Fighting the Afterlife
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
Angel Beats! (エンジェルビーツ!) is a paranormal anime series directed by Seiji Kishi that takes place in an afterlife pit stop filled with youths who never got to experience a normal childhood... Or is it?
This is definitely a series that will keep you questioning what exactly is going on over and over again, and just when you think you got it figured out, something else will come along and change everything. It isn't until the very end that you realize what really is going on. But the mystery of what is going on is only a small part that keeps Angel Beats interesting.
There are some tear-jerking moments in this series, too. It's not just the heartbreaking recollections, but also the glorious happy moments. Most emotion-filled anime do a great job at giving us a great tragedy to cry over, but there are very few moments I can remember that will bring on the happy tears like Angel Beats does. Or maybe those aren't even happy tears? Sometimes it will be hard to tell if it's from the overwhelming sadness, the happy conclusions, or the combination of both.
The characters in this series are all fantastic. Sure, most fit in with your typical anime stereotypes, but their difference and attitudes still make them amazing characters to watch. Sure, they obviously weren't the most mentally stable group of characters, but it made perfect sense in this type of setting. The main character, Otonashi, and his close inner circle of friends fit together so perfectly it was like an ultimate line up for a band.
While most of the characters weren't in a band, music still had an important part of the story. The music itself is fantastic, and definitely worth the time to find copies of. The animation of the characters playing the music was also very realistic. It wasn't on par with the realism of Kids on the Slope, but the movements were very fluid making it almost look like they were playing the songs.
When the story wasn't tugging at guitar strings, and our heartstrings, Angel Beats was hilarious. I'm not talking about just the occasional chuckle either – this series will really bring out your richest laughter. This was mainly thanks to the fantastically insane relationships the characters had, but also how they faced the dangers.
That's right, dangers. With everything else going on, the series still takes time to give us all the heart-pumping action we crave. Most of the battles lacked the tension that most action series have, but all the bullets flying, and sharp pointy objects stabbing characters, surprisingly made up for the lack of consequences that life in the afterlife apparently brings. Although, thanks to those random battles, the rare stressful fights felt even more critical.
The only real problem I have with this series is that it is far too short to get the whole picture. Sure, most anime series are only 13 episodes, but Angel Beats should have had more time so it could tell the story to its completion. Most of the characters have little or no back-story making it seem like they existed only for Otonashi to interact with, yet it's obvious they were meant to be so much more. The pacing felt perfectly fine for most of the series, but then the last few were just rushed to a conclusion causing most of the interesting characters to be just a mention in a conversation. The ending was still fantastic as it was, but this same ending could have still happened, and likely would have felt even more perfect if it was given more time to tell more of the story.
A few more episodes would have also provided enough time to explain how Angel Beat's world works. It tries to gloss over its inner workings a few times, but I found myself having more questions than answers at the end, especially surrounding Otonashi's existence in it. Maybe the upcoming visual novel (video game) will shed some more light on things.
Even with its problems due to the lack of episodes, Angel Beats is still a must-watch anime. This series has the makings of a perfect anime that caters to almost any type of anime fan. Just be prepared to shed a few tears along the way.