Angel Beats! has now ended unfortunately, it doesn't seem that long ago that I actually started watching it.
Before it started airing, Angel Beats was promoted extensively and was highly anticipated. This was a show that had to live up to the hype it generated, and it certainly exceeded my expectations.
Angel Beats had an excellent, if somewhat rushed storyline. I was unable to accurately predict the events of future episodes as the plot line frequently twisted and turned. Any twists where very well thought out and fitted in perfectly - they didn't just leave you utterly confused and wondering what happened. As is typical with Key stories, the plot changes your feelings almost constantly, both in individual episode and thought the series as a whole. For example, in Episode 2 you're laughing as all of the members of Class SSS fall to successive traps, but when Yuri recounts her past you suddenly feel extremely sad. If anything however, the change between happy and sad is most profound in the final episode, for obvious reasons.
Angel Beats would have been a lot better had it been a 24-26 episode series rather than a 13 episode one. Due to the short length, we miss out on much of the background of the characters, only discovering the past lives of a handful of them.
The animation within Angel Beats is without a doubt some of the best i've seen. Backgrounds where highly detailed and the animation was fluid. In addition, background animation also featured which tends to be unusual within anime series. One thing I didn't like however was the use of motion blur, if you have a high enough frame rate then you don't need to use motion blur. This made it difficult to capture screenshots of certain moments, but wasn't especially noticeable when watching the show itself.
Music featured heavily within Angel Beats due to the presence of an in-show band. While most series wouldn't be able to get away with this, the band's usage as a diversionary squad fits in the the premise of the series perfectly. The music produced by this band was outstanding. Instead of using voice actors to sing the songs, professional singers marina (for Iwasawa) and LiSA (for Yui) where used. I much preferred marina/Iwasawa's vocals, but still enjoy LiSA/Yui's songs. More information about the music of Angel Beats can be found in a separate post.
The characters where detailed and had their own little unique personality, so you are sure to have at least one favourite out of them (Kanade :3). However, again we've got the problem of not having enough episodes to fully develop each character as mentioned earlier.
Overall, i've come away with a very positive view on Angel Beats! It was a very enjoyable show and is certainly one of the best anime series I have ever watched. The only thing preventing Angel Beats from becoming my favourite anime is the short length of the series and the effect this has on character and plot development. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, it's wide range of styles and intriguing story line should suit anyone.
As a small addendum, since writing the post on the final episode, some information has surfaced in an interview with Jun Maeda which clears up some of the unknowns that the final episodes left. It is confirmed that Otonashi [spoiler]did eventually disappear and reincarnate[/spoiler] and that [spoiler]he is not 'the programmer' - the Angel Player software existed before Otonashi[/spoiler]. Yui's voice actor has also hinted that a second season will be made and that she will be the heroine! I'm not entirely sure how that will fit in as a continuation, but i'm eager to find out anyway. More information on the interview can be found here.
An additional unaired episode will also be included with the final Bluray/DVD volume which will be released in December. I suspect that this may be an episode dedicated to the new lives of the Class SSS members but i'll have to wait in order to see if my suspicions are correct or not!
Thanks to Unlimited Translation Works for subbing the entire series, they where fast, had a good quality translation and excellent video quality. They have released a batch containing all 13 episodes and are also gradually releasing the Bluray versions as the disks come out. I've enjoyed writing about this series, despite the fact it took a very long time to write each post due to the amount of stuff that happened in each episode and i'm very much looking forward to the potential second season.
We're a couple of weeks into the Summer 2010 season. I've not written up anything yet and will probably only write up one show and simply watch others, but what am I watching? Read on!
Highschool of the Dead
Based off a manga, this follows a few highschool kids as they fight their way through the zombie apocalypse. If you've a fan of anything zombie related, this is for you. So far, it's been fairly good - the story is pretty strong and while the animation isn't outstanding, it's not terrible. However, the show contains massive amounts of needless fanservice - suddenly during a fight scene you may switch to a panty or boob shot. I have no problem with fanservice that fits, but in HSOTD it really doesn't fit in at all - it's just fanservice for the sake of having fanservice!
Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi (Ookami-san and her 7 friends)
Based off a light novel, this anime parodies a lot of fairy tales or common stories. Unusually, this series has a narrator who often adds humour to the situation. The 4th wall is frequently broken for comic effect and this works well. Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable and light-hearted series. Anyone who watched A Certain Scientific Railgun will notice that several of the voice actors from that are in this anime.
Asobi ni iku yo! (Lets go and play)
I'll admit, I looked into this series because it had a catgirl in it. However, the first episode has actually turned out pretty good. Eris, our catgirl alien, has 'come to play'. However, various factions including secret government agencies and alien worshippers quickly make a move to capture her. It's got plenty of action, plot and humour along with a small bit of fanservice which (unlike Highschool of the Dead) fits in with the series! I enjoyed the first episode and will probably end up writing about this series.
Cat Shit One
I'm not even sure if this can be defined as an anime as it's entirely animated on a computer rather than hand-drawn. Based off the preview video, this seems to be about various furry animals killing each other in a seemingly Middle-Eastern setting. This is the only series i've yet to see the first episode of yet, but it seems like it's going to be amusing.
This came out almost a month ago, and i've still not written about it! I'll say this much though, out of the 3 Utawarerumoepisodes, this was the best.
If you want to see what other anime series are airing during Summer 2010, take a look at this chart.
3 days have passed since the events of the previous episode and the school is seemingly quiet. Yuri wakes up in the School Infirmary with Otonashi, Kanade, Naoi and Hinata by her side. While Yuri has been resting, most people have disappeared and moved on. However, the remaining members the have been busy arranging a Graduation ceremony. Both Yuri and Kanade appear to act more 'girly' now, a point that Hinata raises and is swiftly beaten by Yuri for even suggesting such a thing.
