Angel Beats borrows ingredients that are achingly familiar and mashes them into something miraculously entertaining. The series cheerfully rips off Suzumiya Haruhi's titular character, adds her to a Sunrise-inspired ensemble cast, and plunks them into a rehash of Haibane Renmei's basic premise. There's an all-girl rockband, a shy warrior angel, and even a dude who hypnotizes people with his creepy eyes, Code Geass style.
And somehow, this messy mismatch of borderline cliche isn't horrible. Part of this inexplicable success can be attributed to smart storytelling. The pacing is brisk but coherent. More importantly, even though Angel Beats varies wildly in tone (hard not to, when you are ripping off so many different works!), these disparate scenes tend to work in the way the writers intend. While there's an unmistakeable cynicism on the writers' part when it comes to combining manipulative angst with school comedy, the show's execution is executed well enough to overcome it.
Only the atrocious final two episodes prevent a full recommendation, which ensure that every plot thread is wrapped up in the most predictable and ordinary way possible. Watching Angel Beats' ending made me long for the open-ended finales of low-budget shows like Haibane Renmei. Rather than risk leaving anything open to interpretation, Angel Beats blugeons the audience with explanation after explanation, with mind-numbing results. There is also a lengthy and unnecessary sequence in the final episode that could have been removed from the show entirely.
After the dust has cleared, we're left with a reasonable narrative that could have been called ambitious were it not for its awkward plot holes, borrowed everything and unsatisfying conclusion. Ironically, the undeniable savviness in pacing and development only widen the disappointment, suggesting that a superior storyline could have been crafted if the writers had just lived a little.
The overwhelming quality of the animation represents a shift in priority for studios. Thirteen episode series used to be seen as a low-budget alternative to the "real" 26 episode works. Haruhi has done a lot to change that, showing that there is serious money in high budget one season shows. Put bluntly, this is among the best conventional animation released this year.
Everything is flawless, from the appealing character designs to the masterfully frenetic action scenes. By the time you get to the orgasmic rock band sequences, which sparkle with all manner of lighting and particle effects, it feels like the animators are just throwing money at you. Indeed, the superiority of the animation seems to explain the derivative plot - this is a series too big for the creators to risk an original storyline.
Well-produced (albeit generic) J-Pop mixes with a deep library of high quality background music. The voice acting is stellar, with high-profile seiyuu in even the minor roles. These seiyuu add a surprising level of depth to the otherwise cookie-cutter characters. It is to Kana Hanazawa's credit, not the writers, that I eventually cared for the hackneyed trope that is the "Tenshi" character. The natural charm of the seiyuu's delivery does wonders for the character's limited dialogue.
While the characters lack originality, they tend to be better executed than most mainstream shows. I expected the massive cast to prevent any real characterization, but this is not the case here. Instead, the show carefully separates the myriad of characters into those who develop and those who do not. For the "developed" characters, the series takes plenty of time (indeed, maybe *too* much time) to trace back several characters' backstories. While these flashbacks tend to be a little heavy-handed, they at the very least make the characters distinguishable from each other, and in some cases make them sympathetic. Because of this, the developed characters are unoriginal, but not overbearingly so. The remaining undeveloped characters remain purely as comic relief, which is perfectly reasonable treatment; all things told, these side-characters inhabit the story without cluttering it.
The technical elements of the show are nearly flawless, but ultimately, this series is better suited for relative neophytes of anime than experienced viewers. A newbie won't notice all the tiny instances of plagiarism sprinkled into the series, and will more readily forgive the botched ending. For the rest, there is less derivative fare that you could be watching instead.
ORIGINAL MY ASS
Angel Beats is considered to be an original work, in the sense that it’s not an adaptation of some light novel, or porn game. Though if you take the word at face value there is absolutely nothing original about it, since it plays out exactly like a light novel or porn game. The opening video has all the characters posing at you with their names attached on them, and they are colored with gradient filters. Accompanied by all the done to death stereotypes that have killed creativity in anime; teenager-only cast, Japanese high school as a setting, and of course watering down everything with romcom shenanigans.
