“Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”

Welcome, all, again.  My past few reviews have dealt with shows that were different shades of slice-of-life; so, too, does this one.  Gabriel DropOut is a special kind of show, one in which themes and their possible relevance are so fluid as to depend almost entirely upon the discretion of the viewer.  As a writer who creates something to be shared, it has long been my contention that an artist (whatever the chosen medium) shares the creative process with the audience, whose interpretation produces a final result peculiar to each participating individual.  For Gabriel Dropout to more fully espouse this notion, it would need to be a coloring book!  How so?

Gabriel Tenma is an angel descended to earth to study and eventually help mankind.  She was top of her class in Heaven but, freed from the strictures of that environment, feels justified in loosening up just a bit.  In military jargon, she goes in-country only to go native.  Because although sent to attend a human high school, Gabriel is quickly seduced by video games, instant noodles, and a generally self-indulgent lifestyle.  Her fall is rapid and transformative, to the point that her stipend from Heaven begins to see regular decreases.  Seems like somebody’s paying attention and is not at all eager to pay for a rebellious attitude.  But Gab’s not the only one disappointing her sponsors.

Milton’s epic work Paradise Lost casts Hell as a perverse mirror image of Heaven.  Well, certainly their foreign student exchange program mirrors Heaven’s, as Maiten High School is hosting two demons as well as two angels.  And Vignette Tsukinose is Gabriel’s polar opposite, quite beyond being a demon: she is kindhearted and considerate, responsible and helpful.  While Gab mutters about mankind not deserving help and even suggests blowing that trumpet to start the Apocalypse, Vigne is busy sweeping the walk in front of her apartment building and desperately vying to prevent Gab’s becoming a total NEET.  Strangely enough, Vigne also seems to be having bankbook difficulties.  (Personally, I wonder what might happen if they tried switching sponsors–a point I raised on Crunchyroll after watching episode 7.  Increased cash flow, surely!)  But what of the other two unearthly visitors?  The angel Raphiel Shiraha was second in her and Gab’s class, but upon descending to earth has revealed herself to be a sadistic, perverted deviant.  Meanwhile, demon Satanichia McDowell is dedicated to her assigned role but utterly incompetent.  Milton would weep.

But this is where things get really fun.  The show is entertaining enough on the surface–cute characters doing inanely cute things. . .or sometimes doing nothing at all [Gab!].  But the implications of and possibilities inherent in the premise magnify the humor exponentially!  This series exists within a Christian theology, but plays fast and loose with the accepted rules of such.  Whereas Hell was first created to punish rebellious angels transformed into devils, we witness a second rebellion of a demon returning instinctively to angelic behavior.  This, even as Heaven’s two most promising angels abandon themselves to their baser desires.  But where is the redemption, where the punishment?  Have the authors of the original quarrel become so bored with it?  Has a once-raging war degenerated into a perfunctory, bureaucratic process of demerits?  And could all of this mean that Gabriel is actually correct in that there’s no point in worrying with it?  Any of it?  Just slurp your noodles and go?  Beware, for larger questions loom in these shadows: why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?  And why do attributes so valuable in humans–such as independence, individuality, and the courage to act–lead to the condemnation of an angel?  But those questions are only there if you look for them.  Otherwise, it can all be viewed as just another group of friends living their own peculiar situations. . .

I have seen this series dismissed as fluff.  I have likewise–although much more rarely–seen this series accused of taking on topics beyond its scope.  My own opinion is that this series, more than most others with which I am familiar, becomes what its viewer makes it.  We the audience have a much more prominent role in deciding the finished product of this show than we are usually given.  And I like that.  Some days I want a light comedy, whereas some days I’m willing or even eager to explore a deeper meaning.  I appreciate having the choice.

[Parental note:  Yes, there is some fan service in this show, but nothing crazy.  Precocious children might, however, derive some interesting or uncomfortable religious questions from watching–so get those answers ready!]

 

Author: David

Southern gentleman of Irish heritage. Family man--proud husband, father, and grandfather. Wiccan with a dose of residual Catholicism. Background in food service, military (US Navy), and law enforcement.

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