Review: Angel Beats!

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by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Many of the anime you may watch involve students in high school, and a good majority of the actual story line may take place at their particular high school. Once in a while, as an anime viewer, you want a little originality. In Angel Beats!, our story takes place with high school students at a particular high school. The catch, however, is that everyone just so happens to be dead, and the school is a battle ground. Brought to us by Aniplex, Angel Beats! Is something different to the high school norm where students are in a “limbo” and must learn to let go of their past lives before they can move on to the true afterlife.

Otonashi Yuzuru wakes up one night in the middle of an unfamiliar school with no memories other than his name. The first thing he sees is a young woman, Nakamura Yuri, aiming a high caliber sniper rifle at another girl, Angel, who displays a number of superhuman abilities, called Guard Skills, such as creating blades on her arms and incredible strength and speed. He learns from Yuri, who happens to be the students leader, that he has died and that if he doesn’t wish to be obliterated from this world by Angel then he must join them (their group is called the Afterlife Battlefront or SSS for short) to defy God for the bad and unfulfilling lives they all led before dying and fight against Angel, his apparent instrument in this world.

After Otonashi joins up with the Afterlife Battlefront, he learns that, in this world, no one seems to age or die and that this world seems to be some kind of afterlife limbo. Everyone has deep regrets about their previous lives they don’t really want to talk about, projecting their hate and bitterness onto God and Thenshi. Yet, Otonashi is the only one who still doesn’t remember anything. Unlike the other members of the Afterlife Battlefront, he asks questions and does not simply drown his regrets in an everlasting battle against this mysterious  Angel, dulling their pain and forgetting that the one they really hate are they themselves and their helplessness. In order for them to move on, they must come to grips with what happened when they were alive and accept it. Until then, they can die in this “limbo”, but will be reborn again the next day as if nothing happened.

Comedy and mystery are the order of the day with Angel Beats! And the comedy aspect is executed extremely well. The show loves sequences of repeated jokes and isn’t afraid to make light of the rules that govern death in this morbid afterlife. The SSS regularly find themselves having to “sacrifice” members to navigate booby traps or sabotage exams which result in ridiculous over-the-top death scenes and physical comedy which is kept fresh by little unexpected twists each time. And while this type of physical comedy may become boring real quick with other anime, it continues to work over and over again with Angel Beats!.

Every now and then the show will dedicate an episode to a character, and we really ought to have had more episodes like these ones, since this is where Angel Beats! is at its most heart-warming and dramatic. But with a 13 episode series, that’s hard to do while progressing a story and keeping the target audience entertained. The character development we do have puts you in touch with these them and brings a great deal of humanity in a world of survival. The final episode is very romantic and overflows with genuine emotion, and almost feels detached from the previous 12 episodes but brings the whole story together for an amazing conclusion. Sure, the pacing and script were very inconsistent at times, but the comedy and the likable, heartfelt characters made it well worth the journey to the afterlife.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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