The premise sounds cool and fresh at first, until you realize how awfully handled it is, and you figure out Haibane Renmei did it ten times better, a decade ago, with a fraction of the budget. The show is also not focused on something specific and constantly moves from one theme to another, usually by jumping genres in the process, and having little to no sense of continuity. First it’s about fighting God, then it’s about a music festival, then it’s about baseball, then it’s about dramatic flashbacks, then it’s about a monster invasion.
If that was not enough, the setting makes no sense at all. Aside from how we never got any explanation regarding how it was created, or why it looks like a high school of all things. I understand the meta-logic being a school, since this is the laziest and easiest setting you can create, that has the maximum appeal in the target audience, but in-series it makes no sense to look the way it does. And no, it’s not like only teenagers go that place. Hell, it doesn’t even have some sort of logic in the way it works. Someone can go there years after he died, while someone else goes right away. You are not supposed to remember anything after you leave, and yet here we are people knowing each other after they left.
Most of these issues are a result of the show being allowed to have only half the episodes it deserved, thus being forced to rush through the events. This, though, is not excusing the faults in the least. What kind of emotional impact can there possibly be, if one moment they are making jokes, and the immediate next tragedy drops from the sky and crashes them. One day someone disappears, the next day they go make fun at each other like it didn’t matter at all. Mystery exposition happens in long monologues, development is mostly flashbacks, most of the characters are left undeveloped (which is extra funny when some of them even have their names showing in the opening), and battles get resolved in seconds. But jokes? Nope, those can last for entire episodes. That alone shows how much Maeda cared about the actual story; doesn’t it? Yup, I only have half the time to show everything; let’s waste most of it on jokes.
LACK OF GRAVITY
Even if one disregards the pacing issues, the world of the series lacks substance and gravity. Death has no meaning, most people are automatons, causing damage to facilities has no point, you can create guns out of dirt, there is brainwashing for some reason, and all you are doing in that world is studying eternally for exams in a fictional school that offers you nothing. If this place exists to give dead people a chance to live the lives they never had, it sure does not do a good job.
PRETTY COLORS & NICE SOUNDS
Not that anyone seems to care about originality or proper storytelling regarding this anime. After all, anime are just dumb entertainment for little children, right? It is considered a masterpiece of dramedy by several thousands, the reasons being mostly excused by the pretty colors, and the nice sounds. It’s really funny to see so many people feeling emotional over such terribly rushed and uninspired presentation. Anime standards are REALLY low. You can’t even enjoy the generic as fart artstyle, including some of the most uninspired character designs you can imagine. If their names weren’t showing in the intro of every episode, you would constantly be mistaking them for characters from other shows.
P.A Works in general, lacks a visual identity, to the point you are constantly confusing who exactly animated their shows. I mean, it looks moe, it has a Suzumiya Haruhi clone, a school band festival, and is directed by Jun Maeda, famous for his handling of Visual Key adaptations. Of course and you would think this anime is made by Kyoto Animation. And yet it isn’t; it’s just a by-the-numbers rehash of stuff, others are making for over a decade, traced over with no passion for visual identity, making it dull despite its fidelity in backgrounds and attention to detail. They can make the characters as moe as they like, and they would still be vanilla ice cream. They can throw in as many Easter eggs from other shows as they like (there are references to Resident Evil in episode 2, Howl’s Moving Castle in 3, and Matrix Reload in 12) and they are still not adding anything to the actual show. Other than making it feel even more derivative, and still inferior to everything it plagiarizes.
Even if we look past bad pacing and uninspired artwork, the characters are still pretty flat and uninteresting. Oh, sure, you will find tens of thousands yelling how much they cried, but it’s not because of the characters. It’s because of the tragic things that happened TO the characters… in flashbacks… while sad music is playing in the background. What I mean by that is that there is no investment to who they are or what they do. It’s just slapstick humor, based on done to death anime clichés, followed by sad stuff that happened in the past, and dealing with them by simply talking. That’s it. (Angel) Beats me why this superficial form of character exposition is so successful. It probably has to do with anime being notorious for spending a hundred episodes for the most obvious exposition to come along and thus this series creates a huge contrast that hits you with a 2 ton hammer. It is sudden and has such a high shock value on you that (Angel) beats the alternative. I still find it terribly rushed and cheap.
