Ignacio Axis remembers being a useless burden to his mother after they were were evicted from the palace. This episode opens with the sad tale of his wretched childhood, not just to sympathize with the guy a little, but because it shows that he played the hand he was dealt. So he struggled and strove for years to become useful…and succeeded. Then we segue to Ignacio beating the stuffing out of Kal-el.
No doubt Ignacio has been motivated for years by hatred of the emperor and the price who had things so easy, but Ignacio disgusted with Kal-el’s attitude because it reminds him of the useless boy he was. Only Kal-el isn’t a boy, and under the circumstances has no right to give up and shut down, not even acknowledging what Ari’s going through. When Ignacio finally leaves him alone, Kal-el, thoroguhly tenderized, has scarcely a minute to think about the hand he’s dealt when the air raid sirens spool up.
The trainee pilots are once again conscripted by Melze, who doesn’t really have any other choice, after squandering so much of his force in the last battle. An observation plane needs escorts, and the kids know how to fly, so in they go. Rodrigo and Sonia are having none of it; Rodrigo tires to physically force the planes from being prepped, and Sonia flat-out quits the military and gives the students not an order, but a request, that they evacuate with the other civilians. Many of the students go, and not for a second did we blame them.
We know everyone who stays, and they all have their reasons. Noriaki’s still sore about how his last words to Mitsuo were an insult; Benji wants to prove to Sharon, whom he loves, that he’s stronger than her (and can thus protect her, we imagine). Ari would go, but she’s injured. And then Kal shows up, and decides to stop being useless. Right on queue, Ignacio shows up to be his gunner. Due to the events of the last battle, we were inclined to believe no one, save Kal, was a sure thing to come back alive.
While we’ll grant that all four of the guys have reasons to go, it’s disappointing none of the pilots going into battle are women. Ariel may be injured, but we thought for sure some combination of Sharon, Chiharu, and Nanako would man a third plane…and yet they stayed behind. It just seemed like an odd choice to have all the guys go and all the ladies stay. That being said, the gender sorting was followed by another thrilling white-knuckle battle, this time in the daylight.
We won’t critique the specific military tactics employed here; this show never let on it was a hard military procedural, but it’s fantastic at creating incredibly tense, visceral scenes up in the sky, like the sudden pan onto the Luna Barco with her barely-adequate flak cannons abaze. Part of that is the stark contrast between the trained, seasoned enemy pilots in their sleek, fierce planes and the trainees in their, er…less sleek training planes. Noriaki, Benji, and Kal are all scared, but they play the hand they’re dealt. Maybe they’ll get lucky.
Rating: 9 (Superior)