When an anime makes the viewer tear up every time he or she watches the show, one knows that the show must be good right? Angel Beats! is one of the few shows I have watched multiple times, mostly because I happened to be watching it with people who had not seen it yet, but that is beside the point. The point is that I am well versed with the anime. However, since I’ve viewed the show three times in total, my views on it have changed a little and not necessarily for the better. For those who have not seen the show before, here is a quick opening synopsis of the show taken from myanimelist’s Angel Beats! page:
Otonashi awakens only to learn he is dead. A rifle-toting girl named Yuri explains that they are in the afterlife, and Otonashi realizes the only thing he can remember about himself is his name. Yuri tells him that she leads the Shinda Sekai Sensen (Afterlife Battlefront) and wages war against a girl named Tenshi. Unable to believe Yuri’s claims that Tenshi is evil, Otonashi attempts to speak with her, but the encounter doesn’t go as he intended. Otonashi decides to join the SSS and battle Tenshi, but he finds himself oddly drawn to her. While trying to regain his memories and understand Tenshi, he gradually unravels the mysteries of the afterlife.
Sounds intriguing right? I think so as well. So let us dive right into the Angel Beats review where we will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just to be clear, by ugly I mean things concerning the show that aren’t good but do not warrant being bad either. Tim’s Rating Scale.## The Good:
The Overarching Plot:
As the show opens up, the viewer is left intrigued and curious to see where the plot will lead them. The main protagonist, Yuzuru Otonashi, has been left stranded in what we come to find out to be the afterlife for reasons unknown to us. The show then progresses with Otonashi unraveling the mysteries of the afterlife and befriending the various other characters that are present in this afterlife which is based in a high school setting (no surprise there, as this is an anime after all.) The plot has a lot to offer in terms of what bases it covers. The show has plenty of comedy, action, and emotional moments while also providing an air of mystery that unravels as the anime progresses.
The Main Characters:
The main cast that consists of Yuzuru Otonashi, Yuri Nakamura, and Kanade Tachibana (Tenshi) are well hashed out and are focused on enough to warrant being positive aspects of the show. Otonashi and Tenshi’s story arc and relationship development are both heart warming and heart breaking. Watching these two characters develop throughout the show and unraveling the mystery of their pasts is something that keeps viewers on their toes while also allowing them to connect to these individuals even when one knows very little about them. Yuri’s own story intertwines with Otonashi and Tenshi and she provides a good foil to Otonashi while also giving the story a strong female protagonist that is not afraid to get dirty and protect her own. Now some have mentioned the blandness of Otonashi and I will say that his character is not as strong as the two female leads, but his well-developed backstory along with his story of connecting to Tenshi provide what I feel to be a positive influence on the show.
The opening track to this anime is possibly one of the most emotional openings I know of. Titled My Soul, Your Beats! this song still brings emotional shivers down my spine every time I listen to it. The sound track to the show makes me tear up, especially by the time we reach the last episode of the show and are listening to Ichiban no Takaramono for the final time. The sound track is able to balance action and emotional strain, while also juggling comedic periods and joyful times. The singles, sung pertaining to the plot by the fictional band “Girls Dead Monster,” are also exciting and emotional and provide solid listening pleasure to the viewer. The ending theme is no where near as good as the opening, but it still provides a calming atmosphere to the end of each episode while also providing a solid emotional kick just like much of the music in this show.
The Animation:This paragraph will be short as I am not an expert on animation. I will just say though that the animation is well done and a pleasure to view. It can be adorable at points and dark at other points. However, it is all well done and does not take one out of the experience. It also provides some astounding visuals throughout the show and the action sequences are beautiful and entertaining to watch as are the comedic sequences, *cough rocket chair, cough.*
The Finale:Did I mention that I tear up every time I watch this show? While the show is quite emotional, while also being comedic and backed by some quality action, it is not really till the final episode that really gets me to the point of dropping a tear. The music, coupled by the context of the plot and what it means for our cast of characters just is slightly too much to handle. As the closing minutes occur, viewers cannot help but feel a confusing mixture of joy and sorrow. The final third of episode 13 is just heart-wrenching and the very final 5 seconds of visual still make me smile. Watch this show if not just to experience these final few minutes. To anyone who has already watched this show, here is that song which will not fail to punch a hole in your heart all over again.
