For all of history, we have wondered at what happens after death. Every culture has some idea of an afterlife. Sometimes it is a glorious place, sometimes it is but a pit in the earth. Angel Beats! takes the concept of an afterlife and makes it the setting. The entire cast of characters are dead. You wake up with the main protagonist, Otonashi, and discover that everyone is dead. He has amnesia. In most cases, I hate it when a character wakes up with amnesia, because this means there will be lots of flashbacks and it is cliche and boring story telling. Angel Beats! is the one example I know of where this is not the case. The flash backs are purely emotional stories about each characters life and they struggles they carry.
Here in Tokyo, I am often hit with a feeling I can’t really put to words. I will be standing in Ikebukuro Station or riding on a train and for a moment I will stop and think, “Every one of the people around me has a story. They have sorrows and pains, joys and hopes, but at this moment all I can see is their facial expressions. Every one of them has people they love and people who love them, but I don’t know why.” It is a simple yet powerful thought. My entire life, there is this thing that happens where people will just walk up to me and start sharing their entire life story with me. From this I have learned that often when I am annoyed or frustrated with someone it is often my fault, because I am misunderstanding them. Because of this, if I meet someone who is bothering me, I will ask them about their story. If you take the time to listen, you will find it a lot easier to love people. Angel Beats! uses this same formula to draw you in. The story starts with comedy to entertain you, but as the story develops the more you learn about the characters. You hear their stories and a bond forms between them and yourself. The characters that annoy you become your friends, or at least you long for them to grow. The characters you really like become more real.
I think this is what is so powerful about the Easter Story for me. I understand the concepts of Justification, Sanctification, Propitiation, and many of the other Christian theological terms. However, Romans says that we are saved by faith, because of the grace of God. We are saved by nothing other than being able to choose God based upon the fact he gives us the ability to do so. The bible is his story, laid out for us to pick up in order that we might understand him. The Holy Spirit lives in all Christian teaching and directing us, all we have to do is listen and follow. Yet he listens to us: to our stories, to our hopes and dreams, to our joys and pains, and to our fears and uncertainties. He is called the comforter and teacher. We are designed to relate through stories. This why Easter is important to us, because God is with us. I know this because he is here right this moment. I don’t have to make myself believe it, it just is.
Angel Beats! also ends with one of my favorite endings in all of anime.
MAJOR SPOILERS FROM HERE ON
Everyone left in the series graduates and leaves the afterlife. They are reborn. Before this though is the happiest and saddest moment when you see Yuzuru Otonashi and Kanade Tachibana before they leave. They love each other. When she leaves, it is heart breaking (literally, I cry there every time). However, after the credits scene where the characters all disappear, you see those two meet up again in a new life.
This part of the series always gets me. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I firmly believe God delights in restoring the things that have been lost or even destroyed. He has done this so much in my own life and throughout the scriptures. Restoration and relationship are some of the foremost things on God’s heart. So much so, that he died so our relationship with him could be restored. So, even though I don’t agree with the form the ending takes, I firmly agree with the heart behind it. With this I would like to say I really recommend the show and wish you a wonderful and blessed week.