Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Angel Beats! Episode 1 – Action Moe

Angel Beats! Episode 1 – Action Moe

Angel Beats! (the exclamation marks are in the title) is a moe anime. But it’s a moe show created in part by Jun Maeda and Na-Ga, both of whom are famous for creating dating sims that eventually get turned into heartwrenching anime, such as Kanon and Clannad. Their past work are the kinds of stories that transcend the common moe scenarios of cute girls doing cute things, and manage to be as affecting and haunting as anything in the medium.

So what does this pedigree mean for Angel Beats!? At the very least, it means the show aspires to be more than your average cutefest. Angel Beats! is set in a strange world—a ghostly afterlife populated by static beings that appear human but are merely placeholders that make up the background for the world’s real denizens, recently-deceased teenagers. While most attempt to fall back into their old patterns of school life and end up being erased by Angel, the world’s stoic female guardian, a select and wacky few have chosen to fight against their inevitable fate. These, of course, are our main characters. They don’t want to reincarnate, so instead they’re going to kill God.

Most of the episode is focused on introducing you to the world and the characters. There’s the requisite boring, colorless male point of view character, who wakes up with amnesia, further cementing his status as an empty shell for viewers to project themselves on. He meets Yuri, the main character and leader of the resistance, who is slightly insane as a result of clearly being modeled on popular anime character Haruhi Suzumiya. Yuri introduces the one-joke gag characters that make up her resistance movement, and explains the world through long, drawn out scenes of dialogue. These are occasionally broken up by the gag characters saying or doing wacky things, but it’s a poor way to cover up dull exposition.

If you’re getting a Kyon-Haruhi vibe from this, you’re not alone.

It gets worse, though. After the writers realize they can only cram so many gags before the exposition starts to drag, Yuri agrees to take the BCPOVC on a mission. Finally, you’re thinking, some action. Time for a life or death battle against Angel, right? Or some daring commando raid to further explore the secrets of this strange and mysterious world? Not even close. Four girls throw an impromptu rock concert in the cafeteria while the rest of the squad fires hundreds of rounds into Angel to keep her away from the venue. Then, a giant fan blows away the meal tickets of all the statics, so our noble heroes can eat for free for the next month. Right.

I bet you thought I was making this up

I bet you thought I was making this up

Angel Beats! is the kind of show that’s constantly subverting your expectations, except my expectations here probably consisted watching a good show by a staff with a proven track record whose previous work I enjoyed a great deal. Instead, we’re given a potentially interesting world that is completely overshadowed by bunch of gags and wacky situations from flat, one-joke characters.

Despite its pedigree and surreal setting, it’s hard to see Angel Beats! as anything more than another lame moe show with aspirations to comedy. It’s not trying to draw you in with its mysterious premise: this world is strange, but there’s no sense of mystery. Yuri already seems to know everything about the world, she’s just not sharing it with the audience. It’s not a drama, since there’s no dramatic tension. Sure, Yuri is trying to kill Angel, but Angel is fairly nonplussed by this and seems pretty much invincible. So are the main characters. They literally can’t die—they just wake up later in a pool of their own blood, which arises to some dark humor that is all the show has going for it, comedy-wise. Their only real danger is being erased by Angel, but we haven’t seen that happen, and the lighthearted mood of the characters makes any chance of it happening seem pretty remote. This isn’t a resistance movement struggling for survival in a hostile environment, it’s a bunch of mischievous kids out to have a good time.

Angel Beats is not a serious show. They’ve got all the pieces for a quality, serious anime—a mysterious settng, a surreal existential struggle—but the creators sabotage it at every turn in favor of silliness and cheap gags. That would be fine if it was actually funny, but it’s really not at all. Maybe it will turn around, drama-wise, or maybe it will somehow become funny, but right now all it’s got going for it are its animation.

This looks five times better in motion

This looks five times better in motion

And it’s absolutely gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. This is the best looking show this season by far. But without anything to support those visuals, it’s going to get dull quickly.

You can watch the episode here.

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  1. June 12, 2010 at 5:15 am

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