The characters think passing on makes them re-incarnate. They are not sure what happens after passing on.

Consider these points on why a sane person would not want to pass on:

  • You live in a world where you don't die (pass on) as long as you don't attend classes or be a model student. That means you don't need to study unlike in the real world where you are even beaten (happens where I live) or punished by teachers if you don't get good grades. You won't be humiliated by others for being dumb.
  • You can get superhuman powers just by writing a computer program. You could copy, share and edit programs and probably fly and double jump. You can become a super hero. You can. Deadpool has only regeneration and became a super hero, but in Angel Beats, it's the minimum power you have. What Kanade did was just the tip of the iceberg.
  • There are computers. You can play video games and program your own. You could create and share videos on sites or social networks like Youtube and Facebook. You can probably integrate websites or software into your powers and automate them. Free internet and computers which is a limited in the real world to the previliged few. Especially not computers which you can use to re-program yourself.
  • You could reincarnate into something or someone who is way worse off. The characters' lives are not really that unfortunate compared to many in the real world. You could be reborn as a holocaust victim or an activist who is tortured or a young girl in forced prostitution or a terrorist in Guantanamo Bay or a pig raised for meat in a closed cage.
  • You get free food and every other basic resource you need. You can create everything you want from dust. Consider being born in an impoverished nation during a famine.
  • You're probably going to lose your memory. Even if they reincarnate into someone like a Rich Kid who is always happy and enjoys his/her life (Which is very less likely in the real world) you'd still lose your memories. People by nature are afraid of memory loss.
  • They were sent there because they had things "unsolved" in their life. Staying there means they can't solve the thing that disturbs them.
    – Ikaros
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 19:30
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    There is no reasonable conception of reincarnation where you could somehow be suddenly thrust into the life of a person imprisoned in Gitmo.
    – senshin
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 19:43
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    People who find themselves in the Angel Beats afterlife are, necessarily, people whose current lives are unfulfilled. Consider Yui's case: what good would skipping school, or being superhuman, or having a computer do her, if in order to have those things she had to specifically avoid experiencing the simple, mundane things that her quadriplegia in life deprived her of? Point is, the Angel Beats afterlife is specifically designed so that you can only stay in it as long as your life is unfulfilling. Your life, OP, might be hunky-dory, and you might well enjoy the afterlife. (...)
    – senshin
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 19:52
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    (...) But in that case, you wouldn't end up there in the first place. You'd just go right on to your next reincarnation. For everyone in the SSS, attaining that fulfillment was worth more than free food, or UNLIMITED INTERNET, or whatever other thing you personally see as desirable.
    – senshin
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 19:54
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    Perhaps there is a cultural disconnect here. In the Japanese (Buddhist-ish) conception of reincarnation, you don't get to escape the cycle of rebirth; or at least, freedom from the cycle is the ultimate goal of life. It would be narratively absurd if you were freed from the cycle on a mere technicality about how you comport yourself in the afterlife.
    – senshin
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


Angel and Otonashi's actions were not derived from logic, but rather from their beliefs and convictions. They believed that people were not supposed to permanently stay in the afterlife dimension. Their beliefs were probably influenced by their religious/spiritual beliefs from when they were alive.

Their beliefs were supported by evidence in that world. For instance, the way passing on works supported their belief. A person passed on when his/her regrets had been eased. From this and other evidence, it was apparent that the whole purpose of the afterlife dimension was to ease people's regrets and to allow them to be reincarnated, rather than to provide a permanent paradise for them.

Also keep in mind that staying in the afterlife dimension means that a person has to hang on to his/her regrets. This means that anyone who stays there is likely still suffering from his/her past memories, whereas anyone who leaves has made peace with his/her regrets, and can forget them in his/her new life.

  • The point that they were led by their belif sounds plausible. They could've turned that place into semi-utopia while holding onto a few regrets. I envy them.
    – Wally
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 9:46

I think senshin makes a lot of good points in the comments, but I can also see where you're coming from with this; from a certain perspective, it does seem like it would be better to try and stay in purgatory forever.

I would give two major reasons why the kids decide to pass on anyway, both based on senshin's comments:

  1. It's philosophically, culturally, and narratively necessary that they don't squat in purgatory for all eternity;
  2. They can't really stay there anyway, because the place is constructed as a giant trap for exactly that kind of thinking.

Regarding point 1, think of it this way: in a Christian setting, God would not allow people to just live fantasy lives in purgatory with no intention to pass on. It would go against the philosophy of the Christian religion; in Christianity, either you go to Heaven, or you go to Hell. God sends people to purgatory to give them a second chance at Heaven, and if they don't take it, they go to Hell. The very construction of the universe forbids people from permanently living in purgatory. It's kind of like being someone with no citizenship in any country; purgatory is like an airport, where you can stay for a while but not forever.

Angel Beats uses more of an Eastern-style religious philosophy, but the same idea applies. Who knows what happens to them if they don't take their second chance, but in the Buddhist philosophy, escaping from the cycle of rebirth through some backdoor like remaining permanently in purgatory is just as unfathomable as escaping both Heaven and Hell by the same mechanism would be in Christianity.

This is simultaneously an in-universe and out-of-universe reason. Out of universe, the writers would have written it like this because that's what their cultural background would lead them to. In universe, the characters would want to pass on for the same reason: their culture is telling them that it's unthinkable to just linger in purgatory forever, ignoring their problems. (Since some kind of afterlife explicitly exists in the Angel Beats universe, there probably are safeguards of some kind to prevent permanent squatters in purgatory, but we never see proof of this in the series since no one tries to remain in purgatory with the express purpose of remaining in purgatory.) They do all seem to decide, very quickly and suddenly, that they're ready to face their problems and pass on, but the latter half of the show had all kinds of pacing issues, so I count that more as a writing problem than an actual inconsistency in the universe.

