Christmas is an incredibly nostalgic holiday for many of us, carrying those emotions in whenever the season rolls around. Because it happens yearly, it can be a time for us to remember the past, whether happy or sad. In our memories, we can reflect on how our attitudes and positions in life have changed over the years, and the friends and family who gather around us remind us of what we hold most dear, what we’re living for. Though brief, Christmas in Angel Beats! coincides with a revelation on what it means to be alive.
In episode 7 of Angel Beats!, a newly defeated enemy-turned friend is able to bring back the memories of the amnesiac main character, Otonashi. He is transported to a time in his life where nothing had any meaning, nothing except the happiness of his hospitalized little sister. He works only to live and to buy her manga, and on Christmas he decides to sneak her out of the hospital.
Tragically, she dies soon afterwards, but he realizes that even though he couldn’t help her, he could help others, and struggles to try to become a doctor.
Now that Otonashi’s memories have returned, he is deeply unsettled. Later, he tries to help Kanade become friends with the other members of the Battlefront, subtly taking what he had learned from his memories and letting it give new meaning to his current situation.
Christmas only appears briefly in this episode as an attraction for Otonashi to bring his sister to. A beautiful display of lights and the promise of stores and gifts allow her to catch a glimpse of the fun world she is secluded from, and the joy that many people in reality are unable to experience. Sadly, the struggles of life go on, even as we put on Christmas lights.
But there is a deeper heart behind this story: that Otonashi’s sister gave him life, and so he is motivated to give life to others, which still carries on in his treatment of his friends. Jesus didn’t come as a child to stay as a child, and he didn’t die for us so that we could live meaningless lives, but rather so that through him our lives can have a new meaning, and we can share his love with others, newly reconciled to him.
The old has gone, the new has come.
Day 12: Christmas is upon us! And we’ll be celebrating with episodes 13-15 of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou!