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Angel Beats! Complete Series Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

A very different high school of the dead…

What They Say:
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!

Contains episdoes 1-13 plus the OVA.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is a solid work through and through as we get a pair of DTS-HD MA stereo tracks that captures the show just right. The series is one that does have its action, and those moments are well captured with some distinct moments for the sound of the bullets, the blades and the various explosions, but it also handles the dialogue and the comedy exceptionally well. There’s a lot to that here as it goes mildly over the top at times and sometimes even further, but it works well and has a very good feeling to it. The music has a strong feeling as well, especially with the opening and closing sequences that really stand out at key points but the incidental music as well. The show has a good mix all around and utilizes the stereo channels very well and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for the TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episode series and OVA is spread across two discs with nine on the first and the rest on the second along with the meager extras. The show has a very strong look to it with its animation and coming from the whole P.A. Works side of things and it comes across very well here with some very rich colors. The animation has a lot of bright, bold and active moments to it and the fast action segments hold up very well with no breakup or blocking. The darker scenes are just as well handled without any significant or noticeable noise in the backgrounds. Characters really look great here with all the details to it and the transfer captures everything in wonderful fashion, making it a very enjoyable viewing experience.

The two disc release for this set is done up in a standard single sized Blu-ray case with both discs against the interior sides. The front cover works the obvious angle by having Yuri front and center while Angel and Otonashi are on either side of her. With the blue of the case and that of the background, it all has a very appealing look with the designs themselves and the colors used. The logo along the top is eyecatching and there’s a very upbeat feeling to the whole of it. The back cover is a bit darker what with the black background and the shadowing going on around the character artwork, but it’s well balanced against the lighter triangle along the upper right that has the plot concept which is a bit small in print but still easy to read. There’s a few shots from the show included as well, though I’m not a fan of them being angled as they are. Add in the usual production credits and technical information along the bottom and it’s a decent looking back cover that provides a different way to look at the show. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is definitely appealing as it gives each of the main screens over to a cast shot of the students that takes up about eighty percent of the screen. With the appealing artwork of the characters, it works very well here and definitely sets the mood for it. The bottom quarter of the menus are done in pink with a selection for each of the individual episodes by number with the episode name attached to it as well. The colors are well chosen as it uses different shades of red and white to go against the pink and it has the whole heartbeat thing going with it as well. Submenus load quickly when needed and the layout is very quick and easy to use. The bottom quarter of the menu also doubles as the pop-up navigation and highlights what episode you’re on during regular playback.

The only extras included in this set are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found on the second disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having enjoyed a number of series from Key, Angel Beats was high on my radar from the start and getting the chance to watch it was really a lot of fun, especially since it differs from some of what they’ve been better known for in the US in the last few years. With this original work, they went a bit further with it by creating a multimedia approach as there’s also the light novel side and the manga as well. The core of it is the TV series though, which had one episode released as an OVA first before going whole hog into it. With the strong designs of P.A. Works, Angel Beats really brings home a solidly engaging show that plays with familiar concepts and a whole lot of emotion as it gets going.

Angel Beats starts in a fun way that many series do try to do but often fail in the long term and overall execution. We’re introduced to a young man who wakes up in a darkened school exterior where he doesn’t remember anything that’s named Otonashi. He’s surprised that there’s another student next to him wielding a rifle and getting ready to take a shot at someone called Angel and she claims she’s from a constantly name changing group called the Battlefront that’s doing what it can to stop said Angel. Otonashi hasn’t a glimmer of understanding this but he can’t believe anyone would really kill someone and he doesn’t believe Angel is actually an angel, so he goes and questions her about it, which has some key dialogue that resonates throughout the series.

What becomes clear is that this world is a purgatory of some sort where high school students that have died have come. The place is set up like a real, full town but they stay within the school grounds itself. Only a small amount of people within it are real though, real souls as the case may be, as the school is otherwise filled with what they name NPC’s, or non-player characters since they’re just soulless automatons that go through the normal school day routine. The real students interact with them normally throughout the day, but at night they try to distract them in order to run missions to stop Angel since she’s some variant of them that is hunting the real people. It’s a simple setup and one that works well, especially since Angel can’t really kill someone in purgatory as they do eventually come back to “life” as they were before.

With Otonashi as the newest recruit, the show spends some time on integrating him into the group which means getting to know the others. It’s a fairly straightforward group of people, somewhat over the top in a mild way at times with personalities as they cope with this purgatory style world, and there are some fun ones in there. Yuri, the leader of the Battlefront and the one that comes up with the plans, has a very Haruhi kind of feel to her in both personality and design which makes it fun to watch her gunning down Angel at times even though it has no long term impact. There’s also a girl group band that has a lot of fame here, and takes up some really strong moments in terms of animation and the music itself, and it’s easy to see it included as a fun marketing aspect that can draw in the viewers.

Angel Beats does have a larger storyline that unfolds here as it goes on and spends time going through some of the cast with what it is that motivates them to be in this purgatory. The crux of it becomes that if they do figure out what it is that’s keeping them there, and they experience it and come to grips with it, they end up disappearing and being reborn into the next world in some form. They’re fighting against it for different reasons, one of them being the chance they may come back as a barnacle. Thankfully, they don’t go into all the characters and it’s not a revelation per episode and Otonashi himself doesn’t get his reveal until about halfway and it adds a lot to the show. And it gives it a huge emotional moment for the finale. Some get more detail than others with it, and some are admittedly a little playful but all resonate well and it’s fun to watch them eventually deal with it across the series and the ramifications of it.

Some of the things the series does is simply fun. With it being a purgatory, they’re able to do some thought-creation of items and that comes in the form of a group of real souls that hide out underground and supply weapons and ammunition to Yuri and her group to go against Angel. Angel’s not the only problem they face either and there are others that surface in different ways, real and not, that adds some good flavor to it. The use of the vice president Naoi as a foil works really well since he plays a different tact in order to survive here. Angel gets to be a rather decently fleshed out character as well, both as the enigmatic person she is at first as well when things change for her later on.

In Summary:
I had no expectations with Angel Beats going into it other than looking forward to the animation and it delivers in that regard. With the story, it has a lot to offer and walks around the main story until it really wants to hit it. With Angel being a character that’s aloof for most of it, it makes her a difficult one to connect with early on and keeps the focus on the Battlefront characters. Otonashi is the best of the characters here as a fully realized one, which is amusing since we don’t get to know who he really is for awhile, but his personality is strong and his sense of right and wrong cuts to the chase. The show manages a very good balance of action and comedy while mixing in some music and romance as well. It’s not a completely dark show but it’s not a fun fest either. It has a lot of things in the air and generally does it all right. It could easily be twice as long and still work just as well, but at this length is hits all its marks much better, tighter and cleaner without being overextended. It’s a very enjoyable show and this release is definitely worth the investment as it has a good deal of replay value.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 26th, 2011
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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