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.
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)
One of my favorite animes, owns itsself a righteous place in my top 10!
Being a complete fantasy anime, It is actually funny how real it seemt. Everyone must fantasize about things from time to time, being locked up with a select group of awesome people, to fight against a single strong enemy is pretty nice. I loved the concept of the anime.It's like a zombie apocolypse, exept there is only one zombie, and there must be teamwork so people can prevent eternal suffering.I also LOVED the different persona's. There's people coming and going, each of them have their own problems, actually this anime is pretty comparable to the at the moment(pretty popular) airing show 'Kokoro connect'
I never really complain about animation, In this case I totally loved it. I am a huge fan of bright and relaxed scenario's, and for some reason a few of those in this anime really got to me. No problems with graphics here whatsoever!
This anime has one of the best, If not THE BEST openings i have ever heard! It fits the anime perfectly, I couldn't have thought about a better kind of theme!
A very original cast. All of them are very different from each other, and I can't really say that any of these characters were ripped from anything. ESPECIALLY T.K.! HE'S THE MAN!
one of my fav animes of all time. OF ALL TIME!, I have rewatched it three times (not after eachother ofcourse, with about a year's time in between each rewatch), the pacing which at the beginning was so fast that you could almost not keep track of what was happening is way easier to follow if you know what's going to happen, also making it less fun.
But it'smostly very nice to see those beautifull scenery's and to hear that awesome music again.
"One does not simply watch Angels Beats without crying", a fun quote from a meme thats all to true.
Angels Beats an anime that will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye, on more than one occassion. The reason for this has to be the great characters that fill this anime, because as you watch the anime you just begin to love each character as you learn about them and their story. Thus allowing the viewer to get attached to the characters and really draw you in, causing those great feel good moments that leave you with a big smile or someone trying so hard not to cry.
Angel Beats also has very nicely done animation, allong with music that many fans have come to enjoy hearing.
Simply put if your looking for an anime that will be a fun and emotional watch that will just suck you in, without a doubt you should give this one a try.
SECRET SANTA 2014 REVIEW
Angel Beats is one of those shows that seem to be almost revered that I rarely get around to watching, but Anime-Planet's Secret Santa 2014 even provided an excellent opportunity.
Like many other reviewers have noticed before me, Angel Beats is a Key-ified Haibane Renmei, with almost the entire cast consisting of high school students in a mysterious world that's very much an idyllic version of a Japanese high school campus. People get sent there after death, but the reason why is at first a mystery. It's an okay enough idea, but it feels far too much like your regular high school anime to be truly fresh.
At first glance, Otonashi, the main protagonist, seems like your bog-standard anime nice guy, except he actually feels far more altruistic than others of his ilk, which was nice to see. He's also far less paternalistic and never spouts much of the “I WILL PROTECT YOU HERP DERP” gobbledygook that so many male leads are wont to do, probably because this anime has very little romance, despite being a Key work. Given how I tend to view most anime romances, it was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Yuri, the intrepid leader of the faction, is more than a little “inspired by” Haruhi, except that she is more violent and less prone to making oddball decisions. Her actions are mostly to defy God, in case such a being exists, for all the injustice in the world. In practice, this mostly means silly pranks coupled with terrorist attacks, mainly against Tenshi, the stoic student council president.
I didn't particularly care for none of these three, but I have certainly seen far worse lead characters in my days. The rest of the cast have their dominating personality trait down pat, but it rarely takes off from there. It doesn't really matter, though, since most of them are used for comedy and spouting catchphrases. Only a select few get any backstory or character development, and even then, it's usually pretty basic.
The casting for this is nearly flawless, and the voice actors generally do a stellar job. The voice directing is great, and it really nailed the timing in the delivery, especially in the more comedic lines. I found some of the voices to be rather grating, especially Yui's, but it's nothing compared to most moe-moe anime. And besides, her entire character is supposed to be grating, so it certainly fits.
The animation was most excellent, with very little wonky movement or anything detrimental like that. The backgrounds were at times a bit too obviously computer-generated for me, and subsequent P.A. Work titles have gotten much better at this, but they were still nothing to scoff at. Just don't expect them to reach the level of contemporary Kyoto Animation works all the time.
However, the rather wonky Key character designs (especially some of the eyes) aren't nearly as good-looking, and they feel wasted on a work with this much technical proficiency. It's still an improvement over how visual novel characters usually look, though. The boring school uniforms and a few guys looking very similar in build and hairstyle just compounded the problems.
The music is done by the same guy that scored Clannad – and not to mention other Key visual novels and their adaptations – and it's very much in the same style. Lush synthesizers, moody melodies and an overall soft sound is the name of the game for the in-show music, which usually, but far from always, fit the mood. However, I found it lacking compared to Clannad's soundtrack. The opening and ending songs are pretty much your standard fare, and are very forgettable. They certainly fit the show, though.
There's also a rock band comprised of female students, whose popular concerts are used to distract from the anti-Tenshi operations, and their songs are pretty okayish rock, but I'll be damned if I can remember them now, a few days after watching.
The comedy is really not my cup of tea, but I can see why people would find it amusing. It's just that it relies too much on the manzai duo set-up, which I have rarely found amusing. The slapstick gags were mostly miss to me as well. It's not wholly original either, since at least one early joke was lifted straight from Clannad.
The many action scenes weren't exactly to write home about either. Since there rarely is never any real tension due to the characters' immortality most of them felt like flashy padding, and some of them were ruined because the showmakers saw it fit to insert comedic sequences right in the thick of it. This didn't clash as much as I first thought, but since I did not care for the comedy at all, it only ended up being a mood-killer.
The dramatic stuff's better, but in general, this show is way too twee when it comes to things like character interactions and story. Sometimes, it even borders on the tacky, with the backstories feeling especially laboured. It certainly has that Key feel to it, but I've never really cared for it. If you do, well, then more power to you, since you will certainly like this anime way more than I do.
The pacing is overall very good, but the show has a tendency to grind to a halt whenever something has to be explained to the viewers in remarkable detail, which happens every other episode or so. The writers really want to make sure that everyone understands exactly what they were going for, which I guess is an admirable goal in and of itself, but the pacing really suffers for it.
The ending tied up most of loose ends, but it was very predictable – and not to mention maudlin (but of course, it's a Key work) – that it left me feeling rather cold. Several segments could have done with plenty of trimming as well: it's clear that they had very little plot left, and instead of fleshing out the world, they chose to make do with what little they had left and let it drag out instead. I'm not too keen of how the world got explained, but that's a secondary concern.
Overall, this anime was certainly a technical achievement as far as TV budget anime go, and the animators can really put a feather in their caps, but I found the actual contents to be lacking, however much I wanted to like this. It's not a case of style over substance, but rather, my tastes and sensiblities being far too different from what this title has to offer.