Eh… what can I say. I loved the middle of the episode when we got to see Yuri reject her paradise. I didn’t particularly like the beginning or end. So what does that make this? A stale ice cream sandwich?
Whoop! Now you see ’em! Now you don’t! In perhaps what was the most abrupt and anticlimactic mass suicide of all time, the rest of GirlDeMo and their roadie crew go *poof* and disappear into the ether. Hard to say what, if any role, Otonashi and the Erasers had to do with the girls’ acceptance of obliteration, but it was disappointing to see them leave with such a whimper. Heck, not even a final show for the road.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the re-introduction of Yuri’s gang (although where was Crist?). The one-by-one intro was a bit cheesy, but it was a pretty nice, shounen move – highlighted by skinny Matsushita and Spinzaku TK – even if I never doubted that they’d come to support Otonashi and the Erasers. This is unfortunately another casualty of the rush job, because if there was any tension or drama with the split between those who wanted to keep fighting and those who were willing to disappear, we never really saw it or felt it. For drama’s sake, let’s just assume there was a tiff between the two factions.
Oh, remember this old guy? What was his name? Chaz? Caar? Chaa! That’s right. Hard to remember, considering we hadn’t seen him since the second episode. Well, don’t get too friendly, because he goes poof too, right after giving Yuri an automatic rifle. One thing I wondered, and I assume we’ll never get the answer for, if Kanade is just another human, how does she get to take advantage of Angel Player? What’s to stop Yuri from hacking into the Angel Player powers as well? She probably should’ve thought of that before getting swarmed by the shadow monsters and being taken off to Imaginationland.
The flashbacks. Although this wasn’t a real flashback, per se. I’ve generally enjoyed them in Angel Beats, which is unusual because I’ve been annoyed by them in all of Key’s previous works. But I thought the flashbacks in AB felt more… genuine and important to understanding the characters, whereas they were typically just sob stories in the past. In this case, we don’t really see a flashback of Yuri’s life, but instead it’s more like a dream sequence showing off a bit of her paradise.
I really liked seeing the flashes of reality interspersed with the dream world. And while there wasn’t any question that she wouldn’t succumb to the nice
boat dream, I thought seeing Yuri rage against the machine was pretty powerful stuff.
Personally, I like the hearts background more. After Otonashi and the Erasers (and Kanade) rescue Yuri, they stay back to fight off the neverending crowd of shadow monsters, while Yuri moves ahead to fight the creep that’s been hacking the NPCs and turning them into shadows. Instead of finding a creepy, computer geek she finds a… creepy… computer… uh, program. Or at least a human manifestation of one. You can call him Angel Beats’ Merovingian, or Merv if we’re gonna be chummy.
Merv gives us the data dump, pouring out copious amounts of information, trying to confuse us. It’s sort of successful. Essentially we learn that Angel Beats High was created by a computer nerd who was in love with a girl. The girl, presumably disappeared after becoming content, which left the nerd in eternal limbo since he couldn’t be happy since she disappeared. So he created a program that would turn him into an NPC and basically reset the world. Unfortunately for people like Yuri, sometimes the people who end up stumbling into this world, realize they never want to leave and end up creating some sort of endless love eternal paradise. Since no one would then graduate that would leave the world at a standstill. Why would that be a bad thing? Well, we don’t know since no one has explained where "graduation" takes you to. But thanks to the egotistical lovestruck nerd, whenever this eternal paradise scenario occurs, it triggers the shadow killswitch to reset the world.
Got all that? Good. Well, after that data dump, Merv gives Yuri the chance to stick it to the nerds and take over this world herself. New boss, new rules. After giving off her best Beato impression, Yuri decides against it and goes Denzel Washington Man on Fire on the room. But wait, does that nullify the shadow killswitch (we assume it does)? If so, doesn’t that mean Yuri just changed the whole complexion of the world? With no reset, people like Yuri could create their own eternal paradise.
Now the flashback to Yuri receiving her siblings’ forgiveness was pretty good. But if there was one time where Key should’ve gone for the melodrama, this would’ve been it. But I don’t think they hit it on the money. Maybe it’s because it was rushed. But it felt like a few synpases misfired in my head and it was sort of sad, but not as sad as it was meant to be. Although Yuri seemingly finds peace and loses her motivation to stay in the world, at the end of the episode we see her awake in the nurses office.
So quite a few questions still remain. Questions about the world I think will never be answered. But questions about the lovestruck nerd who turned himself into an NPC? Kanade would fit the bill quite well, no? Has special inside info into the game. Is tasked with helping people graduate. Follows the rules, but doesn’t disappear. Plus, this lovestruck story should all just be a ruse to see her sob story next episode, no?
All in all, this was an entertaining episode, but not a particularly good one as far as the story is concerned. It really should’ve been broken into at least two episodes. One to focus on the Yuri-gang split, and the factions thinking about disappearing, and one to focus on Yuri and her meeting with Merv (actually that whole Merv scene probably should’ve been handled completely differently… like in a non-puke goes the information way).
With one more episode to go, I assume everyone except Kanade will disappear and that breakup will be the most heartwrenching part… so I sort of hope everyone just stays stuck in limbo. Is that cruel of me? (Unless Otonashi is the return of Kanade’s love… which was the most interesting part of Merv’s infopuke – learning that someone who disappears could possibly return… why didn’t they explain that part more?!)