I’ve enjoyed the world-building episodes of the last several weeks (and I’ll gladly fight the legions who disagree with me), but I was strongly inclined to believe we were about to see a sharp upturn in both the “canon” level, E7-wise, and the intensity. And boy, did we ever get them this week. I think those world-building eps were necessary for roughly similar reasons to the buildup eps in Seirei no Moribito and Tsuritama that people complained about, and the payoff will come in the second half of the series. It’s actually started to come while we’re still at the tail-end of the first cour in AO’s case, which means we’re likely in for an intense and dramatic second half of the series. Every one of those episodes was telling us something vital we needed to know about the world of Astral Ocean – it just wasn’t being terribly obvious about it. Now it appears Aikawa Shou and his writers are asking “Were you paying attention?”
And not just to the first Decalogue of AO episodes, but to the original E7 as well, as it’s clearer than ever now (though I was never in doubt) that this is a true sequel. This really feels like a BONES series now more than ever, with its increasingly intricate plot and “kids vs. the world” themes. Aikawa-sensei is not a writer who gives up his mysteries easily (see UN-GO) but rather makes the audience work to connect the dots themselves. That increasingly makes me think that The Truth is Aikawa’s avatar on screen, acting as The Pied Piper to the cast (no matter what Ivica says) much as Aikawa is to the viewer.
Let the theorizing begin – I have no more definitive answers than anyone else, but it’s certainly fun to speculate. I made note of some small stuff – for example, GenBleu’s employee file lists Ao as 13 years old (Fleur as 16, Elena as 15), which struck me as odd as he was referred to as 12. But then I noticed that his birthday was this week (6/27/12 – Happy birthday, Ao) and I tend to believe that date was conspicuously included for a reason. I also thought it odd that BONES placed the Cavern Club in Manchester and not Liverpool – another “this world is incorrect” hint?
The meat of the mystery in this ep was certainly Elena and her identities. Remember way back when, when it was insinuated that Elena was actually Miller, the idol? Turns out the reality is a whole lot more complicated than that. In the first place I think the name itself and the Japanization of it, “Miller/Mirror”, is clever and possibly significant given the circumstances. What are we told? Miller and Elena are two different people who look alike – Miller/Mirror notes “Maybe we’re related.” And Miller was acting as a spy for the US Government, but Elena at some point began to impersonate Miller the spy (if not the idol) and give info to the Americans – though whether than info was good or not we can’t be sure. And Miller herself appears to have been some sort of “alien” creature composed of trapar particles that look like sand, and which have the ability to induce hallucinations in the minds of children who grew up in trapar-intense areas.
Did we mention that growing up in such places supposedly induces changes in a child’s brain? That’s important because it’s those changes that make children able to pilot an IFO. But there’s much, much more here. Gazelle, investigating the Miller-Elena spy angle, seems to be getting closer to sniffing out the truth that The Truth keeps referring to. Along the way he discovers that Elena apparently died five years earlier – which begs the obvious question, who is the Elena we see at GenBleu now? Rebecka makes reference to Ao being “physically different” and Christophe adds “And Ao” – and Rebecka refers to them as “Secrets”. Not only that, but it’s clear from Elena’s hallucination that she’s connected to Eureka and the world “our” Eureka comes from – because we see her with Eureka on a very familiar beach and best of all, we see a very familiar moon with two names on it. Could Elena be Ao’s sister (the eyes say it’s possible)? A Coralian? Could she be possibly be Anemone and Dominic’s child – providing a connection to what looks like typeTheEND beneath GenBleu headquarters – in a cavern Elena posing as spy-Miller tells the Americans looks like remains of “alien technology”?
There are obviously way more questions than answers there, but for now that’s the way the ledger looks. My feeling from watching this episode was that the GenBleu pilots are rats in a cage, living inside an artificial world they’re made to believe is real. Trapar Miller/Mirror might not have been their friend, but I’m not so sure she was the enemy either, just as I’m not sure The Truth is. I thought the aftermath of the crash scene was very interesting, with Ivica wrapping Ao and Elena in a bear hug – and then, after a moment’s hesitation, Ao hugging him back. My gut is telling me that Ivica is playing along with the ones doing the experiment on the rats, but that it’s killing him inside – I think what he feels for the kids is genuine, and he’s carrying a load of guilt above and beyond that associated with his time in the Balkans.
In addition to the huge and excellent mystery element, I enjoyed a lot of the smaller character moments and humor this week – like Rebecka chopping George’s nose off when he got off on one of his long-winded explanations, and his deeply offended response. We also had some nice banter that seemed to put a damper on any Ao-Fleur speculation (which I never believed, anyway) courtesy of a typically indelicate Dad-like question posed by Christophe (she’s too old for Ao, if nothing else). It appears that we’re finally ready for Naru’s re-entry into the story next week, as well as Ao’s first taste of space combat – which should give the animators at BONES a chance to strut their stuff.