Angel Beats is a show that is fondly remembered for being the first anime for many anime watchers. Though it is not a perfect show, it has a distinct charm mixed with mystery, comedy, action and romance. It gave a taste of what anime can offer and got a lot of people into watching anime, making people look for similar aspects in other shows. It was adapted into anime from the visual novel brand Key by P.A. Works and aired in 2010.
In Angel Beats, those who die with regrets wake up in a limbo-like world where they are given another chance to live out their lives. Once they fulfill their desires, they move on to the next life. But one group of students started a rebellion to stay in this world instead of moving on. They reject their inner desires by breaking several laws, engaging in fights and getting into trouble. They don’t want to feel peaceful inside because that will make them disappear from this world and cross over to the next. In the midst of all that, some mysterious figures start showing up, portending danger to everyone, spreading over looming dread and mystery, which our characters have to overcome.
The show does a good job of conveying the message it is intended for. It shows the true nature of the human mind and their nonsensical rebellion. Humans by nature don’t want to leave the place they grow fond of. Babies cry when they come out of their mother’s womb, people desire to live forever in this life and so on. But in reality, people have to move on and make peace with their lives, accepting one’s true selves. Death is what gives meaning to life. And if we don’t understand this, then we can’t realize our purpose. They don’t tell you that directly in the show, but the theme is in the subtext. It’s up to us to realize it and the way different scenes play out, it’s as if they are telling us to take that hint.
Pros & Cons
Angel Beats has a lot of interesting elements that serve to hook the audience in many ways. They might seem cliché, but the way things are directed with the visuals and the sound, makes you want to keep watching and gets you attached to the characters. The plot and the world-building are pretty wacky though. Often they don’t make much sense. The show fell victim to bad pacing, a rushed ending and so many plot holes. They tried to jam in too many things and characters in only 13 episodes and failed to achieve a well-rounded to storyline as a result. A lot of characters didn’t get to be developed properly, some mysteries stayed unanswered and the world didn’t get explored enough. Despite that, the show shines most when some individual characters become the main focus of certain episodes. PA Works put their heart and soul into those moments to make them emotionally impactful.
The Best Aspect
Some episodes have such moments that can make you cry, smile and reflect upon your own lives sometimes. The dialogue, insert songs, visual, everything is done so well that they can get tears rolling down the cheeks before you know it. The notion of accepting one’s true self, making peace with it and the noble way of self-sacrifice just all hit differently. The comedic moments are also handled masterfully. Some of them even have become memes nowadays.
The opening “My Soul, Your Beats” and ending “Brave Song” both are one of the classics and most beloved of all time. The songs are iconic, some characters have memorable designs and some scenes are eye wateringly emotional. All in all, it’s a good anime.
If you want to check out some similar shows that are also based on works from the visual novel studio Key, some notable ones that come to mind. They are Kanon, Air and Clannad. Haibane Renmei is also similar but adapted from a dōjinshi (fan) manga. They all have similar themes and great characters.