“The Beating of My Heart” – Angel Beats (anime) – 5/10 Candy Canes

God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled. ~Author Unknown

Genre: Drama/Action/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/ 13 Episodes) + Episode 13.5 + Special

Licensed: This anime is not licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Very good. While it doesn’t reach how amazing Kanon (2006) and Clannad look – Angel Beats has a different animation studio- this still looks above-average.

Summary: In a world after death, angels fight for their fate and their future. Yuri, the leader of the Shinda Sekai Sensen, rebels against the god who destined her to have an unreasonable life. On the other hand, Tenshi, the chairperson of the student council for the world after death, battles against the SSS members. SSS members utilize armed weaponry to battle it out against the angels harnessing supernatural powers.

Review: This is perhaps the anime that I’ve heard the most about this year. I’ve heard people proclaim it awesome, I’ve heard people saying it’s terrible. So when I got this in a Secret Santa anime swap, I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
For me, this anime falls firmly into the ‘mediocre’ range. It’s not so much that the show itself is mediocre and unremarkable, it’s that the good (and great) things balance out the bad (and terrible) things.

The first place to start is by saying this is not Haruhi with explosions. This ends up being both a blessing and a curse, as there are so many references and similarities that I felt somewhat familiar with the main characters already, but the things that made Haruhi a decently fun experience were taken out and changed up. For instance, there are still physical-comedy shenanigans, but instead of being Charlie Chaplain turn out to be more like Three Stooges comedy- and lack Kyon’s wit and the general humor of the show to make it more palatable. The writers tried to make this funny, but it falls flat and repetitive as most of the jokes center around the characters calling themselves or others ‘dumba—s’.

The other problem with the cast is that it is just too big to get to know the characters in it well enough to really like them. It’s easy to feel sorry for them because of their pasts, but for those who don’t get that showcasing you see that one speaks bad English and breakdances, one likes Judo and beef udon, etc… and apparently you’re supposed to feel for and like these characters. It’s simply impossible given the size of the cast and the time that we’re given- though there are a few that you can get to know and like even within this time frame. I find that Yurippe isn’t half as obnoxious as Haruhi was, and Kadane has a little more of a spark of personality than Yuki did. Otonashi may not have the sarcasm of his predecessor, but he becomes a deeper and more engaging personality as the show goes on.

The plot itself isn’t half-bad, and has spanned numerous theories over the internet about where they are, what the nature of the place they’re in really is, and what happens after they graduate. And I could honestly see some good plot threads that were bumbling around but never really got utilized to their fullest potential, along with leaving a huge amount of unanswered questions and inconsistancies in the story.

For instance, what exactly is the nature of the world that they’re in? It appears to be some sort of computer-controlled place (since they discover they can manipulate it with programming), but other than that… And why hasn’t anyone tried going outside the school grounds? What exists out there?

If the NPCs are supposed to act like regular people, why don’t they react when the SSS members act like nuts in class, or are bothered by having guns pointed at them (except for one notable time), or are bothered by one of the guys bringing a huge giant battleaxe to class?

If Kanade makes her weapons the same way the SSS does, then why don’t any of the members of the SSS also have Hand Sonics or the ability to clone themselves, and have to rely on smelting and manual labor to create guns?

If the characters are immortal, then why is it a big deal for one of them to ‘die’? Otonashi himself gets ripped to shreds in the first episode, and no one makes a big deal out of it. So when they’re caught in traps in the later episodes, why can’t they just continue on when they revive?

It starts out as an easy story, with the SSS needing to defeat Kanade (nicknamed “Tenshi”) to go head-to-head with God. That plot point had essentially disappeared by the third episode, as the goal goes from defeating her to making her cry. By the fifth episode, the goal is to merely keep existing in the world. They aren’t questioning how to break the ‘programming’, don’t ask Kanade where she comes from or why she has the goal of comforting students, nothing except trying to keep from disappearing. What’s worse is the disappearing bit- the SSS operates under the assumption that when you disappear, you get reincarnated as some lower life form like a barnacle. However, in the third episode, someone defies how kids normally disappear- but no one questions how this could have happened and why she disappeared. They eventually figure it out by episode 8, but that’s a long time between those episodes.

The story itself has a lot of pacing issues- episode 4 was used to create drama instead of move the plot forward or explain anything (this was where the sole goal was to make Tenshi feel bad via baseball game. Seriously?!). A lot of time is spent on the band. When you’re trying to figure out what this place is and why the students are there, you get to watch the band play for a few minutes. In several episodes. The only thing that makes that okay instead of outrageous is that the songs range from mediocre to pretty good.

As for Episode 13.5 and the special, they didn’t help explain things at all. 13.5 (titled “Another Epilogue”) hinted at a possible second season, which A) didn’t interest me and B)wasn’t as good as the original ending. The special was essentially the same.

Overall, while this had stuff going for it, the execution wan’t up to par.

Recommended: Not really. But if you want to watch it, 16+. The humor tends toward Three Stooges with Knives- that is, physical and sometimes bloody. You’ll get people hit with giant hammers, crushed under a ceiling, and impaled on a knife- and sometimes this is supposed to be funny. While there is a decent amount of blood, there is very little actual gore. People get shot, and there are bodies lying around a field at one point. The language is pretty strong, as at least once an episode they toss around the word dumba—-s, the d-word is said several times, God’s name is taken in vain and turned into a swear, and at least once you get the f-bomb.

Other titles you might enjoy instead: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (anime)
Kanon (2006) (anime)
Clannad and Clannad Afterstory (anime)
Haibane Renmei (anime)
Ef- a Tale of Memories and Ef- a Tale of Melodies (anime)
Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora (anime)


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