Angel Beats!

Angel Beats!

The stage of Angel Beats! is a high school which acts as a spiritual limbo for those who have died from cruel and unhappy fates – meant for students to let go of any lingering feelings from their life before taking the next step into the afterlife. Whilst in this high school limbo its inhabitants can still feel pain and ultimately ‘die’, before waking up later as if nothing had happened.

One day, a young man named Yuzuru Otonashi appears in this purgatory with no memories of his previous life. Here he meets Yuri, a girl leading the Afterlife Battlefront – an organisation that battles against God in revenge for the cruel and tragically short lives its members experienced whilst alive. The Battlefront’s only immediate enemy is Angel, a girl with supernatural powers that she creates with the help of a computer program called Angel Player. The two sides are locked in a never-ending battle in limbo.

Angel Beats! is a fairy short anime, only being 13 episodes. The pacing is very fast and the battles are very energetic, especially when every student from the large cast of characters gets involved. Everyone from the Battlefront has a bit of screen-time and no one goes ignored for a long period of time for the most part, and it’s clear from early on that every one of them has their own reason for ending up in this Purgatory. Even so, the Battlefront as a group come across as a bunch of eccentric, sometimes idiotic misfits. There are no real anime archetypes in this series, and the group doing foolish things does well in establishing their little community quickly so we can learn about them individually later on.

QapA8VtThe best part of Angel Beats! for me was the subject matter. This anime deals with themes surrounding life and death. Given that all the characters are essentially in Purgatory, the series addresses the idea of having lingering regrets and desires so strong that it actually stops you from ‘passing on’. Traumatic and sensitive events are handled tactfully and also adds another angle to this: how to overcome these feelings, achieve something to compensate, or just learning to accept what was your one shot at life

I was warned that Angel Beats! was a real tear-jerker, but I thought I would be okay. I’m by no means the sensitive type, and I survived the first Pokémon film, so I thought I would be home and dry. Not quite. Angel Beats! has some extremely poignant and heartwarming scenes that sneak up on your blind spot to tug on your heartstrings.

The one things that this series noticeably lacked was balance. It took an awful long time for the series to tear itself away from focusing completely on guns, comedic shenanigans and slapsticks ‘deaths’ before it really finds its form. Although enjoyable, I felt that there was a big chunk of characters that were neglected in favour of this, especially when I was really looking forward to hearing about some of their backstories and how they ended up in this crazy limbo. Interesting characters like Shiina and TK had no backstory revealed whatsoever, so they quickly became a rather two-dimensional Kuudere with a kawaii complex and some odd dancing guy who spouts random phrases in English. “JUST WILD HEAVEN.”

f6L042FThe show was just a little bit ambitious for its 13 episode duration, and clearly struggled towards the end to keep all characters in the spotlight when the main characters were developing and needed more screen time. Angel Beats! set itself up with a lot of great ideas and potential, but sometimes fell short of delivering what it promised on account of its time limit. I had high hopes for the members of the Afterlife Battlefront, but was disappointed by the ultimate lack of delivery.

Angel Beats! has had rave reviews, and quite rightly. It’s quite funny, very moving, with a fun cast of characters that you can’t help but warm to. The first couple of episodes are a little slow but it recovers quickly and builds itself up to some very emotional and beautiful revelations.