Newman’s Nook: You are More, I am Less

In episode 9 of Angel Beats, Otonashi finally remembers hows he died. We see the subway crash he was involved in. We see him underground, trapped with others who were on the subway with him. We see him serving as a leader to the survivors. We see him, in the end, die.

To his final breath, Otonashi was serving others. The moment he awoke from the crash he used what little first aid skills he had to help others. After tending to all the wounds, Otonashi worked with the others to round up all the supplies. He tried to lead the survivors by remaining calm. It worked. He tended to everyone’s wounds day by day. When one of the men went crazy and tried to steal everyone’s supplies, others got violent trying to beat down the thief. Otonashi stopped the violence, calmed them down, and offered to use fewer rations so others would still have what they needed after some of it was destroyed in the squabble. This was not a selfish little teenager, but a man putting everyone ahead of himself. In the end, he died actively choosing to donate his organs just as they finally were freed from the subway tunnel.

Otonashi may not know it, but his actions reflected Christ in so many ways. Let us begin first with his forgiveness of the thief. Imagine the scene. A group of people are scared following a subway accident. Huddled together underground, a teenager comes to their aid as a leader of sorts ensuring rations are being kept tightly so everyone survives. One in the group steals everything trying to run for it, even though there is not a place to run to. He falters. He is stopped. People get angry and begin to beat him. Then the teenager, Otonashi walks over to the scene. He calms the violent people. He forgives the thief. The thief falls to his knees crying. He never stole from the group while they were down there after that point. Where have I seen that before? John 8:2-11.

In this passage, an adulteress is caught in the act. The people are rallied together to stone her to death, asking Christ what to do. Does He cast the first stone? No. He calms the crowd and says, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” In the end, the only one who can cast stones, Himself, chose not to do so. In the case of Otonashi and the thief, he had every right to be angry, to retaliate even – but he did not. Instead, he chose to forgive.

One of the other defining attributes of Otonashi through this entire episode is his willingness to serve everyone. He tended to wounds. He withheld supplies from himself, allowing them to be divided instead among the others. This was a form of servant leadership, a kind which we see in the life of Christ (Mark 10:44-45). He reminds us that to be first, we must be willing to be last – to serve others before ourselves. We must put their needs ahead of our own. He does this on numerous occasions, but one which sticks out to me is during the Last Supper when He washed the disciples feet (John 13:1-17). Let us picture the scene. The disciples had been walking barefoot or in sandals for days. This was the end of a long journey and late in the day. They were preparing for a meal. These 12 men sat around the table together with dirty feet, rough and grimy from the roads. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, kneels down before His disciples one at a time. He goes to them with a wash basin and a towel wrapped around His waist. He then scrubs each of their feet, one by one. He then pulls off the towel and dries off their feet. This is the lowliest of jobs left for the servants of servants; yet here is the King of King, Lord of Lords doing this task. Otonashi served and served and served these poor, frightened people with every last breath he had. He then gave his organs to others upon his death, allowing his body to serve others beyond this life. With his death – he gave others life.

Once more, we turn to Christ – who’s death gave us all a new life, a renewed life. In Romans 5:6-11, Paul reminds us of that fact. He reminds us again in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. We are made new, we are made better in Christ. His death is what saves us – from our sin, from our failure, from the devil, from the old version of us which wants us to be a failure, wants us to stumble. We are alive because of Christ. So too are these people alive because of Otonashi.

While this young man may not have intended to, he serves in a Christ-like role for all those people trapped in the subway. He healed the sick. He kept the peace. He forgave the villain. He provided hope. In the end, he was able to see the people he was serving finally being saved just as he died. He gave his all, making himself less for others. If only we would all follow in this Christ-like example daily.


6 thoughts on “Newman’s Nook: You are More, I am Less

  1. Matt,

    First I wanted to explain how amazing timing your article is for me. I’m actually reviewing Angel Beats! just like your are, and I finished episode nine a few minutes before I saw your article.

    Everything that you mentioned about Otonashi embodying Christ-like qualities is definitely correct, and I’m glad that you caught those similarities, but I believe that Kanade is an even greater representation, especially at the end of the episode.

    Throughout Angel Beats!, Kanade had allowed Yuri and the Battlefront to strip her of her position as Student Body President, attempt murder on her life many times, and treat her very poorly due to false assumptions. She even went as far as to absorb all of the clones of herself in order to save the very people that hated her, knowing well that there was a chance that she would be obliterated. Once she recovered from her injuries, she allowed Otonashi to join her in her in helping people in the afterlife to have peace, and ultimately save them.

