What it’s about: Otonashi Yuzuru wakes up to find a rifle-toting schoolgirl standing over him. She quickly informs him that he’s died… and the afterlife is a high school. The rules are simple – if you conform to the system, you disappear to who knows where; if you rebel, the automaton-like “Angel” will *make you* conform, even if she has to (temporarily) kill you a few times to provide enough of an incentive.
Why you should watch it: Angel Beats! is a show that tries for a little bit of everything. It’s a comedy, a drama, a mystery, and an action show all at once with a touch of romance thrown in for flavour. And what’s more, it actually manages to pull all of this off without diluting the story. The soundtrack is fantastic and the fight scenes are visual candy, but the ongoing and absorbing plot and character development are what sets the show apart from most “popcorn” series. It’s an excellent showcase of the current zeitgeist in anime, and a good jumping off point to the rest of the medium.
Caveats: This is a *good* popcorn show, but it’s still, at its heart, light entertainment. Some of the gags are a bit hit and miss and, even if you really can’t stand one of the side characters, you’re still going to have to be prepared to see them a fair amount through the show’s run.
Themes: Acceptance, moving on from tragedy, an absent God.