Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 13 (Fin)(?)

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Well now, that was something completely different! This final episode wrapped up the story we’ve seen so far, but towards the end felt far more like the set up for a sequel than the closing of the book. Whether this sequel is a sure thing or merely wishful thinking on the part of the shows’ creators, we don’t know. But if you were going to be content with a single 12-episode season and went into last week thinking that would be the final episode (like we did), this felt a bit strange and extraneous.

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We’ll admit it was pretty cool to finally see what the world of PIlot’s Song looks like: something like one of those goofy-looking fountain things you can by at a garden center. We kid; it’s actually a pretty far-out design, much like Last Exile’s hourglass world. But the show didn’t show the slightest sign of caring about any of this until just now. But what was going to be a one-way journey became round-trip thanks to the Holy Deus Ex Machina Empire, so Kal, Ari, and the rest of their class who survived the battles return home to a hero’s welcome.

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Watching Kal and Ari reunite with their awesome family was nice, but we were less interested in Ari continuing to hide her secret love for her adoptive brother, preferring to keep it bottled in and lashing out when she gets nervous. We’re not saying she’d be any better off if she confessed to Kal, as he’s pretty deeply in love with someone else, but like this episode itself, her unrequited love feels somewhat extraneous. Rather than pine for someone she can’t have and be cast as a loser and victim of fate, why not make her as determined to see Ignacio again as Kal is to see Claire?

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As for Kal’s whole coming-out-as-Karl La Hire speech to the assembled masses (which appear to number in the hundreds of thousands) and his spearheading of a second Isla Plan, well…the idea that he’d convince Balsteros to start another war just to get his love back, and the quiet sneaky classmate being some kind of informant…it’s just a piling on of plot there’s no time to get into. That suggests a sequel, when we’re not sure we really want one. Basically, we were kinda looking for closure, but what we got almost felt more like a “To Be Continued.”


Rating: 6 (Good)
Average Rating: 7.615
MyAnimeList Score: 7.33

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Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 12

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The guns have ceased, and the inhabitants of Isla are safe under the aegis of the Holy Deus ex Machina Empire. The Sky Clan even offers a truce that will give the Isla a clear course to The End of the Sky, provided they hand over one thing: Nina Viento, whom they regard as their messiah. There’s neither discussion about what they’ll actually do with her nor assurances they’ll keep their word, but that doesn’t matter to Claire, still in Amends Mode: if there’s a chance she can protect Isla by doing this, she’s doing it, period. For all we know, it’s what she was always meant to do.

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It looks like a win-win deal for everyone, except, of course, our love birds, who only just learned one another’s identities and found that their love outweighed whatever hatred or guilt they had harbored in their hearts previously. To give them practically no time together after that and split them up again with all due haste, while given adequate explanation, still signifies a certain sadism on the part of the show’s writers. Sorry kids: politics and duty trump your quaint romance!

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The last days before Claire is shipped off to the Sky Clan are really a flashback, preceded in the cold open by Kal leading the other pilots to their last sortie before reaching the aforementioned End of the Sky, clutching the pendant Claire gives him before they part ways. Their goodbye is pretty sad, but also optimistic. After floating the idea of flying off together (no dice, says Claire; that would be running from her duty), Kal pretty much accepts that she’s leaving. Claire insists to Kal what Ari insisted to Claire: that this isn’t goodbye, only “smell ya later.” We’ll believe that when we see it. Still, Kal and Claire’s promises to each other to do their duty and meet again is supported by Ignacio, who’s going along to continue guarding her.

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One gets the feeling after seeing what he can do in the cockpit, Kal’s earned a smidgen of Ignacio’s esteem, to the point he challenges him to hold to his promise to Claire. We also see that Ari is kinda upset that Kal loves Claire, but resigns herself to reality, just as Kal and Claire do. Six months later, Isla reaches the End of the Sky, which it flies into and is destroyed, along with the setting up to this point. All that’s left is to do…er…whatever it is they were planning to do after Isla was gone. The show…hasn’t really explained that.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • In the cold open, Benji’s arm is no longer bandaged, but we’re assuming the different-color glove means he has some kind of prosthesis on, because he definitely lost a hand last week.
  • Claire never got to meet the Empress of Levamme, who the representative said had a similar air about her as Claire.
  • We honestly thought this was going to be the last episode of the show. That’s what we get for believing MAL’s episode count prior to this week. So we can’t help but think of next week as a bonus.
  • Ari’s eyes are missing when her back is turned to Kal after jumping off the swing, a surefire indication she’s not okay with something.
  • Along with Oreimo’s Kousaka Kirino and SAO’s Kirigaya Suguha, Ari is the third sister character vocied by Taketatsu Ayana who appears to have the hots for her brother (though Kal isn’t related by blood). It’s good to have a specialty!
  • That being said, we’re in pretty uncharted territory with the couple broken up and Isla gone. Hopefully things won’t get too weird, random, and inexplicable in the finale.

 

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 11

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With two pairs of students the only thing between The Barco and the enemy dreadnought, we went into this episode fully prepared for the eventuality of at least some of them dying in glorious battle, saving the ship in the process. So it came as something of a shock when, despite several close shaves, nobody we know is killed. Rather than kill off more cast, the episode packs a triumphant wallop, and the show’s steady rise in our Winter rankings proceeds apace.

Noriaki and Benji find their courage in the sky and get the Barco’s guns the info they need to take out the enemy. We thought for sure they’d be gone when Benji ended up losing a hand, their plane was blown up, and they ejected, but Banderas somehow found them and returned them to Isla. Which is fine; Benji did promise Sharon he’d be back —and makes good use of her scarf as a tourniquet!

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Noriaki and Benji are able to complete their mission thanks to Kal and Ignacio, who turn out to be an ace pilot/gunner duo, who’d likely perform marvels in a real warplane. Still, all they have is their dinky trainer, they do plenty of damage—enough to strain credulity quite severely, in fact. While the lads fight, Claire pouts on the bridge of the Barco, unable to do a thing…until, quite unexpectedly, she is.

When the Barco’s engines are disabled by a barrage of enemy fire and she starts to sink, Nina calmly contemplates her death there and then, until Kal flies over their bow, and she runs out to the deck, loses the Nina wig, and re-declares her love for him, despite all she did to him and his family. When Kal whizzes by again (so Ignacio can take out the plane targeting her) he doesn’t yell “Die!”; he yells “Live!” And she does.

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Kal and Claire’s romance was something that fell by the wayside once their real identities came out, but here, it proves absolutely essential in saving the day. Because Kal remembers and finally heeds the words of his mother, forgiving Claire, who he loves despite her past, Claire is able to summon the wind again, taking out the enemy squadron and stopping the Barco’s fall.

In the crucible of revolution, the seeds of Kal’s hate were sown, but that was the war of his parents. Now that he’s in the middle of his own war, protecting those he loves (including Claire), and he’s seen that hate for what it was: an indulgent burden that hampered his usefulness. In order to live, he had to let it go.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 10

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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.

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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.

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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.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)