Angel Beats! Original Soundtrack – Review

Album Title: Angel Beats! Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Angel Beats!
Artist: Jun Maeda, ANANT-GARDE EYES, Lia, Aoi Tada, karuta
Catalog Number: KSLA-0059~60
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: June 28, 2010
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Disc 1

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Track Title Artist Time
1. My Soul, Your Beats! Lia, Jun Maeda 4:35
2. Theme of SSS ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:52
3. School Days ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:21
4. Girl’s Hop ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:12
5. Art of War ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:35
6. Today is OK ANANT-GARDE EYES 3:52
7. Memory ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:33
8. My Most Precious Treasure Jun Maeda 2:47
9. Tactics ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:32
10. Enemy Country ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:12
11. Operation Start ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:19
12. Decisive Battle ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:39
13. Attack!! ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:49
14. Critical Point ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:12
15. Study Time ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:38
16. Niku Udon ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:04
17. Invention ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:08
18. Toy of Spring ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:46
19. Deochi ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:34
20. Light Drop ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:00
21. Worthy Rival ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:06
22. Burial ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:48
23. Play Ball ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:47
24. Walkure ANANT-GARDE EYES 0:30
25. Let’s Operation ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:00
26. Evening Breeze ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:36
27. Moment of Rest ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:12

Disc 2

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Track Title Artist Time
1. Initial Impulse ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:14
2. My Heart Jun Maeda 2:49
3. Soul Friends Jun Maeda 2:56
4. Kanade Jun Maeda 3:03
5. My Most Precious Treasure -orgel- Jun Maeda 2:21
6. Memory -orgel- ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:33
7. Unjust Life ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:45
8. Nocturne in the Afternoon ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:39
9. Anxiety ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:49
10. Abyss ANANT-GARDE EYES 3:16
11. Alter ego ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:50
12. Siren ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:54
13. Transforms to the Shadow ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:25
14. Otonashi ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:40
15. Angel’s Flight ANANT-GARDE EYES 1:16
16. Firing Preparation ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:14
17. Desperation ANANT-GARDE EYES 2:33
18. Breakthrough ANANT-GARDE EYES 3:08
19. Ichiban no Takaramono (Original Version) karuta, Jun Maeda 5:59
20. Brave Song Aoi Tada, Jun Maeda 5:37

Review: If the lead composer for ANANT-GARDE Eyes isn’t Jun Maeda, you wouldn’t know it from listening to Angel Beats!’s soundtrack. Their music blends in almost seamlessly with Maeda’s compositions, and the only points of departure are the synth-heavy tracks that feel out of place from Maeda’s usual melodramatic fare but are nevertheless crucial to depicting the anime’s background.

The straightforward story is that Angel Beats! is set in a purgatory where a handful of people try to combat an entity who they believe is responsible for their unhappiness when they were alive. A more novel suggestion is that Angel Beats! is a video game. I prefer this explanation more for the purposes of looking at the soundtrack because its music reminds me of the music you hear in video games, specifically the type heard in JRPGs.

The three facets of JRPG music that I outlined earlier – battle themes, location music, and character themes – are all scattered across Angel Beats! soundtrack and should be easy to pick out. RPG battle music manifests itself in “Decisive Battle.” The dissonant chords opening the track create the sort of backing you’d hear in Masashi Hamauzu battle themes for Sigma Harmonics and SaGa Frontier II, and those mostly stay in the background, creating a chaotic layer while an ephemeral woodwind weaves in and out when the synth isn’t at the reins. In listening to this, and other battle themes like “Attack!!,” the combat music doesn’t reach the level of Hamauzu’s transcendent themes since they rely too much on the synth, and heavy-sounding synth at that, but they do pack the requisite amount of chaos and energy to stand out well enough.

