(Originally published on Livejournal on 6/3/10)
Angel Beats Episode 5
tl;dr review: The SSS Brigade attacks Tenshi’s reputation by discrediting her and forcing her to resign as student president, as doubts begin to cloud Otonashi’s mind.
About The Series: Otonashi awakens without any memories, on the campus of a high school that serves as a sort of afterlife Purgatory. He is met by the indefatigable Yuri, who leads a ragtag group of students who are fighting against God and their fate, and he soon learns that you cannot die in this world, but you can experience the pain of death. The campus is populated by “Non-player characters” who go about their daily lives as if in a video game; their only enemy in this world is the student council president, Tenshi, who has supernatural skills to defend herself.
In This Episode: Rather than another physical assault on Tenshi, Yuri devises a more subtle plan: attack her credibility and therefore reduce her ability to control the student body. By replacing her exam answers with nonsense, Tenshi would flunk out of all of her classed and be forced to resign as student president. Several members of the SSS Brigade are sprinkled throughout the classroom to provide opportunities to distract Tenshi and switch her answer sheets. The plan hits a snag, however, when they realize they do not know Tenshi’s real name to put on the fake answer sheets, so Otonashi approaches her and learns her true name: Kanade.
With the help of rocket-propelled chairs, the plan is pulled off and Tenshi is quickly stripped of her position, just another student, powerless. The SSS Brigade then launches another “Operation Tornado” where they get the student body together with a performance by GirlsDeMo and then steal away their meal tickets, and they are on the lookout for Tenshi to make sure she doesn’t do anything rash. But as Tenshi approaches, she ignores the band, pushing through the crowd alone to buy her favorite meal ticket, which flutters away in the wind from the Operation. The next day, as the group congratulates themselves on removing their greatest enemy from power, Otonashi cannot help from feeling sorry for Tenshi/Kanade, who even had the comfort of eating her favorite spicy tofu dish, alone in the corner, taken away from her. But their victory is short-lived, as the SSS Brigade discovers their cure may be worse than the disease, as the student vice president now charges in and aggressively arrests the entire group – a brazen, forthright act they never had to face under Tenshi’s rule.
My Thoughts: It’s easy to accuse Yuri and her minions of being heartless and cruel, acting like mean bullies with their relentless attacks against Tenshi. But it’s not about them being *mean*, but about them knowing in their hearts that they are *right*. In Yuri’s eyes, this is a battle against good and evil: everything is set in pure black and white, and therefore every action by the SSS Brigade is justified. The only person that sees the tiniest bit of a gray area is Otonashi, who has always harbored a small seed of doubt that Tenshi is the “bad guy” from the very beginning. Walking up to her, discovering she has a real name and is not just some emotionless robot only reinforces that doubt, and seeing her reduced to a sad outcast, rejected by the entire student body on strengthens that further. Tenshi, the ruthless enemy he has been fighting is now nothing more than Kanade, a sad-eyed girl eating her meal all alone in the cafeteria — and yet it is only Otonashi that is able to feel sympathy towards her, as everyone else gloats.
As much as I disliked the irrelevance of the last episode, this one works quite well — sort of like the Star Trek Rule of Movies, where every odd-numbered show is decent while every even-numbered one sucks. The wacky humor of the rocket-propelled chairs was, admittedly, hilariously done, and once again we see that everyone on the SSS Brigade save Otonashi *remains* a complete idiot. Yet the slapstick did not detract from the emotional power play as Tenshi becomes…human.
Now the question becomes, what demon have they truly unleashed? With Tenshi out of the way, the vice president comes down on the SSS Brigade swiftly and ruthlessly with an iron fist. The balance of power has been upset, and now things may get interesting.
Up Next: Kaichou wa Maid-sama, K-On Season 2, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Giant Killing and The Tatami Galaxy.