Review/discussion about: Gabriel DropOut
My mother and father always had to drag me to church every Sunday when I was a kid.
I hated going. No video games. No running around. No talking. It was sit, stand, sit, and stand again for an hour or more. Singing songs that I never memorized and hearing yet another lady read an aside that I didn’t much care for. I loathed it all.
I was angelic in other ways, like how I would go to catechism and say prayers every now and then. But, when it came to church, I was practically a demon in human form.
Gabriel DropOut (remember to capitalize that second “o”) features characters of a similarly mixed good-and-bad nature – and more than enough comedy to offer.
Having just graduated from heaven’s educational system, Gabriel, the angel all other angels aspire to be, heads to Earth to live on its soil and understand the humans who inhabit it. She’s as perfect as ever as she grows accustom to life there – until she plays an online video game. At that point, the angelic Gabriel becomes the slothful Gab, and Gabriel DropOut begins.
Designed almost purely as a comedy, this anime strikes at the heart of one the most fundamental aspects of hilarity: incongruity. Through subverted expectations, the show clearly understands how to get at laughs while also exploring its premise to a reasonable degree.
These expectations are easy to spot. Gab and Raphi are angels, so one expects them to act kind and thoughtful and lovely. Similarly, Vigne and Satania are demons, so one expects them to act evil and ruthless and unfair.
In true subverted fashion, though, they act in a complete opposite manner. Gab lazes about and threatens to blow up the whole world along with its filthy humans. Raphi schemes and plots to create amusing situations that she can enjoy. Vigne cares about her friends as well as maintaining a proper lifestyle. Satania commits “dastardly” deeds, but she isn’t always the smartest girl out there.
These demonic angels and angelic demons make it easy for Gabriel DropOut to get its audience laughing. In one scene, Satania squares off against Tap, making the naïve angel fight for Gab’s honor Old-Maid style. In another scene, Gab gets drunk off amazake, flying high into the sky with her wings to ring in the New Year with a “bang.” This constant flurry of incongruity may arguably get repetitive in the long run since there’s only so many ways Raphi can trick Satania or Vigne can be the responsible one in the group. Nevertheless, the quick pace and the high amount of interaction among the four girls keeps the comedy chugging right along.
By extension, the anime explores this angels-and-demons premise to a reasonable degree. Some episodes have them trying out the human traditions known as “Halloween” and “Christmas.” Some episodes use the premise against them, like when Raphi holds up a version of the bible whose majestic light harms Satania. Some episodes even feature a return to their worlds up high and down under to give a perspective relative to their respective origins.
Not every joke relies on expectations and the premise itself, though. Raphi dealing with a too-tight bra on physical-fitness day or Vigne trying to teach Gab the joys of sandcastle making focus more on their individual traits to get at character-based comedy. Doing so helps in varying up what’s presented and therefore introducing even more chances at laughter.
Indeed, the anime covers most types of comedy. It has running gags with the dog stealing Satania’s treasured melon bread. It has situational funnies like when Gab squeals loudly as Vigne applies topical ointment to heal her mosquito bites. It has wordplay such as when Gab says she will “half-ass” playing with her little sister but the horsey ride suggestion makes for the perfect response: “I’ll die, half-ass!”
Although, Gabriel DropOut finds itself in an unfortunate pitfall, for the anime relies way too much on the “say the opposite of what’s about to be said or going to happen” tactic. A prime example occurs in episode eight. As Vigne and Satania sit in front of their teacher to practice upcoming interviews, Vigne internally describes what Satania shouldn’t do and their teacher will do. Only for the oblivious girl and the stern man to not follow her train of thought.
If one gets very technical, it still counts as subverting expectations. But the difference lies in the delivery. Where the original angels-and-demons approach uses cleverness, this method foregoes subtlety, refusing to let these scenes play out naturally. The result makes it easier and easier to guess what joke the show has lined up next the further along one gets into the season, reducing its effectiveness as a comedy anime overall.
A lot of Gabriel DropOut’s comedy comes through in the vast amount of reaction faces Gab and the other girls regularly use. From Satania’s cheeky grin to Raphi’s bulging cheeks. From Vigne’s exuberant smile to Gab’s deadpan stare. The girls constantly shift between humorous faces befitting their characters and their situations, giving the anime extra laughs in nearly all its scenes.
