A lovely series that should have lasted longer...
...and I don't mean that in a good way.
This review contains spoilers. Continue reading at your own risk.
When reduced to its individual parts, Angel Beats is very, very good. Interesting setting, enjoyable characters, nice twists and being able to jump from hilarious to awesome to incredibly heartbreaking at the drop of a hat. It's primary strength lies in it's tearjerker scenes. When they hit, they hit hard, and you would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved. Highlights would include Hinata's beautiful speech to Yui, Yuri's horrific backstory and Otonashi's desperate attempts to make Kanade stay with him.
Unfortunately, it is when these elements are thrown together in the main story that problems begin to arise. This series plays plot roulette like nobody's business, introducing new plots only to discard them with surprising regularity in the space of only thirteen episodes. And while these plots are very good, in of themselves, they sometimes don't even last longer than one or two episodes. For example: the main struggle between the SSS and Kanade is over halfway through the series, with Naoi taking over as main antagonist. Given how vicious he is in his first appearance, this promises to be awesome. Except no, he's switched sides and reduced to being a comic relief character literally minutes after his debut. Also, the clone saga only lasts two episodes, the plot of Kanade and Otonashi pretending to play opposite sides while helping the SSS members move on lasts one, the shadows plot lasts two, and then there's the finale. In addition, many interesting characters such as TK, Shiina and Noda receive absolutely no development and are literally written out with little explanation by the end.
So all in all, a beautiful series with some fantastic ideas, but it suffers heavily from They Wasted A Perfectly Good Plot
and What Happened To The Mouse
. This is a story that would definitely have worked better if it were stretched over a full two seasons, allowing for more character development and giving the plots some space to breathe.