The ceremony gets underway with Otonashi both leading and participating in it. They start by singing the school song, at first it seems pretty standard but eventually degrades into a song about Szechuan Tofu. Guess who wrote it?
Next up is the presentation of graduation certificates, with Hinata acting as the principal - complete with bald head patch and glasses! After all of the certificates have been given out, Otonashi swaps places with Hinata to award him his own certificate. Otonashi, as the graduating class representative, gives a speech summarising his time in the afterlife, putting an emphasis on his change to accepting his previous life and making good friends in the afterlife.
As the ceremony ends, everyone says their goodbyes. First to go is Naoi, he thanks Otonashi for all that he has done. Next is Yuri, she talks to Kanade and regrets that they didn't become friends sooner. Finally, Hinata goes, he thanks Otonashi for starting the entire process of getting everyone to move on.
This leaves just Otonashi and Kanade, who head outside. Suddenly, Otonashi asks Kanade if she wants to stay and help any others that arrive in this world to graduate. He finally confesses his love for her, but she seems to ignore it at first. She tells Otonashi that if she reveals her true feelings for him, she will disappear - [spoiler]Kanade received Otonashi's transplanted heart back in the real world and her regret was that she couldn't thank the donor[/spoiler]. Therefore, if she thanks Otonashi she'll disappear. Otonashi questions the truth behind Kanade's story - she reveals that she realised it when she first stabbed him, [spoiler]he didn't have a heart[/spoiler]. In addition, she reveals that Otonashi regained all of his memories due to the proximity to his [spoiler]transplanted heart[/spoiler] in [spoiler]Kanade's chest when he spent time with her in the infirmary after rescuing her from The Guild[/spoiler].
Kanade begs Otonashi to say he loves her one more time, but Otonashi doesn't want to if it makes Kanade disappear. Finally, he gives in and hugs Kanade tightly, saying the words that send her on her way. Realising she's gone, Otonashi breaks down in tears. Over this scene, Yui's [spoiler]disappearance[/spoiler] song (一番の宝物, ichiban no takaramono, My Most Precious Treasure) plays. It was sad when this was played for Yui and even sadder with Otonashi and Kanade.
In the ending sequence, instead of gradually fading in, Class SSS gradually fade out. The last person to fade out is Otonashi, hinting that he also disappears at some point.
We see a brief epilogue which is seemingly set in the real world. Otonashi walks past someone who looks extremely like Kanade, who is also humming Iwasawa's My Song. He turns around and reaches out for her, and then the episode ends.
To summarise, wow. This episode really was an emotional rollercoaster - I went from being really happy at seeing them all move on to being extremely sad when Otonashi had to say goodbye to Kanade. It might be hard to convey that feeling by just reading the episode summary above, but go and watch the episode and i'm sure you'll feel the same.
I'm curious as to what this means for the timeline. When Yuri found the second computer lab in the previous episode, we learned that a long time ago there was someone who loved another who disappeared and was stuck alone in the afterlife forever, hence creating the program to take measures to stop love in the afterlife. Is Otonashi the programmer? In addition, if Kanade [spoiler]received Otonashi's transplanted heart[/spoiler] that means she died after he did, however she is in the afterlife before he is - what?! Hopefully this will be clarified soon.
This has to be one of the best episodes of the series, sure it had no action but I loved the plot of this episode, even if it did make me feel sad at the end. If it hadn't of been for that small epilogue however, I would have come away from this episode feeling a lot more negative about it, at least we have a glimmer of hope that Otonashi and Kanade have been able to meet up again.
A series summary post will be up soon. It has taken me two and a bit weeks to write this post but I hope to have the summary done much sooner - blame my general lazyness and the significance of this episode for the delay!
Yen Press recently released Volume 2 of Isuna Hasekura's Spice and Wolf light novel series. The story picks up shortly after the events of the first volume with Laurence and Holo travelling onwards to sell the spice they received as payment previously. I found Volume 1 to be quite 'bright and happy' overall and the initial parts of Volume 2 are also like this. However, things soon take a turn for the worse after a bad decision leaves Laurence extremely close to bankruptcy and he has a falling out with Holo. Thankfully, Laurence and Holo soon resolve their difficulties and Laurence comes up with an ingenious plan to save himself from bankruptcy.
Like Volume 1, there are 3 full page colour illustrations at the start of the book as well as various illustrations thought it. The illustrations are good, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more variation in the first 3 colour illustrations - perhaps there could have been one depicting the city?
Volume 1 attracted a lot of controversy over it's choice of cover, abandoning the original Japanese cover for a photographic equivalent. The publisher, Yen Press, stated that this was due to demands from bookshops. However this time, they've printed the book with the original Japanese cover, but put a photographic dust cover on top of it. This satisfies demands bookshops and also fans - well done Yen Press! I hope they reprint Volume 1 in a similar fashion - if they did I would almost certainly buy it again (despite also owning the original Japanese Volume 1 book which does have the original cover!).
I thoroughly enjoyed Volume 2, the story line feels stronger than the previous volume and is also longer. Economics is still a core part of the story line but like the previous volume it is not overwhelming nor did it detract from my enjoyment of the book. Volume 3 is currently scheduled for release on the 7th of December (2010), i've got it pre-ordered but I really wish that Yen Press would translate them faster - 6 months is an awfully long time! In fact, the author writes each book faster than this if the release dates on Wikipedia's List of Spice and Wolf light novels are to be believed.
Spice and Wolf Volume 2 is available for purchase from Amazon.