What’s it about? Gabriel is the highest achieving angel in her graduating class, who are descending to earth to learn more about humanity by attending schools as regular students. Gabriel sets up her own apartment and begins school and volunteer work with the best of intentions… until she discovers online gaming, which transforms her into a fully fledged trash character.
This kind of premise is always a challenge to discuss from a feminist perspective for reasons covered in our roundtable on trash characters. On the one hand, women not feeling the need to conform to social expectations of femininity is a good thing! On the other hand, when trash characters reject gender restrictions they also reject politeness, compassion, and decency.
We end up supporting them out of affection, but not because they are in any way representative of our values. Often, it’s the opposite; it’s fun to revel in characters who represent your dark side, able to sympathise with their actions while also laughing at their punishment.
I am far more forgiving of unfeminist choices when attached to a trash character, at least in part because they are usually played for laughs without titillation. I certainly laughed at some things you might expect me to find off-putting , so full credit to the directorial decisions which made that possible. However, read this review aware that your mileage may vary.
I thought the cold open, before the title card dropped, was one of the strongest of the season. Anime premiere openers often feel unengaging or irrelevant, something to sit impatiently through until the real story begins. This is more like the Shirobako premiere opening, effectively contrasting youthful optimism with present day reality.
The joke Gabriel DropOut leans on is that the angels aren’t particularly angelic and the demons are not demonic. Main character Gabriel is selfish and lazy, while fellow angel Raphiel covers her love of bullying with a sweet smile and gentle manner. Vigne is a demon who inadvertently becomes more caring and considerate than any of the angels around her, while Satania is convinced she is the most evil hell queen around for such sins as ‘recycling a plastic bottle without taking the cap off’.
It’s a cute joke, at its best when religious terminology and imagery are weaved in. In one of my favourite small moments, Gabriel is unimpressed with the juice she is drinking so throws it away with a single word: “Repent.” The Bible offers plenty of opportunities for these kinds of throwaway gags as well as solid punchlines. I hope future material builds more on the religious side, which makes this show stand out beyond the simpler joke of “girls play against type”.
I’m not a big fan of shows without a linear story, even when I like the characters involved, so I enjoyed the first half of the episode more than the second. As soon as Satania enters the picture it feels very sketch-driven, as if based on four-panel manga, with some of the sketches going on a bit too long. However, the threat that she might be pulled back to Heaven for underperforming hangs over Gabriel, as do the prospects of visits from classmates who knew her as she was, so there may be a roughly linear story arc underpinning the series.
This is a fun, cute comedy that I would tentatively recommend to other feminist viewers with the same warning that your mileage may vary. People’s individual tolerance for boob and underwear jokes will be very different, and I completely understand if it’s not to your taste.