Angel Beats 13 (finale)

Angel Beats 13 was, in one way, what I expected it to be: people making tearful farewells and vanishing from the world. I’m happy to say that it managed to do that without false tears, and that they managed to toss in a little humor as well. It wouldn’t have been Angel Beats without that mix.

We start with Yurippe waking up in the infirmary with the remaining SSS members at her side, and her confessing that she’s ready to move on, now. That makes everyone, though so far no one has explained what Kanade is doing there, and if she even can move on. But they take care of that later. For now, they go to the gym and hold a graduation ceremony. It’s a nice scene, and it’s here where the humor comes in. Not only is it a parody of graduations, with a school song (written by Kanade, expressing the joys of tofu mapo), Hinata dressing as the principal, etc, but now and then the characters break out of the conformity and act like the doofuses they’re capable of being, especially Naoi.

Golf claps for Otonashi's tearful speech.

It also works because for all the joking it is a sentimental moment. These characters are saying goodbye in a standard, ritualized way that helps them take the next step in life, or, in this case, afterlife. But they save the real goodbyes for when the ceremony is over.

They can’t hold off the tears forever and I didn’t expect them to. Each goodbye is brief. Important things are said. Each character moves on, until we’re down to Otonashi and Kanade. I expected them to be the last two, and I expected tears, but I wasn’t quite expecting how it worked out. First, Otonashi suggests they remain to help the next hapless souls who comes to this place (A terrible idea. Otonashi, you’re done your part). And then we learn why Kanade has come here. After Otonashi died, it was her who got his heart.

Upon her death she … lost her way, looking to thank the person who gave her life, until she realized it was him. A bit melodramatic, but it does mean that now she can properly thank him and leave. But Otonashi has fallen in love with her and doesn’t want to be apart. When she does leave there’s only a tearful Otonashi left, and for a moment I was afraid he’d lost his way to depart. But a major theme of this show is leaving your regrets behind and moving on to the next world. He must have realized that, because we get a flash-forward to the real world, Otonashi spotting Kanade and rushing to catch up with her.

I’ve seen my share of anime and have often marvelled at how they can mix themes and emotions together in unexpected ways, well, unexpected to us westerners, but I have rarely seen one that takes such disparate things and slam them together like Angel Beats does. Considering how it takes wild comedy and slapstick, to the point where deaths can be funny, and mix that in with the concept of accepting your own death and moving on to the next life, all stuck in a metaphysical high school setting … I’ve never seen anything quite like it. A good series, and certainly not what the first episode promised.

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