Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 06

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Well, that was odd.

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.

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  1. R

    and i thought that i am the only one who find this episode off. i really don't know what to make of this ep, it felt more like a breather but its drop from the current story was way too off. and it is too obvious that they are setting up mitty and chiharu as the first casualties.

    what i am really interested to know is why is luis de alarcon so willing to let claire enjoy her student life freely. and why did claire decide to go into pilot training anyway? hope they start answering that soon.

  2. H

    I'm a week behind with the CR subs but I did just finish episode 5 yesterday and then do the two minute preview of episode 6 and I was a bit lost as well. I think it's because they ended on that dramatic note of people defending the spring in airplanes and then, well, they were taken care of off screen guys, next thing!

  3. T

    For some reason I have this weird feeling that the show is going to go saving private ryan on us with the battle with the barbarians. I know it won't but it seems like the perfect set up for them to just start offing side characters a bit. The way they fight from their planes just have Mitsuo get pinged in the head as the gunner then have Chiharu kamikaze their plane. It is very morbid but I have this underlying feeling that it could be done.

  4. S

    I know it’s supposed to be a calm before the storm episode, but it was very badly executed. It felt like a pointless filler episode to show off how moe anime characters can be when they eat delicious ramen. If this episode was cut out, the series would probably still feel continuous.

    So far the show still holds a somewhat promising story and world-building, but I feel the execution and direction doesn’t live up to it. It’s filled with annoying anime tropes and the characters are imo the weakest point of the series.

  5. w

    Agreed. Though I don't think it was badly executed, just needless. The Ari-ramen shop had quite a bit of charm to it, but I kind of watched it and went "Why?" Especially when they obviously have so much world and story here that they can work from and only twelve episodes to do it in.

    I've kind of felt from the start that this has always been a little worse than it should be. It's been 'pretty good' the whole way, but if it were adapted differently I think it could have been excellent.

  6. m

    The episode total for this series is far too low for them to waste an entire episode setting up the death of those two (Mitsuo and Chiharu). Due to the next weeks title it really feels like this episode was used to try to raise the emotional impact of their upcoming deaths (well I assume it's them or else this episode makes even less sense). Maybe in a two cour show this concept would work, but it seems like it should've been built a little each episode, but since it was forgotten they tried to force it on us which doesn't make me care more, if anything maybe less bc I was annoyed having two random characters shove the main plots (which are quite numerous) out of the way so I would care more about their deaths. Instead of the viewers caring it would've worked better showing the impact from the perspective of the leads, not bc the viewers liked Mitsuo and Chiharu.

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