Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews > Angel Beats! Episode 3 – Sing All Your Cares Away

Angel Beats! Episode 3 – Sing All Your Cares Away

If last episode convinced me that there were hints of quality in Angel Beats!, a glimmer of a deeper plot or theme beyond a gag-of-the-week structure and one-note characters, this episode removed all doubt. It manages, without abandoning all the things that make the show distinctive, to reach a surprising conclusion by turning every bit of world-building we’ve seen so far on its head.

Having lost the primary Guild last episode, Yuri wants to strike back at Angel in a similar way, so she introduces a new plan: infiltrate Angel’s room (as she, like the NPCs and everyone else, also is a student at the boarding school which marks the boundaries of this fake world) and raid her computer, on the assumption that they’ll find some insights into her plans and perhaps figure out how she’s communicating with God.

To accomplish this, they’ll have their diversionary unit (the band from episode 1) launch a concert so large that Angel won’t be able to ignore it, and use the opening while she’s sure to be tied up elsewhere. They will also bring in expert computer hacker Takeyama—whom everyone else seems to dislike, possibly because he insists on being called “Christ” for no particular reason and possibly because he’s the only person Yuri doesn’t think is an idiot—to ensure that this time they can hack into the system. (They had tried before, but couldn’t guess Angel’s password. Remember what I said about idiots?)

Takeyama shows off his nerd-fu by reciting pi. The morons are in awe

As the band practices in preparation for the big event, Otonashi stops by and gets to talking with Iwasawa, the lead singer for the band. Iwasawa, noting that Otonashi still hasn’t recovered any memories from his previous life, shares her own, and, yes, it’s another sob story. Growing up with drunken and quarreling parents, she turned to music to “save” herself and planned to start a career as a singer as soon as possible to extricate herself from dependence on her parents. Then brain damage she received from a head wound while trying to break up her parent’s latest fight renders her literally speechless. The end.

Once again, the specifics of how she dies after that are left unstated, and once again, Otonashi reflects on how those fighting against Angel aren’t really afraid of reincarnation; they are fighting because they can. Iwasawa’s turn to music in the first place was as an outlet for her pent-up emotions at the unfairness of her life and of the world, and the way she went left that world only confirmed those resentments for her.

Just another reminder that the real world is full of suck

On the night of infiltration, everything goes according to plan, until the teachers show up early to disrupt the concert and shut the band down. It looks like Yuri and the rest will have to retreat before recovering any useful information, but then Iwasawa, infuriated by a teacher trying to confiscate her guitar, takes it back by force and starts into a ballad which keeps Angel and everyone else occupied. This buys enough time for the team to discover some very important files, and allows Iwasawa to realize that her purpose in life has always been to sing, and to help others though music as she herself was helped. With that, she disappears.

This drops a major bombshell on everyone at headquarters, as everyone “knows” that people only disappear by blending in with the system and acting like responsible students, not by doing what you love to do in defiance of Angel and the system. There is another bombshell left to explode, however, as the team’s review of Angel’s computer showed that Angel’s abilities were something she researched and created, just as Guild creates weapons. That is, they aren’t God-given.

Angel’s entire repertoire can fit on a hard drive. What does that mean?

Yuri, reflecting on this silently, realizes that the most likely possibility is that Angel isn’t working for God, because there isn’t one. Whatever her motivations, Angel’s as much on her own as they are. This is horrifying for Yuri, because that means there no God against which she can rebel, and thus her actions have had no meaning. She naturally keeps these thoughts to herself.

This episode certainly had its humorous moments, from Takeyama’s introduction to Otonashi’s reaction when he realizes that despite the war-like language everyone is using, the team is really just breaking into a girl’s room, and that’s sort of creepy. But if the humor was mixed with some seriousness last time, this time it took a back seat to the plot revelations. We, the audience, now have no reason to believe anything about the set-up we haven’t seen ourselves, because everything we’re heard has been from Yuri, and it’s now obvious that she doesn’t know as much as she thought.

A humorous moment that fell flat was the introduction of Yui, whose sole purpose was to be annoyingly cute. She, sadly, did not disappear

In fact, there’s no real reason anymore to think that Angel is the villain of the show. The one disappearance we’ve seen seems like a good thing as far as Iwasawa is concerned, as it is implied that she has moved on now that she knows the purpose of her life. Nor has Angel done much traditionally villain-y; aside from killing Otonashi when he asked if he couldn’t be killed (back in episode 1), we’ve never seen her attack unprovoked or even cause the disappearances she’s blamed for. She’s “bad” because Yuri says so, but Yuri has devoted her entire post-life to resisting Angel for the sake of resisting Angel. What does she know?

Pulling something as potentially subversive of your own plot as this isn’t what happens in a run-of-the-mill show, particularly not this early. Angel Beats! may still turn out to not be a good show, but this episode proves that it has the ability to be more than just a collection of beautifully animated gag scenes. I just hope the creators won’t mess it up over the next couple episodes. A show which can’t live up to its potential might be better than a show with no potential at all, but it would still be a waste.

You can watch the episode here.

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