Anime Monday - Angel Beats

Oh man, Angel Beats. The first time I had ever heard of this series was actually from a friend at school. She was all "Hey! You should watch Angel Beats!" and then she proceeded to send me videos of Yui on MSN. I didn't listen to her though. Actually when I researched the series a little bit I honestly didn't like the idea of it. "A group of students fighting against God." Yeah, well, turns out that wasn't the case. (But how was I supposed to know that!?) Anyway despite liking series like Clannad, I put this one off and never expected to watch it. I'm sure I don't need to say this, but eventually I did change my mind.

About three to four years later I was finishing up my final year of college, and I needed something to do between classes. I had a lot of free time between each class, so I would often watch TV series on Netflix, Hulu, and even YouTube TV. I had gone through quite a few "must watch" shows that way (including AMC's Breaking Bad), but for whatever reason one day I wanted something different. So I started looking through some of the anime out at the time, and that's when I saw Angel Beats on the list of available shows. "Eh, what the heck, let's try it." Pretty sure my thoughts were somewhere along those lines. So I started it up, and before I knew it I was hooked.

The Story of Angels:

When the series first opens we find our young hero, a man named Yuzuru Otonashi, waking up in the middle of what seems to be a battle. A young woman is close by aiming a sniper rifle at another girl, whom is referred to as an angel. Otonashi has no idea what is going on, nor does he even remember his past, but he refuses to accept the fact that this "angel" needs to die. So rather than joining the sniper riffle girl, he walks over and talks to the angel instead, and is then "killed" by her. It's at this moment he's forced to realize the truth about his situation -- he is already dead. After waking up in the nurse's office at what appears to be a school, Otonashi is once again asked to join the group lead by Yuri (the girl who was holding the sniper rifle) in order to fight against God. Although he's not fully on board with the idea, he decides to accept.

Once Otonashi joins the group he starts to learn more about the situation he's found himself in. He is in fact dead, and so are all of the other "students" at this school, but not everyone is actually alive. NPCs (yes, just like in a video game) take the form of teachers and other students, and are only programmed to do their job. According to Yuri, if you go along with these NPCs and act like a good student you will disappear forever, so she advises Otonashi to slack off and do anything to remain and not fade away. Yuri also believes that the angel's goal is to take people away, which is why she's at war with her and God. So Otonashi follows her advice, and proceeds to slack off in school, while also trying to find out more about what is really going on. Is the angel really so bad? He doesn't think so.

A Humanity Driven Story:

While the initial premise of Angel Beats makes you think it'll be a war on God, the truth is it is anything but that. In fact it's possible the entire story was a gift from God. Although at first Otonashi does fear fading away, he soon starts to realize that maybe this isn't a bad thing. This world they are living in is somewhere between life and death, and it's giving people a chance to fulfill their unfinished dreams. So as Otonashi gets to know each of the other main characters, he also learns exactly what it was that brought them there. And that's where things get pretty tragic.

It's not a lie to say that Angel Beats is part comedy, but the harsh reality is that these characters are dead, and how they died is not a pretty story. Each episode tends to focus on a different member of Yuri's group, and by doing so we get to see most of their stories from start to finish. One of the first few episodes especially really pulls on the heart strings, and leaves you with feelings that are just hard to explain. The show isn't afraid to go to very dark places while telling these stories, and it becomes painfully obvious just how far they are willing to go pretty quick. One moment you'll see a character living out their dreams, and then the next you'll see them in a hospital bed as their life fades to nothing. But even so it's stories like these that will hook you and make you want to see the story to it's conclusion. You'll want to know who these characters are, and you'll want to know why they ended up at the school. It can be hard to watch at times, but the payoff is worth sticking it out. These are stories you'll never forget.

The Music Beats:

What's a good heart breaking story without some great music? Well, that's just another area Angel Beats excels in. The show is filled with music by both LiSA  and Marina, and both of them are great. LiSA has since done songs that were featured in series like Fate/Zero and even the recent Demon Slayer, and Marina has had quite a few songs featured in the Neptunia series. They are both amazing, and their style fits Angel Beats perfectly. Of course that also makes it even harder to watch at times.

The way Angel Beats uses it's music really helps the series stand out. You have different versions of the opening theme that changes based on the current story events, you have the ending theme which will make even new fans feel nostalgic, and then you have the insert songs that will punch you in the gut and make you want to cry. It's all handled really well, and is easily one of the best parts of the show. Even if you can't understand Japanese, the songs themselves can still easily get to you, and might possibly become some of your all time favorites. It's perfect.

The Downside, and the Future:

As good as Angel Beats is, sadly there is one down side. There aren't enough episodes to cover every single main character, so not all of them get a proper conclusion to their stories. It's a bit of a let down, but thankfully the series doesn't actually end there. For the past few years an Angel Beats visual novel has been in development. It's going to be a multipart release, with the first part already being out in Japan. This version of the story is said to include a full retelling of the anime, include new story arcs, and bring closure to the previously mentioned characters. However this project has been in the works for years now, with a full release still nowhere in sight. But at least there is hope.

Should You Watch It:

Yes! But only if this is your thing. While the series is a "slice of life" story focusing on students, it's not your typical run of the mill story (considering everyone is dead and all). The characters themselves are very likable, there are some genuine funny moments throughout the series, and the dramatic plot points hit hard. It's just a great story, and there's really nothing else like it. Even if you're typically not a fan of anime, this one could be an exception for you. Although just be warned that the character named Yui can be a bit much at times... But I think by the end of it you'll change how you feel towards her. Trust me.

So yeah, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Where to Watch:

At this original time of posting, Angel Beats can be watched at the following locations:

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