Life is worth living.
Angel Beats! is probably one of the most confusing anime I’ve ever had the pleasure of running across. What starts off as a series that invokes groans and eye rolling, quickly turns to delightful laughter over just how absurd and stupid everything is, right up until it hits you like a train with how dark and existentially insightful it really is. The only conclusion is that Angel Beats! is simply brilliant. That being said, it is also an intensely emotionally draining anime that knows exactly how to connect with its audience using just the right amount of sentimentality. Then again, that’s a tool anime has always known how to use effectively.
Otonashi (Blake Shepard) wakes up dead at a High School. The first person he meets is Yuri (Brittney Karbowsk), a girl with a sniper rifle trained on a target out in the middle of a field named Angel (Emily Neves). After a brutal lesson learned, Otonashi learns that he’s after in a sort of purgatory made for people who lived such awful lives that they can’t accept their death. He’s then asked to join up with the SSS, a group of students who have decided to defy God and wage war on his “Angel” and the world he’s created. It is with this group that Otonashi finds himself sucked into hair brained schemes, such as stealing food tickets from students and defeating Angel’s baseball team, fighting to reaming in the world and not to get “obliterated” and pass on. However, soon he realizes that this is a place not meant to hold those with terrible lives, but to give them a chance to find the peace that was missing. It is through this that Otonashi finds his true purpose.
Angel Beats! is an anime that hides behind a smile. As ridiculous as it seems at times, it always manages to blind side the audience with the darkness that lies underneath the surface. One such character lived a life in which she blamed herself for the death of her siblings during a botched robbery. It’s a series that examines the weight of guilt that rests on all of our shoulders. At the same time it takes a look at how redemption isn’t something that can only be sought out by dark anti-heroes in comic books, instead, it’s something that the universe can seek. In a way, it’s a unique way of looking at Karma and a way of giving hope to those who might feel helpless due to their past. At its heart, it’s about finding peace in the simple beauty of life, catching a fly ball, being able to sing a song or even just being able to help those around you.
Backing up the philosophical themes and goofy misadventures are a handful of incredible action sequences. While it tries to remain light hearted for the first part of the series, the action quickly heats up as new threats emerge to confront the protagonist. Combining gun fights with blades and of course plenty of blood. This is certainly an anime that does not shy away from getting it’s hands dirty, though only in short spurts.
It’s safe to say that Angel Beats! is just as likely to make you smile as it is to tug on a few heart strings. The ending is especially well done and as emotional as it is, never feels like it’s pushing things too far. Despite its slow start, the 13 episode series (directed by Seij Kishi and written by Jun Maeda) is well worth sitting through as it quickly picks up steam. It features a great ensemble of voice actors including the likes of David Matranga, Greg Ayres, and Melissa Davis, who do an incredible job of creating an empathetic connection with the audience. Along with a great soundtrack (also written by Jun Maeda), it really is a series that anime fans should check out, though it might not be a series for people who are just starting to watch.