Apr 03 2010

Capsule Review: Angel Beats! Episode 1

vlcsnap-2010-04-03-22h20m20s114Forgive my lack of posting, finally got a day off from the new job…and just in time to catch up with the new anime season.  To say I’ve been looking forward to Angel Beats! is a bit of an understatement.  Breaking the Kyoani/Key winning team that produced Air, Kanon, Clannad and Clannad: After Story, a new player, PA Works (True Tears and Canaan) , is now working with Keys to produce Angel Beats!  The results so far seem quite satisfying.

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Otonashi, a boy with no memories suddenly awakens lying on the grounds of a typical high school.  Nearby is a young girl dressed in seifuku, armed with a sniper rifle.  Yuri immediately invites him to join the Afterlife Battlefront, mentioning angels, the afterlife and fighting a resistance against reincarnation.  Utterly confused, Otonashi spots Yuri’s target, a beautiful young girl standing in the middle of the school track.  Thinking that Yuri is trying to trick him, Otonashi decides to talk to the young girl instead.  Otonashi asks the angel to prove that he’s already dead and can’t be killed, so the angel obliges, converting her hand into a sword and stabbing him through the heart.

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The story and setting seem to be a bewildering synthesis of Evangelion, the Matrix, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu and  the Lord of the Flies.  There is a mix of Buddhism and Christianity, as the confused kids of the Afterlife Battlefront, under the charismatic leadership of Yuri fight against their inevitable passing from purgatory to the afterlife or reincarnation.   We also see some complex characterization, which is typical of Key’s stories, in that Otonashi, struggling with his own amnesia, is not sure which side he should place his loyalty with.  Key’s has excellent storytelling and characters in their visual novels (eroge or not), so I expect them to produce a terrific story.

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The animation is excellent, with a good use of motion, camera and editing.  Some of the camerawork is reminiscent of the mental anxiety sequences from shows like Chaos;Head.  PA works has made extensive use of CG in the past, so I was very pleased to see that their use of it here blended very well and didn’t stick out at all.   I did feel like the characters were a bit flat, but I wonder if some of that was an attempt to stay more faithful to Key’s designs than KyoAni usually did.  I also found some of the character animation to move on and off model, but overall the composition held together.  I am not 100% positive, but it appears that most of the backgrounds are done in 3D with handpainted elements.  The major complaint I have is that they appear to be using a kind of forced depth of field, and as a result there are characters that are crisp and those with soft edges that don’t seem to match with the distance from the camera.  It is a cool idea, but it almost looks like the traditional letdown problem in cell animation where some characters have different color values because of the number of cells used in the scene.  The letdown problem went away with the move to digital ink and paint, but it stands out a bit in my mind.  It is a small complaint, however.

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The story is quirky, the characters are quirky…and I can’t help feeling this sense of foreboding that this already twisted plotline is holding yet another deeper mystery inside.  Time will tell, but as things stand right now, things look promising.  I liked PA Works animation but felt their stories lacked something, and well, Jun Maeda produces really good storytelling, so I think this could be a winning combination.

GirlDeMo rocks!  Hmm, is it me or does the blond look a lot like Idolm@ster’s Miki Hoshino?

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Capsule Review: Angel Beats! Episode 1”

  1. KaseyXon 04 Apr 2010 at 11:36 am

    Cool episode! ^_^

    I wasn’t really sure what to expect since I haven’t made the plunge into “Sad Girls in Snow” themes and was happy with checking this out. ^_^;

    I really liked how it came together and showed their teamwork in Operation Tornado. The concert rocked. She is a great diversionary lead.

    I had thought that Ota was going to have to face Angel alone until the other showed up and I remembered that they were to give aid when they heard gunshots. ^_^;

    There were also a few times I was reminded of the Kyon/Haruhi chemistry when watching/listening Oto and Yurippe. – just throwing that out there- ^_~

    There are several shows this season that have grabbed my eye and I haven’t been disappointed yet. “Angel Beats”, “B Gata”, “Kaichou wa Maid-sama”, and “Working”. “Heroman” was satisfactory. I will have to see how Bones continues with it. And the “Eden of the East” movie continues the TV series. Interesting, but not as gripping yet. Still waiting for the 3rd Negima OVA, K-On S2 and “Senko no Night Raid”. ^_^

    Happy Easter! ^_^

  2. stationmasteron 09 Apr 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I LOVE the OP. Second episode…oh wow…

  3. Kumakunon 14 Apr 2010 at 1:19 am

    Hmmm… I’ll have to try and find when “Angel Beats” airs around here. Sounds pretty cool.

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