Like I said in the last review, Iwasawa leaving very early in the story is a shame but I do like the one who takes her place. Enter Yui (Eri Kitamura, LiSA (singing)), GirlDeMo super fan and assistant who offers to be the replacement, even proving that she has the pipes for the job with a meta performance of “My Soul, Your Beats”. This girl has made appearances before, she even has decent screen time in Episode 3, but this episode is where it becomes clear that she’s a prominent character in the show. In addition to landing the singing gig, Yui develops a rapport with Hinata, the two of them repeatedly annoying and trying to kill each other. It’s amusing for sure and trust me, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The plot of the episode is Yuri having everyone illegally compete in the school’s baseball tournament. It’s really silly, even by the SSS’s standards. I suppose Yuri just wants to a win of some kind against Tenshi so if it must be baseball, so be it. And the illegality of the SSS’s participation does get Tenshi’s attention, the girl bringing a team comprised of school regulars to the tournament and beating the SSS teams with Hinata’s as the last one standing.
Speaking purely in terms of entertainment value, the baseball games are fun to watch. There’s not really a lot of strategy going on. Hinata’s one plan is simply having Noda bat fourth and get home runs and pray that defense goes well enough. It’s the goofiness of the characters that shines here. Noda keeps breaking the rules to continue his one-sided rivalry with Otonashi. Shiina bats and catches while balancing a broomstick on her fingers. The best part is Matsushita 5-dan (Eiichirou Tokumoto) who, despite getting recruited to a different team, joins the final game because Otonashi bribed him with meal tickets. I’d question the legality of the move but it’s funny watching Matsushita play defense while eating ramen so who cares.
I only have one complaint about the baseball scenario: you don’t get to see Tenshi play. Yes, the superpowered girl who can distort physics just sits in the bleachers, presumably acting as her team’s manager given the way she’s dressed (and I won’t lie, she is rocking that cap and jacket). I guess since she’s a model student, it wouldn’t make sense for her to use her Guard skills to win the game. In her mind, that’s probably cheating. Still, I can’t let go of what a missed opportunity it is.
This episode provides some insight into Hinata’s character, revealing that he played baseball in his past life until he cost his school team an important game by failing to catch a pop fly. It’s implied that he resorted to drugs to cope though frankly, that detail feels shoved in to make the story darker (I believe Heaven’s Door doesn’t even use it to explain how he died). For mot part, it’s considerably simpler and less dark compared to what we got for Yuri and Iwasawa and as a result, it could be potentially less interesting for some viewers. I think it works in that it shows that everyone in the show is in the afterlife because they have a regret of some kind, no matter how big or small it may be. And there’s something tragic about Hinata’s failure to catch that ball. Had he lived longer and continued to play baseball, that one loss would eventually matter less to him. It’s because he died young and was denied a comeback that causes his failure to weigh in his mind so much.
The backstory creates some suspension for the end of the episode. Once he learns of his friend’s past, Otonashi fears Hinata will disappear during the final game and that fear is exacerbated when Hinata is confronted with a pop fly similar to the one he failed to catch when he was alive. For a brief moment, it really seems like Hinata will disappear the moment he catches it is. Whether or not that is the case we’ll never know since Yui ultimately tackles him to the ground as revenge for all the times he’s attacked her this episode. It’s definitely convenient that she pulls a sneak attack at this very moment though I don’t mind it. Considering Iwasawa’s exist last episode, it’d start to feel predictable having characters repeatedly disappear by flashback. Plus, the show has more in store for Hinata and I’m glad it does.
OP: “My Soul, Your Beats” by LiSA
Angel Beats! was actually LiSA’s big breakthrough as a singer. Amazing how popular she is now. I imagine she’s more known for “Oath Sign” or “Crossing Field” or “Gurenge” but her work in Angel Beats! will always be up there for me. Also, LiSA tweeted about Angel Beats! during its 10th anniversary, you can read it here.
ED: “Brave Song” by Aoi Tada
Thanks for reading!
Watch Angel Beats! on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Netflix