Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews > Angel Beats! Episode 9 – Now For a Public Service Announcement

Angel Beats! Episode 9 – Now For a Public Service Announcement

Angel Beats! has a habit of resolving cliffhangers as anti-climatically as possible. Even if they point to greater challenges to come, as they did in episodes five and seven, the immediate challenge is resolved within a few minutes of the new episode. Here, we don’t even have that: While there’s some worry that Tachibana, who begins the episode comatose, will wake up as a killing machine again, everything winds up being fine.

Instead, this episode is mostly related to Otonashi’s backstory. While he sleeps at Tachibana’s bedside, he remembers more of what happened in the train crash, as it turns out he didn’t die immediately (and also didn’t suffer a head injury that would explain the memory loss, but oh well). Rather, he winds up stuck in a collapsed subway tunnel with about a dozen other survivors, with minimal food and water supplies. It seems very likely, as the days go by, that no one will come to rescue them.

Well, at least they won’t run out of air any time soon

Otonashi, who while a student still has some medical knowledge, takes charge of the survivors, doing first aid, making sure that the food and water are properly rationed, and searching (unsuccessfully) for a way out. He does his best to keep everyone calm and makes sure that he’s the first one to make sacrifices. But they only have food to barely eek out for three days, and four days after that no one has come.

A week in, Otonashi, who is also suffering from internal bleeding, is barely able to move. Remembering, however, that his sister’s poor health was exacerbated by the lack of a donor, his last act is to pull out his driver’s license (which doubles as a donor sign-up form) and authorizes it, in the hopes that if the rescue workers find his corpse in time they could salvage something and save someone else. Moved by this, everyone else in the tunnel does likewise, although Otonashi dies before he can see either that, or the rescue workers breaking into the tunnel.

I’m not sure if the fact that Otonashi doesn’t live to see this makes it more sentimental or less

While it was a bit too overdone to be truly compelling (it almost feels like the episode is a public service announcement to encourage organ donation), it does reveal something interesting about Otonashi: His death is not the regret that is keeping him from disappearing. He dies believing that he saved a life through donation, so he did not die in vain; he explicitly realizes this, and yet does not disappear. What is keeping him in this world is not yet established—I don’t think it’s his desire to help everyone here as he didn’t have that desire when he first came—but it’s not what we thought from episode seven.

The schmaltziness of how Otonashi meets his end isn’t quite as annoying as his discussion with Tachibana, who is conscious and seemingly none the worse for wear, watching over him as he wakes up. There, he learns that Tachibana only stabbed him because he asks, that Tachibana has always known that moving on from this world is a good thing and that living a normal school life—which most of those who come have been denied—is the way to find peace, that the war between Yuri and Tachibana was all based on this misunderstanding, and so on.

Otonashi complains about being stabbed even though he discussed this with Tachibana only a few days prior. Maybe his head is still damaged

Of course, we know that already. Not all of it: it’s been hinted, but not confirmed, that it is really happiness and not rule-following that causes you to disappear, and the show had seemed open to the possibility that both were viable routes until now. But Otonashi either knew most of this by the time of their prison conversation in episode six or could have figured it out. Angel Beats! still feels inclined to treat its audience like they have no long-term memory.

Complaints aside, however, this episode did do what I’ve been waiting for the show to do since episode six: reveal the end plot. Otonashi, who is alone with Tachibana, encourages her to go back to being president and to fight against Yuri, to serve as a distraction while he works from the inside to understand the regrets of everyone and help them overcome them. It is revealed that Tachibana’s  exams were forged, and she is reinstated and is joined by Naoi as being back in charge of the Student Council. We don’t see why Naoi switches sides, but I’m guessing his slavish devotion to Otonashi has something to do with it.

There’s a scene early in the episode where Yuri has them lock Tachibana’s powers down as a safety precaution, but it’s only temporary and we don’t know if it will have any meaningful effect next episode

We now know, or think we know, what the last four episodes will entail, as Otonashi will work to help the rest of his compatriots move on. It’s not clear exactly how Tachibana and Naoi will be running interference for him, aside from doing what they always have been doing (Tachibana is pretending as if she “lost” the battle against her more violent personalities), but it is clear that Otonashi has his work cut out for him—particularly with Yuri.

I also find it interesting that, unlike many other shows of this type, it’s implied that it’s those who live normal school lives who are truly happy. Yuri and the rest of her crew have crazy adventures in the classic battle high school mold (and yes, there is a whole genre which involves high school kids in combat situations, often as part of the school curriculum), but none of them are happy, and they don’t find happiness by rebelling against authority or skipping out on high school life.

Also early in the episode, Yuri seems genuinely regretful that her actions might have harmed Tachibana. Nice to know she’s not always a total jerk

Given how often anime tends toward themes that support “authenticity” in opposition to sterile conformity—with high school being depicted as a prime example of such conformity—it’s rather refreshing to see a show that implies that learning to have a responsible youth is its own reward. It’s also nice that it is implied, as Angel Beats! has often operated with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and making that theme explicit would really take us into “after-school special” territory.

Next episode will be a good test case of how the final run of the show should work. It’s been a very uneven run for the last three episodes, but I’m hoping that the new found purpose of the show will allow it to close out strong in the final four.

You can watch this episode here.

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