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Angel Beats! Episode 13 – Life is Worth Living

So, after the latest and last arbitrarily added external threat finally has been smacked down, Angel Beats! is coming to an end. And despite all my complaints about the poor choices this series has been making from the start of its run, I really can’t find anything to criticize about the finale. I’ve argued for some time that the show is at its best when it focuses on the simple drama of wounded individuals coming to terms with their life and moving on in hope, and this episode delivers on that, with interest.

Yuri, as was seen at the end of last episode, wakes up to find a small remnant still left waiting for her. While most of her followers have moved on by now (including Takematsu, who in one of the episode’s few cop-outs managed to escape from being an NPC for not particularly well-explained reasons), Otonashi, Naoi, Hinata, and Tachibana have remained behind. It’s time for all of them to graduate from this afterlife, and they want to do it together.
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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.
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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.
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Angel Beats! Episode 10 – A Key Confusion

I’ve mentioned on several occasions that the great failing of Angel Beats! is that it never quite knows what to do with itself. Without any overall goal for the show, it’s bounced between one storyline to another every two or three episodes, with occasional descents into total non-sequiturs on special occasions. It’s as if the entire creative staff has ADD.

I had hoped that last episode had finally provided for the end plot of the series; certainly, there was enough content built into “get the dozen or so cast members to find peace with the world and with themselves” to easily fill up the last episodes of the series. And this episode has the grace to follow through with that model … well, not perfectly, but at least well. And then it goes and blows it all at the end.
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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.
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Angel Beats! Episode 8 – Attack of the Clones

I was hoping that the cliffhanger last episode would result in the show gaining a focus again (to the extent it can ever be said to have had one), but at this point it’s too early to say. This episode also finishes on a cliffhanger, so at least we can hope that the plot will keep advancing, but many parts within the show were recycled or otherwise retread. Unfortunately, the recycled parts included the bad more often than the good.

The second Tachibana (whom I’m going to call Angel to distinguish between them) wastes no time in challenging the group for being out late at night, and then proceeds to attack them for their rule breaking. As usual, they are helpless against Angel in a fair fight, so eventually Tachibana intervenes herself, resulting in both Angel and Tachibana getting stabbed through the heart. The rest of the group drag Tachibana to the nurse’s office so she can recuperate, and try to figure out what just happened.
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Angel Beats! Episode 7 – Find Your Purpose

If there is one thing that it seems Angel Beats! is consistent about, it’s being inconsistent: in tone, in content, and in quality. We’ve had a good run as of late, so we were bound to get another half-worthless episode to counter-balance things. The series has earned quite a bit of good will from me over the past couple weeks, so I’m not going to abandon it just for another descent into mediocrity, but the show really needs to consider what it actually wants to accomplish. Oddly enough, that’s the exact theme that carries through in this episode, on multiple levels.

I mentioned last time that I was hoping that Naoi would be sufficiently satisfied by Otonashi’s heroic shouting last episode so as to disappear—no such luck. Instead, Naoi, despite having been Tachibana’s right hand man for who knows how many years (one of these days I’d like for the show to give a clear chronology for how long all this has been going on), despite having brutally massacred them just days prior, and despite having gotten closer than Tachibana ever has in forcibly erasing people from the world, has been fully integrated into Yuri’s crew, right down to having the single one-note insanity that characterizes most everyone else. Apparently, he still thinks he’s God, which makes me wonder how he’s going to get along with the guy who insists on being called Christ.
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