    Jesus willingly chose to strip himself of his Godly powers, and came down to earth as a baby boy. Even his own birth suggested him to be no more than a peasant, being birthed inside of a pig trough and born to a virgin. He grew up being hunted down for his life by King Herod, and eventually the Pharisees, whom did not approve of his radical teachings. He was captured, beaten, mocked, and scorned. Everyone that had praised his name before his death was yelling, “Crucify him!”, at his nailing to the cross. Yet he still chose to die for us and take all of our sin, despite of our short comings and all of the things that humanity did to him.

    Kanade truly lived as a living representation of Jesus Christ, and sacrificed herself so that Otonashi and his friends could be saved. Jesus did the same thing for us, and offers us salvation, as Kanade did for Otonashi.

    Micah Marshall

    1. Thanks, Micah for the comments. Great timing, I might add, for both of us! I look forward to reading anything you put together. Feel free to tag me in it on Twitter 🙂

      You are correct in the way Kanade has a Christ-like quality in many of her actions and attitudes. Hers can be seen generally across multiple episodes where you can see her actions, attitude, and humility. Her willingness to absorb the evil multiples as you mentioned reflects Christ absorbing our sin. Her willingness to be transformed into the villain again resembles Christ’s willingness to be villainized by the crowds. I can definitely see the comparisons. You could write a whole college level thesis on the Christ like characteristics of Kanade – which, as I mention, span the entire series with various hints throughout.

      When Otonashi displays Christ-like qualities, I took note. Especially since in the last episode we saw of his backstory he was turning his sister into an idol for himself. So, it’s redeeming and positive to see this side of Otonashi, to me.

      I look forward to watching the rest of the series for the first time & go through with my thoughts. Look forward to yours as well!

  2. I know that the previous comment mentioned how this post has perfect timing, and I must say the same thing! I read John 8:2-11 (about Jesus forgiving the adulteress) in my personal quiet time, and I was convicted in condemning others. I realized that I needed to be forgiving instead. Shortly after I closed my Bible, I decided to check up on one of my favorite blogs–Beneath the Tangles–and…voila! The post on the front page referenced the exact passage I had left off, describing Jesus’ forgiveness reflected in Otonashi’s actions towards the thief. I think God is telling me something–to forgive instead of condemn! Thank you, MRNewman, for posting this. 🙂

    1. Praise the Lord, Sherbetty! It’s always fun to see the Lord at work in our personal meditations with Him & outside of that. Glad my words were able to inspire you & point you to Him. 🙂

  3. It’s been a while since I last watched Angel Beats, but I still remember this scene pretty well, mostly because my heart just absolutely ached for Otonashi. I desperately wanted someone to stop him as he seemed to be slowly self-destructing for the sake of everyone else. I think that’s part of what makes the whole story so meaningful. It’s not just that Otonashi is helping everyone else, but that he’s helping everyone else *at his expense*. Like you said, he goes as far as refusing medicine + supplies so other people can have it.
    I think the parallel really sinks in in Otonashi’s VERY last moments – when he signs the donor card. At that point, as the viewer, we realize that Otonashi was consciously aware of his own imminent death… and yet still chooses to make his last moment a selfless one. His thoughts, to the very end, lay with helping everyone else. That reminds me so much of Christ. As He hung on the cross with our sins weighing on Him, He did not yell out at us in anger, nor did He complain of pain or suffering. Instead, He chose to cry out for our sake’s “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”. Otonashi and Christ both chose to use their dying moments for someone else, not themself. It’s just a really neat (and powerful) message, as so often if we’re asked “if you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last moments?”, our answers tend to be selfish (e.g. “visit ____ so I wouldn’t miss them” or “live it up” or other stuff). Realistically, I think we all ought to work to a point where our genuine answer to how we’d spend our last moments can be – honestly, from the bottom of our heart – as selfless as Otonashi’s and Christ’s.

    Great article! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Emma, for the kind words. And you hit the nail on the head – Otonashi chose with his last moments, last breaths to help others. If only we were as selfless in our actions. I know I’m not that selfless with my last moments before I go to sleep. It’s something I’m sure we all can learn from

Leave a Reply