Decisive Battle

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Locales aren’t nearly as prominent as the battle themes, but both the slice of life parts and the more ominous dungeon-like themes are represented. You get the initial feel for the former in “School Days” which sparkles in its simplicity, but I take more to “Girl’s Hop’s” laid-back chiptune-y goodness. Both pieces have a carefree aura to them, and their repetitive tones make it seem like time stands absolutely still. But hey, such is life in purgatory. “Enemy Country” hits on the typical RPG dungeon themes, with its thick, tension-filled atmosphere that segues into an emphatic rhythm as the dangers ramp up. Like the battle themes, there’s a lot of heavy synth leading the way and it can be overbearing for those not fond of synth, but it works to immerse you in an underground zone filled with traps and adversaries.

Girl’s Hop

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Several tracks later, “Niku Udon” bears mentioning. Though it’s not what people would think of as RPG music, it’s chaotic chiptunes does sound like video game music, with a melody that’s reminiscent of old games blaring out their music in unison in arcades of decades past.

Niku Udon

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Last, but not least, Angel Beats! offers some character themes, though it’s limited in that it focuses on the characters Kanade and Otonashi. Of the two, Kanade’s theme sounds the most like an RPG’s character theme, with a chiptune segment around the middle of the track to drive that comparison closer. The rest of the track is solid, featuring Jun Maeda’s bent towards piano melodies that glimmer down like sunlit beams, sharing its warmth upon those who receive its light. It’s soft, it’s soothing, but it’s determined when it needs to be, making “Kanade” a perfect reflection of the titular character’s personality.

Kanade

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I won’t be talking specifically about Otonashi’s theme though since that’s just an arrangement of “Theme of SSS” with the cello taking over the main melody. Rather, it’s “Theme of SSS” that deserves the focus. The desperation the piece emanates jibes with the SSS’s seemingly hopeless goal of fighting the entity in charge of purgatory. Through the tragic piano melody that opens the track, you can sense not only the depths of the pain and suffering surrounding the SSS members’ backgrounds, but also the resolve to which they will go to fight the perceived source of injustice. Its stark depiction of tragedy comes off poignantly, and it works in hitting all the right emotional spots.

Theme of SSS

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And what’s a Maeda soundtrack without some utterly beautiful piano pieces that really tug upon those heartstrings? Both “Ichiban no Takaramono” and its instrumental version, “My Most Precious Treasure,” progress brilliantly. The pieces start with a gentle piano that comes slowly, carrying with it an air of finality. As they progress, you can sense the load of regrets and heartaches that the character has gone through, but all of that’s coming to a close as death approaches. The feelings of acceptance dominate the melody, and even though the time of passing is near, I’d like to think that it ends on an optimistic note to reflect that the person has firmed up their resolve and is prepared to move on from this life. I do prefer “My Most Precious Treasure” because it succeeds in conveying those tones without the need for words to get in the way. In short, it brings out the emotion in what I consider to be its purest form.

Ichiban no Takaramono (Original Version)

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My Most Precious Treasure

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And before I close out, I’ll just give the piano version of “My Soul, Your Beats” my full approval. The vocal version did feel a bit too messy when I listened to the background instrumentals, and Lia’s voice was what kept the song alive. The piano version, titled “My Heart,” does not suffer from that problem. Like “My Most Precious Treasure,” the heartfelt emotions feel much stronger, instilling within us the love the characters feel, along with the sense of hope of being able to flee this endless cycle of the purgatory while leading others towards a better end.

My Heart

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For all the failures of Angel Beats!’s narrative, its soundtrack manages to shine wonderfully. The heavier synth tracks make a good backdrop for the action and the locales, but those play second fiddle to the stunningly heartfelt tracks that, once again, demonstrate the extent of Jun Maeda’s composing abilities. I’ve yet to hear a bad Maeda track so far, and here, he demonstrates once more that he’s the best composer on Key’s staff.

Rating: Very Good

Notes: Eternal offers his own thoughts as well and his makes for some very good reading.

