Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 22

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This episode doesn’t stray far from the familiar patterns associated with the aftermath of the death of a major character. Rain clouds gather. Tekkadan’s march forward is suddenly halted. Their leader Orga withdraws to his room to be alone, racked with grief and guilt over the decisions he made that cost Biscuit’s life. The iron flower’s petals are wilting.

As predictable as this reaction and its resolution may be, it’s important to remember why they’re predictable: because they’re realistic. The loss of someone both dear to the Tekkadan family and integral to the Tekkadan business reveals that yes, indeed, these are still a bunch of kids. Even Orga can’t deny how few years he’s been alive, nor can he conceal the fact this is the largest loss in his life to date.

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Naturally, as the other kids of Tekkadan deal with their grief without their leader around to share in it, the adults don’t skip a beat. Fareed’s father orders Carta home, telling his chosen pick for Prime Minister that Carta has only proven to be a “worthless tomboy,” which is pretty harsh but not inaccurate. Carta’s job was to stop Makanai, period. She could not attain that result even with superior manpower and equipment. Carta is furious over her latest defeat and wants to keep going after the “space rats”, but follows orders.

The other two, non-shamed members of Carta’s childhood triangle, McGillis and Gaelio, are busy as well. McGillis makes Gaelio confront his prejudice and ignorance over the A-V system (the only thing at this point that can save Ein) by showing him the A-V research that continued even after the war. Gaelio laments the “loss of humanity” needed to embrace A-V, but McGillis remarks, not wrongly, that every time the world has changed, either for better or for worse, it was because someone abandoned or exceeded their humanity.

Revealing a squadron of new (or really old?) mobile suits, McGillis reveals his “plan”: Ein and Gaelio will both undergo the A-V procedure, and together with him eliminate Tekkadan and prove that they should be the ones running Gjallarhorn. In reality, McGillis intends to keep propping up Tekkadan and Kudelia as a relevant threat in order to use them as a stepping stone to power, i.e. overthrowing Gjallarhorn. In other words: he may only be their ally as long as they do what he wants them to do.

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Meanwhile, aboard the Montag ship, one of the “kids” is also moving forward without stopping. That’s Kudelia, and it’s no surprise: she already went through the pain Orga and the others are enduring after the loss of Fumitan. She decided long ago that no matter how much blood ended up on her hands, she wouldn’t stop fighting to become Hope.

That’s an important distinction from becoming a leader, as Makanai suggests after hearing her plans to get him to Edmonton via a train in Anchorage. A leader is just a person. She wants to be more than that, more than a mere human agent whose power is extinguished when she dies. She seeks an enduring transformation and influence. That’s the same area where McGillis is operating.

The adults on the Montag ship are powerless to do anything about the low morale. Merribit wants to do or say something to Orga, but isn’t confident she can get through to him. Laffter and Azee are more comfortable with their role right now, unable to fix the morale, but still committed to doing what they came there to do: support Tekkadan on behalf of Naze.

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As I supected, it’s Mika who breaks Orga out of his funk. Merribit is inches from knocking on his door, but Mika appears, and she suggests they both simply leave him be. But Mika comes right back and crashes Orga’s pity party with some cold hard truths. Way back when they were kids, they had an agreement, one that predates even meeting Biscuit: Mika would do anything, kill anyone for Orga, as long as Orga took the both of them to that place where they belong. That place was never simply an abstract concept for Mika: it’s a place.

Up to this point, since Biscuit died, Orga hadn’t been telling Mika anything. That ends right here and now, with Mika grabbing Orga and asking again and again what he wants him to do. He stands there, ready and waiting to carry out his will. He also puts it to Orga: are they there yet? No. So they must keep going. After bringing Orga back into the present with his eyes re-fixed on the future, lightning strikes; a nice, if on-the-nose touch.

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Orga emerges from his room, musters his boys, and tells them the best way to honor Biscuit is to make sure he rests easy knowing they’re continuing the job they have to do. At the same time, he makes it more about a job, which he probably has to considering how much of a jolt the kids need to keep going; he makes it as much about revenge.

