Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Ep. 1: To the sky!

the pilot's love song 0104

And by the sky, I mean the school in the sky! Really? A school in the sky? Yep, no matter where you go in anime, you just can’t quite escape school. But more on that later. This is not a high budget show–that’s for sure–and that’s too bad because I’m actually pretty interested in the anime’s premise. You can easily tell, however, that the animation is rather subpar for 2014 up until that one crucial moment when everything becomes crystal clear:

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It would’ve been a helluva way to punctuate the episode had our star-crossed lovers embraced each other with a kiss, but I guess even displaced Japanese kids in a fantasy world aren’t that impulsive. Yes, he might be Kal-el Albus–or is it Karl? or maybe just Kal… I wish the show would just stick to one–and she might be Claire Cruz, but they’re firmly Japanese in their actions and mannerisms. But while their love story seems to be the focus for at least this episode, it’s everything else that has me hooked.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not head-over-heels in love with the show; this isn’t The Blogger’s Love Song. If anything, I thought the episode’s pacing was kind of plodding. I like action, and I won’t deny it. In my mind, there’s always plenty of time to world-build or whatever. Your opening lines, however, should thrill me. It should enthrall me. I want to see the conflict of the show externalized between the characters through a passionate battle of life and death. Why? Because you can say so much in so little words by just putting lives on the line. But that’s not exactly what we get in Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta‘s first episode. At times, the plot hints at something weightier, something not as carefree as you might expect from a bunch of kids flying through the clear, blue sky. From the opening, we know Kal will end up defending the floating island of Isla (I can see someone spent a long time coming up with this name) with his life, though countless other lives have already been lost. But at the moment, he seems a little jaded by his home.

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Then there’s that brief flash of pure hatred when Kal spots Nina Viento at a ceremonious gathering accompanied by Isla letting go of its shackles and jettisoning off into the horizon. Who is Nina Viento? She appears to be a girl of Kal’s age, garbed in priestess-like clothing, but nevertheless, it also seems as though she is one of the floating island’s leaders. More importantly, the OP implies that they’ve known each other since their early childhood, and there’s no love lost between them. Through the succinct, vague flashbacks, it’s evident that our hero has his own trauma to deal with. After all, that imouto (or is he the otouto?) is likely not his blood-related sister. And that family is probably not his real family either. And I don’t mean that in the “Duh, we see him with his real mother in the flashbacks”-sense, but more in that even though they’ve taken him in, and everything seems pleasant enough between them, they are not family. Then again, this is conjecture based off of these words alone: “Journey into the unknown? Ha… They just want to be rid of me.” Who are “they” referring to? I’m assuming it’s his “family,” but obviously, I don’t know for sure.

So as you can see, this is all a portent to something bigger. The story will get meatier and hopefully more satisfying to watch. It’s just not now. Yes, even though I’m still intrigued. I don’t think this is a logical contradiction. I love mysteries so I’d love to learn more about Kal’s past and why that bland shounen heroface is concealing an ocean of anger and bitterness. I especially want to know his relations vis a vis Nina Viento. So yes, if we acknowledge all of this, I’m intrigued. But at the same time, I’m not thrilled. The rest of the show is a little too standard and a little too safe. To put it another way, the rest of the show is too anime.

the pilot's love song 0103So dark, much brooding, very bitchy resting face

What do I mean? Kal and his sister Ari meets the dark, brooding guy–every anime must have at least one!–who will at first butt heads with Kal, but they will soon be as thick as thieves. Kal and Ari set off for the End of the Sky, but this loftier goal can wait as they find themselves in a dormitory filled with other pilots, i.e. it’s a goddamn school in the sky. I’m almost stunned into speechlessness. It’s a fantasy universe; your only limits are your imagination. And we have a goddamn sky school full of people to befriend, girls in cute seifuku drinking tea and eating pastry even though they’re fucking pilots, big-boobed female instructors and braggadocios for male instructors, jerkass nobles from class 1-A to shake your fist at with indignation… I mean, if the OP’s to be believed, there’s even going to be a goddamn beach episode where the girls are in sukumizus.

I don’t have a problem with the blossoming love between Kal and Claire. Love is a passion, and it forces people into a vulnerable state that truly reveals facets of their character. I have a problem, though, with the sterility and stagnancy that pervades most “high school”-phases you find in almost every anime. It’s not captivating. School life is almost always boring as hell and played out. The sooner Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta moves away from the whole flight academy bullshit with the seifukus and sukumizus, the better. I’m intrigued at what the story might harbor down the line, but I cringe at what I’ll have to go through to get there.

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But hey, I’ll eat my words if the anime proves me wrong.


5 Replies to “Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Ep. 1: To the sky!”

  1. Not entirely germane (though hopefully close enough!), but can I ask: did you watch Watamote this past summer? While it is set in high school and very clearly an “anime” anime, I felt it was unparalleled in actually tackling an honest-to-God compelling part of adolescence – that is, teenage delusions of grandeur and their relation to social anxiety.

    It seems like Watamote might have been more popular in the West than in Japan, but it addressed a dark side of growing up in a fashion I feel like anime (and much other popular art) typically shies away from. Honestly, it was kind of a masterpiece, to my mind. Besides, it had no beach episode!

    1. Yeah, I did watch a couple episodes of it. It seemed entertaining. At the time, however, I was too busy to get into anime so I never finished it.

      1. Well, I know Watamote’s brand of comedy really doesn’t suit everyone’s taste.

        Personally, I found its unusual hyper-realism to actually be more heartbreaking than funny (though it was quite funny).

        I bring it up mostly because when people discuss the anime industry’s obsession with silly, unrealistic portrayals of high school (whether in the sky or on the ground), Watamote actually took a high school-based show, left in an awful lot of cartoon-y absurdity, but still managed to make some pretty pointed, profound and realistic commentary about adolescence.

  2. Pretty much. The bare minimum I really ask for this anime is to take advantage of its own setting. More stuff like riding bikes through clouds, less high school antics in the sky. Less mizugi. Less everything that the OP is implying. Fuck the OP.

    You’d think some of them would get altitude sickness, though. Going so high in open air isn’t quite that simple. The anime probably does not mean to be completely accurate (given the CG physics) but c’mon.

    1. Well, we don’t know how high up they are nor do we know whether or not the population has adapted to living at such altitudes. These worries don’t concern me as much as a beach episode in the sky.

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