Regarding point 2, it's not only becoming model students that will cause them to pass on; it's becoming fulfilled, in any way that allows them to move past whatever was haunting them. This is abstract enough that it seems like no matter how you tried to avoid it, you would eventually become fulfilled and end up passing on. The SSS didn't because they were purposely holding on to their rage, turning it over and over in their minds, dragged on by the charisma of Yuri. But how long could they have actually stayed like this?

As we saw in Episode 3, all it took to send on Iwasawa was a really great performance. She had no idea it was coming and didn't consciously seek it out at all; she just happened to stumble on something that made up for whatever she'd missed out on in life, and it sent her on. The things we saw send the characters on in the last few episodes probably aren't the only things that would have worked. For each of them, there is most likely a wide spectrum of events that would have caused them to become fulfilled enough to pass on. Even locking yourself in a windowless room might not have been enough to prevent passing on; for all we know, if Yuri had sat in a dark room and thought long enough about what happened to her siblings, she would have eventually come to the same conclusion she reaches towards the end of the series, and would have been contented enough with it to pass on. It's entirely possible that becoming superheroes with all the food and Internet they wanted would be enough to content them and send them on. There are traps everywhere for someone who's trying to enjoy themselves in purgatory without passing on. The only surefire way to stay in purgatory is to stay tormented and miserable, and where's the fun in that?

To end with, I'll address a few of the specific points mentioned in the OP:

  • "You won't be humiliated by others for being dumb." Yuri does quite a lot of humiliation of the dumb. They don't mind because they like her, but bullying and social ranking can still exist in this world. I guess you can at least settle your differences in a sword fight or gun fight, though, since no one can die. The pleasure of repeatedly stomping down the people bullying you, though karmically a little iffy, might even be enough to send you off into the next life.
  • "You can become a super hero." Sure, but to what end? There's no one to save and no one to fight. You could have fun leaping around the buildings for a while, until you think "This is so much fun! I love being a superhero!" and then poof, off to your next life.
  • "You can play video games and program your own. You could create and share videos on sites or social networks like Youtube and Facebook." We don't know how much of an Internet actually exists. There might not even be an Internet; you might be limited to desktop apps that you burn to discs made from dirt. Even if there is, there might not be any Facebook or YouTube, and you'll have to make them yourself. Then you'll feel all satisfied that you recreated YouTube, and then poof, off to the next life. On the other hand, the only operating system available is Macrosoft Winding, which seems to be based on Windows, so using the computer might be a good way to stay angry and miserable so you don't pass on.
  • "You could reincarnate into something or someone who is way worse off." I actually think this is pretty unlikely. In Buddhist philosophy, what the kids are really doing when they come to terms with their bad memories is getting rid of a negative karmic seed and ridding themselves of an attachment to the physical world. These are good things in Buddhism; they help you reincarnate into a better state and bring you closer to breaking out of the cycle of rebirth. So if anything, they would probably reincarnate into a better life than the one they left. (And the "terrorist in Gitmo" scenario is unlikely because reincarnation in Hinduism and Buddhism starts you as a newborn, so even if you began as a newborn Yemeni villager, you would still have the choice not to be a terrorist.)
  • "You're probably going to lose your memory." They probably were afraid of this when they chose to pass on. Kanade and Otonashi certainly were, anyway. But the other reasons for passing on were persuasive enough that they overcame this fear.
  • I think the concept is you need to accept your memories or come at peace with them. Even if you are happy as long as you latch on to those few sad memories or keep beating up normal students you don't pass on. If this is correct all the points that say "You pass on if you enjoy yourself" are invalid.
    – Wally
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 13:57
  • Also you don't have a choice if you're brainwashed since you're a kid. Most of these terrorists are brainwashed since they are kids into believing that they are doing good and fighting against evil. Even most their "holy books" support that.
    – Wally
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 14:10
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    @Wally Yes, my last points were somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Nonetheless, look at how little it really took for, e.g. Iwasawa or Yui to pass on: it was mostly an internal process, with very little external action needed. It seems dramatic to us because we see all their memories, so we have a full context for the change, but externally, all they really did was play a concert/get a semi-serious marriage proposal.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:27
  • As to your second comment, I disagree, but this is not the place to debate the psychology of terrorism.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:27
  • Lulzed at the Microsoft Windows reference being a Windows hater mysef.
    – Wally
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 11:17

The answers so far gave good reasons why people would not stay there but missed one point I want to add:

People did stay in that world!

The unknown programmer (=other timeline Otonishi?) stayed for eons. The SSS stayed for - who knows - maybe decades, maybe centuries, living almost the life you described. They lived their affections, they played war with their favourite weapons, and they did have their own little Utopia. They just did not know about "Angel Player" and were not able to program the world like you proposed. Kanade on the other hand understood the world as what it was apparently meant to be and tried to help the others to move on (even by force). Otonashi wanted to help people since he lost his sister and so both of them wanted to help the others to move on.

BTW: Almost every one of the SSS did not move on until the shadows came and threatened their bare existence so they had nothing to lose. Plus, it is part of human nature to want catharsis. The only people who really had the choice were the last five, and what should they do after every human and NPC was gone? They had mostly made peace with themselves anyway.

EDIT: Plus it is likely that there are mechanics to repeatedly give people the chance to go on - like the baseball match where the NPCs played exactly the way Hinata needed to remember and make peace with his real life failure.

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