I was hoping to see a follow-up to Naoi’s sudden backstory and learn how he eventually died, but it looks like he’s already hopped the bandwagon and become one of the many SSS idiots. This was a somewhat predictable outcome given the direction thus far with Kanade, but I’m still hoping they’ll get back to his subplot sometime later on. In particular, I want to know what happened to him following the apparent death of his father. For now, I can’t say that I’m opposed to Naoi joining Yuri’s crew, since his hypnosis ability led to some hilarious moments when he made Hinata feel more worthless than a clothes-pin as payback for making fun of how he cried after getting hugged by Otonashi. That was some serious comedic gold, which compounded in hilarity when it became evident that Naoi is indeed pretty grateful to Otonashi — potentially in a homoerotic kind of way.
Amidst all that humor, it was nice to see Otonashi’s backstory come to light with the help of Naoi’s hypnosis, making that another plus of having him around. It came much earlier than I was expecting, but it was pretty touching to see how he went from being a person with no goals in life aside from buying manga magazines for his sickly sister Hatsune (Nakahara Mai), to a diligent hard-working student entering university (med school) after realizing that making her happy was his only purpose in life. It goes without saying that it was really unfortunate to see Otonashi Yuzuru simply die in a train accident not too long after; however, I actually didn’t find it as tragic as I was anticipating.
After seeing how Otonashi saved up some money from his part-time jobs to take Hatsune out for Christmas, treat her to food, and buy her a present, there was an extremely ominous sign with a flower petal falling in her hospital room while he sneaked her out
that was never made good on. Rather than a train accident, I was more or less expecting Hatsune to pass away during the outing like someone in another Key series and Otonashi committing suicide after losing his new-found purpose in life (…if suicides were allowed given the story). I figured a double death in such a manner would have been much more tragic, so Otonashi’s tears after recovering his memories weren’t as heart-wrenching as I felt they could have been. Still, his backstory was a pretty decent one with the help of the younger sister character. (It was a double death after all. See my update below.)
In contrast to that, there were actually a lot of lighthearted moments in the rest of the episode during operation “Monster Stream”, better known to us normal folks as river fishing. In addition to introducing another quirky character, “Fish” Saitou (Midorikawa Hikaru), this so-called operation was fun to watch because Otonashi successfully reached out to Kanade again. Given how they already have the acting student council president amongst them, Yuri was okay with it too, which led to some pretty good laughs when Kanade’s super-human strength from her passive “overdrive” ability sent Takeyama flying. The best part of that of course was hearing how he was only concerned about being called “Christ” even as he’s about to die. Paired up with how Naoi always wants to be called “God”, the two of them are proving to be some really good comic relief in this series.
With the silliness continuing due to Kanade snagging the master of the river and making mincemeat out of it, I was honestly wondering if this series would ever start working towards a dramatic finish. It almost felt like a last episode of sorts with everyone getting along, Yuzuru and Kanade now on a first name basis, and all the SSS members feeding a ton of fish stew to all the NPC students. As such, the arrival of a wounded Yuri and a different red-eyed Tenshi than the one we’ve been following put a nice spin on things. It was definitely a nice cliffhanger, but I’m not going to begin speculating just yet, as I don’t think anyone was really expecting this turn of events.
* As some people have already noted, the afterimage that split from Kanade to save everyone had red eyes, so perhaps it’s an imperfect ability she used out of desperation that is now running amok.
* I should also point out that the kanji for Hatsune’s name is 「初音」, which literally translates to “First Sound”, compared to her surname Otonashi 「音無」 for “No Sound” or “Silence”.
Update (5/16): Contrary to what I originally thought, it looks like Hatsune did pass away during the outing as foreshadowed. Seeing the little girl get discharged from the hospital is what prompted Yuzuru’s new direction in life.