More and more it seems that Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta is turning into one of those shows I like in spite of itself – or in spite of myself, depending on how you look at it. I can sit back and pick this series apart pretty mercilessly, and there seem to be not a few moments in every episode that introduce the head to the desk with extreme prejudice. Yet more often that not I’m caught up in what’s happening anyway, which is a testament to the execution of the dramatic side of things.
I’ll get to the those head-desk moments soon enough, but there were some nice things happening here early on, starting with the long overdue reveal about Igancio’s past. There are no huge surprises here – a bastard son of a concubine and probably Karl’s half-brother isn’t far off from what I and I suspect most of you would have guessed. But as usual the execution sells the moment, and the timing and circumstances (beating the crap out of Karl while knee-deep in a pond) of Ignacio’s coming out party (even if it was via narration) were pretty effective.
There’s a tendency with this series not to tell the audience much. That’s fine to a point, but we’re only two episodes from the end now and we’re only just finding out who Ignacio is. We still don’t really know why Isla is where it is doing what it’s doing, and why the Waterfall at the End of the Universe is so damn important, or who the Sky Clan are. We can infer certain things based on the scraps of information we get, and sometimes be on the mark – but I think Toaru Hikuushi would have been better served to lay out the stakes in plainer terms earlier in the story. It’s executed the “what” part pretty well, but struggled with the “why”.
I continue to be amazed at the sheer incompetence of Isla’s military leadership, and I’m glad to see that finally having a real impact on the minds of the characters. When Melze demands that the students go out on a suicide mission to escort their observation plane during the next Sky Clan attack, Bandareas and Palez both snap – in quite different ways. Sonia, in fact, quits the military on the spot rather than carry out the order – and she appeals to the surviving students to evacuate with the civilians rather than follow it themselves. That’s the sort of thing that can get you a date with a firing squad during wartime, and it took considerable guts for her to do so – but not all of the students are of a similar mind.
Here’s where the episode totally lost me, though. I hated pretty much every moment of the next few minutes – the leaden, hackneyed speeches by the boys, the simpering of the girls, and most of all the incredibly sexist way it all played out. When Mitsuo died and Chiharu survived I had the same thought briefly, but that was one time – this is now a pattern. The girls all tearfully stay behind while the brave boys go off to give their lives, ordering them to come back safe from their suicide mission – I mean, seriously? I’m of the view that none of the students should have gone, personally, given that the entire scenario was set up by the incompetence of their leaders and they didn’t stand to be of much use anyway – but even if you buy Noriaki (who seems to be acting mostly out of guilt about Mitty’s death) and Karl’s reasoning here, to have it play out like something from the 30’s left a very bad taste in my mouth. I’m surprised the girls didn’t promise to have a nice hot meal waiting when the boys came back from the fight.
Well, that is what it is, and there’s nothing to be done about it. And the rest of the ep was fine – as usual, the combat scenes were quite good. I was especially pleased to see Ignacio actually fighting with a proper weapon, though his ridiculous skill with it might test realism somewhat. My greatest hope at this point is that the last couple of episodes give some meaning to all this carnage. I’d like to see this series placed in context with the larger mythology, and the reasons why the story has played out as it has fleshed out in considerably more detail. More realistically, though, if we have a definitive conclusion for Karl and Claire I’d consider that coming out ahead of the game.