DULL MAIN CHARACTERS
The main characters are boring archetypes, snatched from typical date simulations, defined by quirks and clothe accessories, like ribbons in their hair, or the color of their stockings. Well done Kyoani… err, I mean P.A. Works. Your labor is a breath of fresh Air-tv , by following the established Kanon to the letter. You may as well do a Clan Add so the tribe will thrive.
Yurippe gets a fair amount of attention and development, as she keeps learning about the world around her. But it’s not like nobody could take her place when it came to exploring the setting. She was the leader of that SOS Brigade knock-off, she already had a lot of things to do. Allowing one of the secondary characters to assume that role would be preferable, leaving her doing the Haruhi imitations she is so obviously invented for.
Otonashi moves the plot forward and has a very strong presence. He is the self-insert generic high school teenager we have seen a million times already, with the amnesia routine we have seen a billion times more serving as the lazy excuse for why the conflict with Angel is not dealt with in 3 minutes. Whatever he does seems to drive the plot forward, but only because he is the proxy of the viewer and thus nothing but a problem solver, with nothing going on about him.
And then there is also Kanade the Angel. Starts as an average Rei-clone, but after her past is revealed becomes far more fleshed out. This still does not excuse how she never recognizes Otonashi or any of the other students she is fighting every night, because if she did the show would be over in 3 minutes.
UNSUPPORTED SUPPORT CHARACTERS
The rest are secondary characters that we learn close to nothing about. I ended up using nicknames when I was mentioning them to someone else, like, the hypno-guy, the karate-dude, and the ninja-girl. The only one I ended up caring for, was a side character named TK, and only because he was dancing and singing in English. One could of course argue that it was never about all the characters and only about 3 or 4, leaving the rest as minor support. But when said minor support takes up a lot of screen time from a show with such nasty time restrictions, then it ends up damaging the whole.
Like most titles of its era, Angel Beats tries to cater all tastes by combining the serious with the silly, the humorous with the dramatic, and the cute with the gory. It is a high budget pop-corn work that rehashes other scenarios, like what the Avatar film did with Pocahontas . It is just another easily digestible piece of fiction, poorly made and aimed as fast food. This is not a bad thing if done right, as we live in an era where a series which tries to focus too much on only one genre, ends up being ignored by everyone who is not a fan of said genre. In turn, that translates to low sales, cancellation of further projects, firing staff and making people jump off windows to their untimely deaths. So the anime producers threw in as much as they could and tried to cater as many different tastes as possible. They even went mostly for laughs, as we indeed live in cynical times and trying to pull a successful serious series is as easy as writing a light novel that is not about beta males porking their sisters. But by doing that, instead of a full course dinner, we end up with a soup where all flavors are thrown in the blender and the end result is this gross pulp with a boring taste that drives you to the nearest sink. Angel Beats is what you vomit.
Every time i watch animes or TV shows or movies or even when i read books, when it gets sad the most i ever do is shed a tear or two, but in Angel Beats i brawled my eyes out, complete with sobbing. it was a very, very emotional show with an in depth storyline and an array of beautiful, detailed characters, each with his/her own story.
At first it may not seem like much, it was very vague and not very straight forward, but you don't have to wait very long to understand it. Basically it's about a bunch of teens who are dead, and stubborn to fight against god who gave them an unfair death and don't want to "move on" and reincarnate. What i love about this show is that you can see somebody's background just by the way they act, they're facial expression and all the little things they do make up and relate to their overall character. There is Yuri, who is the smart and decisive, but stubborn leader of the Battlefront of teens that don't want to move on, Hinata, who is the mellow, reliable baseball nut, Noda, who listens to no other than Yuri and is brash and loud, Shiina (who is so funny by the way) who is serious and mysterious and of course TK the dancing senseless, english muttering gunner.
Even though it seems serious it is in fact a light-hearted show, with humour and well placed romance the episodes mostly show the daily lives of how they rebel against life itself. During the Yui episode, where Hinata helped her move on was the episode i brawled out at when he said he'd marry her, i was so touched by how he so cornily monologued why and how exactly it would happen that i was basically crying throughout the whole thing, it was hands down my most emotional anime experiance.
Another character i wanted to talk about was Iawsawa, the leader of the band Girls DeMo in the show, i liked how on the surface she just seems like a girl who plays the guitar but if you look closely something about her expression or the way they draw her standing or talking that to her, music is something more than free meal tickets.
Music wise i have almost all of the Girls DeMo songs, which gives you a hint about how much i love the music of the show, the band's songs are usually used to symbolize happiness or how much music means to the person singing. Besides that the soundtrack is somewhat sad, somewhat hopeful, the piano in the back of both the opening and the ending was a good idea.
This show is one i would remember for a long time and taught me many life lessons about giving in, loving and appreciating life, but mainly the show is about admitting to yourself your faults, your past, and telling yourself you can live with it, after all, that's the secret of moving on.
Angel Beats Review:
Now, before I start my usual reviewing stuff, I need to get one thing that’s begging to get out of my throat for a while now. With watching Clannad, technically Sola, and now Angel Beats, I don’t think Key are the best storytellers in history-!
OK, OK, I UNDERSTAND YOUR CONCERNS JUST LET ME EXPLAIN! It’s obvious that Key has been critically acclaimed in the visual novel industry and now pretty much the anime industry. But why exactly? I mean, though there stories do explain the true meaning of friends and family and tell interesting stories at the same time, but nothing extremely special. All the characters are mostly just harem characterized girls or just typical nice boy with another boy character or two to make up for the lack of male characters. Pretty much all have depressing moments capable of making you bawl your eyes out…or so they say. Though sad, I didn’t care as much as the average. Maybe because I’m more into violent animes or ones with a more convoluting story, because I liked Sola, but do I like Angel Beats? The simple answer, yes. But why? It has tons of flaws, so why? Let’s find out in this review of Angel Beats!
Angel Beats is a 13 episodes, long anime done by P.A. Works in 2010. It was originally a light novel by Jun Maeda, co-creator of Key. It then spawned many mangas, OVAs, and a very recent visual novel by the obvious, Key.
This anime is rated TV-14 for its dark themes and gore. Viewer discretion is advised.
Angel Beats’s story is definitely the weakest part of the show. Not that’s it bad, it’s just filled with a little something I like to call PLOT HOLES. Basically, the story is about a boy named Otonashi, who randomly wakes up in a normal looking city next to a girl with a gun. But this isn’t a normal city, it’s a purgatory-like place where people go when they have unfinished business before they truly move on! We follow a group of high school kids trying to rebel against the school president, Tenshi, while Otonashi is trying to truly figure out everyone’s past lives…including his own.
The story is good, but extremely unfulfilling. 13 episodes is too little for an anime with a bunch of characters and questions till yet to be answered. And considering it had something to do with Key, you’d think this anime would be givin’ 24 episodes on the spot at least! If you haven’t seen the show, I suggest you skip to the Characters section since there are major spoilers. If you have seen the show however, here are a list of problems with Angel Beats:
Are there other purgatory-like worlds out there? The purgatory world we follow into is mostly set in a high school. But are there other purgatory worlds out there? Like one for college students, adults, kids, or even elders? Does everyone age back into teenagers so like God can save up on using worlds for other purposes (it’s just an example, not something I totally stand on)? For the most part, the purgatory world we are set into is mostly deserted besides pretty much the school.
If there are creatures invading the purgatory and pretty much turning the students into NPCs, then why do they even exist in the first place?: God created this purgatory world as far as I know and I’m certain he wouldn’t create them. It doesn’t thoroughly explain who created them and why. Wouldn’t God find out and be like, “Hey, what are you doing eating up these kids?” The only explanation I can gather is that the purgatory world can have more NPCs to assist the newcomers but overall nothing.
If everyone leaves because of these creatures, why don’t they tell the newcomers to leave, too, and so on so forth?: It might just be my memory but I don’t think those creatures were entirely defeated and thus the new people entering the world will just have to deal with them whereas the characters we have followed just ditch them into the new world. I mean, I understand why the new world is a better place to be, but still, why’d they all have to leave if all it took was breaking computers?
Why did Otanashi, after everyone else left for the sake of the new world because of him, decide to want to stay with Kanade?: Good god Ota, talk about selfish! After all you did to make everyone leave the new world, you decide to just want to stay with Kanade and help the newcomers. Though that’s a plausible reason to stay, why’d you make Yuri, Hinata, and the weird police-looking kid leave?! Didn’t you think about them?! You and Kanade only shared like three significant conversations, so it makes no sense!
And finally, what the heck was up with what Kanade said in the end?: I did not understand what she said in the end at all before she left. She mentioned something about her knowing Otanashi back when they were alive or something along those lines. We looked into Ota’s past and did not see a single sighting of her. She could’ve been his sister, but I think she was still alive and they barely look alike. She could’ve been someone at the train incident, but nope not a single sight of her. It could’ve been a random person whose organs were donated from Ota. But then that makes no sense because if so, WHY THE HELL IS SHE DEAD?! Those organs would’ve probably saved her life! It also makes no sense because she would’ve died after Ota died, thus becoming the school president would’ve taken longer to do. She was already president before Ota came so how the hell does that even work?!
Oh whatever, on with the characters!
The characters I could say are the second weakest part of the series, but surprisingly as there are actually more male characters than female, a drastic change from the typical Key tropes. The bad thing is, because of the short amount of episodes, we barely focus on all of them and only know like 3 of the characters past lives, at least in incredible detail. The main characters are not even the most interesting to be honest. Otonashi is just your typical male character who becomes kind of selfish in the end, Haruhi Suzumiya- sorry wrong anime, I mean Yurippe, is self-explanatory as to why since I kind of just said it. Tenshi is cool but sadly (spoiler alert) doesn’t even have a detailed backstory, and all the other characters are either unlikeable or not developed enough, sometimes both. You know who I did like though: TK. This guy is boss, best character on the show 10/10 should truly be the main character! The moment he spoke for the first time I said to myself, “I just know I’m gonna love this guy.” and of course he didn’t get developed either.
Though the characters did provide lots of good comedy and such, it doesn’t make up for all of their continuous problems.
The animation is probably one of the best parts of the show. P.A Works has this thing I like to call “Shiny Syndrome” which means that everything is more shiny, bright, colorful, and beautiful at the same time! Though maybe it was a bit too shiny and sometimes wasn’t very fluid, I still enjoyed the animation they gave for Angel Beats!
The music for Angel Beats isn’t that bad either. Both the opening and endings are very well done and wonderful to listen to (though it’s hard to take Brave Song seriously sometimes because of the comedic scenes which were funny as hell)! As for Girls Dead Monsters, the songs weren’t that either, most all of the vocals being provided by sensation LiSA herself who is growing massively in popularity. But overall, the other tracks are not that bad either, but definitely not Clannad soundtrack amazing.
Did I find Angel Beats good and enjoyable aside from its countless flaws? Yes. Is it as good as what the fans claim it to be? Hell no. The fandom as I can tell seem to pretend that the flaws don’t exist, much like 60% of SAO’s and AOT’s fandom, and say that it’s “sad and beautiful.” While yes sad and in some cases beautiful, it’s definitely not the best at portraying that perfectly. In all honesty, be careful for asking recommendations from a Key fan as they will cover up the flaws these shows bring and tell you to go watch it immediately and that if you didn't cry you have no soul at all whatsoever! Personally, I liked it and you may too, but just be more cautious on the story itself rather than the “feels and beauty.”
Next Review: Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works TV (Both first and second half)
(If you have any questions or corrections about this review or Angel Beats, contact me! :D)
Angel Beats! has been hyped up endlessly, but the premise just didn’t seem that interesting. The “afterlife school” thing has been done since Haibane Renmei, which I first saw plenty of time ago. I was practically screaming expletives at the monitor when Amazon asked if I’d like to share on twitter the fact that I bought this. Still, so many people said that it is surprisingly awesome.
I’ll be the first to say that this show has so many things I hate. Teens, a teen band, plenty of school life moments, a teen band playing in concerts, silly humor, crowds cheering a teen band, angsty backstories, and a teen band. Good heavens above, are teen bands annoying, and doubly so when in anime. So when I found myself enjoying the hell out of Angel Beats!, I was the first to be surprised.
