Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta hasn’t closed the sale with me yet, but so far it’s looking like one of those shows where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s hard to single out specific elements from this episode that impressed me, but I find the atmospherics pretty captivating and most of the characters (including the romantic leads) quite likeable. The world-building is good, and there seems to be enough potential in the plot to suggest that it might eventually catch up to it.
This week’s episode was a pretty heavy infodump, which isn’t normally a positive development for me but in this instance I found it flew by (pun intended) pretty quickly. There were many, many new faces – some played by pretty big names. We had the requisite arrogant young nobleman, Fausto Fidel Melze (Hoshi Soichirou) introduced while bullying commoner student Kashiwabara Noriaki (Shimono Hiro, who seems to be the seiyuu equivalent of the old adage that owners and their pets start to look alike) for spilling ice cream on his uniform. There’s the well-spoken osananjimi pair of Sharon Marcoz (Hayami Saori) and Benjamin Sharif (Tachibana Shinnosuke) and high-schooler in the body of an oji-san Wolfgang Baumann (Tanzawa Teruyuki), and a bunch if other students I’ll name when they become important enough to matter.
The politics of the story are starting to become clear. There seems to have been a revolution at some point in the recent past, with the royalists having been overthrown in the name of supposedly egalitarian system, but the reality – as evidenced by the apartheid between the nobles and commoners on Isla – proves otherwise. It’s Benjamin who asks the relevant question – just what exactly are these kids (and all the other armed forces at its disposal) supposed to protect Isla from? The one in charge of speaking propaganda to the kids seems to be Luis de Alarcon (Kosugi Juurota), and he’s not telling – though he does tell the students Isla is searching for “The End of the Sky”. Also in a powerful role is Fausto’s father Leopold (Yuusaku Yara). The commoner’s teacher is Juan Rodrigo Banderas (Kuroda Takaya) the kind of Mediterranean European that only shows up in anime.
One thing that certainly strikes you here is what an interesting melange of names – Germanic, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Japanese – we have here, though it may just be that the light-novelist likes to mess around with names (he did name his lead after Superman and Dumbledore, after all). Speaking of Kal-el, the bombshell about him is the biggest one, and it’s Ignacio Axis that drops it – his real name is Karl la Hire, and he’s the former crown price of the Balesteros Empire. That doesn’t come as a surprise, but the politics of the story do frame Kar-el’s current goals in an interesting light. He seems to be part of the group that was overthrown, but acts like an egalitarian. Is that just naked self-interest, or strongly-held ideals?
It’s an interesting mish-mash of plot threads, here. The whole business with the waterfall at the end of the sky is pretty reminiscent of Last Exile, and indeed in many ways this series is starting to take on the feel of a Gonzo series from a decade ago – which I would by no means consider a bad thing. Naming conventions, visual stlye, broad plot structure – it has a very Gonzo feel, as does the grand, theatrical nature of the dialogue. The main course so far is the brewing romance between Claire and Kar-el, which I quite like – it was certainly fun to see him poach her as a training partner from right under Fausto’s upturned nose, using courtly manners to do so. Both Kar-el and Claire are sporting two identities, which adds a nice element of uncertainty to their charming and otherwise straightforward puppy love. None of this is exactly riveting yet, but factoring it all in together I’m definitely starting to get more involved. My gut is still telling me that this series is a slow developer that’s going to continue to grow in interest, and eventually become a very strong series. But that could just be the optimist in me (and the desperation for series to follow this season) talking.