Angel Beats! (bedheadred)
The story is told through Yuzuru Otonashi who wakes up with amnesia mid-battle in a high school. Yuri Nakamura, while lying on the ground with a sniper rifle, quickly tries to recruit him to their Battlefront organization. Otanashi learns through trial and error that he has entered a state of purgatory between life and the afterlife where the Battlefront members can't die. Their only enemy is "Angel" or Kanade Tachibana, the Class President. Angel's role in this purgatory is to make all the Battlefront members conform to school rules. Episode 1 cleanly states all the rules and players of purgatory. Episode 2 quickly explains how a group of high schoolers have an arsenal of weapons. The rest of the anime chronicles the Battlefront's "assualts" on Angel and other dangers.
There are a gaggle of Battlefront members. Each character seems to have a regret in life that has kept them from entering the afterlife. If you are unfamiliar with the term purgatory, especially of the Catholic faith, it is somewhat like a waiting room before Heaven. Those not pure enough to enter Heaven and those not sinful enough to enter Hell, enter Purgatory. There they repent their sins and become purified for Heaven. The Battlefront members come to terms with their personal tragedies in this purgatory. For me, the most moving story was the aspiring musician who was left completely paralyzed by a head injury in life. This second chance at life in purgatory gave her a chance to express herself through music.
While the idea of purgatory and regrets may sound like the setting for a very solemn anime, Angel Beats! is full of comedy. From the character T.K. who never speaks but just sings appropriate song lyrics to the hacker who urges everyone to call him "Christ," there is more than enough comedic relief to keep the viewer entertained and the series light.
Central to the anime is the leader of the Battlefront. She assumed leadership as she was the first of the undead in purgatory to challenge Angel. Yuri uses physical and psychological tactics to try to defeat Angel. She is a strong leader who is well respected by her peers. As a leader, she is a carbon copy of Haruhi--from the authoritarian smirk to the hair ribbon. Fortunately, she becomes more unique toward the latter part of the anime when she deals with her personal demons.
Yuzuru Otanashi moves through the story, at first, as an indistinguished character. Without his memory, he is simply a team player. Slowly we see his ability to help people develop, which ironically has to do with his regret.
Angel appears to be a character void of emotion. The enforcer of rules and enemy of the Battlefront has very different intent than originally thought. Her moe voice and design help the viewer to not dislike the character.
Music plays an important part of Angel Beats! The Battlefront's diversionary tactics usually involve staging an unapproved concert. I appreciate that the band was an all girl's rock band instead of the stereotypical girl pop idols you encounter so often in anime. The concert scenes are beautifully choreographed with light effects that have an almost cinematic quality. The rest of the anime visual pales to the quality of the concert scenes.
The anime also has a beautiful opening sequence which starts with Angel playing the piano and moves into lyrics with piano accompaniment. To see the robotic Angel play such a passionate piece, hints to the personality you will see later in the anime. The closing piece is a solo vocal number that is sweet and simple, yet very moving. The song is guaranteed to make you weep after the last episode.
I watched both the sub and dub of this anime and prefer the dub, which is a huge compliment to the voice actors. Each captures the essence of the character without overacting. The comedic timing is as expertly executed as the emotionally charged scenes.
Angel Beats! is an anime that appeals to action enthusiasts, music aficionados and intellectuals alike. Whether you question your own purpose for living or just watch for the drama, I'm sure you'll enjoy this anime until the biter end...
"I know my way now." --Ayato Naoi