The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide Gabriel DropOut
How would you rate episode 1 of
Gabriel DropOut ?
What is this?
Tenma Gabriel White's future is so bright, she needs sunglasses. Having graduated at the top of her class in Heaven's school for angels, she will soon descend to the earthly realm to learn more about humanity and help those in need. Unfortunately, things take a dark turn when Gab-chan discovers human entertainment, like MMOs and anime. Now this once-brilliant angel has become a shut-in who hides behind blackout curtains in a filthy apartment, and her peers aren't any better at their otherworldly jobs. Vignette and Satanichia are sorry excuses for demons who can't help but be kinder and more considerate than their heaven-sent classmates, like guardian-angel-in-training Raphiel who likes "guiding" people with sadistic advice. With the representatives of Heaven and Hell so hopelessly flipped on earth, maybe it will be a blessing in disguise when Gabriel accidentally sounds the horn of revelation and blows us all to kingdom come. Gabriel DropOut is based on a manga and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Mondays at 11:00 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
Gabriel DropOut appears to have only one core joke at its disposal: its angelic and demonic characters are all terrible at their prospective jobs. The good news is that it's a pretty good joke, and it's delivered consistently well throughout this first episode. With angel girls Gabriel and Raphiel being thoroughly terrible people and devil girls Vigne and Satania failing to do anything particularly evil, this series has set up a natural cycle of comedy for itself.
Of the two groups, it's the angels who are more uproariously funny at the moment. Gabriel works the “shameless NEET” angle quite nicely, and it helps that she clearly has no intention of cleaning up her act. If anything, she seems keen on the idea of dragging the do-gooder devil Vigne down with her, and her ownership of the moral low ground lets her take cheap shots at the rest of the cast on a regular basis. Raphiel is entertaining in her outright sadism, especially since the dark side of her personality is hidden under a twisted imitation of the “caring older sister” archetype. Both of these girls run the risk of veering into obnoxious territory if played the wrong way, but they're good fun for now.
The devil girls are a little more hit-or-miss in the early going. Vigne is frequently stuck playing the straight man to everyone else's antics, a role that she'd be more suited for if her comebacks were a little sharper. Satania seems to have settled into a better groove, perpetually building up her own villainy only to have her momentum yanked out from underneath her by the other girls, a stern teacher, or a harmless dog. While both of these comedy routines have room for improvement, they do at least create a good balance of personalities and contribute to the overall humor of the show.
The question now is what happens when the novelty of the premise starts to wear off in a few weeks. The mix of impish angels and harmless demons doesn't seem to have a whole lot of substance behind it, so a lot may ultimately rest on the show's ability to come up with new twists on its basic formula. Still, I have to admire Gabriel DropOut for focusing on doing one thing well, and it seems neatly suited to its role as a “cute girls gone bad” comedy.
If nothing else, Gabriel DropOut is the show that reminds you why your mother always told you to wear nice underwear. In what is one of the best scenes of the episode, Gabriel, an angel-in-training who has become corrupted by human entertainment, tries to use a divine teleportation skill to get to school on time. However, she's become so impure that her nice, clean underwear is all that is still pristine about her, and while she remains on her porch, her undies wind up on her desk at school in a bloom of heavenly light. The boys promptly start worshiping this divine manifestation.
Basically this sets the tone for the episode even though it isn't the opening scene. Gabriel's good intentions (and good grooming) go out the window once she gets hooked on an MMORPG and she has no desire to go back to being good. Meanwhile devils Vigne and Satania can't seem to stop doing good, be that forcing Gabriel to go to school or cleaning up after her messes. When a second angel, Raphiel, shows up at the end of the episode, she's got a vicious streak at least a mile wide. The show's a comedy about subverting expectations, and by and large it works. It's nearly always funny to see angels behaving badly and demons doing good, as The Devil is a Part-Timer! proved a few years ago.
The worry here is that this is about all the humor that there is to be had from the show. How many times can we be reminded that all of the girls are terrible at their prospective jobs before it gets stale? We'll have to hope that there's going to be a bit more ongoing plot to hold everything together, which does feel a little doubtful given that the episode runs as if it is based on a four-koma manga (which I can find no confirmation of) with short scenes tied together only loosely. However even if it does continue in this vein, this episode is still pretty funny, especially the contrast between Gabriel and Vigne, who doesn't quite realize that her devotion to making Gabriel resume being a good angel isn't exactly helping her own case.
Visually this is cute in terms of the girls and surprisingly clean on the fanservice front, although I'm not a fan of the random scene of Satania on the toilet – the payoff in the form of a toilet paper joke isn't quite enough to make up for the voyeuristic aspect. Raphiel also stands to become a boob joke, although if she does, it will likely be of her own volition. All in all, Gabriel DropOut is pretty fun. If it can maintain at least one laugh-out-loud joke per episode, it could be worth following.
Gabriel DropOut isn't a great or terribly original series, as it's pretty much an updated, bloodless version of fare like Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, which draw their humor from divine and/or diabolical entities acting totally out of character for what they are supposed to be. However, that doesn't prevent its first episode from being quite satisfyingly funny.
