Fans have dubbed Jun Maeda and Na-original Ga's fantasy animation series Angel Beats! as one of the saddest anime ever. Purgatory, which is shown as a high school, is the setting for the narrative. The spirits exist in limbo until they can accept their unfortunate human existence and let go of whatever regrets they might still harbor before entering the afterlife. In order to combat Kanade Tachibana, also known as Angel, the president of the student council, Yuzuru Otonashi enlists in the Afterlife Battlefront. The spirits despise God for making their human life challenging, and it is thought that angels collaborate with God.
Angel Beatsconclusion !'s raises a lot of issues. One of them explains why, despite Otonashi passing away before her, Kanade was in purgatory before him. After he passed away, Kanade was given his heart, which extended her life a bit. Before Otonashi arrives, let's solve the enigma of Kanade's stay in purgatory.
The Tragic But Meaningful Life of Yuzuru Otonashi as a Human
At the start of Angel Beats!, Yuzuru Otonashi arrives in the afterlife with amnesia. In Episode 7, Naoi uses hypnosis on him so he can recover his memories. Otonashi lived a difficult human life, caring for his ailing sister in the hospital and working several jobs. Unfortunately, his younger sister Hatsune passes away. Soon after, he finds a new life purpose: to attend medical school and become a doctor.
However, his dream is short-lived when he dies prematurely. In Episode 9, “In Your Memory,” Otonashi gets into a subway train accident, leaving him and many others trapped in a tunnel for a week. Otonashi aided and helped other survivors, but sadly died himself just a few moments before the rescue team arrived. In the last moments of his life, he listed himself as an organ donor on his ID card. This decision inspired the other survivors to do the same, giving their lives new meaning and purpose.
Originally, Otonashi wanted to become a doctor to help sick patients since he couldn’t do much for his younger sister. At the brink of death, he was unable to pursue this dream; however, he was still able to re-purpose his life by becoming an organ donor and saving another person’s life, thus giving meaning to his own. As a result, Otonashi died without any lingering regrets or unresolved trauma, and one can assume he went into the afterlife. However, his soul didn’t go to the afterlife, but instead went to purgatory.
Amazing Angel Beats! Repurposed Existence in Purgatory of Otonashi
Logically, Otonashi should have gone to purgatory before Kanade since she received a heart transplant that happened to be his. However, he arrives there after Kanade. It seems she has been there for a while, because her classmates aren't fond of her reputation as student council president.
One speculation as to why Otonashi went to purgatory is that "God" manifested him so Kanade could move on to the afterlife. She has one final wish: to thank him for giving her a heart when she needed a transplant to live. In the Angel Beats! finale, “Graduation,” Kanade thanked Otonashi and was finally able to move on.
Thus, Otonashi’s existence in purgatory is to help Kanade receive her final wish as a human. This purpose is solidified when Otonashi regains his memories, yet he didn't disappear to the afterlife. In order to pass on, a soul usually must be granted their final wish or resolve any regrets they have in the human world. Otonashi should have passed on to the afterlife after coming to terms with his premature death. However, he remains at Kanade’s side.
Yuzuru Otonashi is a selfless individual, and it is in his personality to help others. By helping Kanade reach the afterlife, he gives his soul another purpose: to save her life again. Otonashi didn’t just save Kanade in the human realm; he also helped her soul move on in the afterlife.
After Kanade disappears, Otonashi is left alone in the high school. Viewers do not know what happened to him, but there are two alternate endings. The first epilogue reveals that both Otonashi and Kanade moved on to the afterlife and got reincarnated into the human world. A girl looking like Kanade hums Iwasawa’s “My Song” and a boy who looks like Otonashi walks past her. He recognizes the song and walks toward her, but it is unknown to viewers if they connect since the scene fades out.
It’s an open-ended epilogue left to interpretation, but viewers who believe in reincarnation and the afterlife can safely assume the two were able to reunite. However, in an alternate Angel Beats! epilogue, Otonashi doesn’t move on from purgatory: he becomes the next council president and helps other souls move on to the afterlife. Although it’s a sad ending for Otonashi, he still lives out his purpose of helping others.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter how Otonashi ended up in purgatory. What matters is his purpose to help Kanade and the others around him move on into the afterlife, just as he helped the survivors of the train accident. Otonashi is a selfless individual who would help those in need in both the human and spiritual realms.