For me, the height of Angel Beats! was episode 3. Although I enjoyed most of the rest of the show, this particularly episode moved me and ended with a mystery that, unlike in many other anime of the same vein, actually made me think and wonder.
The episode is simple in nature and in fact, reflects a recurring setup – one group infiltrates while another baits Angel. In this case, Yuri’s group, including a new recruit who insists on being called Christ, tries to enter the “most holy place,” the computer desk in Angel’s dorm room (the temple), where she meets with God. But by the end of the episode, whatever Christian motif might have taken place all seems incidental, as discoveries are made about Angel lack of angelic power and Iwasawa becomes one with the universe, apparently by her own will.
Still, I think an important lesson was reemphasized to me while viewing Iwasawa’s story, which was my favorite in the show. The past Iwasawa and the present are two opposites in how they approached their lives.
While on earth, Iwasawa was dealt the most awful of hands – violent parents who cared more about their own concerns than about the safety of their child, eventually leading to her death. Before she died, Iwasawa discovered what she felt was her path – making her way through music. She stubbornly makes plans by herself and becomes a force moving forward, stopped only by a tragic death. Her goals were selfish, but not in a way in which most of us would condemn – she simply wanted to achieve her dream and get out of the life “fate” (or “God” – the ideas seems to be used interchangeably in the show) dealt her.
But the afterlife Iwasawa is different. She humbly submits to Yuri, one of the show’s Christlike figures. I don’t think the past Yuri would’ve put others’ goals ahead of her own. And as she sings during her final minutes, Iwasawa thinks about her goal – to touch someone with music and help them, as music had changed her. Her thoughts are on loving others instead of what she could do herself.
Iwasawa’s transformation is similar to that which Christians are supposed to undergo after accepting Christ. They should take on a veil of humility, emulating the Humble King. They should also love others, which is perhaps the most difficult part of Christian life.
Did Iwasawa resign herself to her fate or to God? Or was it something else? It’s hard to say, but this is clear – her ways before were indeed her own and her ways after were more in line with God’s. As as she finds out in advance of the others, although life may have been unfair to them, the “rebels against the god” are not necessarily the righteous ones in their battle. They didn’t have a choice in the way they died, but they now have a choice how to live in the next life.
Choose your own way or choose the better way.