Angel Beats! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Angel Beats!

 

Similar: Death Parade

Plastic Memories

Haibane Renmei

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Comedy Drama

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Occasionally funny.
  • No space for rent.

Negatives:

  • Too many characters for 13 episodes.
  • Emotions don’t land.
  • Weak art.
  • Script often makes you cringe.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Until I committed to watching Angel Beats (after a reader requested it for review), I had thought it was another adaptation of Key Visual’s awful visual novels, owing to the similarity in character design (I had attributed the reduced real estate between the eyes to someone finally pointing out how ugly Key characters were). Much to my delight, I discovered that it only involved one notable staff member from those past projects and it wasn’t someone from the art department. The composer wrote this story as an original with no visual novel relations. Thank Thor; Angel Beats isn’t doomed before the first frame!

With that happy thought in mind, I dove right in.

Angel Beats is a “trapped in limbo” story with video game rules, where each of the “player characters” cannot escape the confines of a high school until they undo a past regret and move on in death. Otonashi is the newest student in this strange world of the in-between. He awakens with no memories and next to a girl hunched over a sniper rifle. She’s aiming at a silver-haired girl in the school’s soccer field. He doesn’t see the girl as a threat and rightfully so, for she is as dulcet as a puppy. He soon learns otherwise when he talks to her and she kills him.

He’s fine the next morning, of course, since no one dies in this limbo high school of NPCs. The silver girl or “angel” is just there to enforce the rules as student body president. Meanwhile, Otonashi joins sniper girl’s club of player characters. They have one mission – defeat the angel and get out of here.

The first few episodes are fine overall as they explain the rules and the story focuses more on comedy, like a group of high school friends taking their military LARP most seriously. The second episode has them breaking into their own secret underground base when the traps meant for the angel turn on them. The team members drop like flies to video game traps and it’s funny.

The quality falls as you progress further into the story, figuring out the goal is to give each character an emotional send off before they depart limbo. They can only pass on once they make up for a regret in life, which means a shoehorned tragic backstory for each person is imminent (sniper girl’s is laughable, even with dead kids involved). It gets worse when you remember the episode count and calculate that there is no way to accommodate so many characters. You don’t care about anyone before they leave. You see the ending coming eight episodes away and yet it’s still ham-fisted.

No emotional moment in Angel Beats worked for me. The story is a metaphor about moving on from high school and having to say goodbye to friends – possibly for the last time – which is relatable to just about everyone in the audience (if you’re still in high school, you can relate to leaving primary/middle school friends behind). Even with such a relatable theme, these scenes extracted nothing from me.

The writer needed to cut down on characters. Have more characters than the core group, by all means, but don’t make them all matter. By trying to make everyone matter, no one matters.

Moreover, Angel Beats needs a stronger script to pull off the drama. Half of the script consists of Otonashi asking questions on behalf of the audience (oh, what convenient amnesia), so that others can explain everything. His dialogue in some scenes will be no more than one question after the other. Then we have what can only be described as the “anime” dialogue. That first scene when he awakens near sniper girl has the following cringe worthy exchange.

After seeing no threat from the small silver-haired girl, he says, “Listen, how about I go down there?”

Sniper girl whirls around and quickly yells, “What? Why? Why the hell go down there? That doesn’t make any sense! What the hell made you say that? Are you an idiot or what? Go die!”

“…”

“That’s something we say here all the time since no one dies here,” she adds, now speaking normally. “What ya think? Funny?”

“Not so much, but what do I know?”

This dialogue is meant to convey her personality, but is so forced that it’s just obnoxious. I can see someone turning this off at that moment, 3 minutes in. Don’t forget, this dialogue comes after she rambles about her club’s name with no context, which is also obnoxious. The way these characters talk and behave doesn’t convey the sense of people trapped in limbo. It feels like any other high school action anime cast.

Once the school concert is over a few episodes in (the music is the strongest element) and drama replaces comedy, Angel Beats becomes rather bland and predictable. Not to give away too much, but the angel adversary plot resolves shortly as well to lessen conflict further.

Angel Beats is an alright anime if you go in knowing not to expect much from the drama. Honestly though, there are so many better anime you could spend your time on and this one’s been forgotten by now, so there’s no conversation waiting either.

Art – Low

Characters have zero design originality, though thankfully they aren’t landlords. CG background characters and CG environments don’t blend well with principal objects. Lights and shadows are inconsistent to the characters. Look at the screenshot above with the sniper rifle – note how sharp the shadows are on the characters, gun and bush (drawn in by a person digitally) against the fuzzy shading on the building and the lack of shadow beneath the rifle (calculated by computer graphics). The only complement I can offer is for the skies.

Sound – Low

Average acting, no matter the language, and the script is several tiers below what’s needed for the drama. The music is nice.

Story – Low

A group of students try to escape limbo high school by killing the angel that enforces the rules. Too many characters, quick drama, and a lack focus don’t make for a great story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. If you haven’t seen Angel Beats yet, you aren’t missing out. It has nothing recommending itself these days, though it isn’t a bad anime.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Poor Pacing

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11 thoughts on “Angel Beats! – Anime Review”

  1. This was imo one of the worst anime I’ve seen. I agree that there are some funny moments early on but after that everything falls apart and nothing feels like there was any thought put into it. The whole concept of the show it turns out is that all these teens are here because their lives ended unfulfilled yet the way all of their problems get resolved is just the most cookie cutter bs it makes every character just seem like empty shells without any sort of complex human needs and wants. Add to that if all these characters ended their lives unfulfilled why is everyone goofy and happy barely anyone seems depressed. The main character has no personality, the main love interest is a bland expressionless moe waifu and they have literally no chemistry. The emotional moments are so lifeless and illogical take Yui’s death. Firstly she says her main dream was to be married which she says is every girls dream(which wow is that insulting af) and then that dude that she would argue with and do wrestling moves on shows up and says he’ll marry her. Wtf at what point in the series did they develope any sort of romanctic chemistry to make me care about their relationship at all it just feels like such teenage wish fulfillment crap.None of the characters or their sad backstories felt genuine there all just manupulative melodrama. If the purpose of this place was that these teenagers could acheive fulfillment then why do shadow monsters start showing up to provide conflicts for our hereos. Wtf ? Plus the dumbest ending I’ve ever seen. The love interest received the main characters heart. How then did she arrive there much earlier than he did wouldn’t that have meant he would have died way before she did. And how the fuck does someone get a heart transplant and still die like seemingly straight away since she’s still a teen. Also if you retain the heart you died with wouldn’t that mean MC literally does not have a freaking heart so idk wouldn’t he have noticed at some point. I know they can’t die but don’t you require a heart to you know function. Some of this may seem nitpicky but it’s only cause this show was pretentiousness enough to tackle some pretty big ideas like coming to terms with life and death and even the existence of God which way smarter people have struggled to convey in their stories and this one just treats it like it’s entire audience are 13 year olds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely agree with you about the goofy characters – as I said, none of these feel like people trapped in limbo.
      I forgot to talk much about the romance. It was so forgettable that it slipped my mind.
      Oh, that final twist with the heart! Man that was stupid. The one thing the writer couldn’t escape from in his Key Visual days is having a hammy final scene that tries to make everything happy. If you think about that scene at all, it falls apart completely.

      Like

  2. Interesting review. While I don’t agree with everything you wrote, I do agree that so many elements were overrated. They should’ve had a smaller cast and been more concerned with the overall tone. The music was certainly great with the GDM insert songs and the opening theme. One thing that baffles me is that if people get revived within hours, then wouldn’t it mean that the sacrifices were meaningless in hindsight?

    Liked by 1 person

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