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

32 thoughts on “Angel Beats! Original Soundtrack – Review

  • August 11, 2010 at 4:05 am
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    mmm…i think you’ve selected the very best from the soundtrack to talk about here, particularly the theme of sss which I enjoyed very much. I agree that the whole compilation sounds like vgm and the track titles even reflect that hahah. However, most of the other tracks you didn’t list or talk about were really jarring and generally unpleasant for standalone listening but then again synth just doesn’t do it for me.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 6:11 am
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    I love the double piano in Decisive Battle. Never heard anything like that before~

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 7:19 am
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    Omigosh, I absolutely love ‘My Heart’. It’s such touching piece. The first time I listen to it, I felt teary-eyed. In fact, the last five samples are among the pieces I enjoyed the most from the album. I also like ‘nocturne in the afternoon’. Well, I tend to gravitate towards the the piano-based compositions then the synth-driven ones but Girl’s Hop is cute though. I think Maeda’s direction aptly captures the anime’s theme. They fit where they’re supposed to fit.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 11:36 am
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    The songs in the OST sounds Very Good, even though listening some of the synth music sounds awkward as they are designed for the Anime itself.

    My heart, my most precious treasure, kanade, Ichiban no Takaramono (Orig. Version) and theme of SSS impressed me the most from the whole OST. As always, Jun Maeda never fails to impress me like the other OSTs from previous Key works.

    Lastly, karuta’s Ichiban no Takaramono sounds 10x better than Yui’s version and sounds more polished… Anyway, I should have my final thoughts about the whole soundtrack soon… not a review since the soundtrack is massive.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm
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    >>Lastly, karuta’s Ichiban no Takaramono sounds 10x better than Yui’s version and sounds more polished… Anyway, I should have my final thoughts about the whole soundtrack soon… not a review since the soundtrack is massive.

    dude, no!

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 5:52 pm
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    @lelangir
    That statement was a bit an exaggeration, but its still opinion after all since some people may prefer Yui’s version and some, the original.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm
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    @lelangir A piano piece by a modern day composer, Steve Reich, that may resemble the piano is the first track to his You Are variations. The woodwinds along side the beginning as well resembles somewhat the chipper percussion in “Forest of Illusion” from chrono cross.

    You are variations: http://www.amazon.com/gp/recsradio/radio/B000A3OX3M/ref=pd_krex_dp_a
    Chrono Cross: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ASFIb8aO9M

    I get a minimalism vibe from some of the tracks on the soundtrack, like “Tactics” and “Decisive Battle”. I really liked “Decisive Battle” very edgy and audibly pleasing. I’m sure that I have to dive deeper into the soundtrack before I begin to hear more influences from impressionistic composers like Debussy. I’ll be looking forward to listening to the whole thing soon. 🙂

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm
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    It’s good to see a departure from the more ‘natural’ tone in his previous works. Some of those percussions were pretty insane, and just a treat for the ears. Though in my opinion tracks like ‘Kanade’, though it captures her character well, suffers due to the synth. The whole technological theme going on in the OST, while it works for the battle tracks, stops the more heartfelt tracks from reaching a crescendo/climax, and I was left a tad disappointed since the tunes were very well composed.

    And bad Jun Maeda tracks? I’d say don’t let him near guitars, drums, basses, and amateur vocalists. Otherwise this OST is solid work as expected of Jun Maeda/ANANT-GARDE EYES.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm
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    @mshaydown
    I did give a brief mention to the heavy use of synth in the paragraphs about the locales, the battle themes, and a brief nod in the conclusion, but it does indeed need to be mentioned a bit more if there’s a worry about not liking the whole synth end of things. Personally, I’m cool with synth when it’s not being overbearing, but there are a few that do straddle that line.

    I’d have given it an Excellent rating if all it contained were piano tracks though :3

    @lelangir
    I remember you saying that you weren’t totally fond of Hamauzu’s FFXIII soundtrack, but I do think that the score to FFX has a few worth taking a peek at, and I see that Marco G has given an artist that uses that same technique.

