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Angel Beats!



Otonoshi is an amnesiac boy, waking up in a high school which serves as a strange kind of afterlife / purgatory for dead people. A score of the "students" there, led by a coldly determined girl, Yurippe, have decided to rebel against God because their lives sucked and have taken up arms against the (female) President of the Student Council, whom they call Angel, and who exhibits strange superpowers to fight back against them (they, in turn, use an impressive battery of weapons). People who follow the rules of the school at Angel's request eventually vanish away, and the rest of the people at school are "NPCs". Otonashi agrees to go along with them until he gets his memory back.

Angel Beats! has one big quality and one big flaw : its quick, dizzying pacing. It never really rests, bringing up a new plot twist changing the direction of the series virtually every episode, and operates some pretty abrupt mood shift within the episodes themselves. On one hand, that makes it particularly entertaining and riveting as you wonder what they'll bring up this time, on the other hand it also undermines much of the atmosphere, leaves it with a sometimes incoherent plot and dramatic moments that feel forced and artificial because there was not enough build up leading to them. Add to that the fact that it crams several genres together (it tries for both gag-based comedy and tear-jerker melodrama, plus the mysterious setting and the odd action scenes) and has a large cast of character; and you have a pretty odd result of ideas flying together at random for some very mixed result. I can't really call it a bad show, because I mostly had fun watching it, but it certainly wasn't great.

Many of the characters are simply underdeveloped and merely served as one-note comedy jokes. I fairly liked the humour of the series (I wouldn't say it was very good, but I like random and deadpan humour so I found it amusing) so I liked most of them. Other characters are developed thanks to the Sob Story of the Week, usually told through a flashback and with little build up, so you're left wondering at Otonashi's strange power of persuasion that convinced everyone to tell him their life story in the middle of a scene. The characters that spend the most time on screen are still mostly okay : I enjoyed Yurippe as a cool-headed and grimly focussed leader (up until the last episode); and Hinata as Otonashi's male best friend, was pretty endearing and solidly characterised as well. Otonashi felt a bit too Sue-esque (though that's probably mostly a result of "easy" level of the scenario and the way he resolves everyone's issues thanks to... err, thanks to what anyway?) but not actively annoying. Angel was too much of a moe archetype for my taste being an Emotionless Girl, but she's not badly characterised either. And some of the dramatic scenes do reach the right note of touching emotion - mostly a credit to the excellent direction.

The plot only barely hangs together, and while you could fanwanks most of the stuff that did not, it's not like the narrative itself provided you with the rational. The setting is intriguing and well used to give the series its quirky atmosphere (with characters' dying always used as a joke, since they're already dead so it doesn't make much of a difference to them), but again, strongly lacks coherence in the end. At least the series has a neat end and concludes on a great note (if you skip the after-credit tag).

The character designs are pretty average and unoriginal, but the animation is mostly gorgeous, with a lovely direction and some great works on light, and an overall glossy feeling that suits the video game aesthetics of the setting well. The soundtrack, while not particularly awesome in itself, was used to great effect to bring the best out of dramatic scenes.

Overall, not a must-see, but an amusing way to pass time, and not an anime I can say I was ever bored watching.

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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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