Thursday, July 4, 2013

Anime Review: Angel Beats!

ANGEL BEATS: Catharsis at its best

Yuzuru Otonashi just died, and he wakes up in limbo with a high school setting. There are many adventures for a teenager in this high school -- concerts, club activities, among many others. But it seems that the limbo is not that peaceful after all. There is a girl called Angel who is regarded as a threat among the students, and Yuzuru Otonashi has yet to find the reasons why.

The anime starts interestingly, introducing the general atmosphere of the high school setting and the major characters. But it is just too bad that the quality is not very consistent. After the first sequence, the story goes all over the place. It focuses on a shallow goal that isn’t really fully expanded, so the direction of the story becomes somewhat nonsensical.

The story direction is not all bad, though. There are certain episodes that give focus on the characters, and I think these are the best episodes of Angel Beats. They have proven that Angel Beats is not just a series about high school students doing nonsensical things for mindless good vibes. It actually has themes that have real depth and meaning -- those themes trigger emotional reactions.

Also in these character-oriented episodes, Angel Beats utilized the fact that the setting is a high school and limbo at the same time. This turns out to be an interesting combination after all.

But perhaps these character-oriented episodes are the only reason why viewers would subscribe to the story fully. As I said earlier, the story of Angel Beats is all over the place, so it has no real solid focus that will make the viewers subscribe.

As for the characters, I have mixed feelings. The good thing about them is their character development, which is backed up by the concept of the high school being a limbo. These developments are easily emotional.

The bad thing about them is their blandness. Most of them are just distinguishable because of their unique traits, but when I look deeper, there really isn’t much to see. The only one who is fairly interesting is Kanade Tachibana (Angel). She has the same archetype as Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Yuki Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya -- the mysterious one, yet far from empty.

The animation of Angel Beats is very fluid, and it delivers in the parts where I expect them to deliver something amazing. Even though the art design is nothing groundbreaking, it is well-moulded and detailed that makes it a little different compared to other anime titles in a high school setting.

Another thing I like is the music. What I mean by music is the opening theme of Angel Beats and other feature songs, not the soundtracks embedded in the scenes. I’m indifferent towards those.

Yurippe and Kanade featuring the incredible animation

Overall, I think Angel Beats is still a pretty interesting watch. It has a perfect balance of comedy and drama, two of the most entertaining categories. Even though the story goes all over the place, there are instances where it pulls off its intended purposes, particularly those that involve the development of the characters.

That’s the best thing about Angel Beats -- the catharsis produced by character development. Angel Beats portrays that there will always be room for hope, for change, and for letting go of our deepest regrets. I would highly recommend this series to those who have lost purpose in life, and to those who feel trapped in the hands of time. If you are neither, you should still watch this series, for there are many things to learn from it, even though, at plain sight, it appears to be a cheesy narration about high school life.

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