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[R2 DVD art (Japanese)]
AKA: エンジェルビーツ
Genre: Supernatural afterlife drama.
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Section 23 Films
Content Rating: 13+ (Some violence.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: AIR/Kanon/Clannad (including ~After Story~), Shinigami no Ballad, Haibane Renmei.
Notes: This anime is a part of a media franchise between KEY and ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine. There are also two manga released, and, unsurprisingly, a CD containing the songs sung by the in-show band Girls Dead Monster.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Angel Beats!

Synopsis

Finding himself thrust into a strange world, Otonashi Yuzuru is caught up in the battle between the angel and the resistance. Leading the team of the rebel alliance, the Shinda Sekai Sensen (SSS) is Nakamura Yuri, who has set out to prove that God doesn't exist, mostly because of the cruel fate that lead to her death and that of her family.


Review

I apologize if the above synopsis makes it sound like Angel Beats is a good show, because it most certainly isn't.

I had hopes, though. Angel Beats is written by two of the writers from Key, who many of you know as the creators behind games like Kanon and Clannad, both of which had excellent shows made in their names. Also, for what it's worth, the concept the way it comes across in the synopsis is actually pretty intriguing. And therein lies the first problem I noticed with this show; its completely inability to stick to what it starts.

In some ways, Angel Beats shares the same problems I had with Aquarion; it overloads the story with too many elements in an attempt to please as many people as possible, except that Angel Beats only has half the episode number that Aquarion does, so it feels even more fragmented. And NONE of it is any good.

Visual Art's/KEY or not; sadly, Kyoto Animation is not the team behind this show, which is a shame, because Angel Beats could've used every bit of eye-candy to make up for its flaws. Which is not to say the show is badly animated, but it's definitely more low-key than the gentler, but vastly more visually arresting Kanon. I have to give the animation props, though, for generally making the action sequences look nice. The music isn't all that better either; not bad, but not really all that good either, except for the opening and ending themes, which are both pretty good. So props and apologies to PA Works; you did nice work on this show, and that needs to be acknowledged. Though I still roll my eyes and chuckle every time I read "original character design" on the Wikipedia article about this show.

Problem is, Angel Beats doesn't have any compelling characters. Most of them are loudmouth assholes, and the few characters I didn't actively dislike weren't really all that interesting anyway. And while I accepted the angle in Kanon, I have to admit I'm getting mighty tired of the KEY writers' inability to create something without having to rely on amnesia to keep plot points on the backburner until they're needed. When you're taking all this from our main character, Otonashi Yuzuru, you are basically left with a watered-down version of Haruhi Suzumiya's Kyon and Kanon's Yuuichi; a sarcastic center without any wit. Which still makes him a better character than Nakamura Yuri, the leader of the rebel faction and a character that shares more than a few passing resemblances to a certain miss Suzumiya, both in appearance and attitude. The laziness continues with the angel herself; Tachibana Kanade, who, while not sharing the visual resemblance, certainly acts a lot like a certain other girl from Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, though in all fairness, neither of the shows are the only ones with deadpan and seemingly antisocial behavior patterns. She's also voiced by Hanazawa Kana, who brings out the same voice she did for Kajiwara Sora in Sketchbook, possibly to mirror the slight resemblance in character design.

Where the show really falls apart is in the main story, or whatever passes for it. The one constant in the show is that the school in question is some kind of afterlife, and some of the characters in it are indeed very much dead. Note that I said "some", because the rest of them are basically NPCs -- designated as such by Angel Beats itself -- characters who basically just go through preprogrammed routines to give the impression of a larger community, regardless of what the others might be doing. This includes the inconsistence of them attending concerts in the show made by the actual characters, but otherwise not reacting when the members of the SSS acts like a bunch of fruitcakes in class.

But even the other members of the SSS are basically a group of redshirts. And, since the show points out that you can't really die, even if you're stabbed through the heart, that means they're recyclable redshirts. This also means that all the fights at the beginning of the show are completely redundant, since the characters can receive ludicrously fatal wounds and be fine, which means the fights in the show are, for the most part, a huge waste of time. But hey, explosions makes everything better and all that. I suppose it's also to give the band a chance to shine, because, as I mentioned, Angel Beats also have in-show concerts because those seems to be all the rage nowadays. Thank you, Haruhi Suzumiya and K-On! Your contribution to anime trends are... noted.

Of course, since Tachibana Kanade is so ludicrously cute, she couldn't possibly be a real villain, right? If that's your train of thought, then you most certainly arrived at the correct station. And that's also where this show loses itself in more plot twists than you could beat off with a stick. When Angel Beats loses its interest in gunfights and rock music, they start going into a few of the characters' backstories, which are basically stories about how they ended up in this bizarre version of the afterlife. Some of them could actually have made decent sob stories by themselves, but since they're just that -- backstories -- they're not really explored in depth like they should have been. The rest of the plot elements are basically just barriers thrown in the way of the main characters, and are abandoned just as quickly as they're surpassed, never to be mentioned again. There's episodes (one at a time, maybe two) centered around underground arms production lines, evil Kanade clones or mysterious shadow beings. I suspect they are all from the same ninja family tree, because they arrive right out of nowhere, and disappear right after they do their thing, never to be seen or heard from again.

Don't expect the comedy to save the show either. Most of the time, Angel Beats relies on one-note jokes repeated throughout the whole episode, or people screaming and threatening each other, which tends to get annoying really quickly. And with Otonashi lacking Kyon's sarcastic wit, his vocal misgivings about his teammates' idiocy lacks any kind of punch. The humor also consists of "people shouting at each other" and humor by way of a character whose sole role is to do dance moves or offer random lines in English that make absolutely no goddamn sense. Sometimes, he even does both things simultaneously.

And finally, at the end of it all, a long, long time past the point where Angel Beats stopped making any sense at all, the show ends. Not with a bang, like the old saying goes, but with a whisper. In an attempt to salvage any goodwill it could've had at this point, it plays out its final plot twist. In any other show, this might have had some heart to its name, but due to a gargantual plot hole, it just manages to make the show collapse all over itself and fall down the crater it created from the sheer scope of said plothole.

There simply isn't any excuses for this kind of laziness. Angel Beats goes from being mildly intriguing to mildly annoying. Then, it becomes dumb and irritating before it starts grating patience by jumping all over the place. Angel Beats has no sense of humor, scale or progression of time and no fortitude to stick to one or two of its themes or topics and create something solid out of that. Instead, what you get is a cacophony of noise and color, completely devoid of substance, atmosphere and character. The only value this show has is in its opening and ending theme, which is available on an EP. That is the only part of this show worth spending any money on.

A really WEAK two star show; a shallow, random and meandering shell of a show that tries its hardest to please everyone.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: There is some violence and bloodletting going on in this show, which, due to the way the show works, is nonlethal. The only deaths in Angel Beats are basically the backstories for the characters who are "lucky" enough to get them.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Angel Beats! © 2010 VisualArt's / Key / Angel Beats! Project
 
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