    @Ayumikat
    I’m pretty sure that a lot of the people listening to the soundtrack, like you, prefer the piano stuff to the synth because of how awesomely heartfelt they are. Maeda continues to turn up the waterworks and does a pretty damn good job with those compositions!

    @chikorita157
    From the get-go, Theme of SSS was a pretty good sign as to the composing potential that ANANT/Maeda is able to offer up and I’m glad they didn’t disappoint and were able to stay consistent throughout. The other pieces put up a good mix of tearjerking too, emotions that are strong given the context.

    Also, is it a bad thing that I don’t even remotely remember Yui’s version of Ichiban no Takaramono? I do like karuta though. Her voice is definitely emphatic and strong, stressing those feelings just right.

    😡

    @Marcos G
    Haha, oh man, I thought that Decisive Battle had that good frenetic atmosphere that’s not exactly in line with a Debussy/Ravel work, but conjured up a pretty good atmosphere. Same goes for Initial Impulse, which again, might be closer to minimalism, so I suppose I’ll offer up Nocturne in the Afternoon as the closest. Maybe Anxiety, too. Well, we’ll see what you think!

    @mrwan
    I wonder if the difference this time around is that he’s also got to put in some more action-y stuff, whereas in his visual novels, all he needs to do is capture the atmosphere? As for the heartfelt stuff, I think they work if they’re solo piano or orgel, since those went over pretty well with me. At least, I don’t recall any other track than “Kanade” where the climax just never touched off.

    And good points. I’ll say that he has crap for evaluating amateur singers, but that the background instrumentals for those aren’t too bad. Well, Crow Song was boring no matter how you cut it, so I guess that qualifies as a bad Maeda track :p

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 2:00 am
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    It’s a shame the score couldn’t be more like the track ‘Kanade’ (which shows just what Madea is capable off in my opinion). Still it’s an overall good listen, even with the same theme being repeated a few times.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm
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    Decisive Battle is interesting in a good way. I;m a fan of modernistic piano works, so dissonant chords aren’t that jarring to me.

    Kanade is pretty and all, but I’m spoiled and the synth strings don’t sound that interesting. They make it sound like some kind of…song intro, or something. If the synth recorder was a voice…

    The piano work is probably the most notable out of the samples you’ve given.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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    @Shiro
    I think that for most of us, the synth stuff just doesn’t strike the chords as strongly compared to the piano tracks, which were solid the whole way through. I’d have loved to listen to an entirely Maeda-composed soundtrack though!

    @Yu
    The way the piano part was put together for Decisive Battle was solid and I enjoyed its frenetic nature, at least until the synth part later on in the piece starts making its presence known really hard, though not quite to the degree that Attack!! does.

    And you can never go wrong putting Maeda with a piano.

    Reply
  • August 19, 2010 at 8:12 am
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    I was a bit disappointed in the soundtrack just because of the sheer difference in level between some tracks.

    Overall it was just fine, but that was because its most brilliant tracks just stood out so much it upped the bar far too much. When you listen to stuff like ‘siren’ and compare it with ‘worthy rival’ it’s like comparing nothing with something. Of course I understand they were just there to make the mood of the anime a little better but really, some of them were so jarring at times I felt rather demotivated. When I first saw the sheer number of tracks I felt so motivated but when it came right down to it… This whole album wouldn’t survive a full week with me unlike the way other albums could but of course if I take all the good parts of the album, it could survive more than a month.

    But that’s not that big to detract from true masterpieces like ‘kanade’ and ‘my most precious treasure’ which tug at our strings so much they might as well just break off.

    And for Ichiban no Takaramono, I personally liked LiSA’s voice more than karuta, even if it is more polished.

    Eh but that’s just my 2 cents. Thanks for the review! I did think you’d get around to reviewing it after its massive popularity last season, especially its OST.

