If you thought Angel Beats was good, you are wrong. Here is why.
Angel Beats has convinced me that Jun Maeda doesn’t know how to write an original story. His previous hits Air, Kanon, and Clannad have been about a bunch of mentally and/or physically broken high school girls who all fall in love with a guy whose only significant character trait is that he exists, and along the way one of these girls will die of a mysterious illness. For Angel Beats, Maeda twists his tried and true formula by having all the characters dead to begin with, and stuck in some sort of high school purgatory, where a group of kids shoot a little girl in the kneecaps for no good reason.
As mentioned earlier, Maeda’s stories are very formulaic. First, he establishes a cast of one dimensional, but likeable characters, and a zero dimensional main character who is designed to be a self insert for the viewer. He then lulls the viewers into a false sense of security with a couple of comedic episodes before dropping a tragedy bomb. In time the main character recovers from the tragedy and an asspull miracle occurs, to ensure a happy ending and negating any kind of character development. Angel Beats follows this same formula to an extent, however due to last minute budget cuts; this had to be crammed into 13 episodes making the production feel rushed and uneven.
A lot of fans will defend the show by saying that it would have been more coherent had it been given 26 episodes. I don’t buy this. Maeda had a lot of options. He could have told half the story and left it open to a probable second season. He could have cut some of the characters or spend less time recycling the same gags (suicide rushes, rocket chairs, etc.) to make more room for character growth. It’s possible to tell a great story in 13 episodes or less. Haibane Renmei told a similar purgatory story in 13 episodes, and the world was much deeper, and the characters more sympathetic. Baccano had a huge cast, yet all the characters got their time to shine, without taking away from the story.
In addition, there is never a really good explanation for why they’re fighting Tenshi. They make her out to be evil incarnate at first, but quickly find out that she’s actually a normal girl. Yet rather than do their research, Yuri somehow convinced everyone to build an underground factory, stockpile weapons, and hold rock concerts just to fuck with everyone’s dinner time. If you stop to think about it, the war on Tenshi was nothing more than pointless bickering started by a petulant bitch. Using the budget cuts to defend the trainwreck of a story is like when high school student complain that they would have done better on a test had they gotten more time. Sometimes, you just have to admit that you didn’t know what you were doing.
While the music for the show was decent, part of me felt it was a ploy to milk more money out of the show. Some of the early episodes focused on a band called Girls Dead Monster who played music as some sort of distraction. However, because they weren’t central to the plot, and because singles were being released so frequently while the show was airing, it all felt like a cheap cash-in to ride the wave of success of K-ON.
So if I hated the story so much, why did I stick with it? Simply, it’s because I’m a big fan of the director, Seiji Kishi. He previously did Seto no Hanayome and Tentai Senshi Sunred, which are two of my favorite comedy series. I could see that a lot of effort went into the animation. The lighting and movement was dynamic and smooth. The backgrounds were nicely detailed and had a pleasing color palette. Unfortunately, none of this could save the production from its terrible story. Part of me feels the director was overcompensating for the terrible story by blinding the audience with pretty pictures. This seems to have worked on a large portion of the fanbase since a lot of reviews I have read comment on how pretty it is while glossing over the failure of the story.
After watching Angel Beats and seeing the audience reaction to it online, I feel like it’s done its job of manipulating its audience with false emotions. Because of the heavy marketing done for this series, it feels like nothing more than a cheap ploy to get to peoples wallets by tugging at the heart strings of people who probably have never experienced real romance. It’s a formula that has worked for previous Key works, and their sales of figures and dakimakura prove it. Fans of the show that actually finished this review, watch the show again. Is it actually unique, or is it the same trite, repetitive crap that’s been plaguing the anime industry for years? Does the story make sense, or is it full of more holes than a cheese grater? But most importantly, is it actually good or are you still lying to yourself?
That certainly was a good rant. About to start my first year of graduate school, so sadly my summer is about to come to an end. Anime wise, it has been pretty dull. The only shows I really look forward to on a weekly basis are Seitokai Yakuindomo, Highschool fo the Dead, and K-ON but those are all sadly coming to an end in the next 2 weeks. I’m already very excited for next season, especially for Panty and Stocking, and Bakuman. Hopefully I will have time to post about them, but that honestly feels like an empty promise. Have a good weekend.