What if after you died, you woke up in high school? That's what happens in Angel Beats, a pretty cool anime series that has been released by Sentai Filmworks, a unique mix of classroom comedy and shoot-em-up action. This complete collection includes all 13 episodes and the single OVA adventure (which is pretty funny.) The only real flaw with the show is that it's too short.
Yuzuru Otonashi wakes up on a sidewalk with no idea where he is or how he got there. What's even more disorienting is when a girl with a big gun, Yuri Nakamura, informs him that he's dead, and in the middle of a war. Well, sort of. It turns out that Yuzuru is in a sort of purgatory in the form of a high school. There dead teens are supposed to go to school and obey the rules, but if they do they'll pass on and be reborn as any form of crustacean. At least that's what Yuri believes. To prevent this from happening Yuri has formed the Afterlife Battlefront a group of students who rebel against the set ways and fight Angel, a super powered student that is God's representative. They're hoping to either destroy Angel or follow her to God.
Yuri also informs Yuzuru that since he's already dead, he can't die, and then tries to shoot Angel, a cute young girl who shows up on campus. This is too much for the guy and after spoiling Yuri's shot he walks down to talk to Angel. She has a quiet, computer-like voice and when Yuzuru tells her that he doesn't believe that he can't be killed, she turns her arm into a sword and runs him through.
Yuzuru wakes up in the school clinic, good as new. Yeah, being stabbed really hurt, but that's about it. After that demonstration Yuzuru, who still can't remember what happened to him before waking up, joins Yuri and the Afterlife Battlefront.
The group consists of several other dead students. There's the jock Hideki, the bright
There's also a girl-band, Girls Dead Monster, which put on gorilla-style concerts that act as a diversion for the Afterlife Battlefront's plans to battle Angel or to get food coupons from the NPC students. These plans are often hilariously complex and bring a lot of humor to the show.
One of the things that makes this series so exciting is that a lot of these seemingly two-dimensional characters get fleshed out and are very interesting. It turns out many of the kids at the school had really horrible lives before they died, and these background tales, though sad, really bring the series to life.
The other aspect that raises this series above a lot of other anime is that the plot advances and changes in unexpected ways. This could have been an 'adventure of the week' show with a new plan to get Angel each time, but they soon move beyond that. The plot evolves quickly and by the end of the series it's quite a different show than what it was at the beginning.
The one complaint I have is that it moves too quickly. If they had expanded the number of episodes in the series it would have improved the story. As it an episode will focus on a character only to have them fall into the background or get written out soon thereafter. Just as you really get attached to a character they're gone. A few more episodes would have made the show unfold at a more leisurely pace, which would have been nice especially at the end. Aside from that, it's a great show.
This series comes on three DVDs housed in a single width keepcase.
Viewers have a choice between the original Japanese audio track and an English dub, both in stereo. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't an English 5.1 option as is the standard for most anime dubs. In any case I viewed the show in its original language and spot checked the dub track and both were very good. The dub was very well done with talented actors who did a great job of not only matching their speech to the animated lip movements but also brought the characters to life. Neither track had any dropouts, background noise, or other defects.
This is a nice looking show. The anamorphic 1.85:1 image is crisp and clear with tight lines and a great amount of detail. The colors are vivid and strong and really make this transfer shine. There aren't any digital defects, with even aliasing and blocking, the two most prevalent animation flaws being totally absent. Fans will be very happy with the way this disc looks.
Not much in the way of extras. There are clean opening and closing animation, but that's it. There's also the OVA episode, which I suppose could be considered an extra. This episode takes place earlier in the series and shows a rather bizarre plan that Yuri comes up with, and the comical execution. It was pretty funny.
Angel Beats is a fun, entertaining and at times very touching show. The only real complain I have is that it moves too quickly in parts and if it was expanded it would have been even better. This show gets a strong 'recommended' rating.