Anime

Gabriel Dropout’s OP: The Strengths of Angelic/Demonic Imagery

I feel like doing something analytical so I’m going to touch on something that I’ve always been thinking about in the back of my mind whenever I see the OP for Gabriel Dropout and, now, with my knowledge of the full series, draw out as much meaning as I can from this. Because I think it’s one of the most interesting and yet also completely messy opening animations that I’ve seen for an anime in quite some time and it was honestly a big part of what kept me looking forward to each new show.

Before we start, yes, if I were a Youtube channel you could probably accuse me of ripping off a regular series of a certain anime youtuber, to which I say, first of all, he hasn’t done this one yet and probably won’t, if he did, he would probably do it better than me. As a fan of OPs and EDs I have nothing but respect for his work, so if anything this is a written tribute that I’m only going to do again when I notice an OP I want to talk about, like here. Secondly, I wish we lived in a world where the written form and the video form were at least a bit more equal, more effort certainly goes into videos while I’m just typing a script and the audience is there for videos. But I disagree that it is better than an article, if there are no fancy visuals and it’s just one guy talking into a mic for 10+ minutes then I just wish he’d provided a written form so I could read through it much quicker, I prefer to take in these things fast and even the fastest speaker can’t outpace my reading speed, additionally, I can see what’s up ahead if I feel I need to skip. Maybe I’m a bit unusual in that regard but while I love certain Youtube content creators, they tend to be the ones who put heavy effort into their visuals that therefore give me a reason to be watching their video, as opposed to the vloggers, who… they probably have great things to say but I’d prefer they started a blog so I can read all that crap in my own time. I went off on a tangent. This may be a common theme in my posts or something I expand on another time if only because besides the few blogs I’ve been made aware of, it’s much easier to see these video makers and respond to their content.

Back to what this post is actually supposed to be about. The Gabriel Dropout OP. It’s quite a mess of a pop song and has a very quick-paced intro that gives it a lot to analyse. It also sticks quite strongly to established themes and makes it a song completely connected to the anime by having the voice actresses singing the song, something I always thinks makes a better song for the show even if songs by J-Pop stars can often be better songs. This also means the lyrics are directly related to the show’s theme. Basically, it’s already in a strong position from the start because of these simple things that, although I adore the songs, the likes of Sword Art Online’s OPs lack because of being pop songs that aren’t necessarily connected to the anime even if they vaguely try and match the themes with their also vague lyrics. So there’s that to start with. I recommend calling up an episode of this so you can follow along, and here is a reason why this isn’t working as well in written form. I’m still doing it.

The theme starts with Gabriel being rather angelic (lyrics are literally ‘spreading your wings, giving blessings to all’) I noticed in the last episode that she bears quite a resemblance to her older sister Zelel in this shot, which works with the lyrics because this picture is the angel that everyone thinks she is. The music for this is very celestial and overarching in its theme, hinting at something epic to come. And then, because this is a comedy and Gabriel is the very opposite of a good, hardworking angel, the tone shifts right at the crucial moment in both the music and the visuals, a quick succession of comically exaggerated stills from all of the characters engaged in antics paired with a load of noise. This is really indicative of the type of series it’s going to be, comedic and irreverent to the setting it’s chosen to sit in. The stills also hint to the characterisation, Vigne and Satania are looking frustrated, as is Gabriel, presumably because she has to do work and the only one always looking bright and fun is Raphi, and that’s just because she’s a troll. The musical theme of messiness continues as the title card swoops down which is something I really like, it allows the title card to do some wacky things at the end and it just introduces said card in a really uncaring offhand way, which is exactly what Gabriel is supposed to be doing.

