23 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Angel Beats episode 1

The most hyped up anime of the season because it was by the Key guy, Jun Maeda. Creator of Clannad, Kanon, Air and so on, except this time making  something straight to anime format. Hence I was expecting something similar to them, except maybe with some action, but still with plenty of corny tear-jerking. Not my kind of thing but intriguing enough to check out. I payed much less attention to the fact it had the Seto no Hanayome director, Seiji Kishi, which turns out to be a mistake. Not just in the fact that he’s a capable director but in the fact that he’s a skilled comedic director. The combination of Maeda and Kishi, as bizarre a formula as it may seem, turns out to be absolutely marvelous.

The pacing of Angel Beats is lightning but at the same time never feels rushed. Dialogue is snappy and witty but not overdone. It draws you in naturally to it’s world, keeping both it’s sense of humour intact while giving you a glance at the characters. Probably one of the most notable things was the exposition. Too many times one finds themselves sitting through some of the laziest exposition around in the first episode, desperate to give the viewer some reason to continue watching. Angel Beats should honestly be a lesson how to do it. It wasn’t some stupid ‘repeat the rules. But I already know the rules. No repeat them for the viewer’ type things. The newbie wasn’t explained everything at painstaking length. It flowed, felt natural and was just so fantastically well done that I’m trying and failing not to delve into endless superlatives.

Probably the most remarkable thing about Angel Beats was there wasn’t a single moeblob. Characters are nods towards character archetypes while being noticeably difficult to place into any category perfectly. Unlike Sora no Woto, who took basic archetypes and showed you their past (which is, btw, a very lazy way of creating characters), Angel Beats starts from the beginning to make them different from other archetypes (apart from the designs. Did she have to look exactly like Haruhi?). It’s something anime should really do more often. If you make your characters unique at the very base level you’ve already gained one-up on the rest of your competition. Did I mention no moeblobs? That’s very important. Moe character designs yes, but the characters are certainly not in the same vein as those from previous Key Works. They don’t even fall into the moe category of anime like Toradora.

It’s got the wit on Clannad with the pacing of Seto no Hanayome and the animation of Canaan. It’s Kara no Kyokai with a sense of humour. It has a clear intention to entertain the viewer while also having a brain. It’s…probably jerking off a bit too much with that music concert scene and some of the other BGM tracks were a bit overdone, but considering that’s the same complaint I have about Cowboy Bebop, that’s not saying an awful lot. It’s got a story I’ve gotten hooked and drawn into already. It’s fucking fantastic that’s what it is. Maybe I’m going slightly overboard here but this far exceeded my expectations. Angel Beats is living up to the hype and it’s doing so without being fucking moe.

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21 Comments

  1. luffyluffy
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I watched Angel Beats at 6 AM after staying up all night, and I had the same reaction to it as Lagann-hen

    Just thought you’d enjoy knowing that

    Also, on an off topic note, Hetalia subs are out! I posted them on your April Fools post!

  2. Posted April 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Well technically we haven’t really gotten introduced to most of the female characters, so of course no “moeblobs” by its typical definition.

    Brilliant expositionary pacing is definitely what makes Angel Beats stand out. Definitely a lesson on how-to-do-ep1-right.

    I never noticed the director either =x

  3. Posted April 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I dunno, I think that Angel might be a moeblob….for a few minutes until he actually talked to her.

    I was really turned off when I knew it was by that Key guy, as I’ve never watched any of the series (my boyfriend is after me to watch Clannad) as the hype has always turned me off. I was really surprised.

    You talked about the exposition in this episode, and I have to agree with you with a big yes. This first episode was so much better then the typical first episodes, and it wasn’t even just tolerable. It was actually good!

  4. Posted April 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    This series is so funny. All of the critics that I thought would lampoon it love it, and vice versa.

    I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t seen bits and pieces of every super successful series within the past few years, mashed up into this one. Still, I think the premise is interesting, and I’m enjoying the fact that it’s seemingly not just another KEY moe show (this is coming from someone who thoroughly enjoyed those shows too!). My hope is that it finds its own pacing and identity. It’s a gorgeous series to look at too.

