In about 50 years I think we’ll see a “church” built around the concepts presented in Angel Beats.
The cosmology and redemption philosophy that’s in the forefront of Angel Beats doesn’t really mesh up with anything we see in major world religions. It doesn’t hinge on obeying God’s arbitrary will or finding balance in life or anything like that. The key to “redemption” in Angel Beats, generally speaking, is happiness, and when you delve further into it it’s happiness during one’s youth.
Everyone that’s in this Purgatory-like plane of existence died with memories of an unsatisfactory youth. “I was on drugs” or “I was abused by my parents” or “I died in a tragic accident” and all that. The reason why these people can’t pass on to whatever existence lies “beyond” is because they didn’t experience a happy childhood. That’s it. It isn’t because they sinned and need to atone for their mistakes. It isn’t because they failed to reach a “nirvana” like state of mind. There’s no concept of right or wrong at play. There’s no concept of reaching beyond the material realm and achieving a higher state of being. It isn’t even about living a satisfactory life. It’s all about living a satisfactory youth.
In no way are we presented with the idea that there’s other Purgatories where people who live an unhappy adulthood or an unhappy retirement get a chance to re-live their lives and find contentment. We don’t hear about some artificial office complex where sad salarymen and office ladies get the chance to live in an idyllic paper-pushing life. Given the evidence we see in the series, one’s spiritual salvation hinges on whether they can find happiness before they graduate from high school.
It’s like Angel Beats is tapping into the “cult of youth” that’s so prominent in anime. Even in anime series that target older fans, one’s middle school and high school years are emphasized. At times it seems like these years are the only years that matter in one’s life, and Angel Beats is playing off of that idea by creating a spiritual system where everything hinges on one’s “performance” during this time period.
Given how many fans experience less than stellar childhoods due to being an “outcast” or having other experiences that draw them away from the perfect childhood they so desire and grasp at vicariously through slice of life high school anime series and the like, it makes perfect sense to create a cosmology where one is given a second chance to attain this sensation. For all intents and purposes, Angel Beats is creating the ideal religious basis for the otaku: Salvation through Slice of Life.
Yeah, the religion created in Angel Beats will one day become the Scientology of otaku, and Jun Maeda will be the anime equivalent of L. Ron Hubbard. And a descendant of John Travolta will star in god-awful remake of Clannad that’s hailed as one of the worst movies of all time.