It’s been a while since the last rewatch, apologies. Episode four had been relatively light and this episode seems to follow the same pattern, the first half being perhaps the funniest part of the whole series, before things settle down a bit for the rest of the episode. What struck me on rewatching was how well the seeds for more serious developments were shown throughout the idiocy on display in the first part. The plot is once again driven by one of Yurippe’s schemes to harass Tenshi, this time by making sure she fails her mid term exams and hence embarass her before the teachers and possibly have her sacked from the student council. In order to do so, they have to swap her real results with fakes as they’re passed to the teacher. And in order to do so undetected, the other members of the Battlefront have to provided distractions.
But first the Battlefront has to overcome a bigger problem: finding out what Tenshi’s real name is, as they’ve never . Which our protagonist Otonashi does by the simple expedient of talking to her — she turns out to be called Tachibana Kanade. Barring his initial approach to her all the way back in episode one that ended with her fatally stabbing him, this is actually the first time he talks to her. It’s also the first time that she’s shown as a normal girl, not a remorseless killing machine. She’s also freaking tiny, as you can see from the screenshot, as well as surprisingly friendly towards Otonashi, which makes what the Battlefront does to her all the more awful.
But also hilariously funny. The whole plot is of course ridiculous, from the idea to have her answer “I want to be a dolphin trainer” on a physics test to the lame distractions provided by the hapless Battlefront members to the frequent apologies Otonashi has to give for their behaviour. The show knows it and has tremendous fun with it, especially when yet another Battlefront member gets to fly courtesy of a Yurippe rigged rocket propelled chair set to the appropriately sad ending theme, all in glorious slo-mo…
All of which gets us to the halfway mark and so far it’s been a typical Angel Beats episode, with the usual Battlefront excitement so far not bringing any response from Tenshi/Tachibana. It’s even lampshaped by Otonashi wondering if all this will actually change anything, just before it does. Thanks to their meddling with her test results, Tachibana is forced to step down as the student council president, which prompts Yurippe to start up a similar operation as the Battlefront attempted in episode one. Get GirlDeMo to do a concert as a distraction, then use huge fans to whip up enoughwind to blast meal tickets out of the attending students’ pockets.
It makes me wonder what Angel Beats would’ve been like had it been a full season, twentysix episode series as originally intended, rather than the 1 cour thirteen episode series it ended up as. Would there have been more of what are arguably filler episodes like the previous one? More attention paid to the other members of the Battlefront and their stories, rather than keeping the focus mainly on Otonashi, Yurippe and Tachibana? I can’t help but think that the limited room the series ended up having was a blessing in disguise, forcing it to be tighter and more focused. Had it been longer, it might’ve lost much of its emotional impact. In any case, this episode is a turning point.
In the previous four episodes Otonashi had had Yurippe and the Battlefront members explain and show the rules of the world he’d found himself in, though he had remained somewhat skeptical even after the events of episode three seemed to prove them right. Throughout Tenshi/Tachibana had been treated as an implacable enemey; her own actions confirming she was no more than a ruthless killing machine. But when she shows up this time as Operation Tornado is in full swing, Otonashi notices she doesn’t look like her normal determined self, but down and depressed. On a hunch, he decides to call off the defence against her, letting her unhindered into the hall where the concert takes place.
His hunch plays out. Completely ignoring the concert, she just goes to buy a lunch voucher from one of the machines, then walks back out, just as the fans start up, the voucher blowing away from her hands, to be picked up by Otonashi later. It turns out to be fro an extremely spicy but delicious mapo doufo and he realises that his actions had taken even the chance to eat her favourite meal from her. it’s with this that he finally sees her as human, not some defence mechanism the world had called into being to stop the Battlefront. This was an incredibly well set up episode, moving from comedy to pathos naturally and had it come later in the series, had there been more comedy relief episodes it wouldn’t have had the impact it has now.