Angel Beats ends in a gloriously sadistic manner.
It’s a shame that after the credits there’s a scene that goes out of its way to ruin this awesome ending.
Y’all know I hate Otonashi. Y’all know that I’ve gone on about how I didn’t like his scheme to get everyone to “disappear” from this reality. I was starting to feel a little guilty about those feelings during these past couple of episodes, since his plan was brought out into the open and everyone was given a choice in the manner.
Then, in the last few minutes of the series, Otonashi makes a complete 180. It turns out that he doesn’t want to disappear. He wants to remain in this world with Angel so they can continue to “cure hearts” like some metaphysical afterlife Sailor Moon. The thing is, it doesn’t come off like he want to stay behind because of his grand desire to help others. Rather, it seems like he’s finally come to feel the same way that the others in his little group felt. He’s finally found a selfish, regret-filled reason to cling to this existence: He loves Angel and wants to be with her forever.
There was a degree of righteous satisfaction as I saw him break down and cry about how he loved Angel and wanted to be with her. He wanted to forego all of his holier-than-thou feelings about the need to move on in order to fulfill a wish as self-centered as the ones he railed against a few episodes before. He was getting a taste of his own medicine, and it was beautiful.
I was worried that Angel would reciprocate his feelings, saying something about how she wants to join him in his quest to mend psychological wounds and whatnot. When she rejected him, stating that she finally found her own peace of mind and has no desire to let it go to satisfy Otonashi’s longings, I was fucking happy. She was thankful for all of the help Otonashi had given her in this life and the previous life, but she wasn’t about to give up her one chance at peace to satisfy his whims.
As Angel disappeared and Otonashi fell to the ground in a dismal heap of pathetic despair, I laughed. Not only was the moment hilariously melodramatic, I was happy to see Otonashi left alone and filled with regrets after everyone else he bullied into “acceptance” had already passed on. It showed that he most likely never really was interested in their personal salvation so much as he was interested in exercising some deep-seeded desire to exert his will upon others in order to make himself feel better.
If the series ended with that image of Otonashi crying due to his inability to fulfill his own wishes, it would have made Angel Beats a thoroughly satisfying series. All of the nagging points I had about the series would have made sense, since it was all leading up to essentially crushing Otonashi for being the villain in the plot.
That’s where the title of this post comes into the picture.
I sat through the credits, figuring there’d be some sort of post-credit scene. Those ten seconds do their damnedest to ruin everything I liked about the ending and all but ruin everything I liked about the series.
We see Otonashi and Angel “reincarnated” and doing regular life shit. Right off the bat my theory about Otonashi succumbing to his regrets was thrown out the window. If he’s back in the “real” world, he obviously got over not being able to be with Angel. How in the hell could Otonashi still feel the desire to “disappear” if his newfound regret can never be cured. He no longer has his support system in place, so it’s unlikely that he met anyone anytime soon that could help him through his issues. And it doesn’t make sense that he’d be able to just “get over” the feelings he had at the end of the episode. A dude doesn’t collapse into a mound of tears only to stand up and say “Yeah, that got all of those regrets out of my system.” It just isn’t believable that Otonashi would reincarnate based on how things ended for him.
But let’s assume that it does make sense for him to reincarnate. The whole idea about reincarnating is that you won’t get to see the people you leave behind. That’s part of the tragedy. We’re supposed to feel that tinge of loneliness and loss that comes from never seeing these people again. That’s what made Yui and Hinata’s relationship so bittersweet: They only realized they loved each other right before Yui disappeared and they realized there was no chance they’d get to see one another again. But by having Otonashi and Angel randomly meet up again in the next life cheats us out of that feeling. It’s basically saying “Yeah, whatever. You live, you die, you’ll still get whatever you want in the end.” All of that angst he felt at the end of the episode knowing he was losing Angel was for naught. He just pops right back into life and hooks up with her like nothing happened.
What a fucking cheap ending. It went out of its way to screw up what could have been a brilliant downer of an ending, giving all of the events that transpired before considerable meaning. Instead, they chose to upend everything in favor of “and they lived happily ever after.” Happy endings only work when you earn them, and the only ending Angel Beats earned was a bad one.