After Orga’s pep talk, Tekkadan gets back to work, and the iron flower’s petals re-sharpen. As the credits roll, we see Makanai and Tekkadan already aboard the train bound for Edmonton, meaning they didn’t have any trouble getting to Anchorage or securing transport. That indicates the next three episodes are going to start taking care of business in earnest.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 05

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There’s a wonderful sense of anticipation and occasion on the eve of Tekkadan’s first space mission, as warm moments like Aina joining Mika on his night watch, or Atra enlisting as Tekkadan’s cook for the journey, are tinged with foreboding when Orga shakes hands with Orcus, a man we know he doesn’t trust as far as he can throw him.

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Traps and betrayals await Tekkadan in low orbit, with Todo cutting a deal with Orcus, who gets betrayed by Orcus, who cut a deal with Coral, who himself made a deal with Fareed in the apprehension of Kudelia. And at the end of the day, youth and smarts beat age and greed.  Todo’s treachery has been so blatantly telegraphed, it was all but inevitable his plan would be foiled by somebody; the fact Orga doesn’t have to lift a finger for it to happen is icing on the cake.

So Todo, and later Coral, aren’t just old villains, they’re bad, dumb villains that the show disposes of as soon as it can. In the villain vaccum comes Fareed, who like Mika on the other side is a different kind of animal. The beautifully-oiled gears are always spinning beneath his golden locks. Fareed doesn’t mug for the camera get bent out of shape; he twirls his hair, playing the long game.

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And as predictable as Todo’s failed betrayal was, the fact the show was very coy indeed about what if any countermeasures Orga had was nicely hidden beneath the more predictable surface. Orga doesn’t even tell most of his comrades what he has in store for Aina’s would-be apprehenders: Mika in the Gundam (wearing a flight suit too), and a game Akihito arriving right on time with Tekkadan’s ship.

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We’ve been waiting five weeks for IBO’s first space battle, and it doesn’t disappoint. Is there rampant, obvious CGI? Nope, just hand-drawn (or at least hand-drawn looking) mechas rockin’-sockin’ it could with maces, axes, swords, and bullets. And just when we thought Mika was good in atmospheric combat, we see he’s even better once he has the omnidirectionality of space in which to work.

The action is beautifully and tautly directed, and it’s easy to know what’s going on where at all times, without dumbing it down. There are also a good number of Gundam cockpit shots, and thankfully the pilots can speak to each other on the radio.

As his Gjallarhorn opponents get more and more pissed off, Mika just maintains his cool—but not cold—demeanor. He’s got a job to do, everyone’s depending on him, and he’s going to do it. His constant calm, and the power of those convictions, carry with them their own brand of ferocity.

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It’s fitting then, that Fareed, who really secured his position as most serious, interesting and complex antagonists in IBO, remains equally calm and collected this week. The lack of bluster or panic or desperation makes him all the more formidable a foe.

One of Fareed’s best lines of dialogue this week is a little cheesy and meta, but I still absolutely loved it: when the ship’s database confirms Tekkadan’s trump is a Gundam from the Calamity War, he points out how appropriate that is, since Gundams always seem to pop up and make significant contributions at key turning points throughout human history, and with a Martian independence movement gaining strength, this Barbatos has risen up once more to defend the underdog, in this case Kudelia.

What’s also so great is that his little speech didn’t just fire me, up, but it fired him up, to the point he heads out in his own upgraded Graze to join the fray. His opponent is a legend, and finally, a legitimate chance to test his mettle and prove his greatness.  Very good stuff.

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As Mika is dancing with the mobile suits, the Orcus and Gjallarhorn capital ships bear down on Tekkadan’s. They need a big maneuver to escape: enter a mining asteroid they tether to using some good old-fashioned, quick-and-dirty, NASA-style improvisation. Someone has to cut the tether loose at the right moment to send the ship flying safely away from the enemy.

