As promised, now that the spoiler-free review is out of the way, I can get to writing some of my more specific thoughts about Angel Beats!, and what better topic to look at than the one that I feel like most people end have talked about?
So let’s take a look at Angel Beats!’ biggest criticism.
Of course, you all know what the criticism is. I shouldn’t even have to mention it here. If you’ve seen the anime, or any discourse, you’re already in on this. You know what’s up.
If you still don’t follow, I guess I can help you out…
But first, check out the post theme:
And with that, the biggest criticism of Angel Beats! is of course, that the ending is rushed.
I’d like to write a few thoughts about that, as well as the pacing in general.
I don’t know about official “arcs” so to speak, but I feel like Angel Beats! can be broken up into several pieces, each of which I’ll look at. These are generally centered around the different conflicts we see in the anime.
First is what I’ll call the “Angel arc”, where we don’t even know Kanade’s name. This takes place from the first episode until when Kanade is successfully removed as student council president, which happens in the fifth episode.
Now, maybe this is just because it’s the first “arc”, and we’re still sort of figuring things out, but I was actually a little surprised to see how soon this happened. For some reason, I felt like most of the anime was fighting against Angel, but in reality, it’s only a short portion of the anime. I think that this part is sufficient in length, but part of me does feel like it’s fairly short considering how often we hear about the battle that had raged on between Angel and the Afterlife Battlefront.
Like, we don’t find out exactly how long this conflict lasted, but I got the impression that it was for at least a year, if not longer. So it’s kind of crazy for all of that history to just end so soon. But then, the story must go on as well, so with that in mind, five episodes does feel like enough. If Angel Beats! were a longer anime, I’m sure they could have snuck in a few extra episodes in this “arc” (something that they technically did in the form of the two special episodes).
My least favourite part from this “arc” was the second episode, which is when the Afterlife Battlefront visits the Guild for the first time. I’d rather have seen more action in and around the school, instead of in some random underground catacombs. Personal preference, maybe.
President Naoi Arc
Next, of course, would be the “Naoi arc”, which is when Naoi replaced Kanade as student council president. This arc is also pretty exciting, because at first we don’t know that Naoi is a human, and so it’s interesting to think about how an NPC would act towards the people of the Afterlife Battlefront. Naturally, that ends up not being the case. This “arc” is only a single episode.
If the Angel arc felt short, well, this arc felt even shorter. I feel like more could have been done to play off the dynamic of not knowing Naoi’s identity, to make us feel like he actually was an NPC or something like this. I really would have liked to see another episode building up Naoi, Angel’s mysterious replacement. But once again, I do think that this part is done well enough that it’s still sufficient.
In other words, I would say this is more of a “it would be nice if…” than it is a criticism.
Just prior to this is also Otonashi’s first flashback, where we see his unmotivated life prior to his sister passing away. I don’t really have anything to say about that, it took most of the episode, but was of course very well done and impactful.
But anyways, next up is the “harmonics arc”, where Kanade, on a fishing trip with the Afterlife Battlefront, ends up using her harmonics ability which leads to the creation of hundreds of alternate versions of herself who are much more violent and direct than she is. Otonashi’s flashback dominates episode 7, leaving episode 8 for this “arc”.
My only real criticism of this part is that it felt like maybe they could have introduced some more exciting action into the mix. I think the length was fine, but having characters get impaled one at a time in order to pass by each Angel clone, while comical at first, wasn’t that exciting. That, and re-visiting underground again didn’t really appeal to me. Again, I’d rather have seen the action take place in and around the school.
The idea for this part is interesting enough, but I think it could have been done better. I’d call this a mild criticism.
With the harmonics clones dealt with, and Kanade asleep, we get to see the second and final part of Otonashi’s flashback, where we learn that he managed to die with no regrets. After which, Kanade wakes up and the two make a plan to save everyone.
First up, and really, only up is Yui.
This arc takes place over episodes 9 and 10.
Both of these episodes are excellent, but this arc starts to lead us into Angel Beats!’ biggest issue. For now, things are all right though. There’s no real enemy to face at the moment, and instead, Otonashi, Kanade, Hinata, and afterwards Naoi work together to save the others. Everyone in this world who isn’t an NPC lived an unfulfilled life and died while still having something(s) they still wanted to do. So the goal is simply to help them.
