The first episode of Angel Beats!, a series whose creator-screenwriter was recently interviewed at length, aired recently, and despite a mixed initial reaction is well deserving of further attention (in particular with regards to its confusing storyline)…
A good introduction to the show’s setting was made in the aforementioned interview already, so it need not be repeated here.
Do note that the screenshots below need to be enlarged to be seen full size.
With little introduction, our male protagonist awakens from a stupor in the middle of a school campus, remembering nothing as to where he is or what might have happened to him.
His voice might ring some bells – his seiyuu, 神谷浩史 / Hiroshi Kamiya, has played many notable roles such as Zetsubou-Sensei’s Nozomu Itoshiki, Bakemonogatari’s Araragi, and Gundam 00′s Tieria Erde.
Next, an unfamiliar girl’s voice brings him to his senses.
Her voice should be new for mostly anyone watching the show as well; aside from a considerable amount of eroge work on games like H20: Footprints in the Sand, 櫻井浩美 / Sakurai Harumi has very little seiyuu experience and certainly nothing like a leading role like this one.
Yuri explains to our as of yet unnamed hero the basic outline of what’s going on: He’s dead, and they are currently somewhere in the afterlife, which fortunately happens to look like a Japanese highschool campus.
Yuri happens to be leader of a group that fights against God (!) on these grounds, as her badge helpfully illustrates:
The badge certainly gets some points for both having a “SSS” logo, and on top of that, being reminiscent of lightning bolt SS insignias!
With little more explanation than what’s given above,Yuri marks out what exactly she’s pointing her rifle at: this cute kuudere-style girl, referred to just as Tenshi (“angel”, just as in Eva).
Yuri doesn’t react well to our male lead’s idea to just go down and talk to the girl instead of shooting her.
Tenshi shoes off more of her cuteness here.
Our poor hero eventually wakes up, somewhere.
Strangely, being skewered well enough to cover his clothes in a pool of blood didn’t leave a scratch on him, which gives him a bit of fright.
Apparently this guy was watching over him, waiting for him to recover enough so he could once again beat him savagely for slighting Yuri.
“Hit” means “hit”, etc.
“Several hours later.”
Fortunately, being torn apart seems to mean little for the already-dead, although our orange-haired friend still has trouble accepting all of this, and goes off wandering through the school.
Unfortunately he eventually runs into a trap set by Wil E. Coyote:
Once well enough, he awakens, this time in a room with Yuri and compatriots, deliberating on a better name for the organization.
It should be noted that the blond above with a headband speaks entirely in English gibberish, as if he was high.
They eventually notice our hero has regained consciousness.
This dark girl is one of only two females in the room besides Yuri.
The third girl, a short pink-haired cutie, is of some importance later in the episode, so we’ll get to her later on.
A much appreciated shot of Yuri’s thigh flesh.
The meeting ends inconclusively; our hero is still unsure what to make of all this, and Yuri’s explanation that their goal is to wipe out God’s Angel(s) and take over this afterlife world doesn’t do much to inspire confidence.
Yuri gives our now named lead, Otonashi (“no-sound”, not too odd a name, but quirky enough to sound like an alias), a quick tour, explaining that while the campus is inhabited by a good number of normal looking student body and faculty, they are totally outside the hostilities, and are simply referred to as NPCs since they appear to be mostly mere apparitions and not truly alive.
Irrelevant to everything else but still amusing, the canned coffee (a ubiquitous Japanese concoction) Yuri drinks during all this is named “Key Coffee”!
Otonashi eventually gets roped into participating, and is welcomed as a new SSS member.
This is Yuri taking potshots out the group room’s window, showing Otonashi his new sidearm.
Following that, Yuri gets round to holding a pre-battle briefing for the night’s anti-Angel operation.
Otonashi has some issues with part of the plan, which includes “lifting” meal tickets off the NPC student body.
The operation starts off with the various members getting into position, including this pretty twintail girl who happens to be voiced by 牧野由依 / Yui Makino, whose past roles include Welcome to the NHK!’s Misaki, but is better known for her singing (as heard in most of the Aria OPs and EDs).
The above screenshot is here just for the moe devil-tailed girl that happens to be bouncing around onscreen.
Iwasawa, the other SSS female member from earlier in the meeting room, gets ready to begin the planned diversion to distract the regular students, along with the trio of girls behind her.
Their ruse, performing a concert as the girl band named “Girls Dead Monster”, starts off what has to be the episode’s most lavish scene, looking considerably better than practically anything else in the episode, perhaps besides a few key action frames with Tenshi.
It’s hard to get it across with just a few screenshots here, but the animation here is just wonderful.
They don’t receive an introduction throughout this episode, but for the record, the names of the rest of the band appear to be Hisako (leftmost), Sekine (on stage-right) and Irie, the drummer.
The NPCs are pleased!
Unfortunately the scene doesn’t last for too long and is interspersed with some footage of the others outdoors, but we should get to see some more of the Girls Dead Monsters in later episodes.
While all the fun was going on in the dining halls, outside, the rest of the SSS is waiting for an encounter with Tenshi…
Otonashi’s reluctance to fire a weapon at something this moe is utterly understandable.
Naturally, Tenshi isn’t fazed by just Otonashi’s bullets, which she easily shrugs off.
The Tenshi scenes are probably the second-best animated ones in the episode, after the concert.
The rest of the squad joins in, to little effect.
Yuri’s odd battle plan involves opening the hall’s sky windows at the concert’s climax and powering on some industrial fans…
Which makes a good amount of the students’ meal tickets to fly outdoors, which serves as a signal for the SSS to stop pestering Tenshi with small-arms fire and walk away to…
Use the tickets to buy dinner.
Cue end of episode!
As series creator Maeda suggested in his interview, getting up to the show’s second episode will likely be necessary to paint a good picture of what the show is on about, as pretty much anyone who has not been following news of the series in Dengeki G magazine’s frequent updates should be fairly lost at this point.
Hopefully, the second episode later this week should make matters clearer.