Home > Angel Beats!, Episode Reviews > Angel Beats! Episode 12 – The Things We Do for Love

Angel Beats! Episode 12 – The Things We Do for Love

Let’s start with the good news: There is no “everyone get slaughtered on the way to Guild” storyline; we get some decent development for Yuri; the animation budget for this show still seems astronomical, as every frame looks gorgeous. Possibly they put all the money there instead of toward the writing.

The bad news is that there is nothing in this episode which justifies the sudden introduction of yet another violent threat, particularly one added solely to provide an excuse for more action scenes. Even the positive elements that this excursion seemed to create, like giving Otonashi the ability to go public with his plans to help his friends move on, come off after this episode more like a substitute for the real drama this show could have provided instead.

Apparently, the show’s definition of catharsis is now “accepting that getting eaten by a shadow monster is a bad career choice”

The episode starts with Otonashi wishing the remaining members of the band and all the unnamed cast thus far farewell; apparently all that those dozens of people needed to move on was the knowledge that they should. Aside from making Yui seems even more unreasonable in her demands, it shows how the writers have worked themselves into a hole, no longer having the time to provide a more natural exit for the cast.

Then there’s the requisite action scene where the named combat members show that they stayed around to help Yuri, and how they hold off the shadows long enough to let Otonashi, Hinata, and Naoi join Tachibana to help Yuri underground. There’s a brief moment where Yuri gets nabbed by the shadows and nearly erased before being brought back by Otonashi, and then a few meaningless fights later, Yuri manages to find the source of it all.

This crater is courtesy of Kanade Tachibana, the world’s cutest weapon of mass destruction

Far from being a person, the culprit, while human-looking, is really just an automated program left by someone long ago. Continuing the computer metaphor, the program has been created to eliminate a particular bug in the system of this world: those people unable to move on from this world because they’ve found a love that makes them stay here, and don’t have any other lingering regrets to resolve because they came through amnesia rather than genuine pain.

At first it sounds like it was triggered by Otonashi’s arrival and his falling for Tachibana (at least, that was how I interpreted it), but it seems the program thinks the trigger was Yuri’s love for her compatriots. The original creator apparently either fell for someone in this world who moved on, or just felt like waiting around for a love he had previous to show up, but either way he eventually was driven mad by the wait and wrote a program to turn himself into an NPC.

Neither the program nor its long gone creator have names, which might be meant as tragic, but only shows how superfluous this plot is

This leaves some unfortunate implications for Otonashi, who seems to have come to this world in the same fashion as the original creator (why did Otonashi have amnesia again, since he didn’t die from a head injury?) and who may have trouble moving on himself due to his love for Tachibana. The real focus of the episode, however, is on Yuri, and on how the love she has for her dead siblings keeps driving her.

Earlier, as the shadows try to eat her, Yuri is displaced into a world where she is a normal student of the school, but she is unable to accept a role of an NPC, however tantalizing the prospect of a regular high school life might be. In the end she feels she has to be true to her memories and to herself, rather than to forget it all and accept a false reality. That same love allows her reject the program’s offer to rewrite the world as she sees fit, and instead destroy it and save her friends.

The fact that, in her fantasy, Yuri is constantly caught unprepared by her teachers has nothing to do with her decision to leave, I’m sure

The main problem with anything and everything that happened over the last two episodes is that compared with the model from episodes three or nine, or even the abruptly done ten and the action-laden six, they come up wanting. We touch some on Yuri and her letting her leadership of the resistance be a substitute for the big sister role she lost in real life, but not in a way which actually expands her story or explores her fate post-home invasion. (We still have no clue how she died, for example.) Aside from that, there’s little that can be called real drama, just shadow killing and a lifeless villain.

This entire show has been characterized by introducing external threats when all the important action is internal. The original “threat” that Tachibana posed was necessary to the plot, but unreal, as Tachibana was really the good guy; the latter threats—from Naoi to the giant fish to mirror Tachibana to these shadow creatures—were all real in that they posed serious harm to the protagonists, but also completely unnecessary and extraneous. It’s filler, but without the sloppy cost-saving animation that normally accompanies it.

Seriously, visual effects like this don’t come cheap

The point of Angel Beats! has always been the same as the point of its peculiar version of the afterlife: to aid those oppressed and killed by the unfairness of life to undergo some form of catharsis and to experience the joys of a normal high school life, before moving on to whatever comes next for them. The writers at least implicitly understand this, which is why the last episode will be focused on letting everyone “graduate” rather than on some other hastily introduced plot.

But while such themes are perfectly in line with the skills and experience of the Jun Maeda and the rest of the writing staff, they just can’t restrict it to that. Instead we have action and (attempts at) comedy, where baseball games become warzones and death traps turn into slapstick. It’s a show that isn’t content to be good at one thing, and winds up being mediocre to poor at a lot of things. But it’s just good enough, at times, to remind you what it could have been.

The fate of Char and the rest of the Guild crew also seems rushed, although I don’t think their lives were ever meant to be explored in detail

This show has all the hallmarks of a labor of love, of being the personal baby of Jun Maeda. And like any labor of love, it is in deep need of a ruthless editor to pare down the non-essentials and guide the overflow of creativity and passion into something focused and effective. By all indications, Maeda successfully resisted that editing, and the result is what we have now. Lucky us.

The one hope that this excursion will be meaningful is if the revelations of the program prove to have ramifications for either Otonashi or Tachibana moving on. (Any effects it might have on Yuri, I don’t care about because a proper Yuri-centric episode could have covered them.) That being said, there’s one episode left to wrap up a large number of loose ends. We’ll see what happens then.

You can watch this episode here.

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