Take a look at Act II for details on how exactly this world works – and the reason for the shadows.
Hisako, Sekine and Irie chose to disappear happily. Their main reason was that “No replacement vocal can be found”. Now that the fight in this world was nearing the end – GirlDeMo was not necessary anymore. They were able to live through the youth they never had, and that was enough.
TK, Noda, Fujimaki, Matsushita, Naoi, Hinata and Ooyama chose to fight to the end, with Otonashi as the leader. Shiina appears later, urging Otonashi to follow Yuri to the Guild – and overtaking responsibility for the “fighters”. Otonashi, Naoi and Hinata head for the Guild.
Cha, one of the original founders of SSS, provides Yuri with a light machine gun. He then disappears, much like the GirlDeMo members.
While Yuri rests after heading the wrong way, she gets attacked by the shadows – and is temporarily consumed by one. There she temporarily becomes an NPC, much like what happened to Takamatsu.
She’s a normal schoolgirl, even with a full name – Nakamura Yuri – and is living a normal schoolgirl’s life. However, she vaguely remembers that something is wrong, and when asked to read a section of the textbook, Yuri details how nice it must to live a normal life of a NPC. How peaceful, stress-free it is. However, Yuri makes it clear that she will NOT become a NPC, because her life, the cruel life she had, is hers – and hers only, and she will fight on.
After being able to come back from the world of NPCs, she meets up with Kanade, Otonashi, Naoi and Hinata. With their help, she reaches Computer Room #2, where she finds walls of computers, and one boy who’s been programmed into this world.
He is voiced by Ishida Akira from EVANGELION. He reveals the structure of this world to Yuri.
This world was created by humans in the distant past.
Angel Player is a method to create and modify anything.
The shadow is a program that activates when love emerges in this world. If there is love, this world will simply become the “eternal paradise”.
But people were meant to graduate from this world.
Bugs do occur, like when Otonashi, a person that lived with reason and led a rewarded life may wander into this world accidentally. The programmer – who is among the NPCs – noticed this bug, and fixed the program. The shadows were a way to “reset” this world.
The programmer of ANGEL PLAYER knew love in the past – but the girl who he fell in love with has left the world and he was not able to stay sane.
However, he says that it is possible for Yuri to change this world – to become God. Yuri pointedly refuses such possibility. Her reason for coming this far was to protect those she loved. The heart on the monitors turn red – she was the source of the love that emerged in this world.
Destroying the computers and falling to her knees, she accepts the cruel life God forced upon her. The life that stole her brothers and sisters in 30 minutes. She accepts all of it.
Her dead siblings talk to her in what must be her dream. What the siblings tell Yuri finally lets her release her emotions. More on this in a bit.
The ending credits feature all members of the SSS.
While I thought that all members had entered nirvana, including Yuri, that was not the case. The episode ends wordlessly.
The lyrics of “Brave Song” said this:
Everyone becomes alone someday, living on only in their memories
Even so it’s fine, I will call these peaceful feelings “my companions”
Living somewhere I will someday forget the days that I spent with everyone as well
At that time I won’t be strong anymore
I will let my tears drop with the weakness of a normal girl
When her dead siblings talked to Yuri in her dreams, they told Yuri that “it’s fine, it’s been enough…you won’t have to struggle anymore, older sister. Thank you for so long.” Yuri starts wailing “like a normal girl”.
Also, when she was nearly turned into an NPC, she nearly “forgot the days that she spent with everyone”.
The end was slightly curious for me. After watching through the episode the first time, about halfway through I expected that everyone will disappear this episode, and in EP13 the world after the SSS would be shown. I took this straight out of AIR, where in the end, it showed a girl and a boy walking down the beach – they were the next reincarnation of Misuzu and Yukito.
But looking at the end of EP12. it’s clear that something will be happening next episode. In the preview, you can hear Otonashi speaking as the representative of the graduating students. Perhaps all of SSS will disappear, including Kanade. Personally I think that Kanade will end up staying in this world. She was here before Yui, before anyone else.