Angel Beats! Episode 7

May 15, 2010

After being the bad guy last time out, come episode seven Naoi returns as the newest member of the SSS… That must have been quite some hug from Otonashi. Mind you, he still claims to be God (which I guess is useful considering the SSS also have a member who insists on being called Christ), and he also still hasn’t entirely grown out of the habit of using his powers of hypnosis to get the upper hand from time to time.That said, it’s Naoi’s abilities which are called upon by Yuri early in this episode, as she looks to deploy them to bring back Otonashi’s previously missing memories. Naturally, our protagonist is a little unsure about going down this route but eventually agrees anyway, and thus the first half of the episode takes us down the same path as we gain our glimpse into his past life.

Essentially, the “old” Otonashi prior to his death was a guy who pretended to care about nothing and nobody, while actually doing little more than protecting himself from his worries over his ill little sister, who he visits on a regular basis. As time goes on he gradually opens up his heart regarding her as her condition deteriorates, and after her death a period of mourning is followed by his realisation that this may be his time to help others, causing him to study hard and enrol as a medical student before his untimely demise puts paid to that idea.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time for a spot of fishing for the SSS and its members (talk about a lighting-quick change of tone), while Otonashi persuades Tachibana to tag along – A good thing to, as the episodes decides to jump the shark at this point. Well, jump the giant fish at least.

Sitting her trying to write this immediately after watching the episode, I find myself torn in my feelings about it. For starters, Otonashi’s past felt like little more than a pasted together amalgam of Clannad’s best bits, complete with boy who pretends not to care about anything but ends up caring about a sick girl who meets her end. Yes, there are a whole bunch of differences between the two stories besides the Key connection, but of all the flashback stories thus far this felt the least interesting.

On the other hand, seeing Otonashi’s story has also set things up nicely with regard to behaviour towards Kanada, as she effectively takes his little sister’s place as the girl he wants to help and make life better for. It also opens up an interesting can of worms regarding Yuri, who seemed keen to distance herself from Kanada during the fishing scenes even before the mind-bending cliff-hanger that makes my brain hurt ever so slightly. I can’t really entirely defend an episode that suddenly pulls a giant fish on us, or indeed the “sick little sister” trope, but somehow Angel Beats has redeemed itself somewhat on this occasion with some more decent moments of humour, a little bit more depth in terms of character interactions, and of course that mind-bending twist at the end which I’ve almost come to expect of this series now.

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