    Reply
  • August 19, 2010 at 10:50 am
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    @minor squabbles
    I’ve had an interesting discussion with my brother about how best to approach it. Do you take it based on lasting impressions or do you try to evaluate it based on the ratio of good vs bad? The conclusion I eventually reached for myself is that to do a bit of both, and that’s sort of what’s reflected in my thoughts here. The good tracks leave a really strong lasting impression that, like you said, was able to lift up the album as a whole, humdrum synth/atmospheric stuff and all, to greater heights. I probably mentioned this above already, but an album only with the lighter piano fare probably would be touching on perfectness.

    And somehow I still haven’t made time for LiSA’s rendition of Ichiban. Suppose I ought to do it soon :p

    Reply
  • August 20, 2010 at 2:33 am
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    I really like My Most Precious Treasure. The piano is so beautiful and evokes so much emotion. Great soundtrack and great review, especially the comparison to game music. It’s an interesting and unique angle to look at the narrative.

    Reply
  • August 20, 2010 at 8:23 pm
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    @Yi
    Isn’t it? I just love the way the stark emotions coming from that piece just flows out and envelopes you with its blend of sorrow and warmth. It’s one of those pieces that I just can’t get enough of either.

    Reply
  • August 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm
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    ANANT-GARDE? Oh, so that’s the band which plays all the awesome background music. For a 12-episode run, it seems that a lot of effort was placed into each song, to the extent that when I play a song, I instantly remember the scene it was played in, and sometimes I even feel like crying a little.

    Reply
  • August 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm
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    whoops, typo (ANANT-GARDE , wear your glasses Valence.)..But nevertheless, they make great music.

    Reply
  • August 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm
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    @Valence
    Yeah, the way the songs just hit those emotional vibes are done so poignantly well and it’s a soundtrack that’s done a great job at currying nostalgia. Glad you enjoy it!

    Reply
  • August 23, 2010 at 8:55 pm
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    So that’s what song it was! I was wondering which song they used for the climax scenes, and it sounds like it’s “Theme of SSS”. Now I have to get this OST for sure.

    Reply
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  • August 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm
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    @Reltair
    If this isn’t one of Jun Maeda’s better soundtracks, then I don’t know what his top tier music would be. Definite recommendation!

    Reply
  • August 28, 2010 at 2:36 am
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    I believe ANANT-GARDE EYES is the above mentioned artists in one group lol.

    It’s the only thing that makes sense, since I know that Jun Maeda stepped up and composed all the songs in 3 days…

    Reply
  • August 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm
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    @Khu
    Is that what really happened? Man, he must have had some good music going in his head prior to composing because this stuff turned out really well!

    Reply
  • September 1, 2010 at 12:17 am
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    @zzeroparticle

    Haha yeah. Apparently he had massive writer’s block in the beginning, then he had a sudden burst of stuff he wanted to get down, but by then he had already only requested 13 episodes, so that’s why Angel Beats! felt so rushed. As for the music, yeah, all the GirlDeMo songs, the OST, everything in 3 days.

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  • April 23, 2011 at 4:27 am
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    Awesome review of an awesome soundtrack, I really have to hand it to you 😀

    I liked how Maeda’s music progress over the years, and you can hear all his past and present self in this album. Especially with his newer styles of using synth and techno beats, I never thought a normal piano can sound so chaotic yet invigorating. Also his sense of melody is astronomical, for lack of a better word, he can make anything sound catchy without resorting to make it sound childish by putting too much repeating notes.

    Reply
    • April 24, 2011 at 9:17 am
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      @roy
      That’s probably one of the biggest draws to Maeda soundtracks: the lack of repeating notes. He definitely has a good grasp of arranging to the point where the pieces sound developed and complete, along with the dose of sentimentality that really makes his music stand out so that it sounds wonderful. And in Angel Beats, he definitely succeeds.

      Reply
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