For Angel Beats, Key decided to go into a completely different direction: no more visual novels but instead a straight-up anime production, instead of being a straight-up drama, it tosses in all kinds of different genres, it’s got a much more upbeat mood than any other Key work so far, but at the same time it still has some of the elements that made Air and Clannad so addictive. It’s definitely a great premise in theory.
It’s a comedy, adventure story, action series, drama, and sometimes also a romance and slice of life series, but at its core Angel Beats is a full fledged mystery-series. The characters are thrown into a setting they know nothing about, and gradually it unfolds its true nature. Really, the biggest reason why you’d want to watch this series is for the creativity, and the large amount of ideas that the creators tried to put into it. They really tried to create an original world with a lot of depth behind it, and the mystery itself is written quite skillfully to make optimal use of how it unfolds, resulting in a great climax.
The rest of the series would be best described as ‘chaos’, both in the good and in the bad ways. Over thirteen episodes, the pacing is really all over the place. It makes for a number of interesting episodes, but at times the series also just stops trying to make sense. A lot of scenes are just disjointed from each other, and this series hops from one plot twist to the other without much of a transition.
Unfortunately, Key just had way too many ideas that it wanted to put into just thirteen episodes. I think what suffers from this the most is the characterization: it’s often rushed and cheesy because of it, and while the cast as a whole is impressive and enjoyable to watch, nearly all of the characters are rushed through so that only two of them get some actual time to tell their story. The rest of the (for 13 episodes) HUGE cast has their moments in which they just don’t work or connect when they should.
These pacing and rushed issues really prevent this series from standing out, but nevertheless it has quite a bit to like, and its ideas will keep you busy as long as you don’t expect too much of it as a key series. While good, it didn’t have the “oomph” that I experienced with the Air and Clannad TV-series and movies.
|Storytelling:||8/10 – Good mystery, very varied, but also rushed.|
|Characters:||7/10 – The cast shines as a whole, but most of the individual characters lack attention.|
|Production-Values:||9/10 – Excellent animation and visuals, especially the money shots.|
|Setting:||9/10 – Original settings. It may have a few plot-holes, but the creativity put into it more than makes up for it.|