Angel Beats is a 13-episode comedy-drama by PA Works based on an original idea with story by Jun Maeda of CLANNAD and Key fame.
Otonashi is a young boy who’s recently died, but he can’t remember how or even his full name due to something probably happening to his head at the time, what he does know is he’s found himself stuck in purgatory and its high school. Literally. He’s now in a world where people are confined to the grounds of a large high school and while most of the people there appear as mindless drones a small group have awakened to their surroundings and formed together as the SSS Brigade (what that stands for changes everytime someone brings it up) where they decide to rebel against god for putting them there by basically doing anything except what they think they should be. Mainly this means they goof off together, concoct schemes to get extra lunch tickets, and just try to have fun while resisting the oversight of the Student Body president whos aware like them but appears to be trying to get them in line.
Much like last weeks show of Welcome to the NHK there’s a lot of genre straddling here, this time though we do get significantly more humor than sheer drama. Because everyone is already dead dying again is something of an inconvenience at worst for them, they just wake up again a bit later, which lets this series revel in some truly Looney Tunes-esque slapstick for some real laugh out loud moments, including the absolute funniest version of “big exams” you’ll ever see.
On the flip side, everyone is dead and in purgatory for a reason, and as the series goes on Otonashi starts trying to unravel what they all are really doing there and delving in the various stories of people when they were alive, which leads to some really strong drama moments and surprisingly strong character work from a rather large and interesting cast. Plus it has one of the greatest bittersweet endings there is (maybe, possibly, there’s an alternate ending which complicates this).
Special shout out too for Otonashi as a lead since he sits firmly in what could be a very generic spot and manages to elevate everything around him. Hes not the passive milquetoast lead that you might expect from similar shows and he even gets downright underhanded with going behind some peoples backs to solve the central mystery since he knows it will upset them.
Lets start with the relatively easy one, some of those backstories are incredibly dark. While nothing is ever depicted on screen there is talk of child abuse, drug overdosing, suicide, and murder. Not nearly as personal as NHK has since its stuff discussed by the characters, just know that its not all as happy and colorful as it might appear. The second downside will depend on your taste in humor, there really isn’t slapstick throughout (its mostly in the first half) but if the jokes arent landing for you then its going to be hard to sit around till the end. Its also worth noting that its large cast becomes a bit of a liability late as not everyone can get development so some characters get understandably forced to the background, it just sucks that some of the more possibly intriguing ones are lost like that.
Weeb Level: 2/10- It uses some cliches and tropes in its high school setting, nothing that you really need to “know” about before seeing it. There is a lot of satire of Japanese life going on, but to understand that is beyond “weeb” knowledge.
Fanservice: 2/10- Confined entirely to a high school means you don’t get the usual beach episodes or anything. Mild male gaze of a couple characters in some quick scenes is all.
Quality: 8/10- If you want a show balancing humor and drama this is really the best for it. Plus its short enough to breeze through.
Where to Watch: Surprisingly ample amount of places as its actually on Crunchyroll and Funimation, but not Prime though.