It’s a suicidal mission, so Orga prepares to take it on, but in a nice bit of character development Eugene (for all intents and purposes his XO) volunteers in his stead, insiting the captain should just “sit around and look important.”

It’s a reminder that even though he’s pissed Orga kept the ship secret from him, he still has ample faith and respect in Orga’s command. It also reminds us Orga is still getting used to being the top dog; which sometimes requires delegating, or sending people out you know might not come back.

The thrilling tether swing-around works like a charm, even when the initial blast doesn’t cut the cord. On its way out of orbit on onwards to Earth, they don’t forget to pick up Mika, who destroyed Coral and got a good lick in on Gaelio. The whole time, Fareed was carefully analyzing Mika’s movement, and came away impressed.

Orga and Eugene also make peace, lessening considerably my previous worries Eugene would try to make a move against him. We’ve got a lot of Gundam left, so that could still happen down the road, but for now, they’re buds.

Oh, and yes, Mika’s fine. No adverse side-effects from all that space combat, either mental or physcial. Having both Aina and Atra aboard is a good move, not just for the triangle, but because they represent everything Mika has to lose if things go south.

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The final kiss-off from Tekkadan is shipping a beaten and marked Todo to Gjallarhorn in an escape pod. No more Todo blatantly undermining Tekkadan in the shadows. Fareed lost this round, but he didn’t come away empty-handed (and I’m not talking about Todo): he got to observe his enemy closely, and will be more prepared for him the inevitable next time.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 04

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Tekkadan and their celebrity passenger aren’t off to Earth yet, and that’s a good thing. This is a 26-episode show, no need to rush, and besides, while this episode is less hectic than last week’s coup and duel, laying out the full measure of the stakes and all of the dangers that lie ahead for Mika, Orga, Aina, et al is crucial to our full emotional investment in the events to come.

As we see, getting Aina to Earth is no simple matter to say the least, and can’t be done by Tekkadan alone. It requires getting in bed (oh God hopefully not literally) with outside middlemen, forming dozens of little alliances of temporary trust with outsiders; those with their own motivations. With so much on their backs Orga and Aina have no choice but to gamble, and neither assured a survivable return.

On the contrary, with Todo’s private moments of stewing, it’s clear Orga has made a potentially fatal mistake in thinking the threat of death keeps the old man in line. Todo is planning the demise of Tekkadan in its infancy, not for Gjallarhorn or his old bosses, but because it’s his way to survive. If he gets a little more agency and teaches some punk kids a lesson, so much the better.

“Young vs. Old” is also a theme in Major Coral equivocating before the younger Fareed, subtly offering a bribe that’s shot down with the threat of arrest, then cursing the even older Crank for failing (as Crank and Orlis’ comrade stews).

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The Olds seem to prefer when the Youngs are beholden to them. It gives them power and purpose. Todo’s Orcus contact is of big help (assuming it’s not a trap, which it is). Nobliss, who doesn’t even bother dressing to address Aina, clearly considers Aina to beholden to him for his cash infusion. But Fareed rejects his older comrade’s “intelligence” and goes out with Gaelio to gather his own.

There’s a lot of housekeeping this week, as we learn Orga gained Akihito and his group of “Human Debris” (i.e. former property of Maruba) to his side with the promise to free and protect them, as they wouldn’t be able to secure jobs elsewhere. In a strong symbolic gesture, the big CGS sign is painted over by one of the youngest grunts. Out with the old, and all that.

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Finally, this episode makes a slight detour to the Biscuit’s family farm, run by a stern, no-nonsense Granny Sakura who, like Yukinojo and Crank, are the old people trying to foster amity with the young rather than oppose and oppress them. Mika brings Aina here for the same reason he comes: working the land helps clear the head.

