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)

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Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 07

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It may not have the best production budget, but damn, this show knows what it’s doing, delivering a fiercely emotional, thrilling, heartbreaking outing; the best of its run so far and definitely one of the top ten episodes of the season. Even more impressive is that its quartet of main characters—Kal-el, Ariel, Claire, and Ignacio—were literally on the sidelines the entire time, eager to do their part but barred by orders from ever doing so.

It’s amazing what one episode can do for your opinion of two people, but last week, we really connected with Mitsuo and Chiharu. Of course, we also knew that the fact they were laying the happiness between them on so thick was essentially setting one or both of them up for death. The episode makes no secret of the fact these young lovers could well be doomed. Hell, the title is “A Glorious Death.” Whether it’s Mitsuo or Chiharu or both, someone’s dying. We know, and the show knows we know.

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But here’s the thing: even with all the telegraphing and death flags, when it actually goes down, it still hits us like a ton of bricks. The show seems to know it was going to do so, and that’s why it was never coy. It did a hell of a job quickly establishing a romance and then snuffing it out in the cruelest way possible. And let’s not beat around the bush: their military superiors fuck up royally. Had Leopold Melze been less of a short-sighted, arrogant fool, Mitty would still be alive. Not to mention de Alarcon and Cervantes don’t even try to tell him how to do his job, even though they both smell an ambush.

The ineptitude of the brass matters not to Mitsuo and Chiharu. When something doesn’t feel right, Mitty tells Chiharu to climb higher. The tiny glimmer in the clouds he spots turns out to be a huge, advanced enemy fleet. Though they’re only trainees, they both realize they have to fire flares at the enemy in order to give their bombers light. They know it could mean their death, but they do their duty anyway. That makes them both heroes, but Mitsuo is simply a little less lucky than the girl he loves, convincing her to eject when he takes a couple bullets.

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After their plane blows up, Chiharu’s spotted by enemy fighters, and while she hangs there helplessly as they mercilessly bear down on her, our hearts sank as it looked for a moment like the show was going to take her too. She’s only saved because Banderas and Sonia disobeyed orders. She lands softly in the cockpit and collapses into Banderas’ arms, her love gone forever in the blink of an eye. It’s sudden, brutal, and unfair. It’s war.

We can’t overstate how riveting and moving this episode was, highlighting unbridled incompetence at the top of the military ladder, but uncommon greatness at the very bottom. The meekest of the trainees was the one who didn’t waver when it mattered, saving everyone. What’s more distressing is that he only saved them for a time; a massive enemy force is nearing Isla, compelling Kal-El, Ariel, Noriaki and Wolfgang to take off and enter the fray. They have a tough act to follow.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 06

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A cold open entices us with the grandeur and awe of finally arriving at the Holy Spring, which moves Claire to tears and Makes Kal wish his folks were alive to see the sight. But from there the episode ratchets down the adventure and returns us to Isla, where the students run a restaurant, of all things, capitalizing on Ariel’s superior culinary skills.

While we were a little annoyed at the exploration of the Holy Spring—and the clashes with the Sky Clan that are sure to accompany it—we eventually settled in to the slice-of-life that may comprise some of the last happy times everyone has together as a group before…things go down. The apprehension of those who’ve heard rumors spreads, but everyone works so hard, they forget about those coming troubles.

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It was also an opportunity to take stock in the various relationships that are forming: the quiet bond between Ariel and Ignacio; more of the usual Kal and Claire flirting; and the romance between Chiharu and Mitty, who have a sweet little scene. Anything to make these pilots more likable was fine with us, as the aforementioned conflict to follow will carry more weight the more characters we care about.

We also get some time at the “adults table”, learning Luis and Juan go way back, and that the instructors are understandably not happy that their students will be used for recon missions when the sky clan is sure to attack. They may have inferior planes and armaments, but they’re still a foe resolved to stop what they must see as an Incursion by Isla. And the kids are still kids.


Rating: 6 (Good)