Oh boy, this episode…
Technically, the main plot of Episode 3 is Yuri leading a team to infiltrate Tenshi’s dorm room and having a new recruit, Takeyama (Mitsushiro Ichiki), hack into her computer. It’s an alright scenario. It does reveal one vital piece of information: that Tenshi’s abilities are created via special software of hers and not by God. The comedy this time around is hit or miss. Otonashi has one really funny bit as the only one bothered with invading Tenshi’s privacy. I never found Takeyama having a God complex, right down to wanting to be called “Christ”, all that funny however.
Bear in mind, this scenario is heavily overshadowed by the real meat of the story, the real reason why this episode is titled “My Song”. To distract Tenshi from calling it a night, Yuri has her rock band/diversion team, Girls Dead Monster (GirlDeMo), hold another concert. During the preparation, Otonashi briefly gets acquainted with the band leader, Masami Iwasawa (Miyuki Sawashiro, Marina (singing)).
I’ll just cut to it: Iwasawa is one of my favorite characters in Angel Beats!. That opinion admittedly stems from her being one of the very few to get the spotlight on her but in all fairness, her character is very good in its own right. Her backstory is the only one that connects the show’s character drama and theme of regret with the heavy presence of music. Having grown up with feuding parents, she used music as both a means to escape and to express herself. Her life and aspirations to be a musician are cut short due to a brain injury she received during one of her parents’ scuffles. It’s relatable, it’s emotionally stinging, and it makes Iwasawa playing for a rock band more serious and more personal.
There’s a few things I can nitpick about the climax of the episode and, by extension, Iwasawa’s arc. It’s a little contrived that the faculty is only now putting an end to GirlDeMo’s activities. Watching Iwasawa refuse to have her guitar confiscated while her band mates have her back can feel silly to some because of the slow motion used in the scene. Cutting back to Yuri and co. hack a computer also makes the scene feel less personal, though I acknowledge that the story is obligated to do so.
But in the end, those nitpicks are just that, nitpicks. Just like the audience in the scene, I’m captivated and teary-eyed as Iwasawa starts playing one last song, an acoustic ballad fittingly titled “My Song”. Marina’s vocals, especially as she sings high for the chorus, combined with the acoustic instrumental are so effective that even if you can’t understand Japanese, you really get the impression that this girl is singing her heart out. And if you do look up the lyrics, you’ll find that they’re about one feeling lonely and sad but also thankful for those feelings as they prove their humanity and life, something which Iwasawa can attest to.
That final moment where Iwasawa disappears gets me every time. It’s so perfectly done. She smiles and looks like she’s about to collapse and then there’s a hard cut to her guitar resting on the floor while everyone present looks on, stunned. It mirrors the time when she falls and succumbs to her brain injury. Whereas one shows her about to die, the other shows her at peace. The scene also puts an interesting bow on Iwasawa’s arc. Her whole time in the afterlife, she founded and played for GirlDeMo to rebel against God but in reality, she did exactly what she regretted in life: playing music and impact the people around her with it.
Something else worth noting is Tenshi’s response to the GirlDeMo concert. Everyone assumes that she’d be against it but when she sees the promo posters plastered all over campus, she actually takes one for herself and wonders why she’s seen as the bad guy. There’s also no direct implication that she brought the faculty over to stop the concert and she even comes back to the gymnasium when “My Song” plays, listening to it until the end. The past two episodes, Tenshi has been depicted as an emotionless foe but now, there’s hints that there’s more to her than the show lets on. Keep these in mind as the show progresses. It also leads to one very heartwarming bit of continuity later down the road.
I only have one major complaint with this episode and it’s the fact that it’s episode 3 out of the original thirteen that aired. Iwasawa exiting the story happens very, very early and this is her second appearance in the whole show to boot. One could argue that it makes the episode even sadder but I would’ve liked to see more of her. Track Zero/Heaven’s Door kind of remedies this by exploring the time she creates GirlDeMo and meets the other band members (as well as actually shed light on them). The visual novel also reworks her arc into a fully fledged route, one of a few that were completed before the project seemingly disappeared into vaporware territory…
While it’s a shame that Iwasawa leaves so early, I must admit that I do like who ends up filling in her shoes.
ED: “Brave Song” by Aoi Tada”
The ED updates as characters are introduced (and leave…). Gone is Iwasawa and now we have Takeyama…so a downgrade if you ask me.
I didn’t mention this before but the OP and ED for Angel Beats! were the first time I ever saw a theme song sequence change accordingly to the story. As silly as this sounds, my mind really was blown at the time.
Thanks for reading!