Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 09

With 15 Ades battleships captured, Fam has fulfilled her contract with the Silvius and is free to go. Gisey intends to return to Kartoffel, ashamed of her failure and in bad spirits. She snaps at Fam, but realizes the error of her ways when she sees Millia making food for her and Fam out of gratitude. Gisey remembers it’s Fam’s birthday, so while Fam’s busy retrieving the last battleship and playing hockey on the deck, she and Millia prepare a surprise party for her. There, Fam decides to stay aboard until Turan is free. The party is crashed by Tatiana’s superior officer, Vincent Alzey, of Anatoray-Disith.

Alas, not every episode can be epic sky battles, so this one slows the action down and takes a breather. It’s not bad, as slice-of-life respites go; allowing for a pretty excellent impromptu game of broom hockey atop the ship in which even the captain and first mate participate. It also allows for some character work, mostly focused on Gisey, her long-standing, sister-like bond with Fam, and her recent crisis of confidence. We were expecting this character conflict to result in their split up and an extended break apart, but it didn’t. It’s cleared up pretty nicely in this episode.

Basically, Gisey sucks it up and stops berating herself. She is amazing, neither pathetic or incompetent. Fam has a nice scene with Dio in which they share their long-held belief their respective Navis were always on the same wavelength, and their feelings were always reaching them. Just as Fam can’t fly without a ship, she can’t fly without Gisey. Yes, Millia took her place on one sortie, but Millia could never truly replace Gisey, either in the navi’s seat or in Fam’s heart. So rather than returning to Kartoffel, Fam will continue to be Millia’s wings…and Gisey Fam’s navi.

Rating: 3.5

Ben-To – 10

Just as You is discharged from hospital, and being given a slow regime to reenter the fray, the Sawagi twins step up their vicious attacks on established wolves. No one remembers their idenity when they’re beaten, so they’re referred to as Orthos, the two-headed mythical dog and brother to Cerberus. Everyone save You, who remembers them as the sexy nurse(s) from the hospital. They dispatch him, then return to fight both him and Sen. Their combo attacks utilizing shopping baskets prove too much for the other wolves, and Sen is roundly defeated. The twins put the ball in her court as to how to respond in the future.

Holy bento, there was a nice piece of creative, insane, off-the-wall (and ceiling) combat, perhaps the best sustained fight thus far, and of a different style than those before. These Sawagi twins are a serious threat, as Sen can only keep up with them for so long. Even You inserting himself in the fight to try to even the odds fails, and we believe this is Sen’s first true, utter defeat. By the end, it isn’t close, either; the twins don’t have a scratch on them as they leave. In TNG, you know the bad guy’s tough if he can beat Worf so easily; here Sen is a similar barometer of a foe’s efficacy.

Besides the phenomenal battles and the soundtracks accompanying them (pumping up the goofy J-muzak to herald the start of a brawl is a really nice touch), we also applaud Ben-To’s consistency in the strength of its cast. Shaga is strong, but there’s a limit to her abilities, and she falls quicker to the twins than Sen. Ditto You. Extensive teamwork and some luck were necessary to take out the Monarch; even more clever tactics will need to be used to neutralize Orthos’ devastating coordinated attacks. They move as one. Yet even in the face of having their entire Bento game broken up by these ruthless twins, there are still moments when You can say things like “buying a hot dog with two sausages in it!” upon realization his nurse was actually twins.

Rating: 4