Angel Beats! Track Zero Review: The Beginning of the SSS
Wow, it’s been almost a month since my last post, and probably a great deal longer since I read through what I’m going to be writing about this time around. The last month and a half or so has been extremely hectic for me due to schoolwork, college apps, and whatnot. It was certainly very stressful and my free time was severely limited, but luckily for me that’s all come to pass. Well, mostly, I do have one more semester of school to live through and one more class to attend tomorrow (though my work is all done so it’s mostly obligatory attendance stuff) but for the most part, I’m off to the freedoms of winter break, and with that I’ll actually have time to make more blog posts about the variety of series I’ve seen recently (and not so recently). Anywho, all that aside, this time around I’ll be taking a look at Angel Beats! Track Zero, the prequel light novel to the Angel Beats! anime series. Track Zero may not be the greatest display the series has to offer, but it provides some nice insight on the background of the SSS that the anime never got a chance to show and it’ll do a pretty good job of giving fans something to enjoy while waiting for the release of the upcoming Angel Beats! game, which I’m extremely excited for.
Unlike the original TV anime, Track Zero is given from the perspective of Hideki Hinata, who was actually quite important in the original but not given as much as attention as a few of the other characters. Hinata finds himself in an unfamiliar school and goes to the rooftop before being surprised by a friendly kick off the building by a girl. He then wakes up in the infirmary and sees the girl again, talking with her about his whereabouts and discovering that he’s in the afterlife, thinking back to what was apparently his death. A picture tips off those who are familiar with the anime, though it isn’t until a bit later that the girl tells Hinata that her name is Yuri. Yuri reveals her desire to get revenge on God for her miserable life and proceeds to drag Hinata along in her crazy schemes. The two steadily meet more people like them and eventually decide to group together, leading to the formation of the SSS that Angel Beats! fans know and love.
The story itself isn’t the most engaging, but it’s rather the circumstances of it all that make Track Zero a worthwhile read. Development wasn’t given to every character in the original anime due to time constraints and many of the backgrounds were left untouched. While Track Zero doesn’t delve a whole lot into individual character backstories, it does provide a good amount of exposition about what took place in the afterlife before Otonashi showed up. It’s quite interesting to see just what goes on and how the different characters responded to each other before bonding together as they had by the time the TV series began. The interactions between Hinata and Yuri are also quite interesting as they show just how much has progressed since they first met and, having actually finished the first season of Haruhi now, I felt that the relationship between Hinata and Yuri paralleled that of Kyon and Haruhi.
The characters don’t show a whole lot of growth in this alone, though I would imagine most of the people who read this are already quite familiar with the cast from the anime. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with starting with this installment of the series either, though there isn’t anything in the novel alone that would make one love most of the cast. Hinata is a pretty entertaining narrator and I felt he had a bit more personality and flavor than Otonashi did at the beginning of the anime. Yuri and Kanade are pretty much the same as they were in the anime so fans of either character in the anime will still enjoy them here. I don’t want to list off the other side characters that appear as some of the best enjoyment in this is being surprised with who shows up and how they do so. Not all of the side characters show up in this one but a decent chunk make their appearances and it’s neat seeing how they meet Yuri and Hinata. I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that there are a couple chapters dedicated to Sekine Shiori of Girls Dead Monster and her exaggerated descriptions of the daily lives of the members of the band. A few of the characters who didn’t show up in the main story do appear briefly in these and fans of the Girls Dead Monster characters will enjoy seeing a good amount of them since they don’t appear in the main story either.
Track Zero is a pretty short novel so there isn’t a whole lot more I can say about it without treading into spoilerish territory. To sum up, Track Zero is a nice read for fans who want to learn even the slightest bit more about the backstory of the SSS and how some of the characters ended up together. While Track Zero lacks the extreme emotional moments many remember from the anime, it’s a fairly amusing read and provides information that wasn’t given in the anime. For me, Track Zero was a 7/10. It may not have been the greatest of reads, but it can’t hurt to give it a try and it’ll provide something for Angel Beats fans. At the very least, it’s some Angel Beats! material to enjoy while we wait for the game adaptation that’s supposed to be incredibly long and have an extreme amount of content. I for one can’t wait for the game and I do believe such a thing could be capable of being my next 10/10. Of course, I don’t have a right to complain if I haven’t actually played a single Key visual novel yet, so I at least have something to go to if the wait is killing me (and if I actually have time to do so, visual novels are so long…..).