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Angel Beats! – Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 11, 2011 by  



When you have Jun Maeda’s name tied to an anime series, you instantly know that you’re in for one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride  for an anime series!  Filled with humor and action + episodes that may make you shed a tear or two, “Angel Beats!” is another wonderful anime series on Blu-ray that I definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © VisualArt’s/Key/Angel Beats! Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Angel Beats! Complete Series

DURATION: 13 Episodes + OVA (350 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Aniplex/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: July 26, 2011

 

Originally created by Jun Maeda

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition/Script by Jun Maeda

Music by ANANT-GARDE EYES/June Maeda

Original Character Design by Na-Ga

Character Design by Katsuzo Hirata

Art Director – Kazuki Higashiji

Anime Production: P.A. Works/Aniplex

Featuring the following voice talent:

Harumi Sakurai/Brittney Karbowski as Yuri Nakamura

Hiroshi Kamiya/Blake Shepard as Yuzuru Otonashi

Kana Hanazawa/Angel as Tenshi/Kanade Tachibana

Chie Matsuura/Elizabeth Bunch as Hisako

Eiichirō Tokumoto/Rob Mungle as Matsushita

Emiri Katou as Shiori Sekine

Eri Kitamura/Hilary Haag as Yui

Fuko Saito/Melissa Davis as Shiina

Kana Asumi as Irie

Megumi Ogata/Greg Ayres as Ayato Naoi

Michael Rivas/Adam Van Wagoner as TK

Mitsuhiro Ichiki/Dylan Godwin as Takeyama

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Iwasawa

Ryohei Kimura/David Matranga as Hideki Hinata

Shun Takagi/Leraldo Anzaldua as Noda

Takahiro Mizushima/Kalob Martinez as Takamatsu

Yui Makino/Serena Varghese as Yusa

Yumiko Kobayashi/Corey Hartzong as Ōyama

Yuuki Masuda/Andrew Love as Fujimaki

It sucks being dead. It sucks even more to be trapped in a surreal afterlife where you’re caught between the living and the dead – where a mysterious, violent Angel is trying to pull you over to… somewhere. What do you do? Well, if you’re this group of rough-and-tumble teens, you grab every weapon you can get your hands on and give Heaven hell!

One day you woke up and found out that you are dead and in another world with others who have passed on.

But to survive each day, you have to fight an angel.

This is the concept of “Angel Beats!”, a 13-episode anime series (which aired in Japan from April-June 2010) created by Jun Maeda and character designer Na-Ga, both from the visual novel brand Key (known for “Kanon”, “Air” and “Clannad”).

Produced by P.A. Works and Aniplex, the series is directed by Seiji Kishi (“Tentai Senshi Sunred”, “My Bride is a Mermaid”, “Persona 4 the Animation”) and a screenplay by Jun Maeda.

Because of the popularity of previous Key-related anime series, “Angel Beats!” was a success in Japan via the weekly Blu-ray sales charts constantly making the top 3 in sales.  The series was also seen as recommended work by the awards jury of the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2010.

Also, to show how popular the series became, the opening and ending theme “My Soul, Your Beats!/Brave Song” debuted at No. 3 on Japan’s music charts “Oricon Weekly Singles” and also being awarded by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipping over 100,000 copies.  The second single “Crow Song” by the band Girl Dead Monster’s (a band in the anime series) debuted in the top 10 of the singles charts, followed by another successful single titled “Thousand Enemies” and “Little Braver”.

“Angel Beats!” is an anime series about a young man named Yuzuru Otonashi.  He has amnesia and has no memory of why he is caught up in the world of the dead.  How did he die?   And why is he being recruited by the Afterlife Battlefront (Shinda Sekai Sensen-SSS) to fight against the angel?

According to the battlefront leader Yuri Nakamura, every day they must fight against the Angel in order to survive.  Of course, Otonashi can’t believe any of this and thinks that maybe its all a dream, so he goes to encounter Angel himself.  He asks her if she is an Angel and she replies that she is not.  He thinks its a joke that everyone is fighting her and that she would kill them and wants her to prove it, so she uses her knife and stabs him in the heart.

