evil and gets her melon bread stolen by a dog. Raphiel just freaking needs some help. And that's the story.

Is it high art? No. But as much as I love a well-crafted anime with beautiful animation and replay value and conscientious scripting, sometimes you really do just need something like this for the purposes of chilling out.

* Watch Gabriel DropOut free on Crunchyroll
* Visit the official website
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