Angel Beats! Special Episode – Stairway to Heaven

The Afterlife Battlefront is at it again one more time in this unexpected OVA, which takes place at a point in the story where the bulk of the characters are still around. Angel Beats! was one of my favorite anime of 2010, so it was great to see it back and firing on all thrusters. Yurippe devises a scheme she hopes will lead Angel to lure them to God. She orders everyone to create “maximum tension” and have an unreasonable amount of enthusiasm from every single moment (or at least pretend to). In theory, the appearance of such life-fulfilling experiences would lead them to pass on to the beyond, but they won’t, because they’re just acting. It’s hoped this will flummox Angel and send her running to God.

With a fluctuating “tension meter” ever present, the sustained instances of high-tension got predictably chaotic and, well, tense. The entire gang gets to participate, each contributing their unique characteristics to the cause (Yui’s rocking out is fitting, while Shiina’s manic sewing is particularly cute). Also predictably, Otonashi only ever reduces the tension, all but refusing to get into the spirit of things. No matter, it seems like Yurippe is on to something, as Angel eventually leads them on what turns out to be a wild goose chase based upon a hilariously convoluted misunderstanding. While hardly masterful, this was a solid, fun addition to the Angel Beats! archive. Rating: 3.5

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Angel Beats – First Impressions

Rundown: Guy wakes up in the afterlife with amnesia; is immediately recruited into an after-school club locked in a battle with a seemingly omnipotent authority in the guise of a white-haired schoolgirl (Angel). They foil Angel with combo of J-pop concerts, handguns, artillery, and stage fans. The afterlife is also densely populated with NPCs. Guy’s told if he doesn’t fight, he’ll disappear.

This is P.A.’s third anime after True Tears (haven’t seen) and Canaan (watchable but shallow). It doesn’t waste any time throwing you directly into the situation at hand, and is paced well throughout. The SSS brigade/club leader reminded me a lot of Haruhi Suzumiya – charismatic; bossy; a little insane, but she has a much larger force under her command, more weaponry, and isn’t fighting on Earth, but in an afterlife with specific rules and roles. There’s thoughtful dialougue, comedy, and plenty of well-orchestrated action, and I didn’t even mind the concert, since it was intercut with other action.