This type of show shouldn’t be one I like. On the contrary, with all the hype I should have been busy verbally eviscerating every tiny detail contained in Angel Beats!. But what it lacks it makes up for with some good humor, a lot of self awareness (the characters admitting they’re idiots, parody of shounen manga, etc), and an actual plot. This is backed up by some fantastic art, and a strong vision behind everything.
Perhaps the main problem with Angel Beats! is that it tries to do too much in such a short time. Well, that, and a cheesy last episode. On the other hand, the short length and not forcing character development on everyone is what allows the show to maintain a light feel, despite the dark backstories and premise. Still, it is overall one of the shows that is absolutely fun.
Writing (Story and Characters):
Take a dose of Haibane Renmei, mix in some school drama, load with humor, and voila, you get Angel Beats!. Yeah, it works. It works very well. Hell, it shouldn’t work this well. It has no frickin’ right to work well at all, let alone end up this much fun. Whatever the writing staff did, they did it right. And not only that, it doesn’t even come down to specifics.
A story has a premise, beginning, middle, and end. There are low points and high points. While the premise is tired, the beginning is not. It starts off funny, keeps up the humor, adds in some action, then starts filling in some character details, and starts changing around what the theme actually is. People say it is too short, but the fact that the show ends up both condensed and with blank spaces for the viewer to fill in adds a lot of depth to the story (in an FLCL-light kind of way). Still, the main strength is that the story doesn’t try to hide its faults behind cleverness, and openly keeps things light and with a wink towards the viewer at times.
What finally made me decide I love Angel Beats! is when the characters admitted that they’re all idiots. Instead of showing us the clever mastermind that so plagues a lot of supposedly deep anime, the characters are stupid teens and know it. We get backstories on some of them, and others are left as one dimensional… but the real beauty is that the premise hints that not a single character is simple, and leaves the viewer to fill in the blanks. There isn’t enough time to give development to such a big cast, and as such the character development suffers the most from the short length of the series, but still it does an admirable job within the constraints.
Gravitating more towards fun and less towards seriousness, Angel Beats! does not try to go all the way in one direction. This gives a lot of viewers plenty to enjoy, while frustrating some who would have liked the series to be more dedicated to one side or another. This is a brave choice, as an attempt for such breadth usually falls flat in thirteen episodes. Luckily, it pays off. While there are imperfections in both the story and characters due to this, the writing is solidly executed and edited with precision.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Whereas the writing was great, on the opposite side of the spectrum, the artwork was great. Angel Beats! does have some faults with the art in technical execution, but it easily makes up for it with everything fitting in with the vision behind the show. The choice is to keep things bright, with a lot of white in everything and an upbeat sound. This really adds to the light hearted tone of the writing.
Character designs are both distinct enough to make everyone easily and comfortably recognizable yet are well within the theme of the show. There are no hentai chicks and only one guy that’s super buff. The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed, something that most shows where the fighting is a central theme fail to do. The backgrounds are diverse enough to be of interest and detailed enough to be realistic. Needless to say, I think the animation of Angel Beats! is top tier stuff, despite some annoying CG moments (gets rather terrible in a couple of the concert shots).
Here I get a bit annoyed. The soundtrack isn’t nearly as good as people say it is. We get to see a band performing, and that gives a lot of impact (video will always outshine audio), but doesn’t change the fact that while good, the songs are not great. The voice acting is usually great, but at times annoying. The choice to go a bit cartoonish fits with the feel of the show, but is not a stand out on its own. The effects are actually rather well done, though not at the top tier. Still, overall the audio department did some great work.
The world of Angel Beats! comes to life very nicely. There are incomplete explanations as to why things happen, but them happening gets shown spectacularly. The writing comes to life and is pushed a couple of notches above where it should have been by the art. What can I say, there is some great work on the art section.
Angel Beats! is good, perhaps even great. I would recommend it to everyone and anyone that isn’t looking for something more than an enjoyable view with just enough hints of depth to keep the show intellectually satisfying enough. Really though, I personally enjoyed the hell out of it. Not all shows need to aim at being artistic and super deep, and this is one show that aims at being fun, and the art and depth just somehow wriggle themselves in there.