A Heartfelt Comedy – Angel Beats Anime Review

“Otonashi awakens only to learn he is dead. A rifle-toting girl named Yuri explains that they are in the afterlife, and Otonashi realizes the only thing he can remember about himself is his name. Yuri tells him that she leads the Shinda Sekai Sensen (Afterlife Battlefront) and wages war against a girl named Tenshi. Unable to believe Yuri’s claims that Tenshi is evil, Otonashi attempts to speak with her, but the encounter doesn’t go as he intended.

Otonashi decides to join the SSS and battle Tenshi, but he finds himself oddly drawn to her. While trying to regain his memories and understand Tenshi, he gradually unravels the mysteries of the afterlife.” – MAL Synopsis

Episodes 13 – Dub/Sub – Aired Spring 2010 – Finished – MAL Rating: 8.14 – Genres: ActionComedyDramaSchoolSupernatural

Angel Beats has something special about it. It’s one of those anime that’s always recommended and also one that you’ll see in everyone’s “anime that made me cry list.” And rightfully so. Angel Beats’ unique premise and use of characters could bring at least one tear out of even the most hate-filled person ever. This show has truly powerful moments that left me in awe. This is admittedly not the hardest thing to do in the world sometimes, but this show did it multiple times.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with a premise similar to this one. Yeah, there are episodes of other series that dive into the purgatory setting. But a full show set in a purgatory setting is new to me. And I loved it. There’s something very sad about a big group of kids unable to accept the horrible hand that life gave them, and being stuck together in a constant struggle to retain the current semblance of peace and joy they have in that world. While also fighting Angel and their own hearts, because they don’t want to disappear from this world. It’s sad but at the same time kind of heartwarming. This show is actually pretty light-hearted given the premise and it had a lot of comedy. A lot might be understating it. It basically is a comedy. For me personally, though, the comedy hit way more times than it didn’t. There are actually some laugh-out-loud moments in the show that you know, actually had me laughing at loud. I really liked this story.

Public enemy #1

All these characters just going about this abnormal life was fun. The schemes they set up to navigate the world were cool. There’s another faction of kids just like them that create tools, weapons, and other objects using dirt. The way they get food by holding concerts and making the NPCs throw away their meal tickets into the air. It’s all very unique and plain fun. The whole dynamic between the NPCs and the rest of the characters is interesting. The NPCs are the soulless students and teachers of the afterlife that function like actual NPCs in video games would. They’re there to fill out the world and help emulate this high school experience. There’s always this air of mystery around who or what the NPCs are and that mystery comes to a head in the last couple of episodes. Honestly, I didn’t care about their origin and I really didn’t need to know it. The vagueness of the answer to this mystery pointed a lot of fingers but ultimately raised more questions than it answered. Didn’t detract from the story, but it didn’t add much either. Now what did add to the story, and to the show as a whole, was the cast of characters.

The whole cast

This show has a very colorful cast. They do seem to only have a few exaggerated character traits that make up their whole personality. But it works with just wonky a lot of them are, and this show is basically a comedy so they lend themselves well to that. Otonashi is our eyes into this world. We learn how everything works through him learning it. So it’s pretty funny at first how well he takes learning that he’s dead and in purgatory. But I liked his character to start, but I ended up loving his character after his backstory is revealed. That goes for just about every other main or important side character in this show. His relationship with the others is fun. There’s such a variety of personalities in this show the interactions between them all were always a treat to watch. Other characters of note are Yuri, Angel, and Yui. They had some really strong backstories and Yuri’s determination and hilarious attitude made for the funniest moments of the show. I love the way Angel is used and how she develops with the rest of the cast. Her powers are cool too, she’s the main one fighting and it always looks great.

So I talked about how the cast basically has a handful of traits that completely define them. One reason why I actually kind of like that is because it plays into the whole purgatory thing. These characters are all dead. Dead teenagers, children. Children that have gotten a second chance to live again and embrace life. So it makes sense that, for example, one character who loves martial arts is constantly training. It makes sense that the kids that love music all formed a band. It all thematically makes sense but this leads me to my biggest gripe with this show overall. I just wanted to see more intimate, in-depth moments with them and their backstories. This anime is only 13 episodes, and while it uses its time well I could go for more episodes. It didn’t particularly feel like it needed more, in the sense that nothing felt rushed or skipped. But when it’s finally heading towards the climax and the ending I wanted more character backstories more focus on people outside of the main group. We only get a few backstories for characters but man every single one of them is strong as hell. So it left me wanting a fair bit more.

Alas, this show’s soundtrack is beautiful with a capital B. The intro is this amazing pop song with a piano and string melody. Whoever sang that song fucking killed it. It’s honestly one of my favorite anime intros ever and even outside of that I just love the song. Then to boot, this show looks freaking amazing. There are a handful of concerts in this show and the music rocks. As a whole, the soundtrack is top tier. The animation is also on point in all 13 episodes. Too bad the voice acting ranges so much. I watched the English dub and man the voice acting ranges from pretty good to wtf. And also it seems like the voice mixing is off, at least on the Netflix version. As sometimes characters’ voices seem way too loud. This seemed to mainly only be a problem when Yuri was talking but there were a few other instances. Overall a mixed bag with the voice acting but great soundtrack and animation.

So yeah, this review is one of the shorter ones I’ve written, as of late, but I think that represents my feelings towards this show well. It was short and sweet, but it left me wanting more. It felt like it needed a little bit more character development for some of the side characters. I just wanted the episodes leading up to the finale to hit harder and some more flashbacks or even maybe just more interment interactions could have fulfilled that. But what we did get was very strong and powerful stuff. I loved how the story unfolded and the whole premise of the story, in general, is fun and unique. It looks great, the soundtrack bangs (That opening deserves a Grammy), the characters are fun, and the comedy was on point. Angel Beats is definitely pretty good and worth a watch if you ever get the chance. Just have some tissues nearby (especially for the last episode).

Angel Beats – 7/10

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