Angel Beats! is an anime near and dear to my heart; I first fell in love with it in my pre-teenage years, and it left a permanent effect on me — much like it did with anyone else who ever watched it. Because through all of our shared tears and despair from witnessing so much on-screen grief across a mere 13 episodes, the life lessons Angel Beats! leaves us with are timeless.
But we’re not here to talk about the show overall; we’ll save that for another day. Instead, we’re here to celebrate Yuri Nakamura, my personal best girl on its cast. She may not be the most obvious choice for some, considering the show’s characters are all so lovable. But I like who I like!
Who is Yuri Nakamura?
For anyone who has any knowledge of the show reading this, I want to firstly defend myself. Angel, Yui and Masami are all premium waifus, there’s no question there. But for me, having watched the show at such a young and impressionable age, it is the headstrong and assertive Yuri Nakamura who took all of my attention and idealisation.
Yuri Nakamura is the leader and co-founder of the Afterlife Battle Front, as well as the movement’s strategist. She provides the brains and leadership to this unit, going against the universe’s rules, creator, and everything in between for the sake of justice and protecting her fellow comrades. She also sometimes adds some much needed comedy with how she treats some members of the team as punching bags, or leading them in a military fashion despite the situation really not requiring it.
Not to mention her comically evil laugh, or the times she can appear surprisingly airheaded despite the calm, cool and collected personality those around her rely on. These are always scenes I wholeheartedly welcome because they provide some much needed breathing room against all the highly emotional moments — but what we love most about Yuri runs deeper than all that.
Why we love Yuri Nakamura
Yuri Nakamura is not only charismatic as a leader to her team, but her attitude has the same effect on the audience. She is immediately likable and idealised, with an inspiring amount of determination and drive to see her goals through, while keeping the wellbeing of others around her at the forefront of her mind.
Since the life she once led was too cruel to even imagine or accept, Yuri has made it her mission to go against the Afterlife’s world and rules, perpetually seeking the truth for the sake of her own self-satisfaction.
But it’s not all for her own sake, as she truly does have a heart of gold. Yuri is respectful to those she admires, and she cares for those around her, fighting with everything she has to keep them safe even when we see her willingly (but humorously) sacrificing a few of them in the earliest episodes. Because when the going gets tough, Yuri is quick to think up a plan and put it in action, even if all the odds are against her — all for the sake of keeping everyone safe.
She is also noticeably smart, never having “died” in this strange other world, since she has observed those around her and taught herself what she should look out and prepare for. She is clearly capable and knowledgeable about this world, as demonstrated by her first encounter with the show’s main character Yuzuru Otonashi, while also being a swift and nimble fighter. Is there anything she can’t do? Well, the short and quick answer to that is simple: like everyone else in her team, she cannot accept her life as it is now.
Why you’ll love Yuri Nakamura
Arguably the most important moment for Yuri’s character development comes during one of the show’s most inspiring and memorable speeches. She denies the possibility of rebirth, says that life is unfair and that she will not be accepting life for what it is until she feels even a shred of fulfilment from her current situation. She never gives up, even when on the cusp of losing, and the simple fact that her resilience and courage not only saves those around her but is the single reason she continues to fight is truly admirable and exceptionally brilliant.
And it is so easy to think she would have succumbed earlier due to mental distress way before we even first met her. She did not die by suicide, and learning that she retains the memory of having had to witness her beloved younger siblings each get killed right in front of her, one by one, only solidifies how shockingly strong Yuri has and always will be. It is simply inspirational.
We do get to witness Yuri move on after having proven to herself that she can protect others in the anime’s finale, and this is done alongside her fellow comrades. But this time, they disappear, one by one, with everyone being at peace. All thanks to Yuri’s relentless perseverance.
Angel Beats! is a show that teaches us that life is a precious thing — it will not all be good, nor will it all be bad, but we ultimately have to accept it for what it is. Through all the pain, sadness and loss, no amount of grief, resentment or remorse will change anything, and it can be a painful reminder of just how temporary and bittersweet existing really is. And that’s okay, because in the end, even the stubborn and headstrong Yuri learns how to let go.
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