Sunday, September 4, 2011

Angel Beats!

How long has it been since I reviewed an anime that wasn't "Bleach"?  Awhile, I think, mostly because I haven't seen an anime I really liked in about the same time.  Yeah, "DURRR!" is really good, but I haven't seen the ending yet, so there's going to be a twelve week wait for that review.  Ultimately the problem is that most animes are completely terrible, and there's no point reviewing them.  Nine times out of ten you'll see a new title, it will be mediocre and uninspired and mildly depressing, and that's it.  No more needs to be said.  Should I review "Victory Gundam" even though I was so bored of it that I didn't make it to episode 3?  Nope!

Now "Angel Beats!" is actually good, so here's a review:  There are a lot of "high school" animes out there.  Pretty much all of them suck, as far as I'm concerned.  I guess there are gems here and there, but honestly, that's a genre for somebody else, not me.  Maybe that's why I didn't like "Persona 3"?  Who knows?  Anyway, "Angel Beats!" isn't actually a high school anime, though it sure looks like one.  Actually the high school is some kind of Buddhist Purgatory, all the high school kids are dead, and for some reason everybody is acting like they're characters an RPG.  Their goal - which could not be more "Shin Megami Tensei" - is to kill God so that way they don't have to be reincarnated as sea cucumbers.  Luckily their war isn't all that difficult to fight because if you die in the afterlife, you just come back to life in a few hours, good as new.

"Angel Beats!" is notable as being one of the very few animes that is legitimately funny.  There are a lot of animes that make me laugh, but I don't think that's what they intended.  No this is a truly funny show.  They wrote a joke, it got translated into English, and it worked even across the Pacific.  The characters are pretty much all insane, except for the hero, they all die in hilariously brutal ways only to come back seconds later.  But then, the show is able to switch gears and get actually really really depressing and emotional, and you're not laughing at all.  As a matter of fact, you might even cry.  Its an all around good show, one of the best animes I've ever seen.  (Well, up until the last episode, but we'll get to that later.)

At the opening of "Angel Beats!" you meet Otonoshi, just an average guy who suddenly finds himself at a high school without much clue as to what is going on.  There seems to be some kind of war going on.  He meets a girl named Yuri who tells him he's dead, and that there's an Angel nearby who will kill him immediately.  So Ontonoshi goes up to the Angel, who appears to just be a little girl, asks if he's really dead, and she murders him brutally.  Twelve hours later he's perfectly fine in a strange infirmary.  Now he has to join up with a group of oddballs in a bizarre battle against Angel.  They are the SSS, the Afterlife Battlefront (the acronym didn't translate into English well at all), an organization whose name changes constantly and who never seem to ever get anywhere nearer to their ultimate goal.  Every episode is another weird mission where they try to subvert the foundations of the school in order to not reincarnate.

So let's do the character break down!  The characters are the best part of this show, so this is where the meat of this review should take place:
  • Otonoshi - Is the straight man protagonist.  He's an all-around nice guy, level-headed, but he has some convenient amnesia.  Most of the time Otonoshi stands back and is the fish-out-of-water guy watching the insanity flow.  Either that or he shares some kind of major emotional moment with the other character, learning of their deep dark demons.  Because Otonoshi is not a hero in the sense that he's a great warrior or leader, but mostly because he's the only thing in this Japanese Purgatory that even resembles a Guidance Counselor, which is what all these guys need desperately.
  • Yuri - Is the leader of the SSS, also called "Yurippi" for no apparent reason.  She's probably evil, hates God, and is the only person who takes the war very seriously.  Despite being a little girl, she's apparently a master strategist and leader, though it isn't until Otonoshi joins that she even learns that Angel has a name.  Honestly, Yuri wasn't a very interesting character, but she's pretty major in the series.
  • Hinata - Wait a second, why are there two people in this show who look like typical RPG protagonists?  Hinata might as well be the hero, but he mostly acts a best friend for hire, working under Otonoshi or Yuri depending on the situation.  Despite having some belligerent sexual tension with Yui later on, he might also be gay depending on how he acts to Otonoshi.  Or maybe he's bi.
  • Yui - Is is the second singer for the show's band, "Girls Dead Monster".  Even though she dresses goth and sings heavy rock music, she's extremely bubbly and bursting with enough energy to power every light bulb in the state of New York for the next sixteen centuries.  Every anime needs a really LOUD character, so Yui that's the role.
  • God - Not really God.  He's actually a completely non-deity kid named "Ayato", but he decides he's God when he somehow learns super evil mind-control powers.  Of course, after his first episode, he chills out a lot when Otonoshi makes him tell his life story, and he falls pretty desperately in love with the hero after that.  Ayato spends the rest of the show making people believe they're toilet paper and acting evil.
  • Angel - A major character, but if I tell you about her I'd give away basically the most interesting mystery of the show.  So... look it up yourself or watch the show.  I recommend the latter, or else I wouldn't be putting in all this work.
Then there are the much more minor character whose names I never bothered to learn.  Sadly, these guys don't get all that much characterization, so they're really just a single character type.  There's a the weird dancing guy who talks in some kind self-made slang, there's the angry dude who swings around a halberd, there's the action girl who is obsessed with cute stuffed animals of kittens, there's the computer nerd who demands that everybody call him "Christ", and the nerdy guy who is actually incredibly muscular under his cloths... somehow.  Only one of these second bananas gets a full episode to themselves, and she's the first singer to the band.  I think "Angel Beats!" meant to give every character their own episode, but they never quite got around to it, and there's only fourteen episodes total.  Which is a waste.