That also means, of course, Aina and Atra cross paths again, and for now, Mika has his cake and eats it too, catching Aina when she tugs too hard at an ear of corn, while also heartening Atra by thanking her for the bracelet. At the same time, Mika uses this to show Aina that even this big biofuel corn farm only nets Biscuit’s family a meager return; not enough to survive. Her saving Tekkadan also saved that farm and family, so she should buck up and stop focusing only on the negative.

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Then, all of a sudden, there’s a clashing of plotlines with Fareed and Gaelio nearly running over Cookie and Cracker in their Humvee. Mika doesn’t hesitate to take throat of Gaelio, the first face he sees emerge, and start squeezing mercilessly. Fareed manages to cool everyone off, but I liked how when Fareed and Gaelio were alone, Gaelio was the easygoing one. Here, Gaelio is hostile where Fareed is amicable. He even retches when he sees Mika’s implants.

At the same time, Fareed is, if anything, more threatening than Gaelio, all courtesy, easy smiles and cordial words. There’s raw tension in him approaching Cookie, Cracker, and Atra…and offering them candy. He knows Mika is far more than a farmboy. And there’s the sense he doesn’t believe Biscuit any more than he believes Coral. Meanwhile, Aina has to hide in the corn with her aide. This won’t be the last they see of the gallant inspectors.

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As it happens, Fareed is already aware that CGS is now Tekkadan; a product of Orga and Biscuit playing everything after the mutiny strictly by-the-book, business-wise. When Mika returns to base, Orga shows him Tekkadan’s new insignia, again designed and painted by their youngest as a symbol of hope and strength. Orga looks on the sign with pride and an even greater desire to protect what they’ve won at all costs.

But the fact of the matter is, Tekkadan and its mission hang on a thread, and any one thing could blow it off into oblivion, be it further interference from the various units of Gjallarhorn (bet on it), making a deal with the devil in Nobliss, or underestimating Todo’s capacity for treachery. As Todo so aptly puts it in the episode’s final line: he’s about to show these young rapscallions “how terrifying adults can be.”

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GOD EATER – 08

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I must say, it’s rough having to wait an extra week for every other episode (now I know what Preston went through with Sailor Moon Crystal), but of late, when GOD EATER deigns to air, I can be confident there will be good stuff in store. Alisa is holed up in her messy quarters, apparently continuing to suffer withdrawal from the pills that have always neutralized her fear, which come with a different fear of ever being without them, as she was the last few episodes. With Lenka’s God Arc in need of repairs, both he and Alisa are on leave,  leaving Fenrir Far East shorthanded on the eve of a big operation.

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Professor Sasaki, the father of the God Arcs, arrives, and is shocked that Lenka’s Arc broke; something that’s never happened. Not getting any further answers out of the weapon, he and Licca turns to Lenka himself. Meanwhile, the active part of Unit One joins with Unit Two on an operation at a baseball stadium, led by Sakuya, as Lindow is sent on another mysterious solo mission.

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Shortly after engaging the Aragami, the baseball field crumbles beneath their feet, sending the Eaters underground. Lenka, who has been encouraged to observe the op from the Command Information Center where Major Amamiya spends her days, and it isn’t long before he suggests a course of action contrary to her orders, angering her.

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However, when the Eaters underground follow his suggestions and things turn out for the best, with them bottle-necking the Aragami in a narrow corridor and mopping them up with a pincer attack, Lenka is ultimately absolved rather than punished for speaking out of turn. The successful mission, with everyone returning and praising Lenka for saving them (even Soma, in his way), shows Lenka has value as both a front-line fighter or, if he doesn’t have a God Arc, commanding them from behind.

That’s good to know, because his days as a front-line fighter with a God Arc are uncertain, at best. Sasaki determines he, not the Black Vajra, broke his own God Arc, when his compatibility spiked to a level it couldn’t handle. Sasaki also informs him that this condition also threatens Lenka’s life and will eventually kill him.

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Undergoing psychiatric treatment (i.e., talking to a professional), Alisa realizes if she’s ever going to get back in the fight—and her services are desperately needed—she has to rid herself of her fear, and begs the doctor help make that happen, not matter what the cost. I don’t doubt whatever is done to her will not only affect the personality of the woman we’ve come to know and feel for, but threaten her life, as Lenka’s compatibility threatens his.

