Angel Beats is a fairly recent series that started out as a light novel written by Maeda Jun. It’s proven to be a commercial success with two ongoing manga, an OVA and a thirteen episode anime. There may be even more to come but, for now at least, I’m just going to take a look at the anime.
The story follows a young man named Otonashi who wakes up with no memories near a school and is promptly told that he’s dead. Not knowing what else to do he joins the Afterlife Battlefront who are fighting against a girl they call Tenshi and trying to avoid disappearing. The story has a unique premise and it blends light-hearted humour with occasionally serious moments pretty seamlessly. A lot of the reason it succeeds at that is that the characters are already dead so it can use darker humour without it crossing into ghoulish or tasteless territory. Most of the jokes work well and the plot, while fast-paced, never feels rushed. The action sequences are very well done. The only real issue is that one of the major plot points at the end comes out of nowhere and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If I were going to nitpick I would also say that they really could explore the philosophy behind their situation with more depth, but the anime really isn’t intended to be too serious so that’s not really a problem.
The major characters are very interesting and get some nice backstory and development. Otonashi, Hinata, Yuri and a few others get very engaging and tragic back stories that help flesh out their characters. The issue is that most of the characters are secondary and they range from one to two dimensional. They aren’t complex nor is there much reason to care about them. This is probably due primarily to time constraints, but it’s still kind of annoying.
The art is very nicely done. A lot of the backgrounds are pretty minimal, but that helps set up the world and it works. The character designs are very unique and vibrant and the fight scenes are very energetic and well executed.
The voice acting is really good. Particularly Kamiya Hiroshi, Sakurai Harumi, Kimura Ryohei and Ogata Megumi. The only real weakness is Rivas Michael who delivers his lines very stagnantly. Fortunately, he doesn’t have a very big role so it isn’t too much of an issue. The music is spectacular. The compositions are vibrant and the vocal performances are incredible.
The yuri factor is a 1.5/10. There are some kind of homoerotic moments between two of the girls toward the end, but that’s it.
My final rating for Angel Beats is an 8.4/10. The premise is very interesting and the execution is good. Some of the humour falls short, a lot of the characters lack development and there’s a bad plot point, but those aren’t huge grievances and they probably won’t affect your enjoyment of the series too much.