There are some extra material left for me to watch so this post isn’t really the end of the Angel Beats! reviews. Still, this episode is, for all intents and purposes, the series finale so I’ll still reflect on the series as a whole here.
A thought crossed my mind during this episode. As much as I wish Angel Beats! was longer than one cour, the actual placement of all of its various plot points are perfectly fine. The ending is no different. I wouldn’t have this show conclude in any other way besides this. Yuri recovers from her ordeal last episode and is reunited with Otonashi, Kanade, Hinata, and Naoi. The five of them are all about ready to move on but before they do, they hold a mock graduation ceremony to commemorate their time in the afterlife. It’s fitting given the high school setting, not to mention it’s all the more bittersweet for the viewer.
There’s only one problem with this finale and it’s the fact that the ceremony is comprised of the five characters I mentioned above. Everyone else to stuck around for the final battle apparently disappeared off screen. This even includes Takamatsu as he managed to snap out of his NPC corruption, according to Hinata. The only reason for this is to keep the ceremony focused on what is essentially the show’s five main characters (I’d say Yui also counts but she obviously existed three episodes ago). I get the decision for the sake of tighter storytelling but it’ll always irk me. It’s bad enough that we barely got to know any of those supporting characters. It’s worse how unceremoniously they exit the story.
Besides that one hiccup, the graduation ceremony is a terrific scenario. Everyone is so at ease here, especially Yuri and Kanade. Everyone notes a change in behavior with Yuri now that she’s found peace with herself and is no longer leading the SSS, making the girl fluster at times. Kanade acts the most expressively she has in the entire series. It’s implied she never got to graduate, be it in real life or the afterlife, and you can easily tell how happy she is about to finally experience it. She’s skipping towards the gymnasium (humming “My Song” along the way; a very nice touch) and she smiles throughout the whole event. There’s also some really fun banter between the characters. My favorite bit is when everyone sings a school anthem written by Kanade, realizing along the way that the lyrics are all about mapo tofu (because of course it is). Hinata gets on her case and Kanade cowers behind Yuri for emotional support despite being the most powerful out of the five in the room. It’s so darn cute.
While entertaining, the ceremony does take a bittersweet tone. Diplomas are handed to each character. Otonashi gives a speech about his time in the afterlife and with his friends. Eventually, it becomes time for everyone to depart one by one. The most poignant exit is Yuri’s. Before leaving, she properly makes peace with Kanade and hugs her tight as a gesture of friendship. I wish there was more time dedicated to the two of them becoming friends, these past two episodes just isn’t enough for me, but at least the show puts a nice bow over the two’s rivalry with one another.
Surprisingly, when it come down to just Otonashi and Kanade, neither character disappears just yet. What instead happens is that Otonashi takes Kanade outside and suggests that the two of them should remain in the afterlife indefinitely and help anyone struggling to move on. He also admits that he wants the two of them to stay because he’s fallen in love with her. While Kanade appears to reciprocate those feelings, she reveals that it’s because she does that she’ll disappear. As it turns out, Otonashi’s heart was used as a donor for a transplant and Kanade was the recipient. Her one regret in life was the inability to thank whoever it was that helped her live, even if just for a little bit longer.
First off, this reveal cleverly explains the title, Angel Beats!. The “angel” is question is obviously Kanade while the “beats” refers to the beating of her heart, the one Otonashi gave her. Second, it’s admittedly been years since I last Angel Beats! but goodness, I forgot how much of a tearjerker this reveal is. With Kanade, Otonashi seemed to be the one person who wouldn’t disappear before her but as it turns out, she’d be the one to disappear instead. For Otonashi, the first person he helps is the one he doesn’t want to leave. Furthermore, this is yet another moment where he finds something to be happy about it, only for it to escape his grasp. The scene gets heavier as it goes on. Kanade urges Otonashi to say that he loves her one more time so that she has the push to thank him and fulfill her one regret in life. Even though Otonashi doesn’t want to risk it, he nevertheless obliges because he loves Kanade and this is what she wants. The direction really pulls through here with a different version of “My Precious Treasure” playing throughout the whole scene here, the sunset filled backdrop, and Kanade disappearing with no warning at all.
It’s the post-credit scene that prevents the show from ending on such a heartbreaking note (yes, I realize what I did there). We seemingly return to the real world. A girl resembling Kanade stands idly by, humming a very familiar tune. A boy resembling Otonashi stops in his tracks when he realizes the girl is someone he vaguely recognizes. As the girl walks away, the boy approaches her and the scenes fades to white, ending Angel Beats! on an ambiguous but otherwise uplifting tone. I couldn’t think of a better way to end this series.
As I said at the start of this review, there’s still some material left for me to watch but this is the series finale so now is still a good time to look back on the show as a whole. Do I still like Angel Beats! after all these years? Yes. Do I still like it as much as I did the first time around. I hate to admit but the answer is no. Watching it again and think it over in these reviews, I’m more than aware that this show is a bit flawed. There’s a lot of plot elements and a lot of characters and there is simply no way the staff at Key and P.A. Works could optimally execute them in thirteen episodes. I was lenient about it back then but now, I must admit that it does frustrate me to no end. Admittedly, that’s maybe more me than the show itself. I was around 14 when I first saw Angel Beats! and was very hyped at the time. I’m definitely a different critic at the age of 24 and with a lot more anime under my belt.
As glaring as Angel Beats‘ flaws are, I must say that for the thirteen episodes that the staff did manage to pull off, I say it’s still a damn good show. It’s a remarkably versatile blend of various elements and tones. The character development that did make it to the final draft is solid. A lot of the plot elements are great on paper and the execution is able to make the most out of them in the time allotted. The comedy still makes me laugh. The drama still makes me cry. At the end of the day, I still really enjoy Angel Beats!. It would’ve sucked if I found myself dreading the show so I’m more than happy that I still like it a lot.
Current opinion aside, watching this show again did make for a very nice trip down memory lane. Angel Beats! still is the show that got me into anime. That I could never feel differently about. However I feel about Angel Beats!, it’ll always be an anime that’s quite dear to me.
Thanks for reading!