Beyond the humorous events inside the Afterlife, there are quite a few flashbacks to the real world.  This is where "Angel Beats!" starts to flex its dramatic muscles, and goddamn... it has been working out, trust me.  They are brutal.  Families get murdered, people are paralyzed, little sisters die of leukemia*, it just goes on and on.  One minute you're learning that all the background characters are called "NPCs" and people are dieing in innocent slapstick, then the next minute people are dieing.  Just flat dieing at the end of really short sad lives.  And nobody is laughing.  I usually avoid sad stuff as a matter of principle:  life is sad enough, but when done well, I can appreciate it as much as anybody.  I think "FLCL" did a better job of juggling the humorous and emotional moments, but "Angel Beats!" does both well enough that I have nothing to complain about.

On an even more positive note, I have to talk about the music.  Youtube video links attack for great justice!

If I must complain about something, and I do, its the final episode.  The final confrontation takes place in episode 12, and honestly, that's pretty underwhelming as well.  The main villain (if you can call him that) knows nothing, and goes out without much fight.  Then episode 13 is a massively sappy final goodbye that takes way, way, way, too long.  Yeah, I know they're sad to see each other go, but I'm an evil man!  I can't take that much positive emotion or else I start to fast forward.  The characters sing, they hug, they sing more, they have moments, screw that noise!  Nobody dies once. 

At least "Angel Beats!" ends on an unrelentingly depressing moment.  I can leave happy with that.  It was a good ride, all in all.  Could have used more episodes, which is something that the show creators themselves seem to admit.  They threw in a totally random episode 14 that doesn't seem to fit continuity-wise, but is a properly funny show.  I think they realized they needed more screaming and ham, in the end.  A show like "Angel Beats!" deserves to end the most hilarious episode of them all, not a sappy lame one.  Well, ultimately, "Angel Beats!" was a great moment in anime history.  So I have to recommend it highly.

* This is where "Angel Beats!" thoroughly beat me.  I had to skip that whole part, it was too much to take...


  1. Random Fact: The original script for the series was 24+ episodes long, but was cut short due to executive meddling.

    Also, watch Clannad. It's the same author, the original Visual Novel is ranked #1 on VNDB's toplist, it's season 1 is ranked ~25 on MAL's toplist and season 2 is #4 on the same list (it was #1 until about a year ago, when Gintama 1&2 and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood overtook it).

  2. Or play Little Busters!, my favorite Visual Novel of all time. Same author, same character designer, same random sense of humor and same overall feel. Just don't read further down than the first paragraph on it's Wikipedia page, especially not the Story or Characters section, as it will spoil the whole thing for you.

    Translation Project:!

  3. Hello, I am still bugging you about watching Noein.

  4. Have you watched 'Tiger and Bunny' some parts of that made me laugh.

  5. Yay, glad you watched this! Definitely one of my favourites out of all the anime I've seen.

  6. This anime is amazing! I bought it a few weeks ago on Blu-ray, and it looks amazing. :D

  7. just this anime , that touch my heart