Now we get to the really interesting part. Because here, the characters swap lines in the songs and sing as they themselves appear on screen. And what’s most notable is that for the angels, despite their characterisation as lazy and manipulative, sing with traditional angelic sounding voices, the sort that appear in church choirs. Meanwhile the demons sing with harsh and tonally clashing voices that hint at their supposed darker nature. Which is the strength of religious imagery I talk about in the title, it works, you really believe these characters are angels and demons when they sing in those specific tones that we’ve culturally taken to associate with angels and demons. That in itself sells the OP as a good one to me right there, even if it weren’t for everything else I’m about to add. Then, this may be lost on non-Japanese speaking audiences and it was for me at first, but that’s not all. Gabriel’s first line is singing, in this angelic tone ‘All I want to do is play online games’ which is just too perfect. Vigne coming in with ‘At least clean your room’ in her demonic tone also sells her role in the series and immediately paints her as more virtuous than Gabriel, despite her demonic sound. Raphi has a line about ‘her toys being lively today’, while she sniggers in the way we love her for, while, proving that her toys are indeed lively, Satania gets chased by her running gag of a dog stealing her food, while shouting about how she can’t sing like this. Not quite as good a character introduction as the other three, although it goes back to this being a messy uncoordinated series but it’ll be fixed by the next verse.

The next verse has Gab being even worse. Still in this wonderful angelic voice she sings about how she wishes humanity would just end, while Vigne scolds her about never being an angel, visually getting more frustrated with her. Over on the other pairing, Raphi isn’t talking about herself anymore but she’s introducing the Great Demon King which is perfect for introducing Satania’s character, her buffoonish overconfidence proclaiming herself this Great Demon King, before she questions if anyone’s listening. Then we go back into a mess, a little bit more controlled than the first one. A pair of Cerberi run across the screen, indicating perhaps how this series is so neutral on Hell and Heaven being a good/bad duality that it’s just making out Hell’s denizens to be harmless fillers. The lines each of the four have in this quick-paced stanza is another quick one-line expression of their personality although I do find it interesting that Raphi calls herself devilish. It’s true but she’s so open in admitting it.

On the next bit we only have Gabriel pictured in different personality affecting still shots but still all four swap lines, although no more in the Gab-Vigne-Raphi-Satania order we’ve become accustomed to (they’d also mess with this order in the ED, the only rule is that Gab goes first), and they’re all humourous expressions of what the girls want to do, turning hope into darkness, get treats, I think by now we get the picture, Gab is lazy, Vigne’s responsible, Raphi’s a gadfly and Satania’s an egomaniac. But it’s such a clean presentation of these facts, and you can pick that up from just the visuals even if you don’t understand the lyrics of the song, which just make the characterisation even more blatant.

The next couple of lines seem a bit weird, or at odds. The visuals show Gab getting into her uniform, to be presented with an unenthusisatic Gab ready for high school. Lyrically, she’s just a high school girl for now (so perhaps no destruction of the planet yet), and then she says she looks good in her uniform which isn’t quite relevant to any particular aspect of her character, she’s not vain or interested in how she looks, but the translation I have only says ‘pretty good’ so I guess it might be a reflection of her just feeling confident in her new life.

Then we get a chorus of sorts which pans over the four characters in succession, Gab always looking less enthused about the situation than the others, and the theme of the lyrics being let’s mix Heaven, Hell, Earth, angels demons and people all together and be happy. Which is kind of the theme of the series, demons can be good, angels can be bad, let’s just have a lot of fun with this concept. And because it is a religious concept it is already a strong concept. We then have Gabriel having one of her running gags, pulling out the horn of the apocalypse, which is something I really wish they used more in the series, obscure Biblical gags like that, but she threatens to destroy the world, and does so. Vigne’s reaction is one of horror, Satania of excitement and Raphi just looks entertained, further giving insights into their characters about how their alignment in preventing a horrible act stands, and then it ends with Gabriel polishing her halo from black and singing ‘I am an angel after all’.

Overall it’s a strong OP because it sells me immediately on what the series is going to be about and coming out of it, I also know the personalities of all of the characters. From watching that once, I can tell what’s going to be on offer in an average episode and I know there’s going to be a lot of banterous antics and friendly comedic conflict, which was exactly what I was looking for in this series. There are a few side characters in Gabriel Dropout, it’s not just these four, but it’s mostly these four and the OP doesn’t waste a single shot on any of the side characters as they just aren’t important enough, and that’s very good. Even without the lyrics it’s a strong and fun opening that I looked forward to in every episode, with the lyrics, it becomes quite godly. Pun intended.

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