Looking at two series that examine characters in their afterlife status, the currently airing Angel Beats, and the amazing Haibaine Reimei, they seem to share at least one thing in common. They have to face death in their world—not their deaths, although that is also present, but the death of people around them. Except that the characters are already dead, so they can’t die again-Angel Beats even makes fun of this- rather, they just disappear. Yet the two animes have different stances on this phenomenon.
In the world of Angel Beats, Yuri places a great emphasis is placed on making sure no one disappears. No one quite knows what happens to the characters when they disappear. Yuri has a great fear of the unknown and mystery, of this world’s version of death, and she spreads she terror into her resistance movement. Yet, as we don’t know if the afterlife of our world is a bad thing, neither do the people of the Angel Beats really know. Although the purpose of the world is to help people move on. For one, the world of Angel Beats isn’t really my idea of paradise. Either be stuck going to classes and the monotony of school, or join a resistance where you get to hang out with a bunch of weirdos and end up experiencing the pain of death multiple times. Yeah…not a good deal. Second, when people seem to reach a pinnacle of satisfaction or happiness, they go poof. Thus the resistance is constantly on guard to make sure that no one becomes too content or happy. I reject the idea that a world that causes people to disappear when they’re happy takes them somewhere bad.
However, at this point in Angel Beats, it’s been revealed through the Yuri and Tachibana relationship that Yuri accepts things at face value, and refuses to change them. That, on top of her failure to protect her siblings from death drives her to protect the resistance from this world’s version death. The fear of the unknown is understandable, but in the end one has to wonder if it’s such a bad thing, and if it in Yuri’s attempt to protect them, she’s holding her friends back.
Haibane Reimei takes in into an Alternate Earth that I interpret as purgatory. In it, all the Haibane (people that hatch out of cocoons with angel wings) of the world come to a time where they have their ‘Day of Flight’ and they disappear from the world, moving on. The main character of the story is Rakka, a teenage girl. The first time another Haibane experiences her Day of Flight, Rakka sinks into grief.
However, Rakka is taught by the other Haibane and come to the understanding that the ‘Day of Flight’ is just a part of life in the world. She may not want the other Haibane to go, but she comes to understand that she has to let them go for their own good. In the end of the series, Rakka is helping another Haibane experience her ‘Day of Flight’ and while she’s sad, she’s also happy for her friend.
Two animes. One that shows the character clinging on, the other showing them letting go. Although Angel Beats isn’t finished yet, so things may drastically change.