Fluid animation also makes its way in for most of the series. Extra frames for Gab’s legs during a low shot of her walking or Vigne slamming her door while kicking both Satania and Raphi out of her apartment prove this statement well enough. Even all the way into episode eight, when Satania and Raphi race one another, the animation keeps up, their running motions and hair jostles reflecting how much the show gives movement its due.
The show also adopts a caricature-bubble overlay for a lot of its conversational scenes that keeps the focus on the event at hand while also bringing in more silliness. Some colorful, flavorful backgrounds also help with upping the anime’s visual variety as do the rare in-anime fourth-wall breaks.
To be fair, the setting doesn’t allow for much in the way of intrigue. Gab’s messy room, the school grounds, and the occasional visit to the classy café don’t have much to offer artistically. But the general quickness of the show and the emphasis on its jokes make this lack of background satisfaction a moot point.
As for the characters’ designs, they achieve different levels of success. Gab’s design sits on the higher end due to the contrast between her radiant and slothful selves. The former prim and proper, the latter frazzled and often in nothing more than a big zipped-up jacket.
Satania and Raphi are middle of the road. Satania’s red hair, bat hairclip, and upside-down cross symbol on her tie paint her as the archdemon she claims to be. Raphi’s very light purple hair, cross hairclips, and large chest give her an attractive design that hides her conniving ways.
Vigne’s design ends up at the end, for, while her short purple hair and flowering ponytail give her a cute look, she doesn’t stand out in any memorable fashion.
The anime does reuse a noticeable amount of its art and animation from the first episode within the last few minutes of last episode, but that’s not enough to take away from the fact that the show went out of its way to make the anime as visually comedic and fun as possible given its premise and genre.
As an almost purely comedic anime, Gabriel DropOut doesn’t have the most complex of characters. Gab, Raphi, Vigne, and Satania have their shticks that they almost never stray too far away from, leaving little room for nuance but inviting a ton of comedy as a result.
Gab was once a top-tier angel, a role model for both those in heaven and those on Earth. However, upon playing her first MMORPG, she got sucked into the lazy lifestyle of grinding experiencing and participating in timed events. She no longer cared about doing good by others but instead doing good for herself.
She’s the main protagonist of this tale, and a lot of her comedy comes through in her lackadaisical approach to nearly everything. She can’t work more than once a week for a couple of hours because (as she similarly puts it) she would die of exhaustion. She always wants to copy Vigne’s homework. She doesn’t like changing out of her clothes because it’s too much work. In short, the anime doesn’t use the word “dropout” in its title for nothing.
Gab isn’t all about laziness, though. She hates how many humans exist in the world. She likes to mess with Satania directly. She scarfs down food like nobody’s business. She can even trick everyone into thinking that she’s back to her former self.
Raphi is a bit different. Unlike Gab who thrives off doing next to nothing, Raphi gains pleasure in life by seeing her friends in silly situations. More specifically, she revels in toying with Satania, her “play thing.”
Whenever Raphi is on-screen, and especially when Satania is nearby, the audience can be sure that Raphi is up to something. Be it telling Satania to only wear her swimsuit beneath her clothes or hypnotizing her with a “Merry Christmas… Melon Breadmas…” chant, Raphi doesn’t let an opportunity to prank Satania go to waste. Going so far as to track the poor demon with GPS so she can instantly arrive at a moment’s notice to witness Satania’s next oddity.
Unfortunately, Raphi is a one-trick pony, for, after this obsessive trait of hers, she doesn’t have much of anything else. Save for one facet learned during the only time Satania “beat” Raphi at her own game: a fear of frogs. Granted, this scene is very small and not brought up again, but the show at least tried to give her more besides pestering Satania.
Vigne is not an angel like Gab and Raphi. Instead, she’s a demon. On paper, that is. For she, more so than her angelic friends, does what she can to be a diligent, wholesome person. She thinks about others, she attempts to learn more about humans and their culture, and she does her best at life’s daily happenings.
In essence, Vigne is the straight man of the group, acting as the normal one while the lazy bum, the schemer, and the weirdo continue to cause havoc. In fact, she’s arguably the only truly kindhearted person among them. This trait of hers even earns almost an entire episode all to herself; episode seven showcases her trying to be “demonic” by not following the school’s clothing standards and refusing to take notes during class.
