Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 07

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Raise your hand if you didn’t see that coming.

I’m not going to sprain my shoulder patting myself on the back for getting the events of this episode exactly right last week – though I did, right down to the timing and the identity of the deceased.  Fact is your elevator would pretty much not have to go to the top floor for you to miss this if you call yourself an anime fan.  I don’t want to say it was telegraphed, but I checked the credits and last week’s episode was written by Samuel Morse.

Let’s not kid ourselves – it’s not exactly great writing when you craft something that such a slave to convention that it has absolutely no choice but to go exactly where it’s supposed to go.  For all that, though, I have to give it up for Toaru Hikuushi because I actually really felt this episode even in spite of the predictability.  It’s one thing to execute a plot development that’s completely formulaic, but it’s another to do it badly – and this was not done at all badly, even if last week’s setup was awkward.  As for the tragic events themselves, I thought they were very well-played.

There was a truth uttered here – “there’s no such thing as a battle where people don’t die”.  There’s not much more subtlety to the roles than there is to the foreshadowing – Melze is absolutely being set up as the heavy here, in every way.  He’s the one who insisted in sending the students into supposedly safe (HA!)  recon duty, and he’s the one who fell for the enemy’s rather obvious stunt of using a dummy fleet to lure the Isla Knights away, leaving it defenseless for the real fleet to attack.  And he’s also the one who seems to have seriously underestimated the strength and technology of the enemy (which is also no doubt exactly as they wanted).

Yes, if you send students on missions in a war zone, some of them are going to die.  And it was obvious one would be Mitty, with the only real question being whether Chiharu would also join the choir invisible.  As cliched deaths go, Mitty got himself a pretty good one.  He proved himself to be calm and resourceful under pressure, he followed procedures to the letter, and he managed to tip off the location of the enemy fleet – which was flying dark (as noted, an enormously confident thing to do) so as to avoid being targeted.  A classic self-sacrifice on Mitsuo’s part, pretty much – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.  I’m not quite sure why he couldn’t have ejected himself – perhaps he felt he could draw enemy fire away from Chiharu if he stayed on the plane, and/or that he was a goner from his wound anyway.  But the fact is that an ejected pilot in the middle of an enemy fleet is pretty much a dead pilot, and Chiharu would have been had Banderas and Sonia not showed up at precisely the right moment.

While that drama was playing out, Kal-el and Claire were left behind – not at all surprisingly – along with Ignacio and Ariel, among others.  Eventually Claire is collected by Ulshyrra (who calls Claire “the Governor” of Isla) and, interestingly, Ignacio is chosen to go with her as a bodyguard.  But with more attacks coming and the entire fleet of actual pilots already in the air, you know it’s only a matter of time before the kids disregard orders and go join them.  Fausto (I’m still wondering if he’ll be turned from the dark side) and his lackeys are the first to do so, and it’s upon seeing this that Karl announces that he’s going to take to the air as well. Ariel is predictably reluctant but eventually caves, and now we have the interesting development of seeing the step-siblings re-teamed for the first time since their arrival, and in the middle of a battle too.

I liked the way the episode handled the scenes with Mitty and Chiharu, alone behind enemy lines, and the way it manouvered between them and the other centers of action.  It was also probably the most well-directed episode of the series – beautifully framed and drawn.  Lipstick on a pig?  Yeah, this was pure formula, but it really did work for me – mostly.  Now comes the real test, though, when Toaru Hikuushi has to make sense of the somewhat messy tangle of plot threads it’s already woven, and craft them into a compelling final arc.

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  1. t

    so far so good.
    after 6 eps established the foundations, Toaru Hikuushi gives us what we sought to. first, aerial combat. it was satisfying enough after so long wait. we had battle in the big picture and with some thought behind it. also focused on individual level – Mitty who performed so well as pilot be it in recon mission or anything. sure, there is still a way to go for this to be really fabulous (and I doubt it will be). but I think for Toaru Hikuushi it's good enough. at least for now.

    second of all, the beginning of the drama along with this cruel world/journey.
    as they said, in a battle/war people die. that's how it is. and as last week gave us the death flag, Mitty didn't make it. I thought maybe Chiharu won't make it too, but it's better that way. her tears in the end were a genuine feeling toward the audience. I didn't feel it as pushy or something. I definitely felt her pain and agony. I am not saying it was that touching, but I think they conveyed the right touch of feeling.
    and obviously it won't end here. her friends are still fighting (some of them will start to defend Isla next week) and she is going to return to them afterwards. this will definitely gonna affect the moral. how much this group is united (as we've seen Mitty and Chiharu guessing what their friends will think)'s going to be a blow for them…

    no surprises with Ignacio. I think it was quite clear that he is watching Claire (Nina). and we know he is one of the few knowing about Kal-el being Karl.
    I didn't think he knew Claire is powerless. but if he knows..fine. not a big change.

    all in all, a good episode. starting to pull out what I wanted from Toaru Hikuushi.
    but there is still a way to go in the last 5 eps. so far it's in the right direction and pace, which has increased, though they must increased it a bit even more next weeks. but not too much. I think they know what they are doing.

  2. B

    good episode, there's real talent in making something that was done hundred of times and still be able to make it enjoyable. I'm quite surprised that Chiharu survived, i wonder what 'll they do with her character now.
    What worries me is that the conflict is just beginning and we are nearly halfway through the show. I hope they are gunning for a second season, otherwise this is going to be rushed. We don't even know who are they fighting or why are they fighting in the first place and they have a lot of political stuff to work on, i can't see this ending in five episodes without leaving some loose ends.

