Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews > Angel Beats! Episode 5 – Sympathy for the Angel

Angel Beats! Episode 5 – Sympathy for the Angel

It’s been mentioned before that Yuri has not always been very likable. Specifically, she’s violent, self-absorbed, vindictive, and only somewhat more intelligent than the mooks and oddballs who make up the rest of her organization. It was probably a good thing that she was one of the first characters to get something resembling character development, to show that she does have some justification for her resentments against the world, God, and what she’s been treating as God’s chosen representative, Angel; without that, I doubt most of the audience (including me) would have any regard for her as a human being right now.

All this, however, assumes that her impressions are correct, or at least she believes that her impressions are correct, that Angel is an angel. Episode three severely strained that notion, and this episode eliminates it. Now we have revealed exactly how far off-base everything Yuri and company have been doing over the past, well, however long they’ve been going at it—and how much of it is completely Yuri’s fault.

With this episode, Yuri unveils her latest master plan to screw over Angel, taking advantage of the upcoming exam season: get into the same room as Angel—who takes the tests like a normal student—and sabotage her results. Yuri publicly reasons that this will cause a blow to her prestige and make the NPC students and teachers respect her less. Privately, she thinks that if Angel isn’t in fact a construct but rather an ordinary human, the loss of prestige might also work as a form of psychological warfare.

Otonashi continually imagines that Yuri’s operations are going to be cooler than they actually are

With six people in the exam room, they manage to get Takeyama in the seat directly in front of Angel, and Yuri gives orders for him to swap her test sheet with an extra filled with incorrect and nonsensical answers. Meanwhile, Hinata and the rest are to take turns providing distractions during test collection times to make sure no one notices the switch. We only see three tests sabotaged, but it actually makes for a very amusing first half.

There are actually several things with the plan that go wrong, from the seeming inability of anyone to actually distract Angel—requiring Yuri to provide some rocket-propelled aid to ensure a proper diversion—to the fact that arguments between tests grow so loud as to attract her attention and require Otonashi to make up some ridiculous excuse on the fly. This, along with the ridiculous answers that Yuri instructs Takeyama to put on her tests, are where the main source of the show’s humor comes from, and it’s surprisingly no less effective for being repeated once per test. There’s always just enough variation added to make it somewhat original each time.

Yuri probably inflicts more violence on her followers than Angel does. And no, you don’t want to know why Takematsu’s shirt is half-off.

After establishing a general pattern, the show mercifully skips the remaining tests and jumps to the end of the exam period, where Angel, unable to explain how she flunked all of her exams in such a dramatic fashion, is forced to resign her position as Student Council President. Yuri, realizing that her plan is a success, decides to launch Operation Tornado again (that is, hold a concert and then blow away the unsuspecting NPCs’ meal tickets) to see how Angel responds.

The concert begins and, sure enough, Angel shows up, but not to fight. Instead, she goes to a vending machine and gets a meal ticket, only to have it blown away with all the others when Operation Tornado proves a roaring success. The following day it’s revealed that Otonashi got her ticket, and both he and Yuri reflect on the fact that, in a moment of profound distress, Angel just wanted to indulge in her favorite food.

It’s a pity Angel never developed a skill for ticket retrieval

(At this point, particularly given that Otonashi apparently has to use the ticket he found on the ground, I’m wondering if Operation Tornado is the only way the group has of getting meal tickets. If so, this counts as a major plot-hole. I’m not going to believe that Guild can churn out high-quality sniper rifles and automatic weapons, but can’t fabricate a simple piece of paper.)

For Otonashi, this meal entails a certain degree of guilt, as he has just taken away one more bit of happiness from her. For Yuri, all this entails is annoyance. Reviewing events in her mind, she notes that everything Angel has done, from fighting them to developing her abilities, was in response to provocations from her, and that only a human would try to find comfort in food after being dealt such a blow. This means that Yuri is no closer to finding a God to spite, which aggravates her to no end.

The song lyrics at any given performance tend to tie in strongly with the current plot

That Yuri has absolutely nothing resembling sympathy for the hell she has just put Angel through (and has been putting her through, for who knows how many years), is hardly surprising. This is a woman who happily puts comrades in rocket-propelled chairs, after all. What is surprising is that it took her this long to realize that Angel wasn’t, well, an angel, and that all her attempts to spite God through spiting Angel were a complete waste of time.

Early in the episode there’s a slight hiccup when they realize that no one knows Angel’s real name—the name that they need to write on the test forms. Otonashi runs to check the student roster, only to be stopped by Angel herself, who gets confused about the situation and thinks Otonashi is just nervous. While offering some kind words, she reveals her own name, Kanade Tachibana. When Otonashi reveals this to the group, Yuri admits that she had heard Tachibana’s name at one point, but forgot it.

Tachibana looks far too small to be providing emotional comfort to anyone, but there you have it

What does this demonstrate? That Yuri has more or less made Tachibana—whom I am going to call by her proper name from now on—into “Angel” just because she wanted to. (Tachibana’s first spoken line in the show is “I’m not an angel” which was actually a clever bit of foreshadowing.) Yuri knew who Tachibana was, but became so fixated in seeing her as “Angel” so as to forget her actual name. Again, this level of dehumanization is not exactly alien to Yuri’s psyche, but it perhaps indicates her need to stick it to God has reached very unhealthy levels. Ordinarily, when anime protagonists have an issue with the God-figure of a particular universe, they have the right of it; it’s actually sort of refreshing to see a series where the anti-God people might just be self-pitying jerks.

The event also shows that Tachibana is genuinely concerned for the well-being of others, even someone whom she’s fought in the past. Otonashi and Tachibana have clashed before, from actual violence to participating in an underground baseball team, but she still offers unsolicited emotional support to him when she thinks he needs it to do well. That Otonashi—and particularly Yuri and the rest of her flunkies—might have bad things planned for her doesn’t seem to enter her mind as a concern. Perhaps this just shows she’s naïve, but one gets the feeling that she was always open to seeing others do the right thing. While she certainly has emotions, anger and resentment don’t seem to be among them.

Another possibility is that, given how gullible Tachibana proves to Otonashi’s excuses, is that she’s just a little dense. She wouldn’t be the first in this show

At one point in the post-op debriefing, Yuri notes that Tachibana looked to the teachers like she were undertaking a solo rebellion. Which, in a way, she always has been. Tachibana has always been alone, never really tried to defend or explain herself to others, but has simply done what she needed to in order to maintain order and fulfill her duties as Student Council President—and in spite of all this, seemingly holds no grudge nor wishes any ill on those who have opposed her. She’s not a real angel, apparently, but she certainly has been angelic. And with the contrast between her lone defense of discipline and order and Yuri’s rampaging crew now placed in such a harsh light, it’s hard to look at her as anything other than a victim.

The writers, using Otonashi as their stand-in, certainly realize this, which is perhaps why Otonashi has always been comparatively friendly toward Tachibana even before he realized her weakness. He alone of the characters seems to understand her loneliness, which is why he tentatively suggests to the rest of the group that they might try to be nice to her from now on. While this doesn’t fly well with everyone else, I suspect that Otonashi will wind up siding with Tachibana before the show is over, even if it means leaving everyone else. Which, frankly, I wouldn’t be that upset about at the moment.

Given that Yuri’s established a general “Don’t shoot NPCs” rule, this could be a bit of a challenge for them

This particular episode ends with Naoi, the acting Student Council President (formerly Vice-President) whom everyone had assumed was an NPC, surrounding Yuri and company with guards and ordering them all detained. We’ll see what the new sheriff has in store for them next time.

You can watch the episode here.

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