I actually made a slight lie in the Episode 5 review in the small chance that someone out there is reading these posts is unfamiliar with Angel Beats!. Yeah, this is a ten year old anime but you never know. I wrote that Episode 5 is where Kanade is no longer the antagonist. That’s both technically true and false at the same time as the end of Episode 7 has her indirectly presenting a new obstacle for the SSS to face.
As it turns out, when Kanade saved the SSS from the giant fish (writing that down will always feel weird), she used a Guard Skill called “Harmonics”. This allows her to replicate herself. The downside becomes apparent as the clone still exists and acts on her own accord. Most notably, she’s extremely hostile towards the SSS and even her original persona, her personality stemming from the original’s brief desire to fight aggressively at the time. Otonashi comes to Kanade’s defense here, stressing that the clone’s personality was not her intent. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that they’d rather not have another Tenshi to fight. Yuri, with her “amazing” computer skills, manages to program in a new skill that forces the clones to reintegrate into the original. However, everyone soon discovers that the clone has taken the original hostage in the old Guild and copied herself right before the new skill is programmed in.
Once again, hijinks ensue in old Guild. The traps are as they were since Episode 2 though that hardly matters as the gang must confront multiple Kanades. Everyone gets picked off one by one again though they all intentionally die this time around, taking a hit so they can pin a Kanade to the floor and allow everyone else to move on. I remember finding this all really funny back then but watching it now, it didn’t hit me nearly as much like it did before. For one, I find it hard to believe that the strategy actually works. Kanade is a petite girl but that’s a moot point considering one of her Guard skills grants her superhuman strength. Last episode, she sent Takeyama blasting off like Team Rocket. Here, she can’t push aside a person on top of her (that doesn’t sound right)? Second, the gag is pretty repetitive. Whereas the Guild traps were varied and allowed for characters to die in different ways, everyone just gets stabbed in more or less the same way. I will say that the last couple of variations are the best ones however. Otonashi guilts Naoi into sacrificing himself after hypnotizing Oyama to do the same. Yui forces Hinata to take one for the team and yet mourns for him afterwards. Even better is that despite actually surviving all the Tenshis, Yui still bites the dust before the final fight.
Like with Episode 2, the roster whittles down to Otonashi and Yuri. The context for them being the last ones is pretty different though. In Episode 2, it’s them simply because it’s the newbie and the veteran leader. Here, it’s more personal this time around. Otonashi being one of the last two makes sense as he is Kanade’s friend. As Hinata and Yuri points out, if Kanade is waiting for anyone to save her, it’d be Otonashi. Meanwhile, having Yuri survive up to this point allows us to see one more fight between her and Kanade. In fact, this is actually the first and only time Yuri manages to beat her longtime rival. She anticipates the clone to use “Howling”, a new and extremely deadly Guard Skill, and uses that opening to win. It goes to show that while Kanade is far more powerful, Yuri can outsmart her (though I do doubt that the original Kanade would use a move that leaves her so open). Having the opponent be a clone also allows Yuri to fulfill her goal without jeopardizing her gradually changing opinion of the original.
This is admittedly because of hindsight but I find myself very disappointed with how Angel Beats! resolves this whole clone fiasco. At Otonashi’s urging, the original Kanade uses Harmonics again, this time with the counter Yuri programmed in. To his horror however, a new clone reveals that reintegrating the clones means fusing their individual personalities into the original’s body. Not only does this cause severe pain for Kanade, it also implies that the hostile clone personality could become the dominant one in her mind. For me, there is so much potential with this consequence and it could’ve been the most interesting thing done with Kanade’s character. The clone persona could stay as a villain for at least another episode. Maybe reveal that the clone’s hostility actually stems from pent up feelings about the SSS opposing the original. The different personalities wrestle for control of the body. Have Otonashi help her out by reminding her how much she’s grown to enjoy being with the SSS, especially with him. That’s what I would’ve liked to see. But as revealed in the next episode, that’s not the direction Angel Beats! takes.
Thanks for reading!