To be sure, there's absolutely nothing sophisticated about the approach that the series takes. One of the main characters is an “archdemon” who thinks being evil means playing stupid little pranks or pushing the envelope by doing things like (gasp!) not putting a bottle cap in a separate recycling container from the bottle or deliberately not doing her homework. She's just too much of an idiot to realize how lame her efforts are, and she's so incompetent that she gets her melon bread stolen from her by a dog (and apparently on multiple occasions, too). Less entertaining is the very pleasant, very responsible devil who only accidentally does bad things, but Raphiel more than makes up for it by being the classic “outwardly pleasant pretty girl with a secret sadistic streak.” The way she picks on people for her personal amusement (often in the guise of being ditzy) makes her more genuinely devilish than either of the two actual infernal creatures, and she's the #2-ranked angel in her class.
And then there's the titular character, whose fall from grace is magnificent in its earthiness. I loved the way that it was a new variation on the old adage “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” with a desire to help people in an online game eventually leading her into a semi-hikkikimori cesspool, one so deep that she doesn't even care about being an angel anymore. The question here is whether this is also intended as a not-so-subtle indictment of that lifestyle or whether it's just an innocent consequence of poking fun at that, too. Either way, the idea of her becoming a slob in character as well as behavior has a good amount of mileage on it.
The technical merits for the series aren't much to speak of, but they are good enough to get the jokes across. The direction, on the other hand, is exactly right, as it demonstrates a good sense of comic timing in quickly shifting around and preventing jokes from outstaying their welcomes. Director Masahiko Ohta has a well-established track record with comedies in both short and full-length form (Himouto! Umaruchan, Mitsudomoe, Yuruyuri, Kotoura-san) and it definitely shows here. The series does have some light fan service, but if that doesn't bother you then this is a comedy that I can recommend.
Fresh out of angel school and at the top of her class, Tenma Gabriel White is ready to make a difference in the human world. Picking up garbage and playing with children and committing to her studies, Gabriel is a credit to her kind - until she finds herself playing a free-to-play online game. Online games just seem like such a convenient way to help people, after all. And if she buys that special staff, she can help even more people! All it takes is just one click…
And so begins Gabriel's descent into NEET-style uselessness. There's something inherently compelling about the idea of even an angel being seduced by free-to-play evil, and the show's execution of the joke is excellent. There's a three-minute buildup establishing her initial personality, a slow construction of a scenario where she'd be tempted to buy something in the game, and then the actual click jumps to first the title drop, and then Gabriel surrounded by filth, having already descended into the desolate gamer lifestyle.
That first sequence sets the tone for this episode. The episode ultimately introduces three more girls, all of whom are failures in their nature - Vigne is a very considerate demon, Satania is just a tragically incompetent one, and Raphael is an angel sadist. Not every joke lands, and I'm not a fan of the show's offhand fanservice, but Gabriel DropOut in general has a sharp sense of timing, a good ear for character voice, and a punchy style of animation that often elevates its comedy.
The fundamental nature of the show's jokes tends to be a little obvious (Satania thinks it's the height of evil to recycle a bottle with the cap still on), but things get better and better as the cast members start to bounce off each other, and the combination of timing and expression work does a lot of heavy lifting. There's a great cut halfway through where Satania jumps from laughing about her villainy while organs groan in the background to sobbing in the hallway, utterly defeated. There's another sequence later on that relies heavily on Satania's body language and Raphael's expression work, the routine selling Raphael's fairly simple gimmick on personality alone.
Overall, while Gabriel DropOut isn't exactly a revelatory comedy, it's definitely an energetic and confidently constructed one. It understands comedy fundamentals, and its base gag doesn't rely on otaku references, loud noises, or fart jokes. The cast even already seems to have some solid chemistry. If you're looking for a dedicated comedy, Gabriel DropOut is definitely worth a try.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you're going to make yet another "four cute girls in a school comedy" anime, you need a unique hook. Gabriel DropOut, with its "garbage angels and sweetheart devils" premise, rings the same bell that the surprisingly successful and endearing The Devil is a Part-Timer! anime did, just with a less ambitious/unique framework. Considering the competition, that's good enough for me.
There's comfort in familiarity, and while Gabriel DropOut's gags aren't really clever for the most part, they're still pretty funny. This may be mostly thanks to some skillful direction, comic timing, and decent animation elevating the material, but even a potentially tired joke like Gab-chan accidentally teleporting her underwear to school instead of her body managed to get a laugh out of me. (Something about seeing those panties hover over her desk in a shower of divine light and then flutter down gently, as all the classmates gape at having witnessed a miracle of some kind, made the cliché endearing again.) While it might not work as iyashikei (and it clearly isn't trying to be), cute-girl comedies are just much funnier when the cute girls are total jerkwads, even if the accompanying gags aren't particularly inspired.
If you're looking for a moe comedy this season, Gabriel DropOut is the clear winner so far, with a hook just novel enough to make it stand out in the short term, and a gaggle of goofy characters whose otherworldly nature might allow for more memorable punchlines than usual. So you can hit up Interviews with Monster Girls for your healing anime needs, and then go to Gabriel DropOut for some slighty crasser chuckles. Win-win.
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