Angel Beats Complete Collection
When Suzuru Otanashi wakes up he finds himself in a strange new world. Apparently he has died and is now living in an eternal high school setting made up of others like himself; without a sense of peace in the way that they died or how they lived. Living the normal high school lives they never got to have on their own, this is where people go to come to peace with what they lived before being reborn into their new lives. All of which happens under the watchful eye of the student body president.
Right away, Otanashi meets the leader of a group that is taking a slightly different approach to the whole situation. Led by a girl named Yuri, the battlefront is a group of students who are taking the fight to the afterlife. In their new lives, they are heavily armed and do battle against the student council president, Angel, in an attempt to get a message to god: we’re pissed with how you screwed with our lives. The students will draw blood and die many times each in order to take over the school and get revenge for their tragic lives which were cut short.
Good and the Bad
Forgive the past and look forward to the future. That is the overall theme and lesson that I took away from Angel Beats as I watched every episode and thought about the harsh realities that each of these characters dealt with. It’s a hard theme to do well but this is a series that does.
Written by Jun Maeda, directed by Seiji Kishi and produced by visual novel studio Key, Angel Beats is a series that is flawed but forgivable. The animation quality from PA Works is never quite perfect and is dogged by Yuri’s character design being another Haruhi Suzumiya rip off but you look past this because of the fluid battle sequences and the touching moments that such as during a late embrace in the final episode that do look good.
Then there’s the constant location labeling with every scene telling the audience exactly where each scene was taking place. If the series were any more detailed about this you could use them to draw a map of the school. It made the series feel more like a visual novel than it needed to and were even downright distracting at times.
However, Angel Beats manages to tell a soft heartfelt series of adventures all about the members of the battlefront, teenagers who now inhabit an endless high school setting as they wait to come to peace with the lives they once led. The group is composed of a large variety of characters that never seen to overlap with each other. While not everyone will be able to serve a real purpose to the series (Sorry TK), the ones that do serve a real purpose though stand out against each other quite well. The cast of characters even does it’s best to avoid being overly moe (naturally there are exceptions like Yui and Kanade but for the record my favorite was the ever cynical Shiina).
As the group does battle, where the series truly shines is in the introduction of the character’s histories. While not everyone’s past is revealed, there are still a number of them which will tug at your heartstrings. Slowly revealing these stories, the series does it’s best work when it is trying to make you sympathize with a character. Where the series falls apart however is in the overall narrative which never really finds a complete feeling.
Relying more on episodic stories, the series never feels very well put together with its story telling. Once the series breaks away from the characters, the rest of the series generally relies on the missions of the battlefront which mostly follow similar veins for most of the series: an endless arsenal of weapons made from dirt, an endless stream of jokes based on characters getting ‘killed’ (they’re already dead so it’s not like they can truly die again in this world) and storytelling that feels forced for most it’s run time. Fortunately things come together reasonably well in the final act.
Mostly made up of piano scores, the background music in Angel Beats is another strong selling point that makes this series worth picking up. What really sells the music in this series however are the powerful pop songs sung by the band within the series, Girls Dead Monster. Made up of a quartet of characters, the powerful songs contain strong melodies and lyrics which make them a treat to listen to whenever they appear and even play well out of context away from the series.
Dub vs. Sub
Listening to this series entirely in English, I was pleased to hear a strong variety in voices that matched the characters well. No one felt out of place in this cast and the performances matched the emotion well. What killed me constantly throughout this release however were so many bizarre or inconsistent pronunciations. At some points the accent on Yui’s name would be changed from scene to scene and at one point characters can be heard practicing a SUPlex instead of a SUplex.
Once upon a time, I wrote this series off because it didn’t grab me right away. Now that I’ve seen the entire series, I regret writing it off so quickly. It takes awhile for this series to get going but once you get to the ending, you’re going to be glad that you made the trip. Sentimental and bloody, Angel Beats does the job despite it’s flaws. The overall message of this series is one of the things that makes it something worth watching. This is a series that tells us all that it’s ok to forgive the past and look towards the future. We all need that reminder once in awhile and this series hits that message out of the park. Very recommended!