There is an anime that I love. It has a great cast of characters, spectacular music, and is made by one of my favorite creative teams. It can be a little all over the place in its main story being told (especially a rather rushed ending), however those who gripe about this story cannot see past something that I find to be secondary to the journey. Indeed, the characters are what make one of my all time favorite anime, Angel Beats, so special after years of watching. This is one of the rare pieces of media that can make me cry from both laughter and raw emotions. Despite being a silly romp on the surface, there is depth to nearly every character and the audience goes all the way down to see who they are to their cores. It is because I know that my time here at AniTAY may be dated that I wanted to write about an anime that makes me contemplate what we do in life and what our dreams are. An anime that makes me laugh and cry all the same like life often does. Even if people don’t like this anime, I hope my readers can appreciate what I am trying to articulate with this article. It is because life can be so short that I want to dive into these sort of anime that move me so.
Spoilers Ahead- If you haven’t experienced Angel Beats yet, go check it out on Netflix (Dubbed) and Crunchyroll (Subbed)
The most magical parts of Angel Beats can be found in the impact that the premise itself has on its characters. After some fun that is all over the place, the show starts to settle down and pick spots to show its cards and “wow” with the character arcs. It is because that the premise revolves around young adults attempting to find closure on their lives. In a limbo-like stage of afterlife, everyone present is holding on to something that won’t let them move on just yet. Some are rather simple, while others can rock even the most concrete hearted person who at least has an inch of empathy to their core. Some resolutions come from nowhere while some of the most memorable have well crafted set-ups. Out of some of the heavier ones, I think there are three that stick with me more than most anime stories have. Angel Beats was one of the very first anime I watched, long before I joined AniTAY. Right after I watched Haruhi for the first time, I watched this and Little Busters on Hulu (with advertisements no less!) and still remember how I felt when I first watched some of these episodes. I would like to dive into these three examples and give them their moment of appreciation I feel for them.
In the third episode of the show, the deeper meaning of the show is set with the tragic story of Masami Iwasawa. Iwasawa is (was) a musician who had a dream to escape her turbulent home life with her music. Spending much of her time doing street performances, she also balanced several part time jobs to get away from an environment plagued by domestic violence. Her efforts were unfortunately cut short, as she suffered terminal damage to her cerebral cortex after being struck by her drunken father. This detail alone is enough to move anyone, I’m sure, but the show does not stop there.
Serving as a distraction for her friends, Iwasawa and her band frantically try to keep interest away from an orchestrated raid. As their efforts are eventually thwarted, authorities attempt to confiscate Iwasawa’s guitar. Screaming, the young woman frees herself from custody and secures her guitar that she loves. At the peak of this chaos, she seizes the moment and does something jaw-dropping.
Usually, I give credit to anime music simply because I enjoy the beats. I use great beats to run to frequently, so often times I am purchasing music based off of the enjoyment/cadence the music gives. Angel Beats has some music that sticks with me for very different reasons. In this moment, Iwasawa starts a ballad that rips the air out of the scene. I remember exactly where I was when this came on- I was cleaning my small apartment as I had the show on in the background. In this moment, I was captivated. Without knowing what any of the lyrics meant, all that mattered was the beautiful sound of this ballad. Even to this day this song moves me. The storytelling took a new level with delivering music that spoke louder than any amount of animation or writing could have. This is the single best example I can think of music winning over any other kind of delivery for effectiveness.
Next, there is a prime example of the deep looks the show makes people make that can be found in discovering the background to main character Yuzuru Otonashi. Otonashi learns the truth to what is happening in the purgatory world he is in by recalling his own past. In his life, he was an underachieving young man who didn’t care much for anything. When he loses the one person he loves, his sister, to cancer, he cleans his act up. He applies himself and studies to become a doctor to try to make a difference.
There is a huge takeaway that I had from learning about his background that I think can be quick to glance over as “too on the nose”. As he goes to take an exam for his medical licensure, he is involved in a subway accident that leaves the commuters trapped for a week. Applying his education, he aides as many people as he can, ultimately saving their lives. He dies due to internal bleeding just moments before help comes (probably one of the more poor decisions in this storytelling). With that said, however, it is beautiful to see a a young man turn his life around and, unbeknownst to him, complete the very thing he set out to do in his life. Further, he is given a chance to help others find closure on their lives before moving on himself.
There was something new I picked up on going through this watch of the show. Maybe I was a little numb to the detail because my life was so affected by it at the time, but I forgot that the sister had cancer as her terminal illness. I never told my mother this, but I decided on oncology as my secondary concentration for internships with social work (the primary one being military, of course). I can relate to this guy in wanting to turn his life around to help others, too. When I got back to the states in late 2016-early 2017, I cleaned up my “maverick” personality at work and applied myself for studies. This is a common development in a young adult so I am by no means an exception, but I can appreciate this story beat more now for sure.
This is the story of Yui. Yep. You know where I’m going with this one already, boys.
Getting the story out of the way, there is a silly episode of Yui listing a bunch of random things she always wanted to do as Otonashi tries to help her move on from the purgatory school life they are in. Despite their best efforts, it appears nothing is working. Yui suggests she always wanted to be able to hit a homerun. Otonashi ends up finding out that in her life, Yui was paralyzed from a car accident since she was a little girl. As if that wasn’t already a big enough gut punch, she shares her real wish in life was marriage.
Then, the big moment happens. Kicking herself over how she would have never been able to be with anyone, Otonashi unsuccessfully tries to dismiss this. She looks at Otonashi and asks “Then senpai...will you marry me?” with a long glance. There is a moment of silence. Then, the big gut punch- Hinata shouts “I’ll do it!” and the baseball bat drops. I think the touch where the bat drops and hits the ground is the part that really sets it for me. This is an indicator that it is about to get super real.
Look, I am a sucker for love stories. I think that every good soul on this earth deserves to have an innocent life filled with love. I wholeheartedly believe there is enough love out there, and that people should never give up. This story is an absolute freight train of feeling and it speaks to the fact that no matter who you are or what you might think holds you back from love, love is out there. It’s never too late for love. I am saying “love” too much, but I am sucker, alright? You’re hard-pressed to find a more touching romance moment than this. It is, and will always will be, my absolute favorite anime romance moment.
So there you have it, three examples of how Angel Beats excels at being one of my favorite anime. I know it gets a bad reputation, I know that people are going to see this title and make a joke about how it has the word “Requiem” in it, and I know that everyone hates the ending. I don’t care. I love this show with all of my heart.
Do you have a show that you love that others don’t? Let me know, have a great day, and check us out on Twitter @AniTAYOfficial