Having absorbed the multitude of clones she created come the end of the last instalment, it isn't really much of a surprise to find Kanade out for the count in a hospital bed as episode nine begins. The big question is, will she ever wake up, and if so will she be the more friendly Kanade of more recent times or the "evil" Angel as we were more used to earlier in the series?
For much of the episode, this question is relegated to the back-burner, as we instead concentrate on Otonashi at Kanade's bed-side as the full horror of the experiences which led to his death come to light. This makes for what must surely be the darkest overall episode of Angel Beats! yet, as we discover that Otonashi and numerous others didn't die instantly in the train crash, but instead found themselves trapped in a vast tunnel with no means of escape, little food and water, and no ability to even call for help. From here, we witness Otonashi taking the lead, using his medical knowledge to help the other victims while clearly realising that he's badly injured and suffering internal bleeding himself, before we see the injured struggle on through a week of agony, dehydration and starvation before a moment of clarity marks the end of Otonashi's life but, ironically, rescue for all of those he helped.
Still, this isn't simply an excuse to paint a bleak picture to try and move us emotionally, as it all ties in with Kanade's awakening and Otonashi's realisation that's she's actually been trying to help everybody to deal with their regrets, enjoy their second chance at "life" and then move on to whatever comes next. Thus, by the end of the episode the lines of battle have been redrawn once again, with Kanade taking on her role of Angel and student council president for a second time while Otonashi works "undercover" to help Yuri and company to "see the light".
Overall, I was really rather impressed by this episode - Despite being hugely different from the largely light-hearted stuff Angel Beats! has treated us to of late, it still worked really well despite its dark and depressing subject matter, while very much painting Otonashi as the man who gets things done; a role he will need to fulfil for the rest of this series if his and Kanade's plan is to succeed. Speaking of which, Kanade's role as revealed this episode is hardly a surprising one, although Kanade's clumsy attempts at helping her school mates "pass on" is almost a little unbelievable. Still, with yet another change in gear for the series surely the tone has now been set for the rest of the series for the first time that it began - Will this turn it into a formulaic effort or give it a sense of pacing and progression that lets it soar to new heights? Only time will tell...