Welcome in, my friends and guests! In my Yuri Nakamura Character Analysis, I mentioned that at some point, I would write some posts about her two powerful speeches in Angel Beats! This week’s Thoughtful Thursday looks at the first of these, Yuri’s classroom speech.
Yuri Nakamura, a character in Angel Beats, had a tragic life. When she was only a child or young teen herself, robbers broke into the house and slaughtered her three siblings. Only Yuri survived. Now Yuri lives in a strange world in between death and reincarnation. She’s been fighting and doing what she believed was right to protect her followers from having their souls erased. Recently, Yuri learned from a girl named Kanade that the goal of this place is to have everyone come to terms with their lives and then pass on to reincarnation.
However, new a threat appeared: shadow-like monsters that consume and erase the souls of the humans in that world. All that’s left is a shell of the person, who becomes an “NPC.” Yuri leads the fight against the shadows, but one of them swallows her up.
She isn’t erased right away. She finds herself in a normal, peaceful highschool classroom where nobody is fighting for their lives. The shadow is attempting to brainwash Yuri by showing her this phony world, making it seem like she belongs there, and even giving her a fake friend (Hitomi) who helps pull her into believing more deeply. It might have worked on any other girl but Yuri. She stands up when called on to read a page from a textbook, but at first she says nothing. She has a sad, pensive expression. Yuri knows this isn’t her world.
The teacher asks Yuri what’s wrong.
“This is an amazingly happy environment,” Yuri says, looking at the vision all around her of an ordinary school life. Birds are singing and evening sun is flooding the room. “It’s too dazzling for me. So, this is how people live. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? I’m envious. If I vanished now, could I start over anew? I wonder if I could accept such obvious happiness.”
The teacher and Hitomi both say her name, as a question, wondering what she’s on about.
“If I lost my memories and got a different personality, I think I could do it,” Yuri continues, ignoring them. “But then, what does it mean to be reborn? Then that isn’t my life anymore. It’s someone else’s life. I only get to live a real life once. And it’s right here.” She indicates her heart.
“I only have one chance.” Yuri’s voice begins to sound desperate, but still quiet. “This is my life. I can’t entrust it to someone. I can’t steal a new one. I can’t force it on others. I can’t forget it or erase it. I can’t stomp over it, laugh it off, or beautify it.” Her voice rises. “I can’t do anything! I have to accept my one shot at life, no matter how cruel and merciless it was.”
Yuri looks at the teacher and asks, “Do you understand? This is why I must fight. I must continue fighting! Because I can never accept that life!”
Interpretation of Meaning
It’s not made clear in Angel Beats what Yuri’s adult life on Earth was like or how she died. Yuri only makes sure to say she didn’t die by killing herself, surprisingly. Like most of the young people there, she probably died from disease, injury, or accident. But we can gather one fact for certain about her life: she never had a normal youth, nor any real happiness. That’s why the vision of the world the shadow threw her into immediately seemed strange. Such a peaceful, blessed life is something completely alien to Yuri. Hence the line, “This is an amazingly happy environment. It’s too dazzling for me. So, this is how people live.” She even says she’s envious.
Next we see Yuri considering the possibility of passing on to the next life. If she gives into the shadow, her soul will be erased from that world, but hopefully reincarnated. Otherwise, she could still live as a soulless “NPC” dwelling in this peaceful school for eternity without a care. But Yuri talks herself out of both meanings, out of any form of rebirth. Being reincarnated as a new person or reset as an NPC would mean becoming a different person, which would mean letting go of the life she had in this afterlife world, as well as the tragic life she lived on Earth.
Speaking of that life, Yuri considers it her one and only real life. She keeps it close in her heart. In other words, Yuri is definitely talking about her previous human life when she says, “This is my life. I can’t entrust it to someone. … I can’t steal a new one. I can’t force it on others. I can’t forget it or erase it. I can’t stomp over it, laugh it off, or beautify it. I can’t do anything! I have to accept my one shot at life, no matter how cruel and merciless it was.”
That sounds very difficult, but it’s the right thing, isn’t it? One has to accept in order to move on. That sounds like what the friends, the pastors, the counselors, and the psychologists would say is “right.” When Yuri said she has to accept her life, she meant that’s what people were telling her. It’s what part of her mind is telling her. But in fact, Yuri does not have any intention of listening to those voices. No. She will do the opposite.
“Do you understand? This is why I must fight. I must continue fighting!
Because I can never accept that life!”
Open-minded acceptance? Slow but steady healing? Leaving your burdens behind? Moving on? Ha. As far as Yuri Nakamura is concerned, acceptance is bullshit. Rebellions and battles are more her style. Even if she comes to the point of acceptance one day, it’s not today. By and large, with this speech, Yuri is rejecting the fake and serene world the shadow showed her. She’s also rejecting the idea of the gentle salvation Kanade told her about.
Later on, Yuri does come to terms with her life and choose to pass on. But not until after she’s saved everyone in that world from the shadows, and made sure each follower passed on peacefully. In other words, she found a personal fulfillment by protecting everyone, when she couldn’t protect her younger siblings in her real life. But that’s a story for a separate post. The point is this. If Yuri had chosen “acceptance” at that moment in the classroom, her soul would have been erased by the shadow, and she never would have been able to protect anyone. Yuri’s choice to be rebellious, bullheaded, and aggressive saved everyone.
Note: Significance in Psychology
As noted above, Yuri was correct in being stubborn and refusing acceptance in this situation. Does this have any relevance to people in reality? I believe so. (But first let me give a disclaimer: yes, acceptance is the way to go long-term if you want a more stable mind. If you’re in the psych ward, or in behavior therapy groups or camps, you shouldn’t turn to anger and rebellion. There.) Now, here are two examples of something like Yuri’s mindset being useful for mental health.
Here’s an obvious point but one I still hold is important. There are times when we have to fight, and I don’t mean that in a grand, poetic sense. I mean there is real danger, and to have a chance of survival, humans must be able to adopt an aggressive, willful mindset. Of course, the acute stress responses (fight, flight, or freeze) are ultimately decided by nervous system functions (and other factors) outside your control. But still, I believe in neuroplasticity. So if you have a gentle personality and can’t imagine fighting and struggling forward for your life, you can, in fact, train yourself into a braver, more determined mindset.
In other words, that fat paragraph boils down to this: being peaceable and submissive all the time isn’t a positive quality. A fighting spirit can save your life.
Now for a different case that’s more abstract, having to do with individual psychology. There was a time in my life where I tried to kill myself, woke up in a psych ward, and was so depressed that I didn’t eat anything at all for three days. I didn’t leave bed except to use the restroom. What do you think got me interested in life again? Deeper meaning? The search for happiness? Accepting my situation? None of those. Aggression and feelings of bitterness and hate got me through. I hated the staff in that psych ward and how they treated me. Yelling at them or starting anything physical would be counterproductive, but I could fight them in another way: by getting the hell out of there as soon as possible.
My hatred spurred me on to do what I had to do: eat food, take my medicines, dress, practice basic hygiene, to prove that I’d be fine if they let me out. Note: that aggressive attitude of mine, and the burning hatred I felt for that hospital and everyone in it, were temporary states of mind. They got me moving, eating,and metaphorically fighting again, so they were helpful. But if left to fester, bitterness and hate can turn ugly quickly. (Similarly, while it’s great to know a martial art and beat up someone who tried to rob you, it’s not going to be great at all if you start a random brawl.) In short, aggressive fighting spirit can be a powerful motivator for positive change.
For reading my work today, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Later!