012: Angel Beats!
Aired: Spring 2010
Genres: Action, Drama, Supernatural, Fantasy, School, Comedy
Date watched: Dec 08 2018 – Dec 09 2018
Series watched: Angel Beats! (13 ep x 24 min + 2 ep x 27 min + 1 ep x 2 min)
Why I started watching: The songs from Tamayura made me really sad, and I was curious if they were popular go-to songs in the ever-present “Saddest songs in anime?” threads on Reddit. Not really, as it turns out. However, from one of those threads, I found a link to a live performance of Ichiban no Takaramono by LiSa. I had no idea what Angel Beats! was about, but seeing the singer in tears while singing was so emotional that I was moved anyway, and then decided to watch the anime, especially since I had just come off of three shows in a row that were primarily Slice of Life, and wanted to try something new.
Angel Beats! is pretty hard to describe without spoling the show, since a lot of the show involves first figuring out the hidden plot point, and then looking at how everyone reacts to it. The show starts off with the protagonist waking up on school grounds without any memory, and a fellow student welcoming him to the afterlife and handing him a gun and asking him to shoot another student. And it only gets wackier from there. The story then unfolds as Yuzuru, the protagonist, tries to regain his memory and figure out why he is trapped in this school in the afterlife along with everyone else.
Similar to Tamayura, Angel Beats! was an original creation, with the manga being published around the same time as the anime, rather than having the anime be constrained by the manga that came before it. While in Tamayura’s case it allowed the studio to produce a complete story from start to end over the course of 2.5 seasons, Angel Beats! was not as good in that regard, with only one season to show for it, and drastic genre swings from episode to episode as it went from action to mystery to music to slice of life and back to action again. At least the music was good, even though none of the in-show songs ended up capturing me, I did really like LiSa’s song linked above, as well as the OP, My Soul, Your Beats! (by Lia) Though after watching Tamayura, I could not take my eyes off of the little glowing tamayura through that entire video.
Still, Angel Beats! is notorious for having one or two of the more emotional episodes in anime history after the plot spoiler drops, and it sure didn’t disappoint – a different version of the linked song above, Ichiban no Takaramono, plays at the end of both of those episodes, and it tore my heart out. The art, music, choreography, and directing all come together in those episodes to cascade the viewer with a deluge of emotions. Both those episodes play out as extended farewell scenes, where all the viewers basically knew what was going to happen, even if the final details had not been hashed out yet. And so each was one long train-wreck of me whimpering, “Oh no.. oh no.. oh no..” to the screen.
Unfortunately, between and before those excellent episodes were scattered a mix of mediocre filler episodes together with a couple of good ones. Though a lot eventually gets revealed, the audience is left to guess at the relevence of a number of minor plot points that are never adequately explained, and the filler episodes near the end were especially bad because they desperately needed to show the backstories of some characters, and never did. This meant that many of the characters’ motivations were simply hand-waved away, making them feel weaker than they deserved. The anime carried the main story well, and ended really well, but the in-between bits were weak, and it felt like they were trying to leave room for the manga or visual novel game to expand upon the universe or the characters later on. Despite that though, this anime is pretty much considered a keystone anime that should be watched by everyone at some point in their anime careers.
Final Score: 9/10