This anime is at rank 55 at the time I write this... that is just heartbreaking to see it so high. Angel beats is what you get when you take a good (though not exactly original) idea and (for lack of a better word) bullshit it the whole way through. Now, quick question, what is the most important thing in any show or book or movie? If you answered anything but characters and/or story, then we have a problem. While Angel Beats was not an absolute failure at these aspects, it was very ineffective at building them correctly.
Angel Beats starts out with a boy named Otonashi (spelled that way?) waking up with amnesia in a strange place. Not exactly off to a promising start, as we've all heard that story before. He sees a girl sitting on the ground with a gun aimed at another girl standing a short distance away. She explains to him that he is dead, and that he is in a type of world that is somewhere between life and death. Otonashi learns that she is part of a group called the SSS and that they are rebelling against god. They believe that the girl she is aiming the gun at is a messanger to god and they call her Angel. Since no one can die again in this purgatory, the battle between the SSS and Angel seems endless. Otonashi learns that the people in this world cannot move on to the afterlife until they have remembered their past lives and dealt with their problems, as the people that are sent to this world are troubled high school-age students. Now, this is actually a pretty good concept. The lives of these people are sad and their disappearance from the world when they solve their problems is even sadder.
The animation is beautiful. It's fluid and colorful and certainly eye candy. The sound, especially the opening song, is also very good. The background music seemed to be used effectively, as well.
Okay, the only good thing left to say is that the ending was sad enough to make me cry. It made you realise why the show is called Angel Beats and makes you sympathize with the characters.
Now for the bad.
The story is just a mess. There is no other way of putting it, the story goes in every direction except the one it should have. SPOILERS After Otonashi joins the SSS, they decide to head to some underground facility to get weapons to fight Angel. Then, they play baseball, go fishing, and hold a concert. Angel joins them and reveals her name as Kanade Tachibana. By now, I was sick of the show, but I kept watching. This show pulled a Haruhi Suzumiya by throwing in nothing important and trying to please everyone, and I kind of feel bad for it beacause no one seems to acknowledge that Haruhi did the same thing. These events add nothing. Nothing important, just fanservice. And speaking of fanservice, Angel Beats is full of it, from random pervert jokes to these pointless action scenes. And no, it is not funny. Had I watched it when I was younger, it might have been amusing, but even TK didn't get a laugh. Who's TK you ask? In the end, no one important, because like most characters in the end, he gets no development whatsoever.
Some characters do get a backstory, such as Otonashi, Yuri, and Yui (I think those were the characters...) but there are way more characters than that and they get nothing, absolutely nothing. I don't even remember their names, they were so unimportant. There is simply no way to argue with the laziness. The final part of the story involves these evil shadow creatures appearing out of nowhere and attacking because of a computer glitch. Just reading that makes me laugh at how pointless and cliched the final attempt was. This anime would have been worth so much more had none of this happened. It could have been a sad tale, with each episode showing the tragedies of the various characters and building up for the SPOILERS AGAIN final graduation. I can imagine seeing all of the characters, developed after each meaningful episode, saying goodbye and graduating. The fact that the show was limited to 13 episodes is not an excuse for this not happening, as it should have replaced the useless story we got. The shounen (wikipedia listed it as seinen, what the hell?) story goes nowhere at all, plain and simple.
I can't recommend this anime to anyone. While not the worst, it certainly is a tragedy to see a good idea go to waste, and I'm not even sure if a second season could redeem it (if one ever comes). I would highly recommend a rather similar anime: Haibane Renmei, which took the same general concept, except Haibane's execution was actually fantastic (And came long before Angel Beats).