Spoiler alert. I’m a big fan of Key. That obviously wasn’t always the case and even though Clannad was my first experience with them I’d like to credit Angel Beats! for making me want to check out everything they’d done. Clannad was clearly their most popular work so it might have been their only good one which is why I was a bit skeptical but I watched Angel Beats! shortly after I finished Clannad then again a couple days ago for purpose of review. Let’s get straight in to the review.
Angel Beats! starts off with a boy waking up laying on the ground and he hears a voice asking if he’s awake. He looks at a girl with a sniper rifle who introduces herself as Yurippe and explains she’s the leader of The SSS who fights against god from the afterlife as a rebellion for him giving them unfair lives. The boy has amnesia and can only remember his surname is Otonoshi and learns that god has an angel that is trying to obliterate everyone in the afterlife (which will turn them into barnacles or sea slugs The SSS guess). He decides Yuri is lying to him so he goes and talks to Angel. The conversation starts off innocently enough with Angel claiming she isn’t an angel and Otonoshi believes she is normal until she also says they’re all dead. He asks her to prove it which she does by stabbing him in the heart and knocking him unconscious. He eventually wakes up in The SSS headquarters and here we are introduced to the majority of the crew. There are a lot of characters here and that is actually one of my biggest problems with Angel Beats! but I’ll get to that later. At first Otonoshi is reluctant to join The SSS but Yuri convinces him to.
Characters are something I feel Key does extremely well. If there’s a character you don’t like it’s generally because Key doesn’t want you to like them and not because they were poorly done. I’d say Angel Beats! has 6 main characters (Otonoshi, Yuri, Kanade/Angel, Hinata, Yui and Naoi) as you learn the most about these 6 and the show spends the most time with them. The problem arises that there are so many characters and 13 episodes is not enough time to really get into them. Aside from the I mentioned and Iwasawa you learn pretty much nothing about any of the characters. A lot of them like TK, Shiina and Matsushita I’d love to learn more about but aside from learning Shiina was a ninja before she died and Matsushita has a 5th degree black belt in Judo we learn nothing about any of them. The fact that the Visual Novel is going to be 6 volumes probably means this will be fixed there but it’s been 4 years since the anime (ended June 26th 2010) and there is still no date. If this was an anime adaptation of a visual novel I might excuse it but the fact that it’s not really makes it an issue for me.
Now onto one of my favourite parts of Angel Beats (and probably anyone’s who’s seen it) the music. The main source of music comes from a fictitious girl rock band named “Girls Dead Monster” which start with Iwasawa as the lead singer but after episode 3 (for reasons I wont spoil) switch to Yui. In the anime Girls Dead Monster is mainly used to distract Angel and the teachers from The SSS’s plans. Their songs are actually pretty catchy and they even released a CD called “Keep the Beats!” which has new songs that aren’t in the anime. There are background tracks that have nothing to do with GDM and while they were good they weren’t as great.
Random stuff now I guess. The animation was pretty good. The characters all look different and everything is nice to look at. I also like the story and it took a Little Busters! approach of having comedy the main focus with feels showing up but not as the main driving point of the plot such as in Clannad, Kanon or Air. Some scenes (such as the exam, fishing, traps and baseball tournament) add so much comedy you almost actually forget this is by Key. When the feels hit though, they hit hard. The ending of Episode 10 is so perfectly done I claim it as one of Key’s best scenes they’ve ever made (if not the best) and everyone I’ve asked agrees. The actual end of the series is also very well done and perfect. Another quick thing I’d like to mention is all the references thrown in as well as foreshadowing. Yui is first introduced in Episode 3 yet you can see her fangirling over Iwasawa in Episode 1, Key Coffee (with their logo) is a thing and in Episode 10 keep an eye out for Misuzu’s dinosaur doll, Potato and Boton. There is also so much stuff that makes so much sense or means something completely different than you thought it did when you re-watch it.