Angel Beats! – 01
The premiere of Key writer/composer Maeda Jun and P.A. Works‘ new original project is here! The first episode served as a good introduction to the surreal afterworld that male protagonist Otonashi (Kamiya Hiroshi) finds himself in, plus heroine Yuri (Sakurai Harumi) and her gang in their struggle against God, but what surprised me was the sheer amount of lighthearted humor involved. While it’s no secret that Key series tend to have a sarcastic male lead who’s always ready to dish out the tsukkomi, I wasn’t expecting them to approach this one from that angle immediately. Not that I mind or anything though, as Otonashi’s outbursts and reactions to being “killed” and coming back to life had me laughing a fair bit. What’s even better is that this first episode featured the live concert scene shown in one of the “making of” promotional videos, which I was really looking forward to after seeing how it was made.
If not for the concert and Operation Tornado (i.e. steal the other students’ meal tickets) at the end, I get the feeling this first episode might have been unimpressive to some viewers due to the amount of dialogue (and only dialogue). However, I actually enjoyed a lot of the character interactions between Otonashi and Yuri early on, particularly because of the latter’s somewhat brash personality. I also got a good kick out of the scene where Yuri was taking suggestions on renaming the Shinda Sekai Sensen (Afterworld War Front), a.k.a. “Class Three S”, to something that doesn’t sound like they’re already dead. From everything to the “Barnacle War Front” to Otonashi’s “Does Whatever the Hell They Want War Front”, it was just good laughs all the way through. A lot of the remaining portions of the episode served as an explanation to the backstory in this surreal yet oddly normal afterworld, hinting at where things will go from here.
As I mentioned in the Spring 2010 Preview, Yuri is staging a rebellion against God for giving her such an unreasonable and short life. In actuality, she doesn’t even know if a God exists and is merely taking her fight against the angel of this world, who’s conveniently named Tenshi (Hanazawa Kana) and serves as the student council president of their afterworld school as well. Yuri later explains how this world is full of model, law-abiding drones, whom she describes as the equivalent of a video game’s Non-Player Characters (NPCs). Acting in accordance to them like the angels want leads to deceased humans such as themselves eventually disappearing, which is why they resist and try to take over the world. Doing so ensures they would continue to exist at the very least, even though they’re no longer alive. Otonashi, whose name means “silence/wait-and-see” in kanji 「音無」, eventually decides to go along with Yuri and her gang, but only in hopes of recovering his memories of when he was alive. Amnesia is apparently common in those who first arrive in this world.
Despite the evil look Tenshi has shown, I already have a theory on where the story takes place. Take this with a grain of salt, but based on what’s been shown so far, I suspect that this afterworld is an intermediate staging area of sorts in the cycle of life, which gives people more time to accept that they’ve died. Rather than just letting spirits fade away or be reborn (in accordance to Buddhism which they hinted at), this world provides a merciful transition period for souls before they’re ready to go wherever they’re supposed to next. However, every once in a while you come across a person who just refuses to come to terms with their own passing, such as an overzealous girl who decides to establish a rebellion against God, leading us to story here. Whether or not this is the case, I imagine a lot of the drama will unfold as we learn more about each of the characters’ lives and how they died. Maeda Jun has said that this is yet another tear-jerker story (like most Key stories), so it’s only a matter of time before the waterworks start. I can’t speak for anyone else planning to follow this series, but I’m really looking forward to those emotion-filled scenes.
Finally, I should point out that the girl band, “Girls Dead Monster”, features Iwasawa (Sawashiro Miyuki) as the lead vocalist, but the songs are actually performed by “marina”. Also, there is indeed an English-speaking voice actor named Michael Rivas playing the character “TK” here.