Satania claims herself to be an archdemon and the next queen of the underworld. In reality, she’s a goofball whose skipping of homework and purchasing of “rare” telemarketing devil items only leads to her crying and in trouble on more than one occasion. Her taste buds don’t seem to exist, and that one dog always steals her precious melon bread. But she doesn’t let that stop her from trying to “conquer” the area and the people around her.
More so than anyone else, Satania is meant to be the brunt end of almost every joke. She’s picked on and almost never taken seriously, so it can sometimes feel a little unfair to watch. However, when she tries to make Gab serve her coffee in a demeaning way or acts all holier-than-thou when talking to Raphi, it becomes easier to understand why she’s pranked almost all the time.
She rarely receives any comeuppance herself – save for defeating Tap, Gab’s angel kouhai. And the show also reveals that her parents are the ones to blame for her inflated ego and overactive imagination. (At least their son has remained unaffected by their delusions.) Altogether, Satania is the jokester of the bunch (intentional or not), delivering laugh after laugh without doing anything else besides being herself.
While the anime doesn’t care to explore anything too deep with any of these characters, it does contain a sentiment that almost anyone can relate to.
As is regularly shown, Gab and Raphi are angels, and Vigne and Satania are demons. Per these monikers, they are expected to be good and bad respectively. But that’s not how people are; almost nobody is all good or all evil. They’re a mixture of the two. Sometimes they say something mean or do the wrong thing. Other times, they support in their own way or try to do what they can to help.
These girls demonstrate this idea all the time. Gab may hate going to school, but she offers Tap a place to lodge for her visit to Earth. Raphi may tease Satania constantly, but she befriends Vigne despite their differences in origin. Vigne may push Gab in the right direction, but she isn’t afraid to smack her upside the head when she’s being uncooperative. Satania may think she’s better than everyone, but she cares enough about that dog to give him the bigger half of her melon bread.
Again, that’s not a lot to go off of. And, indeed, many of these moments are either just after or followed immediately by a comedic routine, making this thoughtful comparison pointless. Still, it’s nice to see the anime go beyond the laughs and for something a bit more worthwhile.
The cast of Gabriel DropOut receive many strong voice-acting performances from their respective actresses. Kana Hanazawa as Raphi uses her cute voice to hide her sinister schemes. Miyu Tomita as Gab, in one of her first major roles, can be both kind and nonchalant in her attitude. And Saori Oonishi as Vigne brings both maturity and goodness with ease.
Yet (perhaps obviously) it’s Naomi Oozora as Satania who steals the show. Her arrogant claims, the yelling, her “evil” laugh, and extremely silly behavior were only made possible by her impressive performance, breathing life into the character and elevating the comedy of the anime that much more.
The anime’s original soundtrack also has quite a few supportive songs. High-pitched notes and an ambient background effect combine to make those “tense” moments feel extra harrowing. Satania’s devilish music, with the backing choir and pronounced organ, fill the air with satanic sounds. A slow, everyday tune changes its composition frequently, often taking on a shaking beat, a few strings, and the occasional rising note (that’s fun to whistle along with) and providing a foundation for the anime’s slice-of-life feel.
Gabriel DropOut also includes a lot of different sound effects and variances in sound to further promote its comedy. For example, in episode eight, Satania starts to fall over because she tripped over her feet, and her voice goes into super-slow-motion. The caricature bubbles are a more general example; a tiny horn sounds off whenever they appear on screen. These may not be necessary additions, but they certainly add to the show’s overall execution.
Moving on, the opening track, “Gabriel Drop Kick,” has a lot to unpack because it does so much within its minute-and-a-half run. The warping of Gab’s opening lyric highlights her “faillen angel” status. The flurry of conversations that happen in the background immediately afterwards get at the craziness of the show itself. Then the song splits, using whimsical instrumentation for Gab and Raphi’s segments but harsh, metal instrumentation for Vigne and Satania’s segments to represent the dichotomy between the angels and the demons.
There’s also Satania’s meta lyrics, Gab’s sighing, and the fast-paced rhyming. Eventually, the track crescendos, leading to the cast singing together with lots of “Happy!” and “Yay!” shouts for more fun. It ends in a much more reserved manner compared to the fervent, techno, and rocking formation beforehand, but such an ending adds yet another layer to an already jampacked piece.