I have re-watched this episode three times and still think that it makes very little sense. This episode is what happens when one tries to cram an entire arc into one episode. The episode is just cringe worthy and could have been spent on much better things. Also the climatic confrontation at the end of the episode was not only anti-climatic, but very convoluted. I eventually got what the show’s creators were aiming at, but it was poorly executed. It was just forced drama that did not belong. Whenever I think of a bad episode, this episode comes to my mind which is most unfortunate.#### The Pacing:
Now here was a something that I did not really notice until the second time I watched this show; the pacing of Angel Beats! is awful. It builds up slowly and expands its first couple story arcs across several episodes and then crams entire arcs into one episode. The viewers of the show do not even realize the purpose of the entire show till the last quarter of the anime and the final direction the main character is suppose to take and his implantation of his plan covers barely three episodes in the entire series which feels very rushed. Many on the internet have argued that the show should have been 26 episodes and honestly I feel like this would have been one way to settle the awful pacing of the show. Either expanding the series or cutting the number of story arcs they tried to put into 13 episodes. Particularly the stupid shadow arc, which felt both rushed and forced and also lead to probably the worst episode in the series. While the overall plot of the show was fine, the pacing of its plot was mishandled in the show to a devastating effect.
The Supporting Characters:
The supporting characters were probably the most difficult section for me to tackle. I originally considered putting them in the bad category. However, after an extensive discussion with my co-reviewers, Greg and Addison, I re-thought what I was going to write. I originally saw the supporting cast as not well hashed out, and forgettable. They each had their single characteristic and that was it. One was dumb, the other was moody but liked cute things, one wore glasses, one was a computer nerd and so on. However, Greg and Addison pointed out that I was looking at it from the wrong angle. I was looking at it from the end of the anime, not the beginning and that is where I was wrong. For the first seven or so episodes when the plot is still unclear and there is still a lot of mystery with the show the supporting cast really picked up the slack. They provided heart-felt moments and some pretty deep humor and helped shoulder the burden of the show for the first half of the series. Nevertheless, in the second half they became cumbersome to the show and began to drop like flies. For example in the later part of the show something bad happens to one of the characters, concerning the shadows, and I get the feeling the audience was supposed to care, but you never do. Even the plot and cast kind of just move onto the next part of exposition with little regard to such a horrible event. In the second half of the show the supporting characters are forgotten about and mismanaged to a frustrating degree and it really brings down the quality of the show. While many people might say the creators of the show did what they could will only 13 episodes and so many characters, I argue that this is not an excuse to so unevenly represent such a dynamic cast of characters. Especially when they helped the show out so much in the beginning. Shows like Baccano! have proven a large cast is manageable if done correctly. It is unfortunate that the creators of Angel Beats! did not manage their characters to the same degree.
This show has a lot going for it. As you can see from my review so far there was a lot to praise. However, the parts of the show that I had a gripe with are very major. So it makes me wonder why Ithought this show was near perfect the first time I watched it and with every consecutive viewing I become more critical of it. I chalk it up to emotional manipulation. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not a good thing either, which is why it is where it is in the review. This show will take you for a roller coaster of heart warming and heart breaking moments. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. However, in doing so, and to such an extreme, it covers up major flaws that could have been ironed out if more work had been done with the show. As one sits down to view it a second time, you notice the bad pacing, the characters that get dropped, and you notice that episode 12 doesn’t get any better the second time through. You are not as surprised as the emotions hit you in the gut and you are able to view the show from a more objective standpoint. Studios in America such as Pixar have been accused of manipulating emotions and I agree that they do but that doesn’t take away from how great many of their films are. The same is with Angel Beats!. The manipulation alone does not make it a bad show. Instead, with this standpoint, one can see that Angel Beats! is still a good show, but one can also see that where there should be quality the show will often replace it with emotion. I am ok with this. I *like* the feelings that wrench at me by the end of the show; it just makes it hard to objectively look at the show from time to time and that must be taken into consideration.
The Final Verdict:
I would love to give this anime 4 or 5 stars but I just cannot in good conscious give it that. The show will make me cry every time I watch it and it is a show I can watch multiple times over. However, the show has many flaws that are covered up by the raw emotion presented in the anime. The main cast is solid and the music is beautiful but the pacing is really bad and many of the supporting cast fall short in the second half of the show. This anime is really good nonetheless and I have never regretted viewing it three times even if it means that I have realized it is not quite as good as I originally took it to be. The show still merits any anime viewer who wants to laugh and gasp and cry to stream the daylights out of this show because I give this show a very strong, three stars out of five. Tim’s Rating Scale.