Angel Beats was a show that aspired to greatness and ended up being merely good. What Jun Maeda fails to grasp with his reach in storytelling, however, is partly made up for by his OP, which is one of the finest songs of the year.
It’s well-known if you follow me that I am a sucker for great soundtracks. There are soundtracks which are, in a way, unworthy of the shows they score, and I’ve struggled to articulate why great music affects me to the point where it can nearly redeem a series. (One example: the sweeping, goth-epic Kajiura-penned OST to Petite Cosette.)
I think I have a (subjective) answer in the case of “My Soul, Your Beats,” and it lies in its melody. The memorable piano riff at the beginning and the pulsing beat of the chorus, the string flourishes…the melody seems to actually reflect the aspirations of the show. What the story was reaching for was a sense of melancholy profundity: something that Maeda always seems to attempt to reach, mostly by dealing with death, forgotten memory, and lost love. I know how subjective this is, but to me, the song sounds like those themes. I get a small chill when I hear the piano riff sung and restated near the end of the chorus, and when the instruments rise at the chorus’s beginning, because it reminds me of the show’s little epiphanies when either a painful past is revealed or a character realizes something about life. The lyrics are not as suggestive as the melody in this case—though the end of the first chorus has an evocative image:
As those millions of stars vanished
I watched them fade
I waved them good-bye
Typical Maeda melodrama, but so fitting to the mood of the show at its best: a sense of peace at one’s death, no matter how bleak.