Talk about a series that tugs heart strings. Angel Beats! is an anime that I have had the privilege of watching and enjoying over a two-day marathon.
Angel Beats! is a series that is designed to invoke emotions. It is designed to make you feel (unless you’re me and instead of “feel” you kinda crawled up into a ball and wept). If something emotional is exactly what you desire, watch it. But, if you just want something “entertaining,” come back to Angel Beats! at a later time. This is an anime you have to be in the mood for, not just something you watch because you are bored.
The main antagonist of Angel Beats! is the world itself. Everyone hates God for giving them unfair lives and fights to avoid being “obliterated” by the world. The world is also the reason why a lot of what happens in Angel Beats! can happen; nobody can die (because they are already dead), Kanade has skills because the world allows her to program powers into her, and the Shinda Sekai Sensen, or SSS, have their weapons because they can make them out of dirt.
As pivotal as the world is, however, it’s really boring and uninteresting. In the end, the world of Angel Beats! is a typical high school. The whole “not able to die” aspect is handled in other anime as being simply comedic; comedy main characters suffer all kinds of bodily injury and walk away unscathed, something Angel Beats! does also frequently.
On another note, if Kanade is scary powerful because she programmed it, why doesn’t the other humans also program themselves powers? That would sure make for some pretty cool action scenes. Hand sonic battles, anyone? The Kanade vs clone could have been so good. Sigh. I can dream, can’t I?
Individually, the characters are the gem of Angel Beats! In my opinion, the three main characters, Otonashi Yuzuru, Tachibana Kanade, and Nakamura Yuri are the best characters with Hinata Hideki, Yui, and Iwasawa Masami close behind.
Unfortunately, there in lies the problem of Angel Beats!. Like stated before, Angel Beats! is an anime designed to tug at heart strings. The way it does this is by trying to connect the audience to a character. For me, I sympathized with Yuri the most, being an oldest sibling and knowing what it’s like to want to to the best for my friends and family.
However, Angel Beats! attempts this connection between the characters and audience not by having multifaceted characters, but by fishing around for character personality types.
Having multiple character types is not a bad thing, but due to the dramatic nature of the anime, once I did connect with a character, I didn’t give jack shit about anybody else. During the beginning episodes, many characters intrigued me: the cool and collected Shiina, the funny yet mysterious TK, the reliable Matsushita V, etc. But, the anime does a poor job of fleshing out the other characters and fleshes out the main characters so much that I found myself asking “what’s the point of these other characters?” I honestly don’t think anybody would have cared if the anime said that characters such as Ōyama and Noda were NPC because they’re so unnecessary for anything besides comedy.
Angel Beats! tugs hearts strings because it makes the audience empathetic to a character, creating that singular bond I mentioned. My biggest gripe of Angel Beats! is that instead of empathy, it should have tried to evoke sympathy (see right for the difference).
Developing the entire group as individual characters could have made for a much better series. Sure, you might not be an English speaking rapper who speaks everything via song (TK), but if he’s got a good back story, you might end up sympathizing with him. The one episode with Yui is exactly what I am talking about; I do not empathize with Yui has, but I recognize the hardships and regrets she has and love how she overcame them with Otonashi and Hinata’s help. I want more of that. I want to like every character in Angel Beats! while loving a handful (Yurippe #1), not just only caring about the few relate to.
Plot is another aspect of Angel Beats! that I highly enjoyed. Without going into too much detail, the changing of perspective on the first enemy, Tenshi, is pretty nice to watch. It’s not a simple “there is an enemy, defeat it” plot. All the characters slowly discover what the world’s rules are and adapt to it differently.
I love the pacing in Angel Beats!. Angel Beats! follows what I dub to be a “rondo format,” employing an ABAB pattern. In the case of Angel Beats!, A is lighthearted, crazy comedy while B is tear-inducing, heart string pulling drama. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice juxtaposition of things like Hinata being launched into a ceiling in one episode and then Kanade telling us all her friends have moved on in another episode. The balance of funny and dramatic accentuates the comedy and seriousness in each. It’s not just all happy and it’s not just all serious. It’s both and both combined becomes better than its parts.
Angel Beats! has a hilarious core group of characters, good action, and enough feels-inducing moments to last you a lifetime (or in my case, two days). This core group of characters definitely carries the entire series, but to my distaste, leaves everyone else in the dust. To me, the pacing of the series is excellent, changing between different atmospheres. However, some may view this changing of pace to be almost “schizophrenic” or “too wishy-washy.”
My wish for Angel Beats! is that it had a couple more episodes where the side characters can be developed. If, however, the only problem with a series is that I want more, that’s definitely not a bad problem to have.
Find a character you relate to. Enjoy the feels. Cry your heart out. Fall in love with the moe-ness that is Kanade (and Kana Hanazawa whose voice is the epitome of kawaii).
Don’t care too much about anyone else, though.