I think I’ve figured out why Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta often seems to work better as a series than it “deserves” to – why all the exasperating logic holes and sexism and overzealous foreshadowing can’t quite sink the dreadnought. Inside this deeply flawed and modestly budgeted show beats the heart of a sprawling, operatic and grandiose beast. The realities of the adaptation can’t bring it out most of the time, but it means that at its most outlandish moments the show is being most true to itself. The whole somehow always manages to be more than the sum of the parts (except for the inane ramen episode).
If there was ever an episode where Toaru Hikuushi e no Hikuushi showed its bloodlines, it was this one. More than ever it was easy to see the connection between it and Toaru Hikuushi e no Tsuioku – not just the narrative links made so obvious at the end, but the temperamental similarities too. That, of course, was a big-screen movie made by a great studio, and as a result it was able to let the aspirations of the author shine through a good chunk of the time. But in its humbler way, an episode like this reminds us that the same hand wrote this story as that one.
Admiral Melze continues to annoy the hell out of me, even as he finally shows a sliver of worth this week. As Benji and Noriaki are risking their lives to carry on the observation mission, Melze actually has the gall the hesitate and waste precious seconds while deciding whether the observations of mere students can be trusted. Seriously? How dare he – those kids are out there dying because of his incompetent command. I think it would be fairer for Noripii and Benji to question whether Melze and his lackeys can be trusted to actually do something useful with the information they’re providing.
Fortunately (with Claire’s sales pitch ringing in his ears) Melze finally does something useful with Benji’s reports and manages to sink the Sky Clan battleship, though not before taking serious damage. Meanwhile Karl and Iggy are trying (unsuccessfully) to help Nori and Benji and sinking whatever enemy fighters they can – which is rather too many to be believed, as Ignacio is a superhuman marksman. But the Sky Clan fighter-bombers land another volley on the flagship, fatal this time, and it begins its final descent.
Here’s the headline piece of the episode, and maybe the series so far. Claire is resigned to die (the scene between she and de Alarcon has a rather nice dignity to it) but wants to express her regrets to Karl first. It’s an utterly preposterous scene – Claire standing on deck as the flagship sinks, professing her love, Karl swooping by in his student fighter – but it totally works dramatically (that’s Toaru Hikuushi in a nutshell). And Karl’t forgiveness (which he somehow communicates to Claire) seems to unblock her “Priestess of the Wind” powers, and she manages to call up a cyclone which destroys the enemy fleet and deposits both the flagship and Karl and Iggy’s plane safely and gently on solid ground (or water, in the flagship’s case).
The message here is at least consistent – Karl’s mother has been telling him all along that forgiveness was vital to his future, so it’s fitting that forgiving Claire should save the day. Ignacio isn’t quite ready to forgive yet – pretty douche-y move not to shake Karl’s hand after they faced death together – but he may yet come around. Benji and Noripii are saved by Banderas, though Benji may need to find work as a slot machine since his flying days are likely over. And then there’s the arrival of the mysterious El Bastel – the flagship of Fana Lavamme, which one suspects was waiting for Nina Viento to show her powers before intervening in the battle. They take care of the rest of the enemy and all seems well, but Karl tells us that “one more sacrifice” is going to be needed. Since his narrator status implies it won’t be him, that leaves Claire as seemingly the most likely candidate – and so far at least, this series has tended to follow the most obvious course where foreshadowing is involved.