The ending track, “Hallelujah☆Essaim,” is nowhere near as involved as its OP counterpart, but it’s not without its own flair. It combines chimes, electric guitar, choppiness, some cowbell (always need more cowbell), and techno to create a semi-serious, pretty cool piece. Loftier segments fit the angel-and-demon motif, the vocals are nice on the ears, and the little stepwise singing section near the end makes for a catchy outro.
Yet the most interesting aspect of the ED is the dual prayer that these angels and demons simultaneously recite in singsong form. The lyrics’ almost-matching construction make for a clever moment in the track that, on their own, represent the contrasting nature of the piece quite handily.
Though it isn’t the voice acting, the OST, the OP, or even the ED that take the sound crown. Instead, a small little hymn from episode seven known as “Gabriel no Kazoeuta” earns the throne. The entrancing lullaby isn’t much, but Vigne’s soft singing and cute pronunciation of “Gabriel” turn the tiny track into a mini musical hit. Plus, it’s darn catchy, and an ED version of the song plays at the end of the episode. Complete with a sped-up section and Vigne snoozing off by the song’s end.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t fully onboard with this one when I first checked it out as it aired. It seemed like an above-average comedy that didn’t try for anything too daring or too interesting for me to consider worthwhile.
I still hold that perspective to some degree. But I cannot deny how each and every episode had me laughing my butt off.
A lot of those laughs are thanks to those two too-cute demons: Satania and Vigne. They are no doubt the best, funniest characters in the show, and I was delighted whenever they appeared on screen. Satania crying out in nervous anguish as heaven’s security guards dragged her away was hysterical, and Vigne’s big smile after Tap said she looks forward to their tea time together had me smiling just as wide. They were a ton of fun, and they made for a lot of happiness again and again.
Raphi and Gab are not as delightful as their demonic friends, but the angels had me laughing as well. Raphi catching herself from saying something twisted, with cheeks bulging and her hand covering her mouth, was a small action that brought about many a chuckle. And Gab unable to perform well at any of the physical-fitness tests at school, practically dying in the process, made her yakiniku-driven attempts an entertaining set of moments indeed.
I was also a fan of the side characters. The coffee shop owner was a cool dude who simply loved coffee and looked out for Gab and the other girls whenever he could. Martiel, Raphi’s female butler, was also a hoot thanks to her depraved devotion to the young miss.
Tap, too. She isn’t around for very long, but she’s also one of my favorites in the show. Higher than Gab and Raphi even. She is darn cute and has silly relationships with the whole cast. Once she learned how to code in C and Java (and soon PHP), she shot up even higher in my books.
Although, what solidified my liking of the show wasn’t the fun characters or the jokes themselves. What really did it was Gab’s thoughtfulness in episode eleven. Despite how much she rags on Satania, Gab secretly helps her archdemon friend by asking the coffee shop owner to let pets stay at Satania’s complex so she could keep her “familiar.”
It was a sweet moment, and, while not emotional or defining, it made it that much easier to say with certainty that the anime was a happy time for me all around.
Gabriel DropOut answers a few prayers. A focus on subverted expectations, lots of reaction faces, and an impressive lineup in the sound department prove its penchant for comedy and quality. Setting up a lot of its jokes in the same way and a lack of intrigue in the main cast do work against the anime. But, unlike a kid who hates going to church, this one has no loathing in sight.
Story: Fine, incongruity dominates this angel-and-demon comedy, backing itself with different types of jokes while falling prey to the “say the opposite of what’s about to be said or going to happen” pitfall
Art/Animation: Good, hilarious reaction faces, caricature bubbles, and nicely animated segments make up for the passable background art and average character designs
Characters: Fine, Gab, Raphi, Vigne, and Satania have varying roles and effectiveness, and a tiny theme on the good-and-bad mixture in people adds more to think about
Music/Sound: Great, an involved OP, a cool ED, a supportive OST, and strong VA performances already do more than enough, but Vigne’s special lullaby goes the extra mile
Enjoyment: Great, super funny the whole way through, and Satania, Vigne, and Tap outshine the others
Final Score: 7/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3