The graduation ceremony was down to the five shown in the preview last time, but that didn’t take away from the bittersweetness of it all. Surprisingly, I managed to hold the waterworks back this entire finale, though I felt a little of it coming on during Otonashi’s valedictorian speech. Leading up to that, Yuri’s new-found girlish tsundere self and Kanade’s excitement over having her first graduation ceremony was so lighthearted that I found it difficult to feel sorry about everyone choosing to disappear. The only thing I was sad about was seeing all of this come to an end after all the laughs and tears this series brought every step of the way. I was expecting some sort of a twist before this was all said and done however, and felt the episode’s progression was doing a good job of trying to divert the viewer’s attention away from that — something I like to refer to as the “Maeda Jun teary-eyed sneak attack”.
Before getting there, it was cute seeing Yuri’s reaction to Hinata telling her she’s cute that even had Kanade chuckling about it. Then there was the school/SSS song prepared by Kanade with mapo tofu lyrics that Hinata flipped out about over how it managed to pass any sort of screening, followed by Naoi getting on his case for singing out of tune with everyone for the Aogeba Toutoshi graduation song. In other words, even though this was supposed to be a bittersweet graduation, the laughs and quirkiness were still plentiful like the series has become renowned for. Of course, there were still those near tear-inducing moments from the graduation diplomas prepared by Kanade, where Yuri’s one commended her ability to give it her all for the sake of everyone. She looked like she was on the verge of tears upon reading that, so I felt pretty much the same after seeing everything she’s gone through. Along the same lines, surprising Hinata with a diploma after he lost rock-paper-scissors and had to take on the principal role of handing them out was something I had faith in Otonashi doing. I would’ve really liked to read what sort of praises were written on the others’ diplomas as well, but everyone’s last words before departing more or less helped fill the void of emotions that would’ve developed from doing so.
In typical Naoi style, he had to cast off going first as not wanting to see other people’s teary-eyed faces, before doing so himself in front of Otonashi. I was surprised to see Yuri volunteer to go next, though I still feel that her sudden change of heart towards Kanade in the last couple of episodes has been a tad bit forced. In any case, it was still nice to see her apologize for attacking Kanade all this time and tell her how she wishes she got to spend more time together before giving her a hug and saying farewell. The instrumental version of “Brave Song” was absolutely beautiful for that scene and had me pretty choked up inside watching it play out. Hinata of course wouldn’t let things go out on a somewhat depressing note, so it was uplifting to hear him and Otonashi part ways in style. With only Otonashi and Kanade remaining, the idea that myself and various other viewers had about Otonashi choosing to remain in this world to help other people move on made headway here. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t have been the ending I would’ve liked to see, but I didn’t rule out the possibility either. Otonashi’s confession to Kanade and desire to remain together in this world forever reminded me of the bug the developer of the Angel Player system tried to amend, so I’m glad that both of them did end up moving on like they should.
However, what I totally wasn’t expecting was Kanade revealing that she was the girl who received his heart from a transplant and prolonged her life because of it. As it turns out, the rest of Otonashi’s memories shown in episode nine came about because he had an opportunity to reconnect with his heart at Kanade’s bedside. Her reason for staying in this afterworld was in hopes of running into the person who selflessly gave her a renewed life — if only for a while longer — and thank him for that, which she realized was Otonashi because he doesn’t have a heart now. In light of that and his confession, my feelings go out to Otonashi for giving Kanade the means to move on in that heartfelt scene despite how much he didn’t want to part ways with her, which was beautifully done with a kuruta sung version of “Ichiban no Takaramono” playing in the background and extending right through the credits.
Much to my pleasant surprise, the ending that I figured would’ve been most fitting in this series proved to be true, as the new Otonashi is reunited with Kanade after overhearing her humming Iwasawa’s “My Song”. Ever since the idea of moving on changed for the better in recent episodes, this is honestly the only way I figure would’ve given us a happy ending. All I can hope is that Yuri, Hinata, and Yui were reunited as well in their newly reincarnated lives, but it’s good to know that Otonashi and Kanade have been.
* Hearing that Takamatsu recovered from being an NPC and moved on as well felt like a bit of a cop out though.
* At two episodes per DVD/BD release, the seventh volume looks like it’ll include an extra fourteenth one.
ED and Epilogue
Back in the Spring 2010 Preview when I was recommending this series to all audiences, I used the line “Key and P.A. Works” as the main reason. Incidentally, “Key” is simply a reference to Maeda Jun‘s renowned ability to write moving stories and compose beautiful music as we’re reminded of again here in Angel Beats. Having seen the full series now, I think it’s safe to say that he delivered. The tone for the series was set ever since the second episode, where things got unbelievably funnier than every other comedy airing yet managed to mix in some drama through Yuri’s past, giving it a unique flair that I immediately took notice to. While some people may feel the emphasis on the humor is too prominent a lot of the times, I find that it made the characters more amiable and easier to get attached to (e.g. the TK phenomenon), plus showcased the enjoyable times they spent together — the last of which is one of the key aspects of the overall story.
I never felt that this series was as moving as CLANNAD or Kanon, but that was likely due to thirteen episodes being insufficient for telling the story that Jun had written. It was a problem identified when he met with director Kishi Seiji and the P.A. Works’ production staff, which forced them to supplement the story through other mediums such as prequel manga. However, in light of the challenges they faced from the time constraint, I feel that they’ve done an impeccable job putting together an original series that’s funny and moving at the same time. Looking back, it puts a new perspective on the work they put into producing this series, as seen in one of the promotion videos I included in the preview. That said, I do feel that the way the series jumped around to new focuses and new “final bosses” may have came off a bit too convenient way to keep the viewer guessing on the direction of the series, but the same can be said about CODE GEASS and all the twists it had for what seemed like the sake of having a twist.
There are clearly some holes in the plot of Angel Beats as well — which may or may not be due to its inability to spend time to explain things better — but it’s been a fairly smooth ride most of the way through for me. Sure, if you want to pick it apart under a fine microscope just because the series is popular, you could probably do so, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that this is an awesome series that a lot of people enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. I think the main disappointment will stem from how this wasn’t a two-cour series, but I actually love how it was short and sweet in its thirteen episode format. I can’t wait to see what Maeda Jun’s next original piece of work is and hear whatever new songs he composes as well. Overall, it’s just as I said three months ago: This is a series that’s safe to recommend to all audiences, so if you’ve been living under a rock and avoiding it for the past three months, it’s really time to go check it out!