Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews > Angel Beats! Episode 11 – A Shadow of Its Former Self

Angel Beats! Episode 11 – A Shadow of Its Former Self

It could have been worse.

That’s not the best endorsement I could give to this episode, as my comments on last week’s cliffhanger were such that I was expecting the show to get very much worse indeed, at least for an episode or two. But as it happens this particular new plot twist doesn’t disrupt the established plot too much; in some ways it even complements it.

We begin with Otonashi, Naoi, and Hinata having a discussion about who next to help move on, which quickly turns into a borderline fight between the latter two as they try to curry Otonashi’s favor. This gets disrupted when the shadow thing attacks again, and the three are clued in to what the audience figured out last week: there’s a new existential threat in town.

Tachibana remains just as dispassionate—and skilled—in dispatching shadow monsters as misbehaving students. No wonder everyone is afraid of her

Yuri turns to Tachibana as a possible culprit, but it turns out that she’s just as clueless as everyone else, and a sudden interruption by an attack of dozens of shadow creatures forms an impromtu alliance between the forces of order and chaos. They successfully fight them off, but only after some NPC spectators turn into shadow creatures for no discernible reason.

Knowing where the shadows come from, it only remains to show what they do, so Takematsu—whose previous claim to fame was getting blown into a ceiling while shirtless—is nabbed by the shadows off camera and returns, later, as an NPC, completely soulless. (Not that this changes things much.) Suddenly Yuri and crew are faced with an existential threat beyond anything they’ve encountered before: not a temporary death or a moving on to some unknown new life, but eradication.

It’s hard to see, but there’s little bits of code running in Takemastu’s eyes

In response, Yuri does something that left me completely flabbergasted: calling in her whole above-ground crew, she outlines the situation and then reveals what Otonashi and his followers are doing, suggesting that making their peace and moving on is a viable method for escaping the reach of the shadows.

That Yuri figured out what Otonashi was doing wasn’t surprising, as there were hints over the last few episodes and strong suggestions early in this one that she wasn’t buying Tachibana’s recent behavior. What is surprising is that she would actually agree that finding peace and giving up the fight against the Heavens is at all a viable option; here, she practically encourages her followers to do so, even as she admits that she can’t imagine doing so herself.

The PC resisters are much larger than typical war room meetings would suggest. Otonashi was “lucky” enough to become a full member early on

It’s a rare moment of maturity for Yuri, who while clearly one of the smartest of the blockheads that make up her resistance band has always seemed a bit cavalier about the suffering she inflicts on her own comrades, much less on Tachibana. Her relative friendliness to Tachibana throughout this episode is another oddity, although it seems that’s she’s come to accept her more upon realizing that she doesn’t have a connection with any higher power.

Having said, that, there’s another unforced idiocy moment on the part of Otonashi, whom we are supposed to believe hasn’t figured out that Tachibana isn’t an angel yet, until Yuri tells him. Really? After learning her name, and of her loneliness, and how she’s been making up her powers on her own, and that following the rules doesn’t automatically make you disappear, Otonashi still didn’t realize she was human? Like similar scenes in episode six and episode nine, this seems like a direct insult to the audience, who is presumably being informed through Otonashi’s discovery here about something any observant watcher could have figured out in episode five.

Really, Otonashi? You’ve been flirting with Tachibana for how long, and you still thought she was a celestial being?

Since it seems that Yuri is the only character left who can plausibly be called intelligent, it’s up to her to put the pieces together. Seeing that the shadow creatures seem to be made up of computer code, just as Tachibana’s abilities often are, she suspects that someone else must have a program like Tachibana’s, and further it would require a large number of computers to run all the shadows at once.

Heading to the school’s computer lab, she discovers and NPC maintenance worker, who tells her that multiple computers have been stolen recently. Searching around the lab, she finds a trap door in the floor, one that leads directly to the tunnels that connect to Guild.

NPCs typically don’t seem to understand when live weapons are pointed at them. It’s a fairly good indicator

Now, Angel Beats! needs another “everyone get killed one by one on the way to Guild” storyline like I need another hole in the head, but that’s likely what next episode will entail. You can imagine my joy. However, the cliffhanger of last episode didn’t wind up being as bad as I expected it would, so maybe I shouldn’t be too negative.

In fact, the appearance of the shadows had the odd effect of accelerating Otonashi’s plans. He’s out in the open now and operating with the tacit approval of Yuri, who seems to be taking the whole thing very much in stride. Although he didn’t want it, he also has the stick of possible soul loss to complement his carrot of finding purpose and peace to encourage people to follow his approach. He’s in a much better situation now than he was getting slammed into the pavement by Yui, so longer as the shadows don’t get him.

Tachibana developed a “wings” program just because Otonashi asked her to

Despite the added plot complication that introducing the shadow creatures and their unknown master creates—into a story line, I should add, that’s already been sidetracked more than an elderly absent-minded professor attempting to give a lecture—their existence makes it easier to envision Otonashi accomplishing his goals within the two episodes that are left, even as they will likely eat up the lion’s share of the screen time.

Yet, even with the ease at which Otonashi’s goals are being facilitated, and even with the prospect of more lovely battle animation to serve as eye-candy,  and even if the writers avoid the “trip to guild” trap I strongly suspect will take up yet another episode in a rather short series, it’s still yet another diversion, which takes the show down paths it’s not skilled enough to navigate. The emotional high points of this series haven’t come from pretty action or deadly threats or failed attempts at comedy (which are often all served up in the same sitting). They come from the horrible tragedies of the character’s earthly lives and the catharsis they undergo in accepting and overcoming them.

We didn’t see that this episode and we likely won’t next time around. And that’s a shame.

You can watch this episode here.

The ending credit montage of the various named characters considering whether to stay or go might qualify as moving, but you all know that they’ll stay to help Yuri for another episode or two

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