Jan 3, 2018
Ardania22 (All reviews)
Lack of expectations can be a wonderful thing.

I went into Angel Beats knowing next to nothing about it. I just knew it was MAL's 5th most popular anime, yet I strangely haven't seen much discussion of it in popular anime circles. Oh, and it had something to do with the afterlife. Thus, I started the first episode with no expectations for what the show would be, or about its quality. I imagined I'd get some fun interactions, some character arcs, and some enjoyable action.

What I didn't expect was to spend the first 2 episodes cackling in laughter and the last 2 episodes drowning in a puddle of happy tears.

Angel Beats certainly borrows from several well-worn anime tropes, with its high school setting, deadpan protagonist, and flashy action beats, yet its feel is unlike any other anime I've ever watched. It twists and turns between slapstick, farce, deadpan snark, melodrama, whimsy, catharsis, and even realism, often within the same scene, sometimes even in the same moment, and all infused with an almost jaw-droppingly heartfelt sincerity that somehow makes these wildly different tones and styles feel entirely cohesive. Emotions collide, mix, and drift apart; I would often find myself giggling at the absurdity of the characters and their situation, yet at the same time un-ironically cheering at their successes. The ensemble cast is one of the best I've ever seen, and their hilarious interactions form the backbone of the show as it slowly reveals its game plan.

What makes the whole thing work is that there's no bullshit. That aforementioned sincerity gives every character, no matter how small or insignificant, a surprising amount of respect from the narrative. Thus, you end up caring about all of them, no matter how silly or one-note they can be. I would gladly spend a thousand episodes with the Afterlife Brigade, watching them grow and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. They're just that likable. But all good things must come to an end, and without spoiling anything, Angel Beats has one of the best endings I've ever seen.

Add to all this a killer soundtrack, one hell of a catchy OP, and the utter majesty that is the character of TK, and it's no surprise that this anime is so popular. It's utterly unique, able to make me laugh and cry in equal measure, sometimes at the same time. It's uplifting, heart-wrenching, breezy, heavy, snarky, honest... for lack of a better summation, it's Angel Beats. If you haven't seen it yet, now's the time to fix that.