This review contains spoilers.
“Angel Beats will make you laugh as much as cry”: this was my introduction to this anime by friends, and the reason why I decided to watch it. My impressions are good: I loved many things about it. It wasn’t as surprising as I expected, but was really enjoyable to see.
SSS: SOS Brigade in Afterlife
[This is the face Haruhi would make if reading to this chapter title]
“Welcome to the Not-Dead-Yet Battlefront”: the anime opens with Yuri inviting the protagonist, Otonashi, to her unofficial group of school friends that share a battle: challenging God, who gave them a sad and unfair life.
This bold, direct attitude and unconventional goal makes me think of the similarities between Yuri and Haruhi. Also, the role of the protagonist is quite similar in the two: they both are apparently disenchanted, while still loving their life in the “club”.
The Underworld Battlefront faces “Angel”, whose real name is Kanade Tachibana, to provoke God, to make him expose, as they need some kind of revenge (or an explanation for) their unfair lives. This research won’t succeed – God doesn’t appear in that world, and, also, Kanade Tachibana is not an angel – but still lead them to the answers they seek. This is what happens to the SOS Brigade too: Haruhi apparently looks for aliens, time travellers, espers and the like, but is really looking for something else, and manages to find it in the end.
Last but not least, Yuri calls her class “SSS”: doesn’t it sound like “SOS”?
The Underworld Battlefront group is, though, much larger than SOS Brigade.
Sad stories, fun challenges
In each episode, Yuri presents a new challenge for the group. The challenge has always the main aim to misbehave to challenge God, and side objectives as getting new ammos, weapons, etc.
Challenges are usually engaging, as they are usually survival games, without the nuissance of permanently sacrificing characters.
The character lives come out gradually, while they release their lingering emotions. Those background stories are usually serious and much welcome in a comedy like that, as they make character actions much more meaningful. They are fighting against their personal suffering, all together.
I was expecting each episode to focus on one character and his/her backstory, but that wasn’t the case. I think that was a good thing, in the end, as this is a short anime (13 episodes) and there was no space to bring each story to the table. I think that it was also unneeded (apart for T. K. story, which is present in the manga, and was a nice-to-have).
I think “flow” is really working well for this anime. It’s a good story, with a nice message: helping each other dealing with sad past lives to “carry on living”. The fact that, in this anime, this means “dying”, is not the point. They all manage to make up with their problems, and that’s what the good message in the story lies.
The only not brilliant choice – from my point of view – was making a character become a shadow and giving him for “lost”, while it was saved in the end. Nobody did anything to save him, and there is just a dialogue that specifies that he was strong enough to revert to human by his own will. A very much welcome dialogue, though: it was very strange that one character out of everyone was destined to oblivion.
Songs: a good diversion strategy
The anime also brings some singing performance from the “Girls Dead Monster” group, which is the “diversion team” of SSS. This allows the anime to display nice themes, which accompany action during many challenges, especially in the first part.
Masami Iwasawa also have “her song”, which is heartfelt and also quite good, and is perfect accompaniment to her episode’s climax.
Opening and ending themes are also quite good. I feel that songs are a great plus for this anime.
“God Skill: Nice Characters”
Albeit being a pretty much standard kuudere-type, Kanade Tachibana is still a good character, and unconventional antagonist. She is a girl with lingering emotions too, and her problems close the story in a proper and pleasing way.
I had a good feeling about characters in general, though there is no character able to “pierce the screen”. Yuri is a good character too, but has, in my opinion, less character than Haruhi, while still being a good leader with a coherent background. Same things goes for Otonashi as protagonist.
No actual “god skill” here, still, characters are okay for the story being told.
Well. I personally liked Kanade pretty much, though. 🙂
…aww, yeah, I liked you too, Yuri!
Stupid deaths with the sad, nostalgic ending theme splashed over: the reason why this anime deserves 7.5 instead of 7. And, by its own right, a good reason to watch the anime.
The promise was fulfilled: Angel Beats made me laugh as much as I cried. And I laughed (look that THING above, and, if you’ve seen the anime, you’ll be laughing again) and cry: Iwasawa’s story made my cry, while she was singing her song. That was not the only moment: I appreciated the simple “I would marry you” from Hinata, and how his life with Yui would have been.
– as much as Otonashi wondering if Hinata was gay made me laugh 😛
The ending, where Kanade tells Otonashi that his heart made her live a while longer, and wanted to thank him is so heartfealt. Otonashi’s bittersweet “I love you”s are also easily relatable.
To conclude, there was a thing that I really loved: the Otonashi’s simple, open gesture of embracing, that happens both for Kanade Tachibana and Ayato Naoi, which is a good message by itself.