As the two most valuable New-Types struggle with their problems, Director Shicksal announces a new strategy for eliminating the Aragami from the immediate vacinity in order to allow work on Aegis. It involves controlling their movements, sorting them by species, and sending God Eaters who specialize in each species to take them out. It sounds like a daring plan, but I’m almost certain it won’t go smoothly, because that’s just not how things tend to go on this show.

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Last but not least (for once), we have another dark flashback, this time to the very evening the Aragami Apocalypse occurs. I was not prepared for how total and unyielding the transformation of the world was, with giant towers of oracle cells jutting out of the earth, dwarfing, piercing, and crumbling all works of mankind like so many sand castles. I was also moved by the last shots of a tranquil world at night before all hell breaks loose.

Schicksal, Sasaki, And Gauche were working feverishly until the end, but losing government support torpedoed their chances of coming up with a solution in time to stop the calamity that befell the earth. It’s looking more and more like mankind’s worst enemy in this whole dark business has been…mankind.

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Working!!! 3 – 04

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This week, something that in hindsight seems obvious became evident: the title Working!! doesn’t just refer to a bunch of quirky people working in a restaurant. That’s just the setting. It can also be about those quirky people working things out with one another, like Yachiyo and Satou, or Inami and Takanashi.

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After their drinking date, Yachiyo is consumed with the meaning of Satou’s sudden, warm, but cryptic hug. She knows she didn’t dislike it and wouldn’t be opposed to more of it, but has no idea why Satou did it.

When she confronts him in the kitchen, he tells her to figure it out for herself, while the best she manages to relay to him is that the thought of being friends with him makes her gloomy, without clarifying that she doesn’t want to be JUST friends.

Yachiyo is so distracted she’s making mistakes in her work, but thankfully the episode doesn’t make that a practical excuse for her to give up on Satou. Working!! is also about the characters helping out one of their own when they’re in some kind of trouble or acting strangely, as Yachiyo is.

To that end, Popura, the second-most senior server after Yachiyo, makes it work, picking up the slack and delegating all of the work Yachiyo is forgetting to do to everyone else, with each task optimized for the worker’s unique talents and quirks.

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Meanwhile, Kyouko’s underling Mitsuki shows up to drill Satou on his knowledge of Yachiyo, only to learn he knows a lot more about Kyouko since Yachiyo has classically always talked about her in front of him, and because he likes her, he doesn’t just take a fake interest; he retains the information, no matter how inane. Mitsuki thinks this means he loves Kyouko, but it really means he loves Yachiyo.

When Kyouko finds out about Yachiyo’s predicament, she solves it in the most direct, Shirafuji Kyouko Way possible: locking the two would-be lovebirds in the supply closet.

And it actually works! Yachiyo finds she can talk with Satou normally while they’re busy working, and they get on the same page about wanting to continue to act and talk normally. Yachiyo then tries to slip in her desire for Satou to take her out again sometime, but in her rush to make a dramatic exit, she forgets the door is locked.

Still, in that stockroom, these two took a little more stock in what they mean to one another, and while their future doesn’t look easy, it still looks bright.

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The rest of the episode is devoted to a relationship that hasn’t gotten much play this season, and indeed seems to have regressed: that of Takanashi and Inami. The former starts to notice how cute Inami is (now that she’s punching men, and him, a lot less), even though this goes against his obsession with tiny, cute things.

He strains to explain these feelings—maybe it’s Inami’s tiny bust affecting him?—but he can’t quite accept what Kirio says (loudly and obnoxiously): that the reason he’s had eyes for Inami lately is that he’s in love with her. Her, a mature woman far older than he likes.

