is a Japanese media franchise, centered on a 13-episode anime television series produced by P.A. Works and Aniplex and directed by Seiji Kishi. The story was originally conceived by Jun Maeda, who also wrote the screenplay, with original character design by Na-Ga; both Maeda and Na-Ga are from the visual novel brand Key known for producing such titles as Kanon
, and Clannad
. Key is working in collaboration with ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine
to produce the project. The series began airing in Japan on April 3, 2010. Two manga series and a series of illustrated short stories based on Maeda's original concept are serialized in Dengeki G's Magazine
takes place at a high school in the afterlife in a Purgatory between Heaven and Earth where students learn to give up any lingering attachments they still have from life before finally going to Heaven. While the injuries or cause of death is gone, those in the afterlife school can still feel pain or other things as they did when they were alive, as well as dying again, only to awaken with no injures several minutes later. The story follows the main protagonist Otonashi, a boy who lost his memories of his life after dying. Upon awakening in the afterlife, he meets a girl named Yuri who invites him to join the Shinda Sekai Sensen (SSS) (死んだ世界戦線?, lit. Afterlife War Front), an organization she founded and leads which fights against God for the cruel fates the SSS members experienced in life. Their only enemy in the world is the school's student council president Angel, a being with supernatural powers who is in charge of keeping the status quo and fights against the SSS. Yuri believes that anyone who follows Angel's orders and behaves like a normal student at the school will eventually disappear and pass on to Heaven. However, it is those that fulfill something in the afterlife they were unable to do in life that will pass on.
In the SSS, there are two sub-divisions which help in the SSS's operations against Angel. The first is a four-girl band named Girls Dead Monster whose objective in the SSS is to cause a diversion from other activities the SSS is engaged in, while on the surface appearing to be a normal all female band. This includes distracting Angel and a large number of "normal" students and teachers at the school Yuri deems "non-player characters" as they are not human, but look and act the part. Another organization in the SSS is the Guild, located far below the surface of the afterlife world, which serves to supply the weapons the SSS uses against Angel. Anyone in the afterlife is able to create anything out of dirt that they had memories of in life, and the Guild uses this ability to mass produce weapons.
The original creators of Angel Beats!
, Jun Maeda and Na-Ga of Key, were interviewed in the July 2009 issue of ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine
. Around the time Key completed the first release of their sixth visual novel Little Busters!
, Hironori Towa of Aniplex (himself a fan of Key's works) approached Maeda around October 2007 about collaborating to produce an original anime series. Maeda began meeting with Towa and Aniplex on a monthly basis and the story started to gradually progress. Aniplex wanted Maeda to write a screenplay that would be very "Key-like, with touching moments of laughter and tears," but initially Maeda found himself at a loss to write a story more amusing than Little Busters!
, because he thought that he had reached a limit with Little Busters!
in regards to a "Key-like story". However, one day Maeda was struck by inspiration, where he thought up the initial idea of a story set in the afterlife. Furthermore, with everyone already dead, Maeda conceived of flashy battles where the combatants go all out without fear of death. According to Maeda, the theme of the series is "life", which in Angel Beats!
is depicted as a precious and wonderful thing, despite the characters in Angel Beats!
who fight against their fate.
Maeda nominated Na-Ga to began work on the character designs near the beginning of 2008. Na-Ga was worried that other computer graphics (CG) work for Key would get delayed, but he took the position because of his accumulated experience in CG. Maeda nominated Na-Ga because of the popular characters he designed in Little Busters!
, and because of his frankness. Na-Ga designed Yuri based on her personality as a leader, though it was per Maeda's request that he added the black headband, taken from the character Yukiko Amagi from Persona 4
, who was Maeda's favorite heroine from that game. The length of Yuri's hair and the addition of a green ribbon were decided from production committee meetings. Angel's original concept began with the idea of a brave, fighting girl. Maeda cites that Angel's image had changed considerably over the development process and that originally she was similar to Shiki Ryōgi from Kara no Kyōkai
. Eventually, Angel's concept changed to being a "silent and mysterious girl". Before Na-Ga decided on Otonashi's design, Maeda told him that anything would be fine and to just draw something, and eventually drew up a prototype for Otonashi and Hinata, among others. Some of the characters had vague initial conditions given by Maeda, such as asking Na-Ga to draw an "all female band bass guitarist" in the case of Girls Dead Monster member Sekine and particularly the cryptic "character who speaks in puzzling English phrases" for TK.