As disappointing as it is to see Naoi’s antagonism done in one episode, I still like the role he plays for the rest of Angel Beats!. The current student council president is now part of the SSS though he still keeps his distance from everyone, maintains his God complex (for some reason), and uses his hypnotism for some mischief (as demonstrated with Hinata). The only person Naoi fully respects and gets along with is Otonashi. They did hug it out last episode after all. Expect to see him showing a lot of affection to Otonashi from here on out. I remember that being one of the funnier running gags in the series.
Naoi’s hypnotism actually comes in handy this episode as Yuri asks him to use it on Otonashi and unlock his memories. Otonashi is initially apprehensive to the idea as he’s afraid it’ll spur him into moving on and at this point of the series, he’s grown quite attached to the SSS’s company. He quickly changes his mind however as this is his best shot and considering what he said about memories and life last episode, it’d be odd if he hesitated for longer.
This episode is where we finally learn about Otonashi’s past. You even find out about his first name: Yuzuru. As it turns out, Otonashi was a high school dropout, largely getting by with part-time work and not having any sort of ambition of his own. The only thing that gave him purpose was his hospitalized sister, Hatsune (Mai Nakahara) though he only truly realizes that when he sneaks her out to town for Christmas and his sister dies on the way to their destination.
Hatsune’s role is brief and her dying is predictable but in spite of all that, I think the show manages to convey how much she means to Otonashi in such a small span of time. You see Otonashi saving up and giving his sister gifts and even as it becomes apparent that Hatsune’s condition is worsening, Otonashi still keeps his promise to fulfill her wish to see the Christmas lights. The Christmas scene itself is one of my favorite images in Angel Beats!. The bright, colorful holiday lights belies the tragic tone of the scene and even as Hatsune succumbs to her condition, she still clings onto the thing she’s most thankful for: her brother.
The most interesting thing about the flashback comes in the aftermath of Hatsune’s death. Otonashi is depressed at first but he turns over a new leaf and decides to become a doctor so that he can help others from suffering the same fate as his sister. You see him diligently study and it even results in him getting admitted to a university. It makes it all the more tragic then when the train he boards on his way to the entrance exam crashes, resulting in his death. As sad as Hatsune’s death is, it’s not the real tragedy of Otonashi’s life. The real tragedy is that at each time Otonashi finds purpose and happiness in his life, it’s soon cut short by the cruel hands of fate. Return to the present and you have Otonashi going through what everyone in the SSS must’ve experienced at some point — lamenting how unfulfilling their life was.
After that, Otonashi joins the gang for fishing…that is indeed what happens next.
It’s a weird pairing of events. I don’t think the tonal whiplash is the problem. Angel Beats! has varied so wildly in tone to begin with. I think the issue is previous episodes have done a pretty job tying the past and present together. For example, Yuri reflects on her motivation in Episode 2 after a hectic adventure that makes her question her leadership a bit. Here, Otonashi learns what he regrets in life…and then goes fishing. It sounds very loose by comparison. Perhaps that’s the point however. Otonashi says he can’t move on with his memories but he nevertheless wants to move on in the short term. He doesn’t want his past dictating his “life” and so this entire fishing trip makes for a reprieve.
Along the way, Otonashi invites Kanade to come along. Everyone is apprehensive to the idea but it’s ultimately and surprisingly Yuri who allows it since Kanade isn’t really their enemy anymore. The fishing trip is of course fun to watch. Kanade’s absurd strength comes to comical fruition as she accidentally snatches people with her fishing rod and also catches a fish so large that I must question how it even fit in that stream of water. The main takeaway is that Otonashi and Kanade are growing even more closer to each other. Most telling is that when Otonashi takes Kanade’s hand and the latter doesn’t stop him, showing that she does subconsciously want to be around him. The two are even on a first name basis now and without going too far ahead, I just want to quickly say that the meanings of their respective names is very intentional.
While catching the giant fish, Kanade uses a new ability so that everyone doesn’t get eaten by it. It happens so quickly that it’s easy to miss but it appears that Kanade created a clone of herself so that she can kill the fish in time. Using this ability seems to have a repercussion however as the clone is revealed to still be around and she doesn’t look the least bit friendly.
Thanks for reading!