Angel Beats is a 13 episode TV series, supplemented by a OAV in the bluray release. Visually stunning, with a fabulous opening song by Lia, it is weighed down by too many characters and by mythologising the “happy high school life” it was attempting to deconstruct.
In some respects Angel Beats covers similar ground to Haibane Renmei in that it is an afterlife of sorts for high school students who had a short or unfair life. The object is apparently to give the unhappily departed a chance to overcome their issues before passing on.
A bunch of the disturbed souls are, unsurprisingly, unimpressed and are fighting back for a chance to confront God. Equally unsurprisingly there is an “angel” on scene to force them to behave.
Mayhem and hilarity ensue (especially since death tends to be temporary in this afterlife).
There is a nice twist that shakes up the allies and enemies about a third of the way through. However around episode 10 I was looking at where the series was and thinking either Angel Beats needs many more episodes, or many fewer characters.
To deal with it there is yet another twist, but one that feels like a desperation move to wrap the series up and dispose of the extraneous cast members.
The central characters are (mostly) fairly sympathetic and reasonably well fleshed out, but this simply wasn’t possible for the large supporting cast in the time available.
As a result the ending is OK I guess but it certainly lacks the depth or resonance of Haibane Renmei. Then again perhaps I’m not (and never was) the target audience that it would resonate with.
The myth of a “happy high school life” that Angel Beats simultaneously satirises and yearns for holds no attraction for me. I’ve mostly forgotten high school, and happy to have done so.
That said Angel Beats is enjoyable enough overall, with few openly disagreeable elements, but is not good enough to rate a rewatch any time soon.
I’ll end this with the fabulous opening but note that there are 17 named characters in the opening for the first episode alone:
- My Soul, You’re Beat! Goodbye to Angel Beats and Chrono Crusade (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)
- Twenty Days of Haibane Renmei – Day 1: Cocoon – Dream of Falling from the Sky – Old Home (piratesobg.wordpress.com)