Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 11

pilot111

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!

pilot112

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.

pilot113

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)

Advertisements

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 10

pilot101

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.

pilot102

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.

pilot103

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)