This episode featured the one time where I thought the humor was really out of place (everyone reacting to Shiina talking), but besides that it may have been the best episode yet. Which is somewhat surprising, because most of the episode focused on revealing a second act to Otonashi’s life less lived.
Judging by Yuri’s reaction, I think some of the reactions and speculations of her knowingly putting Kanade through her pain were probably off the mark. And in actuality, Kanade’s ensuing coma complicates things, because now they’re unsure which Kanade will wake up, and what enemy they’re up against.
But then we get the extended interlude into part two of Otonashi’s past. A surprise to see that he’d survived the train wreckage. He’s seemingly ok, and teams up with another survivor named Igarashi, and begins pulling several survivors out of the train, but then quickly learns two terrible truths. One, they’re trapped with no way to get out. And two, he’s suffering from some major internal bleeding. Ugh, not a pretty picture.
While there was some drama along the way, minor power struggles and petty thievery, but I was glad to see everyone fall in line without much cajoling. When you’re trapped in a tunnel with no way out, there’s no point in getting all mutinous. I always hated the false drama these power struggles created (one of the reasons why I dropped LOST during the first season).
I have to admit, the moment I saw Otonashi alive, I knew he was headed for a much more torturous fate. Dying instantly would’ve been humane. Wasting away with little food, water, or hope for a week? Only to die just before the rescue crews breakthrough? Wow. I admit I shed a tear. I wasn’t terribly impressed by his by-the-Key-numbers sick imouto backstory, but seeing the last few days of his life was incredibly moving. It doesn’t necessarily change my opinion of him, because I always liked him as a character, but it gives him some meaningful death.
The details of his backstory also raises a couple questions though. While he may have met a terrible fate, in some ways I thought his final actions, signing the organ donor card, should’ve given him some peace. Based on what we saw, I’m not terribly convinced that Otonashi actually belongs in this purgatory. The fact that he doesn’t disappear when he recalls his memory also makes me question his purpose in this world.
After talking with Kanade, we learn the big secret, the world was created for kids with unhappy childhoods, so they can get a chance to live a normal, satisfying life. Disappearing is a good thing. At least this is the tidy story that Kanade tells us. Otonashi buys it hook, line and sinker with nary a question, mostly because Kanade’s giving him puppy dog eyes and making his knees buckle from moe-overload (damn seductress!). But I get the sense that the truth is not quite so cut and dry. Based on what we know about Yuri’s past, Naoi’s past, and how Hinata almost disappeared, and how Iwasawa disappeared, there’s nothing about their disturbed pasts that would’ve been solved by living a normal student life. Naoi’s revelation required a murderous rampage. Iwasawa had to buck the rules each time to do what she wanted. Hinata probably has the most "solvable" past, but I don’t even know how you’d begin addressing Yuri’s issues.
So the story comes back full circle, from Yuri, to Otonashi, to Kanade, back to Yuri being the key. Otonashi agrees to team up with Kanade and asks her to pretend she’s the same heartless enforcer that she once was. Meanwhile, he’d learn everyone’s pasts and help them reach "enlightenment."
Helluva of a decision for Otonashi to make on his own though. For one, he’s placing a lot of trust in Kanade’s story. But he’s also seemingly willing to push the fate of his teammates, without really knowing if that’s the best way to go. And what about Yuri? We see constantly that she berates herself for being unable to protect her team, like she was unable to protect her sisters. What’s she supposed to think when one by one her team members are disappearing? How could she ever forgive herself for allowing an insider to eliminate her team? How is she supposed to find peace when Otonashi’s new goal seems to directly contradict her goal. Otonashi, I like you man, but don’t mess this up. Think about it. The story… it doesn’t add up to me.