  3. S

    Another disappointing episode. I very much disliked how they handled the scenes with Mitsuo and Chiharu. If they wanted to create an emotional impact (on me, anyway), both of them should’ve died after they chose to sacrifice themselves i.e. after shooting flares to reveal the enemy’s location. However, the long-drawn out aftermath was a case of unrealistic, odd-defying airplane maneuvers for the sake of creating generic forced melodrama. This plot device has been done so many times and lacks impact due to the terrible execution.
    I did, though, like the reveal of Ignacio as a bodyguard of Claire, but I don't see this show's quality rising because of it.

  4. K

    Wasn't sure what I wanted more; either both Mitsuo and Chiharu survives the ordeal and completely subverts the deaths flags, or both of them dying so we won't have to deal with all the inevitable Chiharu tears and angst.
    The series would have been the same, or even better off without them. If the end of the series becomes really rushed, I'll know who and what episode(s) to blame.

    This show is still pretty average for me, but the "end of the world waterfall" and the "Claire Cruz is actually Nina Viento reveal" are the few things keeping my interest.

  5. m

    Last week I really thought I wouldn't care about such random characters dying after being forced to the forefront of an episode in an obvious attempt to give their death more weight. That being said I did feel it a lot more than I expected, and that's bc (just as you said Enzo) it was done well. Though the tactics used by the enemy were so very poorly written. How little value do they place on their friends lives that they would send so many of them to die (last weeks attacks and this weeks first group) just to gain an advantage in battle. Leaving aside the fact that they were already technologically superior and didn't need to bother with such things, they sent a large number of their soldiers on what amounts to a suicide mission in the hopes that it leads to a surprise attack….it was so forced and ridiculous that it begs the question: how did they get such advanced technology if they are so simple minded and have so little care for the lives of their compatriots?

  6. K

    Mitty was a nice guy and we all know what happen to nice guys. Also, what is up with the Sky clan? Why are they even fighting in the first place? I like to think Isla is the good side but they seem to shady for me…

  7. I thought they finished last?

  8. m

    I'm not sure if there's a good side for this battle as far as a reason for fighting is concerned. Isla is just defending itself, and seemed to know the Sky clan existed and would likely attack them, and the Sky clan has something the deem worthy of protection, but neither specifically lends itself to good/bad at least not yet. Though Isla always seems like they're up to something, and the way the Sky clan sacrificed so many of their men just in the attempt of setting an ambush seems a bit heartless. At least too heartless to consider them truly "good" in the usual anime justice sense.

  9. c

    No Enzo, They just really have Advanced Wireless Technology…Forget Telegraphed, I believe Marconi have some hands on this…

    If I have to pinpoint one thing thing that keeps this series the most, it is the too-cliched formula to to taken seriously by modern viewers…

    But eh, I'm still Intrigued by the Lore, and the execution can't be called bad…

    Even so, under all of the cliched outer layer, there is much more about the world that are untold…creating air of mystery to be unfold…Either it is the style where the creators does not spoon fed the audience and let them find themselves, or is Episode length restriction the culprit?

    Yeah, seems like the recruit will die one by one in coming episode as foreshadowed in the 1st episode…From the OP, it is likely that the recruits would find themselves crashing or bailing out into the Sky Clan Floating Island base, and have to survive in the ground.

    Ignacio have more things that haven't been told yet. I feel he have more secrets that merely as Claire's Bodyguard of some sorts.

    I say The Isla Holy Spring Expedition is an elaborate scheme to purge the Post-Wind Revolution Balesteros from possibly destabilizing elements within The Federation itself, presented as a Holy Voyage of Discovery.

    De Alarcon is a good Commander, and Banderas is an Ace Pilot; Both Heroes of The Revolution. However, they also somewhat of loose cannons, and know too much about the dark secrets, the truth behind the revolution.
    Its not told about Sonia and Amelia Cervantes, both seems to be professional and skilled, perhaps some scandal or accident landed them on Isla. These people, Claire included, seems know that this mission is a Grand Reassignment to Oblivion…

    But The Melze Family and the rest of The Blue-Blooded Recruits? They doesn't even seem to realize this! Or are they willing Volunteers? Perhaps the the inner circle of The Republic just want to get rid of Hawkish, Old Knightly Balesteros' Aristocrats that does not have help or would possibly hinder the post-revolution reforms…I mean, they look so gung-ho about this: The Senior Leopold charged directly at the so-called "Barbarian" Fleet, and The Junior Fidel led his buddies against a swarm of Light Bombers only with Bolt-Action Rifles…

    At least The Sky Knights are really good at their jobs and not just a bunch of Glory-Seeking Knight Wannabees…

    Perhaps its something like this: After the Boshin War the Samurai Class are abolished. Clan Higher-ups which supported The Emperor can position themselves into Influential places in the new Government; however most of the many lower-ranking Samurai lost their privileges in the society. In the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration, Samurai Rebellions sprang up out of dissatisfaction. One of the notable ideas that come out from this era from Former samurai cliques, is the plan for an Expeditionary War against Korea; merely In order to provide a place for many Samurai to get meaningful death in the new Imperial Armed Forces(!)

    Do The new Republican Government planned this far? To what extent do them know about The Sky Clans? Are they willing to sacrifice a Holy Flying Island that floats out of unknown technology for this? Is getting rid of possibly valuable assets in this is acceptable? Do they expect the expedition even suceeds?
    Man, my mind flew too far…

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