  5. Posted April 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Kishi’s gonna do masterful things with this show. And it only helps that Key didn’t pump out the usual harem-by-the-numbers story. I’m really interested to see if Key can actually pull off a good plot.

  6. Taka
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I agree with most everything, especially the points about pacing.

    I thought the main character was marginally stupid. I was just so annoyed at the end where he’s like “I’m not gonna do anything until I get my memory back.” Amnesia again. Sigh

    I also got the impression the singing dancing guy must have suffered some serious brain damage in death. Possibly poking out his eyes as well. Fun Fun

  7. vucubcaquix
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m sitting here, chuckling to myself, because I had the exact same reaction to this episode that you did.

    But for a little context, here was my reaction to Kaichou wa Maid-sama:

    http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=196224&show=100#msg7792229

    I think I meant to write “clumsily” as opposed to “quickly”, but there were moments when the main character’s internal monologue was painfully linear as far as exposition goes. It was cute and all, but maybe better suited to printed page as in anime form it seemed a mite amateurish.

    Contrast that with this episode of Angel Beats! that I put on immediately afterward, and my goodness I was falling all over myself with how well everything was slowly but intriguingly revealed to the viewer. I actually said out load “This is how you draw someone in!” After hearing the password for the battlefront headquarters, I had a sudden urge to reread the His Dark Materials Trilogy or play a Shin Megami Tensei game.

    Of course, this was all at around 3 am Chicago time, so delirium notwithstanding, I’m a bit glad that I have the internet to partially validate my suspicions about these two shows.

  8. Roy Mustang
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Needs more moeblobs.

    Great show but the character designs are horrible. This show would be truly epic if they only they got KyoAni to do the animation.

  9. Freya
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Whoa, All the moefag bloggers that I follow were critiquing the show heavily, after reading this review, I think I’ll check it out.

  10. Posted April 4, 2010 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    This series at its base level feels like Haruhi with a different coat of paint. The main girl doesn’t just look like her, she acts like her too with her matter-of-fact and domineering attitude. The male lead feels a little like Kyon with less of the snarker gene in him. There’s the schoolgirl musical act. SOS = SSS, etc. But the paint is so well applied and intricately detailed that it feels so much better than its base attributes. I loved every minute of it.

    Also, I want to see more of TK. He amuses me.

  11. Posted April 4, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    Well, Angel Beats had some interesting things going for it. I’ll be watching next week to see where things go, for sure. The comedy was unexpected, and that kept things moving along. I didn’t really get attached to anyone, however, and I find the ‘world’ they inhabit difficult to understand. I never really thought this was going to be the best anime I ever watched, which probably made it easier for it to surpass my expectations.

  12. vucubcaquix
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    @JooJooBees I think the world they inhabit is a take on the Buddhist idea of the afterlife. When a person dies, they spend a certain amount of time wandering until they are reincarnated.

    It is an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and can only be broken by achieving enlightenment (someone correct me if I’m wrong).

    Viewed through that veneer, the characters in the show are trying to break out of this cycle by refusing to be ‘disappeared’ (reincarnated?) though I’m not sure that they can achieve enlightenment through force.

  13. Posted April 4, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I think it has a shot for greatness. It looks like moe but it’s probably not and it has some blood. I’m following it!

  14. Scamp
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    @luffyluffy

    I’ve seen Hetalia but my blogging schedule is quite crazy with the new season. But twas a great episode anyway

    @Aorii

    I knew he was the director but I didn’t pay as much heed to it as I should have. It’s more the fact that they hired him that should have shown this was going to be leaning strongly towards the comedic side

    @Janette

    The best first episodes of anime include: Samurai Champloo, Xam’d, Haruhi Suzumiya, Cromartie, Haibane Remnei and maybe Elfen Lied for sheer shock value. These are first episodes I would give A+ for their first episodes for. Not all them lived up their first episode though.