And with Yui, despite all of the random things Otonashi helps her with, such as performing a suplex, her real regret was never having fallen in love / being loved by someone. As she was bedridden her whole life, the prospect seemed basically impossible. But Hinata manages to convince her, and craft a story that makes a relationship between them in the real world seem imaginable.
Anyways, this is a great arc. But it’s not very long, and that’s because after Yui, the anime quickly moves on.
This is the final “arc” in Angel Beats!. Shadows begin to appear around the school, devouring NPCs and multiplying. In addition, if they devour a non NPC, that person becomes an NPC. This development forces the issue as everyone is faced with the prospect of fighting for survival, or moving on. Yurippe has Otonashi explain the real meaning behind the world and what everyone needs to do in order to pass on.
And shortly after this, almost everyone passes on except for some of the more prominent named characters. After the final confrontation between Yurippe and a certain NPC, we skip ahead in time to graduation, where only four characters remain. Technically this could be it’s own “arc”, but I’ll throw it in here as it kind of is a conclusion to the shadows “arc” as well as the conclusion to the series.
And after all is said and done, I think this is the part that exposes Angel Beats!’ flaw, the rushed ending. The final episode, the graduation, is fine. But episodes 11 and 12 have some issues.
The first issue I’d like to mention is the introduction of a whole bunch of background characters. When the Afterlife Battlefront has their meeting in the gymnasium about what to do, we see a good 40 or so characters there (different angle than the above image), despite never really having seen them before. I don’t understand why these random characters needed to be inserted at all. The Afterlife Battlefront always felt like a small collection of people, numbering around 20 or so. It doesn’t really make sense to just double that number now, 11 episodes in.
And adding more characters actually exasperates the next issue, which is the rushed feeling. In reality, I don’t think the ending is rushed per se. What feels rushed to me is basically everyone passing on, seemingly via sheer willpower, within a day of Otonashi giving his speech. Now, maybe this is how the world works, and once someone knows how to pass on, they can just sort of will it into happening.
But it just doesn’t feel right. Iwasawa and Yui both had very powerful moments when passing on. Hinata almost passed on when he was about to catch the ball in the baseball tournament, which was another powerful moment. It just feels disconnected to go from these very emotional moments for the characters to an entire hallway of people just disappearing at the exact same time with no real prompt. And then everyone after that just disappearing whenever they want to.
I can understand being able to pass on after the graduation, which was emotional in it’s own right. The graduation ceremony also served as closure for the characters that attended it.
But why not just have everyone pass on at the graduation?
Instead of passing on before the final battle, and while Yurippe is still asleep?
This wouldn’t take away from the very end, between the final four characters, as well as Kanade and Otonashi – they can still be the last ones to pass on, even if more people were at the ceremony.
To sum my thoughts up:
I think that the random extra nameless members of the Afterlife Battlefront should never have been tossed in. Stick to all of the same characters we’ve been following from episode 1. The extras just aren’t necessary and kind of make things worse.
And then, instead of having basically everyone pass on both in the hallway prior to the final battle with the shadows, and then during Yurippe’s sleep, just have everyone attend the graduation ceremony, and pass on there. Otonashi, Kanade, Yurippe and Hinata can still be the final four remaining afterwards.
The one exception to all of this is the people at the Guild, who I’m fine with passing on off-screen, as we never really saw much of them anyways and it seemed like they did their own thing for the most part.
Ultimately, what this all does is allow Angel Beats! to feel less rushed without actually inserting extra episodes. Because I do think that the series is fine at 13 episodes, even if I would like more due to my love for the series. The real problem isn’t the number of episodes, it’s just how the ending is handled, which has a rushed feel due to how everyone just randomly passes on through sheer willpower without any real closure, despite earlier characters requiring said closure and their passing on being a big deal.
And those are my thoughts on Angel Beats!, it’s ending, and all of it’s components in general. I know I rambled on a bit about all of the various parts instead of just getting to the point with the ending, but I wanted to give my brief thoughts on each of the various parts of the anime as well.
Considering the criticism is seemingly related to the pacing of the anime, I think it’s fair to go through the anime from the start. In the end though, as I mentioned, I don’t actually think it’s a pacing issue so much as it is an issue of execution. I really do think that they could have made the ending in a way that felt believable and less rushed within the 13 episodes allotted, as I explained.
And that’ll do it for this one.
I may or may not write another post about this series, we’ll see.
What are your thoughts on Angel Beats!’ ending?
Did you think it was handled well, or felt rushed?
I’d love to chat about it here if you have anything to add.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.