Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Angel Beats! Blu-Ray Review

Angel Beats! Blu-Ray Review
Animation Studio: P.A. Works
Episodes: 13 episodes + OVA
Director: Seiji Kishi
Script: Jun Maeda

Angel and Yuri
Have you ever wondered what happened after you die? It is the question that has preoccupied humanity since the beginning of time. Angel Beats is an anime series whose central premise is what happens to teenagers after they die. Featuring rich animation, a great cast of characters, a captivating premise, and delightful music Angel Beats is one of the best anime series that is available on Blu-Ray in the United States. It takes what could hypothetically be a very dark and depressing premise and turns it on its head.

The basic foundation of an unforgettable series is a good story, and Angel Beats is one of the best anime out there. The story starts with Otonashi waking up in a field next to a girl with a sniper rifle. She introduces herself as Yuri and proposes that he join her organization to combat an Angel. Confused at the situation, he walks up to Angel and asks her if he is dead, with Angel proceeding to stab him. After waking up in bed he finds himself in a hospital bed, with blood-stained tattered clothes next to him. The cast proceeds to explain to him that he is dead, and that being dead they do not die in this world. They are dead humans in a school, intermingling with NPC’s (“non-playable characters” for those of you who don’t play RPG’s). If they enjoy the school life, they get “obliterated” and disappear from the school. Yuri leads the SSS, also known as the Afterlife Battlefront. They battle against Angel and they circumvent school life so they won’t be obliterated.

Otonashi, Angel, Yuri,
and Yui (pink hair)
The story of Angel Beats is very well done; it balances between action, comedy, and drama flawlessly and effortlessly. Much of the action in the anime occurs when Yuri and the gang battle against Angel. Comedy happens mainly with the silly character interaction, especially with the pink-haired, fast talking, hyperactive guitar player, Yui. The drama is very well done, and it is very authentic. The dramatic sequences occur when a character tells about how they lived their life and how they tragically died through flashback sequences. As the viewer, one can’t help but feel some empathy for the horrible lives that many of the characters had. The dramatic sequences are heart wrenching and one shouldn’t be shocked if they shed a tear or two when it happens. There is one issue with the storyline; it is that it feels unfinished. Of the main cast, about 5 or 6 get really well developed backgrounds and storylines, but there is a large number who wasn’t developed at all. I can’t help but feel that this series should have been 26 episodes to explore the entirety of the cast. The anime story and character development was exceptional, but it could have been taken to the next level had they had a 26 episode length, as opposed to the 13 it has.

Angel steals Yui's guitar
P.A. works is behind the anime, and it shows, the anime is stunningly animated. When you watch the anime, you have to watch it in Blu-Ray; any other medium would not do this anime justice. The animation is gorgeous, with incredibly detailed backgrounds. The character animation is very fluid, with the band sequences moving as fluidly as can be drawn. Angel Beats has great character design, and it shows in the animation, no expense is spared when it comes to creating the anime. Character themselves have simple faces, but the mouth movements synchronize with the great Japanese voice acting. P.A. Works is a younger animation studio that has only recently started doing their original work, and they have established themselves in short time with True Tears, Canaan, Angel Beats!, and the incredible Hanasaku Iroha. They have done a wonderful job with Angel Beats and I look forward to see what incredible works they will be doing in the future. P.A. Works is a great animation studio and one to look out for in the future.

The large Angel Beats cast
The backbone of an anime is the cast of characters, and Angel Beats has a great cast of characters. Otonashi is the male lead; he is sensible, logical, and affable. He supports the team as much as possible, and he bridges many of the characters together. Yuri Nakamura is the team leader and she is one of the smartest people in Afterlife Battlefront. I remember when her character design was first released, and people roundly critiqued her for being a “Haruhi Doppelganger.” If you can get past her stunning similarity with Haruhi, you will find that she is a great character that pushes the series. Angel is the character who fights with Afterlife Battlefront. She has a small frame, a great poker face, and a gentle personality. Her small body is in contrast to the great presence she has on screen. The SSS has many members, many of which don’t get enough screen time or air time. Hideki is a trustworthy, blue-haired boy who is very close to Otonashi. Shiina is a Ninja who barely speaks, but she has a deep love of anything cute. TK is a blonde guy who speaks nonsensical English phrases; he is one of the funnier characters. Yui is an assistant to Afterlife Battlefront’s band “Girls Dead Monster.” She is animated, effervescent, and her interaction with Hideki is quite amusing. There are many more characters, but I don’t want to go on all day describing them. The character interaction is great and their interaction is central to what made Angel Beats such a delightful anime. There is not a bad character in the entire cast, and with a huge cast that is quite compliment to the creators of the anime. As I said earlier, my main complaint is that the large cast could be developed even better had the length of the anime been a 26 episode series.

The music in the Anime is very good, especially the great opening song. Angel Beats is one of the infrequent anime series where I have watched the opening of every single episode. It is a great piece of music that starts off with a solo piano piece (with Angel on the piano). The opening song by Lia is a great piece of music that fits the setting of the anime perfectly. The ending song is equally good and it fits the lonely theme so perfectly. Another highlight of the anime is the great lyrics used by the band Girls Dead Monster. The vocal music in Angel Beats is very well done and they fit the anime perfectly. The background music is not as memorable, but it does stage the scenes well.

Angel Beats is a great anime; it is one of the finest anime released in North America so far this year. It is a magnificent anime that mixes action, drama, and comedy very well. The animation is striking; it has to be seen in blu-ray to have the complete experience. Angel Beats has a great cast of characters and their interactions make the anime a wonderful experience. For an anime that is about what happens after death, it is a heartening story. What makes Angel Beats great is not that it is about death; it is about showcasing the power of the human spirit to overcome all situations, no matter how bad it can be.

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