Death and reincarnation are inescapable, but what happens in between? Without warning and without his memories, a boy who only recalls his last name - Otonashi - wakes up next to a girl named Yuri who offers him a gun and tells him to shoot an angel. Assuming it must be a misunderstanding, Otonashi is then almost killed by the angel and is drawn into Yuri's army to battle to delay the beginning of his next life. Immortality is within reach, but if Otonashi remembers how he died, will he keep fighting or allow himself to vanish?
StoryAngel 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.AnimationThe 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.SoundWell-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.CharactersWhile 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.OverallThe 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.
When I started this anime I wasn't sure what to expect. I don't think anyone I have ever known has watched it, and I didn't know very much about it other than the information given in the short summary on anime planet and a cursory reading of a few reviews. However, after watching it I have found myself pleasantly surprised. After reading the summary I didn't quite understand how there could be anything comedic in a show with such a serious premise.(Being trapped in a place between life and death, with vicious fighting left and right between two groups of people...) However, I found that it had it's little parts that made me giggle and laugh, the heart-warming parts that made me smile, and enough tragic backstories and occurinces to make me need some kleenex while watching this show. I will attempt to spoil a minimal ammount of information about the show while writing this review. Story (8.5) - The premise is incredibly unique and intriguing. Otonashi, a young man who has mysteriously lost all of his memories, awakens near Yuri, a girl who asks him to shoot at an angel. The story continnues from there and digs deep into the depths of the hardships of those who live tainted childhoods, and depicts how dynamically changing connections can be forged between people. One mysterious thing in the show is how the characters disappear. At first it's a little confusing, but after the second person does, it's pretty obvious to see why it occurs.(Sorry, no spoilers here! XD) There are moments that might make someone cry in here, but there are also a ton that will make one cry laughing. Anwyay, now for some flaws. The plot was easy to follow, and unfortunately was predictible at points. I figured out early on what had happened with certain people, who was going to like who, and so on and so forth. Animation (10/10) - Angel Beats has gorgeous animation. The character designs are lovely and varied. All of them fit the characters very well. The colors are rich and bright, all of them make the characters stand out from teh non-major or non-important background characters/random people in the crowds at school. The backgrounds are varied considering that the setting is almost always in the same room. They are always bright and colorful, and the depiction of the classrooms and other various places in the school is quite lovely. Movements are swift and fluid, and the battlescenes are done incredibly well. Overall, the animation is gorgeous. Sound (10/10) - The opening and closing songs in this anime are beautiful, the opening has to be one of my favorites that I've heard so far, and both fit the mood of the series well. Other various songs that play through out the series are fitting and add to the mood of the scenes they are in. Some even made me want to rewatch scenes to listen to them again. The voice acting is also good; comedic timing is fabulous. I particularly liked the Japanesse version and would highly recomend you watch it subbed. Characters (10/10) - And now, for the metaphorical icing atop the symbolic cake. The lovely characters are the heart and soul of Angel Beats. Without them being so deep and diverse, I would've given this series a far lower score. Characters usually make or break a show for me. This time, they definitely made it. Where should I even start? All of them are deep and have unique personalities, making their interactions with one another interesting and relationships deep and complex. They're all either believable or hilarious, and every one of them has a tragic, compelling backstory. There were some characters who I thought were just alright, but when I heard about their past or saw their interactions with certain other characters *cough* Yui and Hinata *sob* *cough cough* I wanted to cry and felt a far deeper connection with them. It's easy to empaphize with most of them, and to understand their fears, regrets, reasons for fighting, etc. The characters, even though they will make you cry, may also make you laugh. TK, Noda, Shiina Takamatsu, Takeyama, and Ooyama(pretty much everyone else, but these guys stood out the most to me comedically) are all excelent examples of that. Overall, characters are fantastic. Overall (9.6/10) - It's a lovely, amazing show. It will probably even make the faint of heart cry with its tender moments, and it will make one laugh with its comedic ones. I highly recomend it to anyone, especially people who like complex characters and tragic backstories, or comedy.
ORIGINAL MY ASSAngel 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.FIDLY PREMISEThe 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, decades 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.NON-SENSICAL SETTINGIf 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 it is the laziest and easiest setting you can create that also happens to have the maximum appeal on 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 to 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 with people who know each other after they left.RUSHED PLOTMost of these issues are a result of the show being allowed to have only half the episodes it deserved, thus being forced to run 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 Jun Maeda, the writer of this crap, cared about the actual story. “Yup, I only have half the time to show everything; let’s waste most of it on jokes.”LACK OF GRAVITYEven 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 SOUNDSNot 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 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 of other shows.NO IDENTITYP.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. 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.FLAT CASTEven 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 is, there is no investment regarding 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 on 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 CHARACTERSThe main characters are boring archetypes, snatched from typical date simulations, defined by quirks and clothing accessories, such as hair ribbons and stocking color. 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 comes 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 CHARACTERSThe 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 in a show with nasty time restrictions, then it ends up damaging the whole.FINAL THOUGHTSLike 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 popcorn work that rehashes other scenarios, just like what the Avatar film did with Pocahontas . It is just another easily digestible piece of fiction, poorly made and aimed to be nothing more than fast food. The anime producers played it safe and threw in as much as they could, trying 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.
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