Angel Beats is a thirteen episode anime that follows a group of dead people in what I assume is limbo. It looks good, the plot sounds good, but the anime itself fails in a few respects. Most notably, in the character and story department. Not to say either are bad, they have high points, but especially with the nonsensical pacing of the story, there are problems. Let’s take a deeper look.
She could kill you with her cuteness, then with her giant freaking hand knives.
Story (CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS)
The story of Angel Beats follows a man named Otonashii. He has died apparently and is suffering from amnesia. When he awakens on the other side he meets a girl named Yuri who runs a battlefront fighting against a girl they call Angel. The anime runs through the battlefront fighting Angel, but soon Otonashii finds out how mistaken they were in fighting the poor girl and he helps people understand her as they combat against an even worse foe, shadows that will eat the souls of the Battlefront members.
Toward the end Otonashii and Kanade (the angels real name) help pass people on from this Limbo. We learn a huge secret about Kanade and what should have been a startling revelation about Kanade getting a new heart when she was alive, Otonashii’s heart, is not explained well enough for me to understand. Kanade was apparently in this limbo before Otonashii and I wonder if perhaps Otonashii had just been a wandering soul while Kanade was in this limbo. The time frame is confusing since Otonashii had to have died to give Kanade the heart, and Kanade had to have died after Otonashii.
Beside that there are a few problems with how Kanade knew she could manipulate herself and create abilities through using computers. This is a big part of the show that I guess is supposed to add a matrix-like feel. It just confuses me on how smart she is about this world and how she was there before Otonashii.
The ending is heart-warming/wrenching. Otonashii falls in love with Kanade and Kanade tells Otonashii thank you for giving her his heart. In his hands, Kanade disappears. It’s a terrible ending, I wish Otonashii and Kanade could have been together and it certainly could bring a tear to the eye. I wish that this ending could have been happier. I’m not going to mark the story down for ending this way, but I wish anime would end happily.
Angel Beats has amazing animation. You can tell big bucks went into the animation. The fluid action, the great character design, the amazing backgrounds. It’s a very pretty anime. I can’t gripe about anything in this department.
Girls Dead Monster is the school rock band.
The music of Angel Beats is not too bad. The opening is okay but not amazing, the ending song is okay, but not amazing. The band within the show, Girls Dead Monster, sounds pretty good and shines as the best part of the shows sound. Sound effects are good and voice actors do a good job of bringing emotion into the characters.
They are planning to kill me for my character review…
I wish I could say the show shines in the character department, but it doesn’t, it does an alright job. There are so many characters that you won’t get to really know but for one or two quirks, and the characters aside from Otonashii, Yuri, and Kanade are all not too exciting. Sure they bring some comic relief, but you don’t feel for them. Maybe a little for the pink haired Yui and other characters who tell how they died and what they want to do to make up for their terrible lives; but otherwise they are bland. And why does Yui have a tail?
Otonashii isn’t amazing as a character in any respect. He’s likeable, he seems to be the voice of reason, but he’s also bland. He’s just a guy thrown into the middle of a big problem and he wants to fix it. At the end of the show you will feel bad for him, but you otherwise can’t help but consider him generic.
Yuri is the same way. She’s likeable for her past and likeable in general, but she’s too much like other characters out there (Haruhi Suzumaya).
Kanade is a good character, you can feel for her, but there are just some problems in how quiet she is and none of her background in this limbo-like place is ever explained. She’s the best character of the show, but she’s still not an amazingly good character. She’s merely good. And that’s probably because she’s the focal point of the anime. It’s the same with Homura Akemi from Madoka. As the focal point, she has to be the best and most fleshed out character. Kanade isn’t fleshed out much, but she is a good character emotionally and you can invest yourself in her just by feeling bad.
It’s what I like to call Elfen Lied syndrome. Do terrible things to cute anime girls and you’ll get an emotional response.
“I broke my arm punching the wall. I am not generic! I’m just…a lot like pretty much every badass anime girl.”
Angel Beats delivers a solid experience full of laughs and tears and decent action. The problem is in the fact that the characters all seem pretty conventional and it’s pace is also sometimes tough to understand. There is a lot of seriousness, but when the episodes are just trying to be silly, it feels out of place. The animation and sound are good, the story could have been good if some of the areas were fleshed out a bit more and explained. The characters are not average, they are good, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen these characters many times in many different bodies in many different anime. Kanade is the only character who stands out, and as stated, that mostly has to do with the fact she is the focal point of the show and any emotions you invest will more than likely be placed in her.
It certainly can be entertaining, but one of the things I think it’s lacking is with the pace. I feel that if the series had been extended a bit more, it wouldn’t have felt so oddly paced. If there were more episodes dedicated to the characters and not as much the plot it might have helped keep the series balanced and not allow for the few odd episodes about the characters that ruin the pace. It also would have allowed for the background characters to get some more screen time and for us to learn more about them and what their aspirations are, how they died, and things like that.
That aside, for what it is, Angel Beats is great. A large, colorful cast of characters, an intriguing backdrop, and what amounts to be a surprisingly heartfelt and compellingly watchable anime.
The cast was certainly colorful and diverse despite the genericism. With a longer product though, the cast could have been much better defined. Then again, the story may have drug out; the characters would have been good, the story too long, and I would have applied the same score. Take a look at it though, you may like what you see.