Angel Beats: The Mixing Pot
Angel Beats is a mixed-media project involving the companies Key, Aniplex, Dengeki G’s Magazine, and PA Works. Each company has their own specialty that they’re bringing into the project: Key is doing the story-writing and music, G’s Magazine is handling the publications, while Aniplex and PA Works are doing the animation. Although it is a mixed-media project (meaning it will be released as an anime, manga, and light novel) the series is really focused around the anime, which is now into its fourth episode.
While Key’s past works (such as Kanon, AIR, and Clannad) were a huge success due to their originality and unique characters, many have pointed out that Angel Beats just seems to be a rip-off of one thing or another. Here, I’d thought I’d go through what people say Angel Beats has apparently copied:
The Haruhi Factor
This was pointed out by the anime community long before the first trailer came out, when Key released the first sketches of the main female protagonist, Yuri. Everyone who knows anything about anime should know about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years. Take one look at the character design for Yuri, and it’s hard not to see where the similarities between her and Haruhi lie. Someone has even taken the liberty of colouring Yuri in with Haruhi’s colours to make it even more obvious.
The similarities don’t just end with Yuri’s character design though. While Haruhi leads a group called the SOS Brigade, Yuri leads a group called the SSS. Although these two groups do have similar abbreviations, they have completely different objectives. The SOS is meant to spread fun across the world, but the purpose of the SSS is to rebel against God in the afterlife. Personally, I think anime fans were just scrambling to find more similarities between Angel Beats and Haruhi after seeing Yuri for the first time.
The K-ON Factor
I don’t think anyone can deny that it was K-ON that brought all-female music bands to the forefront of anime. Several anime series have tried to duplicate K-ON’s success with their own bands, but none have really been able to achieve the same level of popularity that K-ON did. That doesn’t seem to be stopping the creators of Angel Beats from trying though. Their answer to K-ON’s Houkago Tea Time is a rock band called Girls Dead Monster, often shortened to GirlsDeMo. The main difference between the two bands is that GirlsDeMo plays rock music, while Houkago Tea Time plays light music. I think having their band play a different type of music was a good decision by Key as they aren’t directly competing with K-ON when it comes to CD sales.
The Videogame Factor
Other anime series aren’t the only things that Angel Beats has similarities with. It has been pointed out that watching Angel Beats is sort of like watching a video game. This is really obvious in episode 2 when the SSS have to make their way through a dungeon and face off with the final boss, the main antagonist, Tenshi. The dungeon and the boss fight actually reminded me more of the old Final Fantasy games more than anything else. Usually someone ends up being sacrificed to help the group move forward, and when the boss is defeated there’s some big explosion or something collapses. In the next episode, they even show a glimpse of Tenshi’s stats and attributes that’s similar to how enemy stats are displayed in videogames.
The Key Factor
I admit that Angel Beats does seem like it’s trying to appeal to a wider audience by drawing on the success of other titles, but it still manages to keep the elements that made Kanon, AIR, and Clannad distinctly Key works. First of all, Otonashi, the main male lead isn’t some annoying kid like in a lot of anime. He might not be as witty as Yukito from AIR, but gives off a similar feel. The side characters also have crazy and unique personalities that you normally don’t find in other anime, but are very common when it comes to Key.
The major element that Angel Beats seems to take from its predecessors is the theme of life, death, and dreams. Kanon had the whole ending with Ayu, AIR had the summer arc, and Clannad had Nagisa’s imagined death. There has been some speculation that the “afterlife” in Angel Beats is actually all Otonashi’s imagination and that he’s actually in a coma. This is a very plausible scenario when you look at Key’s previous works. It also helps to explain why there’s the pattern from a heart monitor streaking across the screen during the opening song.
When you take these aspects of the anime into consideration, Angel Beats isn’t really much of a copy of other anime as it might seem at first. With at least another 9 episodes to be aired, it might even turn out to be better than titles like Haruhi and K-ON.