1 Jul 2010

Angel Beats! (Anime) Review

Angel Beats! (2010)
Format: TV Series, 13 X 22 minutes
Studio: P.A. Works
Score: 4 stars
Summary: Would have made 4 stars if not for a few minor problems. Humor feels forced most of the time, and the director seems incapable of building up tension or tears (relies on the shock factor). However, most of the dramatic moments are really well done and the animation is very very good in the scenes that matter. The concert scenes had the best music and animation in the show.

Otonashi, a boy who has lost his memories, wakes up to discover he is already dead. Or so he was told. Here in a world where souls linger, unwilling to accept their death, Otonashi has to fight for his right to live in a place in-between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead.

Everyone stuck in this undead high school has a sad life story to tell, and that's where prolific visual novel writer Jun Maeda tries to suck out our tears. For the most part, Angel Beat's is actually quite successful at doing that. Most of the characters' pasts are downright depressing, especially Yuri. I shall not go into too much detail about the plot, because it is actually quite good at pulling the heart strings. However, at times it seems to be trying too hard. Towards the end of the show, certain characters just change a little too much to be believable. The author might have intended that to help draw more tears for the finale, but it didn't do anything for me. The humor in this series just feels forced. The only amusing moments happen at the beginning of the series where Otonashi misinterprets Yuri's mission briefings to be more serious than they actually were. The rest of the jokes feel rather shallow, and sometimes just inappropriate (why inject humor in the otherwise tearful ending?).

P.A. Works' adaptations of Key's visual novels are usually quite well done, especially their animation and drawings. Angel Beats (an anime original story from the people at Key) keeps up this tradition with it's overexposed feel and shiny lights. The main highlights for me were the concert scenes. These are, hands down, the best directed music scenes in anime. When GirlDeMo (Girls Dead Monster) appeared towards the end of the first episode with bright spotlights and CG instruments, my jaw dropped. This was what many fans of K-ON have been asking for but never really got. The CG is really well done, much better than the crap Nodame Canabile had. I would, however, prefer K-ON's Listen (Season 2 ED), simply because it is non-CG and looks great. Here, on the other hand, we have well done CG, but extremely good camera angles, lighting, and directing. As a whole, it beat K-ON.

It took me quite a while before deciding to give Angel Beats! a 3 star rating instead of 4. Reasons for this is already mentioned above. The overall package just seems too uneven. 4 star ratings are for shows that I would highly recommend and come very close to being my all-time favourites. If someone asks me to recommend a 2010 anime, I would say "Angel Beats is really good! You should try watching it." instead of "OMG go watch Angel Beats!"

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