Angel Beats is an anime that will quite likely confuse you. It will almost assuredly make you question what is going on. And it will certainly surprise you.
Angel Beats opens with you being introduced to a world that is little more than a High School where students wage war against a being they call ‘Angel’, and try to thwart God. The premise sounds silly, and the first episodes seem very much to support that.
It starts off giving you an introduction to this world where people cannot die because they’re already dead, with it’s eccentric cast of supporting characters and it’s remarkably down to earth main characters. The simple concept of having a centralized group of characters who are understandable and believable and surrounding them with a bafflingly crazy supporting cast… while not completely unique, works so very well for this anime. With the utterly strange premise present in this series, if all of the characters were sober and stable I don’t think the show would have worked. By possessing this dichotomy, it ensures that things never really get too ridiculous or too overly serious and maintains a good balance between the two, allowing for a fairly interesting and integrated story to take place.
The main characters are fairly believable – within the context of the show anyways – and help to bring things into focus when everything flies out of whack. And as you get further into the series, past the introductory elements, you get to see more of this develop as you begin to understand the purpose of this world, why it’s here and why things have happened they way they have. And it begins to become more and more fascinating. As I got past the fourth, fifth, and so on episodes… I found myself having a harder and harder time stopping at the end of an episode. I had to drag myself away from the computer or my tv on multiple occasions to go to bed, make dinner, or other such things because I was so intrigued by this show.
And I think the critical aspect that built it to what it became for me… was Angel. This antagonist begins so mysterious, yet plays such an intriguing role in the story and the ending, that I was completely speechless as the end credits rolled. Her portrayal, and the development of her character all worked so well together with the overall story and the other main characters to build tension and provide intrigue.
While Angel herself was pivotal to the success of this wacky plot, the crazy circumstances themselves created opportunities to very subtly build attachment to these characters – even the wackjob supporting characters – that when things start going wrong(or is it right? Well, you’ll just have to watch yourself to see what I mean) it has a strong impact on you. And as you begin to get a bit of understanding of the circumstances…. it becomes even more moving, especially as you build up to the ending story arc. It’s really amazing how they manage to make you grow attached to a random character who speaks in nonsense and English catch phrases without even realizing the attachment is there.
And, as expected from a show called ‘Angel Beats’, the music in this show is utterly fantastic. This show features a bevy of songs throughout, from the rock songs scattered throughout by in-show All Girls Band ‘GiDeMo’ to the fantastic openings and endings, to a pivotal song sung solo by GiDeMo’s lead singer during a key episode… but which also shows up in a variety of other unexpected places and even plays a role in the show’s ending. And another word on the opening… this show’s opening is a beautiful piece of music and animation. Absolutely incredible, if you have never watched this show I recommend watching at least the opening even if you have no interest in the show itself – it is that good.
Angel Beats is a fantastic example of just why I love anime. Anime can take a subject matter that is not something one would normally talk about… nor something one would expect to be the subject of a tv series and tackle it through a combination of humour, eccentricity, and good writing. And it can make it interesting, even fascinating. And hilarious. And… well, let’s just say I am not ashamed to admit there were a few moments that had me pretty close to tears throughout the series, and even one moment where I came past the point where they started falling.
That isn’t to say everything was perfect… there were moments where they seemed to fall back a bit much on the quirks of the side-characters, and it was a slow burn to get any attachment for the main character. There were a couple episodes that really seemed to serve very little purpose except as filler, which can be acceptable in a long story, but feels really bad when you only have a dozen or so episodes – a single story arc. And certain aspects of the plot never made any sense, even at the end. The last 3-4 episodes are fascinating, but baffling as certain elements are really never given a suitable expectation.
Angel Beats surpassed my relatively low expectations(hint: The crunchyroll description of this one does such a bad job of selling the show) by a huge margin, and while it isn’t perfect, it was a show I thoroughly enjoyed, and one I will quite likely watch again – even if only to have an excuse to watch that opening and listen to GiDeMo perform again.