    @AJtheFourth

    I think that’s very much because of how noticably different it was to expectations it terms of pacing especially. The Key series move at the pace only marginally quicker than a Pierrot-made shounen while Angel Beats moved at a pace marginally slower than Gurren Lagann. Often I think people don’t give pacing as much attention as it should because you can often split fans into groups using it. Another reason may be because some fans saw the same artwork they’ve seen over and over again while others saw the actual personalities were different. I dunno really though.

    @RP

    Key pull off a good plot? After hearing what the underlying plot was to Clannad I have my doubts about that…

    @Taka

    As much as Amnesia is overused, I nearly always find myself enjoying anime with Amnesia-based plots. It’s cheap but hey, it works so why complain

    @vucubcaquix

    It’s a masterpiece in directing indeed. I am slightly worried that the directing might be currently eclipsing a badly thought out plot but we’ll have to wait and see on that one

    @Roy Mustang

    Character designs are done by Key so Kyo Ani couldn’t change them. Not that I think Kyo Ani could’ve done any better with this anyway

    @Freya

    This isn’t an anime for moefags…which just gets odder the more I think of it. Again, we’ll have to wait and see for more episodes to see the entirity of anime fandoms full reactions to this series but it’s something to ponder indeed

    @Rakuen

    Every Genki dimwit will always be compared to Haruhi
    Every Snarky male lead will always be compared to Kyon
    Every musical concert will be compared to the one in TMoHS
    Every slice-of-life series with girls was compared to Azumanga Daoih for years until Lucky Star came out. Then they were all compared to Lucky Star until K-ON came out.
    Every mecha series is compared to either Gundam or Evangelion

    There is no originallity. Everything has been done before. The best you can hope for is to give everything your own twist. Angel Beats has done exactly that. Therefore I am happy

    @Joojoobees

    I know what you mean about not getting attached to a character yet but that rarely happens in a first episode unless you spend the entire thing focusing on him. We’ll have to wait and see

    @vucubcaquix

    This is one thing I’m wary about. It’s spouting these interesting ideas but I hope it has the intelligence and the groundwork done behind the enture story. I don’t want another Canaan where you don’t realise the sheer stupidity of the series until the plot is finally revealed

  15. Posted April 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    At of all those you’ve listed, I’ve only seen Haibane Reimei, though I felt it did live up to it’s first episode.

    I really hope this one does too.

  16. vucubcaquix
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Canaan, huh? I so desperately wanted to like it, but the plot was just so scatterbrained by the end. Funny you should mention Xam’d as an excellent first episode, since I ended up re-watching it after mentioning it on your post about B Gata H Kei.

    I wholeheartedly agree about it being an excellent example. Everything about it speaks grandiosity. Too bad by the end of the series it suffers from the growingly typical Bones mindfuckery (RahXephon, Darker Than Black, et. al) that detracted more than it added in that case. But my goodness did that anime have its moments.

  17. Scamp
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    @vucubcaquix

    Xam’d was the biggest letdown of anime history. It had so much potential, so much quality only to peter out miserably for the entire second half of the show. Xam’d left me in despair because I knew how good it was capable of being

  18. Scheniziel Lackward
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    As expected from key, his project always hit my bills. Two thumbs up for this anime, i expect to have more cool action~ hahaha~

  19. Posted April 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that many people feel the show has a chance at greatness. Other than the setting and the Key pedigree, I didn’t find anything remarkable about this episode. I do like the mystery, and I don’t think there really is anything theological about the world they’re stuck in.

  20. Scamp
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    @Scheniziel Lackward

    A key fan actually enjoying Angel Beats? Trust me, you’re a rarity

    @Kabitzin

    I’m finding it surprising how many people are unimpressed by the episode but the only conclusion I could draw was that you people have no taste, which obviously can’t be entirely true. I’ll reserve full judgement until the next episode. The first episode tells you if a show is bad. The second episode tells you if a show is any good

  21. Raenachankisstwinlov
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    haven’t seen it soons mf awesome x3

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