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As Popura and Kyouko helped Yachiyo out with her problem, Yamada is trying to help Inami out, putting her “on the market” by constantly approaching Takanashi with methods that only intensify his feelings. His bizarre reactions discourage Inami, but she eventually gets it out of him that she’s been giving him a “good vibe”, but he isn’t able to confess he finds her “slightly, barely, blink-and-you-miss-it cute.”

He then takes up his paternal platitudes about her getting over her hatred of men and living happily ever after with the man she loves. Inami is understandably hurt that Takanashi clearly intends to eliminate himself from any equation involving her, if only due to his stupid self-imposed standards. For that Inami punches him and tears up, but her “punch” is only a delicate tap on his chest that lingers there.

She apologizes and runs off, indicating she (and Yamada) still have work to do. But I’m confident that like Yachiyo and Satou, Takanashi and Inami will somehow make it work.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 12 (Fin)

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With the overarching objective of saving Kaori successfully and satisfyingly (if tragically in terms of the cost of Yui) achieved, I had no idea where the show would go in its final act. I’d argue in its post-main-plot-resolution state it was just as successful and satisfying.

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The odd feelings of deja vu and of some kind of ‘absence’ in the astronomy club and in its members’ lives don’t simply go away. On the contrary, the feelings get even stronger for Sou, who is constantly reminded every time he sees something or somewhere that Yui had once been in another timeline. Also, there are lots of coincidences like everyone who had Uchihama Syndrome suddenly waking up…at once.

That makes sense (in the science of the show), because she came back a lot, and because the human brain is a quantum turing machine (again, in the show), it is capable of retaining information it recorded in other timelines. But still, for now, that ‘temporal residue’ manifests faint echoes or mirages. Enough to get Sou thinking, but not about anything concrete.

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For her part, Kaori seems to be alright after Sou rejected her the previous day. She comes right out and says she feels like she can move forward now, which obviously wasn’t the case when buses kept killing her. Sou’s recollection of the rejection, particularly the reason, are hazy to him (he did hit his head, after all).

Kaori insists he said he only sees them as childhood friends, which suggests that he didn’t say he couldn’t love her because he already loved Yui…because Yui didn’t exist anymore. And yet…he keeps being reminded that someone existed at some point; most strongly when he finds an old mannequin where he had found a naked Yui so many times ‘before.’

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Surprisingly, we head back to the future where an old, worn Sou and a weary Airi continue to look over a comatose Kaori. Here, they’re resolved to the fact that Yui may have failed in her final attempt, though even if she succeeded, the universe they live in wouldn’t necessarily vanish, but continue along in parallel to the one she created by saving Kaori.

When Airi wonders out loud whether Sou only ever saw Yui as a tool, and sent her to the past knowing she would disappear if she succeeded, you can feel her own bitterness and impatience with Sou, as she’s the living, breathing, non-artificial woman right in front of him with whom he could have found happiness had he only let go of the past and let himself.

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The day of the festival arrives, and their planetarium cafe finally goes off without a hitch. But yet again, being there gazing at the stars and hearing the same things he said about them to Yui both in the past and future, Sou starts to get deja vu again and cries, but about exactly what he still isn’t sure.

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He even gets a flash of the night he and Yui gazed at the stars alone, only there’s nothing but a dark cloud where she sat. Compare that to Kaori becoming the most visible person at the school and named Miss Uchihama, and it’s as if the fates of Yui and Kaori were reversed.

Then the school pop idol Karin comes by the club room to regale them of her experience on stage, when for one moment she saw the friend she thought she had but no one else had remembered. Karin, like the club members, had clearly formed a deep enough bond that her brain retained memories and even imagery of Yui even after she vanished.

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That same ability to retain is echoed in a car ride (MAZDA FD RX-7 FTW!!!) in the future with Airi and Sou, who tells her that even if Kaori was saved and Yui never needed to be created by Sou, the memories and emotions still within past Sou’s head will ultimately lead him to create Yui anyway, but for a different reason; one that really capitalizes on the whole ‘chicken or egg’ nature of the show.

Sou won’t be able to stop picking at that mental scab, and when the time comes, he’ll create Yui because he wants to see her again.

