Saturday, 5 June 2010

Angel Beats! - Episode 10

The previous episode of Angel Beats! seemed to finally suggest that the series had found a groove that it was happy to play through until the end, with Otonashi and Kanade working together to find peace for the various SSS members so that they can move on from whatever world they currently inhabit once they've gained the happiness and closure that they need.

Otonashi decides that their first target should be Yui - Surely such a cheerful and outgoing girl can't have that many regrets about her life? Of course, Otonashi's prediction is a little off-base, as he discovers when he engineers an opportunity talk to her about her unfulfilled dreams - It turns out that Yui was paralysed early on in life after being hit by a car, and thus lived out the rest of her life wishing that she could play in a band, wrestle, play football and so on. So, Otonashi sets out to fulfil her dreams like some kind of other-worldly Jimmy Saville (although thankfully less creepy), teaching her how to wrestle and setting up a chance for her to mimic Diego Maradona by scoring a goal with her hand and doing a ridiculous amount of drugs... or scoring an impressive goal, I forget which.

The trouble is, there's more to Yuri's dreams than feats of sporting glory, which leaves her with a finally request that seems beyond even Otonashi's capabilities. Enter Hinata at this point, to reveal what a big girl's blouse I am by getting me a little tearful at a lovely and sweet happy ending that brings Yui her peace. Still, such sentimentality is short-lived as we're soon dealt another huge twist in the tale to act as a cliff-hanger to the episode, once again laying waste to our expectations and rejoicing in its ability to turn the series on its head.

For all its mawkish and almost ridiculous lovey-dovey climax, I can't really go against my emotions and complain about this episode of Angel Beats! - It moved me, ergo it was as effective as it was amusing in places. Somehow learning about Yui's past and her dreams and desires allowed us to grow rather close very quickly to a girl who previously seemed to be little more than comic relief, and it is perhaps this fast turn-around that managed to grab me and pull me towards a feeling of understanding her character to leave me smiling glassy-eyed at her happy ending. It's expert manipulation of the viewer's emotions by Jun Maeda, but I can't pretend that it doesn't work. Of course, this series also staunchly refuses to simply serve as some kind of "happy ever after" show as well, throwing up questions about what has really happened to the occupants of this world once again (have we seen any of them die in real-life, or are they all simply comatose? Yui and Hinata's final conversation tends to suggest the latter) before adding an element of genuine threat with that cliff-hanger ending. No matter how much part of me wants to label some of Angel Beats! story telling as "check tricks", I'm still well and truly hooked by it, and I'm not sure I'd want it to act any other way.

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