I’ve made note of the somewhat unorthodox approach to storytelling of Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – “quite an unusual narrative style” was how I put it past week – and that was certainly in evidence here. Again we have an episode that was quite good on the whole, but I’m struggling with trying to place all of these events in any kind of logical sequence. It’s more than simply a matter of the frequent flashbacks – this ep, in fact, was entirely set in the present. But in watching I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d forgotten to watch an episode and been dumped in the middle of a storyline I didn’t know existed.
I’ve been thinking about what all this puts me in mind of as a viewer, and it’s almost as all of the episodes were dumped into a hat, and their broadcast sequence determined by random selection. Somehow the overall drift of the plot is coherent and the major characters have managed to establish themselves, but (and this too I’ve mentioned before) there’s a lot of stuff and a lot of characters in the background that feel pretty indistinct.
I’m not sure why, just as Isla has arrived at the Waterfall at the End of the Sky, we suddenly dipped into a story about the trainees opening a ramen-ya. Or why this was the moment to jump into a romantic subplot between Chiharu and Mitsuo, two of those indistinct characters for whom there’s really been no romantic development. The sense that we’ve missed something that would explain this is strong here, but it appears we’re just supposed to go with the flow – today it’s a ramen restaurant and a third-tier romantic subplot. We also, for good measure, get a spur trail featuring de Alarcon and Banderas being old friends from their training days, and Banderas having clocked a rear admiral for sending a bunch of bomber pilots to their death. But that, at least, is quite apparently relavent.
Toaru does the slice-of-life pretty well most of the time – not always and not superbly, but pretty well – and so it is here. We did get a clue a few weeks back that ramen was a specialty of the Albus household, and Ariel has apparently inherited the gene to cook it. Why and when was the decision made to open “Ari-men”? How did the students get the money to start the business, the location to set it up and the time to run it? Who knows – and I don’t expect we’ll ever find out (in fact I won’t be surprised if we don’t hear another word about it after this week). But there’s some amusing hijinks in the kitchen and some decent food porn (I’m a sucker for ramen, and that chashu looks amazing). Also, Ignacio again makes a brief foray into the story, stepping in as the noodle prep cook when Ari is off bandaging Claire’s fingers (yeah, no cliches at work there).
One offshoot of this is the aforementioned development for Mitsuo and Chiharu, which figures to be their last because they just hoisted one of the most enormous death flags you’ll ever see. When I see two characters sitting in the moonlight making pledges about “flying these skies with you forever”, I have to wonder if this is intended as parody – but given the way the beach stuff played out last week, I suspect this series just has a lead foot when it comes to the tropes. My money is on Mitsuo being the one to go first, since he actually said the above line – but it could be either, or both. And I expect it to be soon, too.
It seems a sacrifice is going to be necessary, because Melze (his family certainly seems to be setting up as the villains of the moment, though the son may come around) intends to use the students to fly reconnaissance missions despite the fact that the Sky Clan have engaged hostilities. de Alarcon is against the idea and Banderas even more so (rightly) but it’s clearly going to happen, so it seems at least that the Mitty-Chiharu stuff – even if oddly staged – is plot-relevant. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Sky Clan, the Waterfall, and the politics behind Karl’s presence on this voyage. That and the fact that there already seemed too much here for a one-cour show makes spending an entire episode on ramen seem like an even stranger decision, but I’m still mostly bought into the premise here, so for now at least Toaru Hikuushi still gets the benefit of the doubt.