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Then, after a worrisome delay, the effects of Yui’s actions reveal themselves in future Sou’s timeline, and Kaori finally wakes up, her mind no longer trapped behind a causality roadblock.

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The resulting passionate reunion and hug is a real showstopper, and yet I noted Sou’s words well: “You came way too late, dummy!” I wouldn’t be shocked if at this point, even this Sou’s love for Yui outstrips whatever romantic feelings he had for Kaori.

That’s not to discount his elation at Kaori waking up, but he isn’t elated because the love of his life woke up; she isn’t that anymore, nor was she ever. He’s elated because his beloved childhood friend woke up, without whom he had been just as lost as she was.

His true love, meanwhile, has yet to be born. It’s a little weird to think that Sou was the creator of his own true love, because that’s a kind of situation ripe for the assignment of sinister undertones in a lot of fiction, be it literary or visual. But if ever there was a case of ‘good playing God’, this is it.

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Let’s not forget that Yui couldn’t have been made without some of the information from Kaori’s brain. It’s as if Sou would have been able to fall for the person Kaori is, if only she were someone else. Yui was that someone else.

As the box beside the computer in the club room glows once more, I have more questions, like ‘if Yui is coming back, how did that happen without a comatose Kaori?’…but the time for questions has ended, and I’m satisfied with the answers I did get, plus the ones to questions I didn’t even ask. This show was a nice bit of light sci-fi romance that I don’t regret sticking with.

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Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 09

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This week Pilot’s Love Song delivers an aftermath episode that’s almost as good as the devastating battle that preceded it. After the memorial services for the dead, the rebuilding of Centezual commences and Isla’s course towards the End of the Sky continues, with the consensus of the higher-ups being that they should explore an alliance with the Holy Levamme Empire. Still, the Sky Clan continues its bombing raids and the people of Isla are on edge.

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We also see that the battle has had a very understandable demoralizing effect on all of the pilots (we can’t really call them “trainees” anymore). Chiharu is inconsolable, and many a pilot’s eye is red from lengthy tears. While lying in bed Kal experiences flashbacks of the carnage; while he may have performed his duty admirably, it still clearly traumatized him, as it does everyone. Being together, helping the townsfolk, and sharing meals can mitigate that pain.

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But what can also calm Kal’s troubled heart is finding the one he loves is alive and unharmed. Again, fate seems to bring the two together at the cemetery late at night, even as Claire is resolved to disappear from Kal’s life and the life of all the other pilots. Kal’s confession of love and their first kiss is a fleeting comfort, isn’t enough to convince her that she’s misguided in her actions, and she takes this, which she perceives as the last time she’ll be alone with Kal, to finally confirm he’s La Hire and tell him the truth, something we weren’t expecting to happen in an aftermath episode. Kal reacts predictably but understandably, with an overwhelming combination of confusion, shock, and rage.

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He’s hated Nina Viento for a long time, after all; though he loves Claire, he can’t just shrug it off. In fact, he can’t do much of anything afterwards, but lock himself in his dorm and lie sulking in his rack. No one, not even Ariel, can shake him from this state (not even when she tries to talks sense into him, then tells him she has to quit piloting due to her injury). In fact, this was the first time we liked Ignacio more than Kal in an episode, as he not only lets Ariel speak to Nina (who Ariel figures out is Claire immediately) and also by crashing Kal’s pathetic pity party and tossing him in the lake. You go, Nacho.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 16

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This episode was called “Wake-Up Call.” There really couldn’t have been a more appropriate title. There were many such calls, starting with Banri waking up in time to stop the car before it went off a cliff. The last thing he sees in his dream? Linda visiting him at the hospital, at a time when he didn’t remember who she was. That was a desperately tragic scene, one in which Linda was powerless to set right Banri’s misunderstanding about her feelings, such that even a second-long flash back to it in the episode’s opening moments was devastating, especially under the circumstances.

