As I near the end of Angel Beats!, I’m reminded more and more how the single cour and the large cast of characters are at odds with each other. The beginning of Episode 12 certainly epitomizes that feeling. Here, what’s left of GirlDeMo and a ton of other SSS members tell Otonashi they’ll move on. It’s technically bittersweet (that hard cut to empty space will always be effective) but there’s no denying that this scene would hit harder with a stronger understanding of the characters. Just knowing more of Iwasawa’s bandmates apart from names and appearances is enough to do the trick. I suppose that’s where Track Zero/Heaven’s Door comes in but that says something about the scene if it requires supplemental material to work more effectively.
Something to note is that apart from GirlDeMo, the people bidding their farewells are just extras. That’s because most of the minor characters with actual names stick around to hold off the Shadows so that Otonashi, Hinata, and Naoi can get to the enemy lair. It does undermine the impact of the farewell scene but it admittedly would’ve been lamer if the front liners skipped out on the final battle so I suppose this is the smart thing to do.
For the most part, this episode actually centers around Yuri and puts a nice bow on her arc. The first thing is that in a break from all the fighting and a moment of self-reflection, Yuri admits to herself how much she regrets antagonizing and fighting Kanade and wishes the two of them could’ve been friends. Epitomizing her desire to make amends is the fact that she decides to ditch the Tenshi moniker and begins calling Kanade by her real name. I’ll admit that I wish more was done with this relationship (some more on that in the next review) though I still like the glimpses that were provided by the show. It’s nevertheless nice to see Yuri realize that despite her vendetta against God, she wants Kanade as a friend, not an enemy.
Abruptly, Yuri gets ambushed by the Shadows and becomes an NPC in the process. The show smartly reveals her conversation after the eye catch, making you feel just as thrown off as Yuri is. Of course, it doesn’t really last for long. Even with her memories suppressed, Yuri retains a faint awareness that something isn’t right, catching the fight against the Shadows in her periphery and realizing she doesn’t know the name of the classmate she’s supposed to be good friends with. In time, she snaps out of it and before she could get converted again, she gets saved by Otonashi, Kanade, Hinata, and Naoi. Despite the temporariness, Yuri does come out of the experience with a takeaway. She does find it nice to live life as a normal teenager but that only makes her accept the life she had even more. Despite how miserable it was, her life is unequivocally hers and she’d rather have that than live the fabricated existence she’s in now.
While Yuri successfully locates the computers running the Shadow program, she surprisingly does not meet the culprit. In fact, the one pulling the strings is actually an AI (Akira Ishida) created by the one who created the program. You still get an explanation regarding the Shadows. Essentially, they’re products of a computer program that those who no longer feel any regret but still choose to live in the afterlife. What exactly triggers their appearance is an excess amount of love as that emotion is apparently what will most likely compel someone to stay in the afterlife. This is exemplified by the creator of the program who stayed in the world because he lost a loved one who moved on and waited eons for her to come back. Driven insane, he created the program to turn himself as an NPC, leaving behind the AI to keep the program running.
I’ll admit: the reveal is a bit much. There’s a number of questions to be asked such as how exactly the program even measures something as corporeal as love. Where the reveal works most is how it affects Yuri. After all this time trying to find God and seeking answers, Yuri finds out that whoever created this world is no where to be found. As far as the afterlife is concerned, God is ultimately a role someone else plays with the Shadow program being the ultimate tool for playing the part. The AI simply acts as God because he’s programmed to do so. In fact, he’s more than willing to give his services and the program up to Yuri, offering her to become God. Yuri can’t help but find the situation hysterical. All the time rebelling and seeking answers and not only does Yuri not get what she’s looking for but she gets offered to take control of the world she detests so that she at least makes it as she sees fit.
Of course, Yuri ultimately rejects the AI’s offer. There’s a couple reasons as to why. First, to become God would mean to go against all her friends and become enemies with Kanade once more, neither of which she wants to do. Second, becoming God isn’t what Yuri has come to do. All she wants to do at that moment is protect the people she cares about; she could care less about whatever power she could gain. A detail I really like is that the AI brings up that since Yuri can’t die, she technically doesn’t have to decide now and could spend an eternity weighing her options. It’s true but Yuri isn’t the least bit persuaded, reasoning that she can’t be that patient like how her siblings’ killers weren’t. So Yuri goes ahead and destroys all the computers as well as the AI. And I will say this: shooting computers has never looked so badass.
While this episode puts an end to the Shadow conflict, it really serves more as a conclusion to Yuri’s character arc. Everything from how she feels about her life to what she wants to fight for is resolved in this episode. It certainly feels like she’s made her peace when, at the end of the episode, she sees a vision of her siblings, all of them telling her fight is finally over now. All that’s left now is moving on…
Thanks for reading!