Angel Beats! Special Episode – Stairway to Heaven

The Afterlife Battlefront is at it again one more time in this unexpected OVA, which takes place at a point in the story where the bulk of the characters are still around. Angel Beats! was one of my favorite anime of 2010, so it was great to see it back and firing on all thrusters. Yurippe devises a scheme she hopes will lead Angel to lure them to God. She orders everyone to create “maximum tension” and have an unreasonable amount of enthusiasm from every single moment (or at least pretend to). In theory, the appearance of such life-fulfilling experiences would lead them to pass on to the beyond, but they won’t, because they’re just acting. It’s hoped this will flummox Angel and send her running to God.

With a fluctuating “tension meter” ever present, the sustained instances of high-tension got predictably chaotic and, well, tense. The entire gang gets to participate, each contributing their unique characteristics to the cause (Yui’s rocking out is fitting, while Shiina’s manic sewing is particularly cute). Also predictably, Otonashi only ever reduces the tension, all but refusing to get into the spirit of things. No matter, it seems like Yurippe is on to something, as Angel eventually leads them on what turns out to be a wild goose chase based upon a hilariously convoluted misunderstanding. While hardly masterful, this was a solid, fun addition to the Angel Beats! archive. Rating: 3.5

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Shiki 22 and Wrap-up

(Spoilers Throughout.) The Shiki finale was unbelievably good. Naturally, just when victory is in sight for the villagers, a fire breaks out. And when a fire starts in a dry, windy forest, it doesn’t bode well for the village it surrounds. Toshio tried to fulfill his duty to protect the village the best he could; his rage and sorrow is palpable when he swings his chainsaw around wildy. Still, he saved many lives.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without Natsuno. He hypnotised Toshio before Chizuru, which is why her glamoring didn’t take. I imagine Natsuno basically told him to keep doing what he was doing, and he did. By the  end, there’s only two vampires left: Sunako, and the newly-risen Seishin, who has chosen to stay by her side.

Everyone else meets their end in various awesome ways. Megumi is found sneaking around, and her desperate pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears: by now the villagers have heard it all. They run her over with various farm equipment until she’s immobilized, then stake her. I kind of wish Megumi had made it to the big city, and I felt a bit bad that they’d just destory her so callously; but her surviving just wasn’t in the cards. Natsuno throws himself and Tatsumi into a huge pit full of corpses by design, and blows them both up with dynomite. It’s clear Natsuno had no intention of living as a werewolf, so taking Tatsumi out with him two birds with one stone. He also made sure Kaori and her little brother were safe in a neighboring town before going back to take care of business.

I truly thought Sunako’s long time on the earth was at an end when Oosaki cornered her in a church, but Seishin rescued her at the last minute (whaddaya know, the big bearded dude’s mortal after all!). As out-of-town firetrucks and helicopters descend upon doomed Sotoba village, he sneaks out in a car with her in a suitcase. The final moment was cut perfectly and gave me the goosebumps I expect from any great finale.

This was a truly excellent finish to what became the series  whose episodes I came to anticipate most each week, once it got going. The payoff was made so much more satisfying and impactful by the careful, intricate build-up in the first half. When I get the chance I’d really like to watch it through again without my previous prejudices about its character design and pace – this was a series that slowly but surely changed my mind about it. I’ll miss its broodiness, casual gore, sexiness, and general strangeness, as well as its superb score. Rating: 4