That was only a taste of the emotional devastation to follow, starting with the mortified look on Koko’s face after the accident, followed by a long period of her being incommunicado, even to Banri, who eventually decides to visit her house, leading to an amazing scene that was simultaneously Banri and Koko’s first real fight (and making-up), and another wake-up call to Banri about the kind of person his girlfriend is.

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First of all, a couple things about how the aftermath was handled. First of all, it infantilized everyone involved, who are, lest we forget, college students; young adults, not children (yes, even the button-cute Chinami). But that’s pretty much what happens when you get in an accident: you feel helpless and humiliated…you know, like kids. Not that we can excuse Koko’s father’s frankly over-the-top slap to Koko’s face. Forget child abuse, that was battery, and we’re not sure we’d have stood by if we were one of the friends present.

To do such a cold, horrible thing to your child when you knew full well her fragile emotional state smacks of sadism. After that slap we kinda washed our hands of her dad, even when he makes nice with Banri and is followed by that damn cat (What, cat’s can’t be bad judges of character?) But then Koko works herself up into a post-fight frenzy when her dad walks in on her and Banri (they were just hugging), and he calmly tells Banri to make him ramen. Banri returns to see the dad (and cat) sitting there seeing Koko off to sleep, looking very fatherly. It doesn’t forgive that awful slap, but it would appear he does love his daughter.

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We won’t deny the fact that Koko has exhibited a short fuse, and when she melts down she melts down. Still, the self-hating things she spouts under her sheets are heartbreaking, and we’re right there with Banri in not quite knowing how best to resolve the matter with words. Suddenly Banri and the others’ talk about it being everyone’s fault—which made perfect sense at the time, but Koko thinks it’s laughably ridiculous. We noted how  many times both of them asked what the other was talking about: sometimes it seems like different languages are being spoken.

Afraid that if he doesn’t handle this talk right, he may never see Koko again (a very real possibility, considering this show), he tries everything he can to stay in the room and try to talk Koko down, even bringing up reset buttons, which leaves him wide open for Koko’s Pillows of Truth: He’s allowed to reset his life and abandon everyone from the old one, but no one else is? It’s a fair question, and Banri doesn’t help matters by bringing up the fact Koko insisted he give up on his past, no sir!

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She thought she had to do that, so that she wouldn’t lose him. She’s feared all along and her new dreams confirm it: that he’ll leave her someday; cut her out like he cut out Linda-senpai. Perhaps we read Koko’s look at Banri in the car all wrong. Maybe she wasn’t mortified by her stupidity, but dejected that even though Banri said he’d stay by her side and keep her awake, in the end he fell asleep, retreating to his past in his dreams. He left her to drive alone.

We’re probably reading too much into that particular scene, but it makes sense that Koko would read too much into everything Banri says and does, knowing his past. An accident changed him forever, and while the car was a close call, she fears the next accident will take him away from her. But she can’t think that way. Even if her fears are as clear and official-looking as the road signs telling her to get out of the car, she should listen to the voice of the one she loves telling her to stay in the car and hang in there, because that’s what he’s going to do no matter what.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Linda and Past Banri sit out this episode. We knew we’d be getting less Linda once Banri cut her off, but we hope to see her again soon. As for Past Banri, well, we were kinda glad he didn’t show his face after all the trouble he caused. That’s right: this was really all his fault. Damn ghost!
  • Our hears sank when Chinami revealed she was bleeding; we assumed the worst and thought she bit her tongue off. Luckily it was just a busted lip.
  • Nana whacks Banri in the head with a baguette and tells him to get the fuck over whatever it is he’s pissed about, because she’s sick of dealing with his drama. Nana is the best.
  • Another lesson Banri (and we) learn: no matter how crazy he (or we) think Koko is, she’s crazier, but so is Banri. Both are wounded souls, but we think they can find comfort and happiness in each other.
  • Banri calling to Koko to resolve her bad dream was a beautiful little closing moment, and sleeping Koko’s little “mm-hmm” was damned adorable.