Otonashi wakes up in the school infirmary and instead of dying, he is alive?  Thinking that it’s all a dream, he is shocked to find his shirt covered in blood and then to see other members of the Battlefront who confirm that he is not dreaming.

It appears that Otonashi is among the afterlife and the world is separated by those who have died (lived a bad life) and are now caught up in the world.  The world which is pretty much a high school and a few locations.  In this world, there are those who fight the angel known as the Battlefront, then there are the NPC’s which are like non-essential characters of a video game…just a character in the world that are programmed to act like normal high school students that are programmed to study and do school-based activities and then there is the angel, the person who makes sure those in the afterlife follow the rules of being students, going to school and not breaking any rules.

Otonashi tries to understand why the Battlefront is fighting the angel and with each member of the Battlefront, he gets to learn more about their lives and how many of them had bad lives in their reality but something led to their deaths and now not having lived a complete life.

In the afterlife, the world or purgatory that they live now, they can choose to live together and create their own destiny or be obliterated which means, satisfying their lives in purgatory and being reincarnated.  But when they fight in the world and get murdered or hurt, they will return back to life in a short-time to continue living in that world.

But the more time Otonashi spends in the world, he starts to learn that maybe people satisfying their lives in this new world may not be a bad thing.  But can he convince the members of the Battlefront?

Meanwhile, is Angel even a threat?  Perhaps there is someone more sinister in the world that is pulling the strings of how things should be?

“Angel Beats!” features the following characters:

  • Yuzuru Otonashi – The main protagonist.  Otonashi is the newest member of the world to join the Battlefront.  He has no memories of his past but he is a kind-hearted person that starts to learn about everyone’s past life.  What will happen when Yuzuru discovers his true past?
  • Yuri Nakamura – The leader of the Battlefront.  She has made a vow to protect the human souls in the new world because in her real life, despite having a happy life with her family and three siblings, all came crashing, when burglars stormed her house and when they couldn’t find money, gave her 30-minutes to find the money or else all her young siblings would be executed.  They were all murdered and for Yuri, she has kept this hatred towards God for letting the murders happen that she has been unable to pass on.
  • Angel – The student council president of the school in the afterlife and is seen as the antagonist.  Very powerful and has developed quite a bit of weapons, her job is to stop any delinquency by the human souls.  But is she a human soul or an evil person?
  • Hideki Hinata – Otonashi’s friend, who at first wonders if Hinata is gay.  He is always at odds with Yui and in his past life, he lost an important baseball game when he dropped a catch.
  • Yui – A big fan of Girls Dead Monster.  When lead vocalist Iwasawa moves on and disappears, she assumes the position of lead vocalist and rhythm guitar.  Always in odds with Hinata.  In Yui’s past life, she was handicap and unable to walk, so she tries to enjoy life in the new world.
  • Iwasawa – The lead vocalist of Girls Dead Monster. She and her bandmembers hold concerts in order to get the NPC’s away from harm when the Battlefront plan to attack Angel.  In her previous life, she was a musician who was brought up in an abusive family.  Her father and mother were constantly fighting and one day, when trying to breakup the fight, she was accidentally hit in the head which led to brain trauma.
  • Ayato Naoi – The vice-president of the student body who was assumed to take control of the school if anything happens to angel.  Has a deep connection with Otonashi.  In his past life, Ayato and his twin brother Hayato were sons of a famous potter.  Hayato was the person who excelled and Ayato just had fun and never looked at by his father.  But when Hayato died, he was forced to become Hayato and people were led to believe that Ayato died, so the family pottery legacy would continue.  And no matter how hard Ayato worked, he never received praise.  Ayato has the power of hypnotism.
  • Takamatsu – Wears glasses and looks very smart but he is actually an idiot.  Likes to take off his shirt and show off his muscles.
  • Noda – Carries a Halberd and is also an idiot.  Loves to fight and only listens to Yuri.
  • Shiina – A female ninja who rarely talks.  She has a weakness for cute things.
  • Fujimaki – Another weapon carrying Battlefront member who can’t swim.
  • TK – Always dancing and saying something in English.  Great with artillery.
  • Matsushita – The big man of the group.  Loves to eat.
  • Oyama – A boy who helps the Battlefront.
  • Takeyama  – The hacker who wants me people to call him by his username “Christ”, which no one cares to call him that.

