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Gzerble

  • Joined Jan 5, 2015
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Angel Beats!

Feb 26, 2015

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.

Overall

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.

8.5/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
8.8/10 overall

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