I'll be frank here: I only began watching Angel Beats! because of the pretty visuals. But as I watched more episodes, I found myself fascinated of the world of Angel Beats!.
In a nutshell, Angel Beats! is about the 'afterlife' of students who refuse to 'move on' to the next life because they still have some business left which has to done in order to make peace with the world and themselves. And so they wake-up in this afterlife high school where they are given the ability to complete their tasks and leave. And since they're already dead, they can't actually die again so even if they get injured, despite them feeling the pain, they'll wake up perfectly fine a few minutes later. So all in all, it's the school-life meet the supernatural. A setting original enough for me to enjoy it. Despite a few hiccups, it delivers its purpose as a good anime well. And when I finished it, I found out why. It was written by Jun Maeda. The writer behind critically acclaimed anime, Clannad. And yet I was surprised... 'cause this anime lacks in the Character department.
The main characters (from left to right) Otonashi, Yuri, and Angel (Kanade).
Angel Beats! is centered around Yuzuru Otonashi . A student who wakes up in this Purgatory high-school to find that he has amnesia. The first line uttered to him is: "You are dead". This by Yuri Nakamura, a young girl who at the time is wielding a sniper rifle. Her target? Angel/Kanade Tachibana, the student council president whose job dictates her to make sure that all the lost souls finish their purpose and leave in peace. But it becomes obvious, that Yuri and Angel don't see eye-to-eye with constant battle erupting between them. The goal of Yuri? To rebel against God of that world and be disobedient to Angel. So it's basically high school kids shooting at a indestructible little girl in the knees.
Most of the characters in this anime are introduced at once and while they all seems one-sided, they provide comic relief to a great degree. They are, as described by one of the characters, stupid. They provide the humorous side to the anime and are quite fun to watch. Although there are some scenes which simply come off as annoying.
The characters of Angel Beats! (from left to right): Irie, Sekine, Takamatsu, Matsushita, TK, Naoi, Otonashi, Yuri, Angel (Kanade), Noda, Hinata, Yui, Ōyama, Fujimaki, Iwasawa, Hisako, Takeyama, Shiina, and Yusa.
Angel Beats! has a sense of duality about it. It delivers both comedy and melodrama. Although, unfortunately, unevenly and it seems broken at places. Some gags seem repetitive after a few times and while I was still sceptical about it, two things changed it. Slow motion rewind and rocket chairs. The anime follow the same formula set by Clannad. Lull the viewer into a false sense of security and then drop the tragedy bomb. And these tragedies aren't exactly "my-puppy-died" material either; these are true tragedies which may pull a few heart strings. It makes you feel sympathetic for the characters. And while these do help in the character development, the number of episodes(13 in this case) weren't enough for me to feel any sort of "I-think-I'm-going-to-cry-Manly tears-now" moment. Hopefully, with the recent announcement of a second season, it'll be further explained and this time, hopefully, more clearly.
The anime feels rushed and so fails to convey any actual emotion. It would've been better if the half of the story was told, thus leaving the possibility of a second season open. As a consequence, some characters may have had to be cut but if that means better understanding of the character's goals and purpose then it's a fair sacrifice.
One more thing which has been bugging me from the beginning is in the poster. A gun. What I don't get is how high school students are allowed to carry such weapons. Now I know it's a Purgatory High school that doesn't mean that students can weapons around at their own leisure! Or maybe it's just me. A explanation is never given to why the students are given such radical freedom.
The sound and art direction of Angel Beats! is beautiful. These are the strongest assets this anime has going for. The overall music in the anime is amazing and fantastic to hear. and the style is beautiful and is very smooth. There are quite a few scenes which show-case these aspects very well. Particularly the scenes concerning the school rock band "Girls Dead Monster". The music and the animation styles in these scenes collide together to give a pretty show.
Despite a number of hiccups, it's a great watch. From an artistic stand-point it's quite beautiful and story-wise it may not be the prettiest thing around but it is indeed a pleasure following the characters journey. APPROVED!
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