VIDEO:

“Angel Beats!” is presented in 1080p High Definition and looks absolute vibrant and colorful on Blu-ray.  Because you have Aniplex’s involvement with the anime production, one thing I have learned is that Aniplex loves to focus on the details of background art.

So, even though “Angel Beats!” takes place at a high school, one would think that the scenery would get boring but there is a good amount of focus on colors, lighting but also crowds.  Also, a good number of characters are constantly on screen and for the most part, P.A. Works and Aniplex did a wonderful job!

I personally detected no problems, no banding, artifacting, anything negative.  This is a clear-cut anime series in HD and looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Angel Beats!” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The audio is front-channel driven but if you have a receiver capable of having stereo on all channels, that may be to one’s preference.  But for voice acting, both are well-done.  I am biased towards the original Japanese language but I did manage to watch a few episodes in English and for the most part, the English dubbing was made to give things a bit more of a Western feel.  In terms of sound effects, both had no major difference from each other in how they handled the action sequences but overall, a crystal clear 2.0 lossless soundtrack.

I also have to add that the music of “Angel Beats!” did very well in Japan and the music for this series is fantastic!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Angel Beats! – Complete Collection” comes with the following special features:

DISC 2:

  • Clean Opening Songs
  • Clean Closing Songs
  • Trailers – Trailers for Sentai Filmworks

I made my decision earlier on that if there is an anime series created by those involved with the visual novel brand Key, I would be watching the anime series!

“Kanon”, “Air” and “Clannad” especially latter, are among my favorite anime series and also a series that are known to make you laugh, pull you in and then suddenly yank your heart out and stomp on it and literally make you cry.  Jun Maeda knows how to capture people with a storyline and make you cry.

And at first, I couldn’t figure out how “Angel Beats!” would be like the other series, after all, it seemed more action-driven than previous series.  But I’ve watched all three previous Key-related anime series to know that the writers always have something in store for the viewers at the end.

For the most part, “Angel Beats!” turned out to be a fun, hilarious and action-packed anime series.  For a series that is only 13-episodes long, there is so many things that happened in the series, I was quite impressed of how much Maeda was able to include in the overall storyline.  And while, you will find yourself laughing and really enjoying this action anime series, there are some storylines that relate to a human soul that really tug on your heart.  Not necessarily yank it out and really make you go threw emotional withdrawal like “Clannad” but still, “Angel Beats!” may make viewers shed a tear or two.

I was a bit concerned that with 13-episodes, there were far too many characters but Maeda did a great job in focusing on a few people that one can get attached to via character development but also integrating the supporting characters well-enough to make viewers enjoy everyone in the Battlefront.   The pacing was well-done and it helps to have really good animation and production.  Character designer Katsuzo Hirata (“Ben-To”, “Hand Maid May”, “G-On Riders”) did a great job in capturing Na-Ga’s original character designs..

All 13-episodes of the TV series are included plus the OVA titled “Stairway to Heaven” which is more of a comedy-based OVA as Yuri comes up with “Operation High Tension” and everyone has to be wild for a week.

If there is one thing that I wish was included in the US release that is in the Japanese release is the inclusion of the “Another Epilogue” which was in the Japanese Blu-ray and DVD release.

Overall, “Angel Beats!” was another wonderful anime series from the folks of Key and another well-done anime series from P.A. Works and Aniplex.  Cool characters, cool storyline, vibrant animation, awesome music and overall, a worthy addition to your anime on Blu-ray collection!

Definitely recommended!

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