The Angel Beats Ending, Explained

Originally airing in 2010, Angel Beats is notoriously known to have one of the saddest anime endings. This supernatural isekai starts when protagonist Otonashi awakens to realize that he is dead and doesn't remember anything except his own name. A rifle-wielding girl named Yuri invites him to join an organization she founded called the Afterlife Battlefront -- a group of high schoolers who rebel against the unfairness of their circumstances toward an unseen God.

They fight against Angel, a silver-haired girl with supernatural powers. She serves as the student council president in the high school-like setting they are trapped in, and she's a supposed associate to the unseen God who apparently runs it. When one of the members of the Afterlife Battlefront moves on after fulfilling her wish to perform music and Otonashi regains his memories with the help of hypnosis, he decides to befriend Angel and learns the purpose of the afterlife is for residents to overcome their regrets from when they were alive.

Realizing this, Otonashi and Angel, whose real name is Kanade, help the other members of the Afterlife Battlefront pass on. Eventually, when it's just those two who remain, Otonashi confesses that he has fallen in love with Kanade and wants to stay with her and help others pass on. Sadly, she reveals that her main regret is not being able to thank her heart donor for helping extend her life, whom she reveals is actually Otonashi. Thanking him, she leaves the afterlife, leaving Otonashi heartbroken.

This is where the ending gets a little hazy. Many people believe that the story ends here, but the final cut scene shows a reincarnated Otonashi recognizing a reincarnated Kanade in the living world and tapping her shoulder. Yet in Angel Beats!: Another Epilogue, Otonashi is shown to have assumed the position of student council president and is helping students pass on, while the other students speculate he is waiting for someone, who audiences can presume is Kanade. Many people believe this to be the true ending since it's the most recently released one, but others believe it's merely a cutscene that occurs before Otonashi is reincarnated.

otonashi and kanade hug, Angel Beats

Many fans also bring up the point that Kanade was in the afterlife before Otonashi was. Since Kanade had Otonashi's heart, Otonashi must have passed away long before Kanade. So why was Kanade already there when Otonashi died? When he remembers the circumstances of his passing -- starving to death after being trapped in an underground train tunnel -- he remembers that he died with no regrets. Signing to be an organ donor and encouraging others to do so, he brought hope to his fellow passengers and passed right before they were rescued, meaning he shouldn't have been stuck in limbo. However, when he woke up, he had no memory of his past, so it's possible that he was brought into limbo for the sole purpose of fulfilling Kanade's regret.

Taking these individual puzzle pieces and fitting them together, fans can come to the conclusion that the ending of Angel Beats sees Kanade moving on, Otonashi serving as student council president and eventually passing on himself, and the two souls reconnecting in the land of the living. Nonetheless, the beauty of the ending is that it's vague enough for viewers to come up with their own conclusions, helping to make it a classic in its own right.

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