I’ve been doing pretty lighthearted shows lately, so today, we’re going to depress ourselves. by looking at our first show written by Key: Angel Beats.
The Story: the premise is best summed up in this sentence: When you die, you go to high school. Angel Beats follows Yuzuru Otonashi, a boy who wakes up in a high school in the afterlife. He has no memory of who he is, where he is, or how he got there. The first thing is does there is get stabbed to death. Except, he’s in the afterlife; he can’t die. As he finds others like him, those who have been trapped in purgatory, Otonashi must uncover the secrets of this new place and his past life.
Angel Beats is short; it’s only 13 episodes, and that doesn’t go too well. The show seems to be divided into arcs; I say “seems” because it’s hard to tell and with animes, storylines should be obvious to the viewer. The worst part about it is that Angel Beats misses out on a great plot device that could’ve prolonged the series: Those who are trapped in purgatory died with regrets. Once those regrets are eased, that soul can move on to the afterlife. You want to know how many times the show uses this element? Three times, and the cast of the show (main and supporting characters) was huge; the writers easily could’ve made a 24 episode show and spared themselves the agony of a short anime.
The Characters: The cast of characters is, as I said before, enormous, and it’s a shame that the writers didn’t milk their cast as much as they could’ve. Some of the characters get compelling backstories, and it’s a shame that not all of them play out more in the story. The episodes focusing on character backstories were some of the best ones and when I say best, I don’t mean it in a relative way.
Yuzuru Otonashi: Otonashi is the main character and that’s it; there’s really nothing else to say about him. His backstory is mentioned once, and never comes into play ever again, which makes you wonder why they even put it in. However, it’s not like not including a backstory would’ve helped as there’s no defining trait about him. In other words, Otonashi is bland.
Yuri Nakamura: Yuri is the leader of the school “club” called the SSS, a student society that fights against God. Yes, God. Yui is really the only decent main character; her backstory gets milked much more than Otonashi’s and it plays out better with her, making her much more of an enjoyable character. Yet, she suffers from many problems other characters share. Any development she gets is short-lived, mainly because it comes so late. In other words, she gets treated much better than Otonashi, but keep in mind that’s not saying much.
Angel: I can’t go into too much detail about Angel lest I spoil the whole story. What you do have to know is that Angel is disappointing; the same flaws in Otonashi appear in her. She appeared to be one of the more complex characters, both personality and plot-wise, and neither were fully explained, leaving her unsatisfying.
The Music: I like adding little unique bits to each of my reviews. If there’s one thing Angel Beats does well above all else, it would be the music. Jun Maeda, the composer for Clannad, Air, and Kanon 2006, returned for this work, and he does a stellar job. Two pieces in particular stand out. The first is My Soul, Your Beats, the show’s intro theme. Not only is the intro well animated, but My Soul, Your Beats is a great song, combining popular beats with elegant melodies. The second, and the most impressive, is Ichiban no Takaramono (my most precious treasure). This is the song that plays at particularly emotional moments. I’m hesitant to describe it as “perfect”, but it’s easily one of the best songs Maeda has written.
Final Verdict: Stories written by Key often have a climax, a part of the story where things come together. This is usually the most emotional, when everyone’s bawling their eyes out. The ending delivers, not as powerful as other Key works, but it delivers nonetheless. That said, when you take into account the high standard Key has set for itself for emotional moments, the ending is pitiful; it comes nowhere near the level of Key’s masterpieces such as Clannad’s and Air’s endings.
All in all, Angel Beats leaves much to be desired. It had a great premise and, for a short anime, it did what it could, but that does not excuse its shortcomings. Watch it if you like sad animes or Key stories. If not, then you do not miss on much save for great music.
Final Grade: C+
And if you want, links for the songs listed.