Decentish episode, I think, if only because we get more plot and less nonsensical high school hijinks.
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Episode summary: Mostly a flashback episode as we delve into Kal’s past as the former crown prince of the Balsteros Empire. We now know Nina Viento played a major role in his parents’ death, but we still don’t exactly know why the Empire was overthrown. In any case, both Kal’s parents were sent to the guillotines. In the current day, there are apparently whispers that the former crown prince managed to sneak himself aboard Isla, and is out for revenge. Too bad Kal ends up getting himself and Claire stranded during a flight exercise. So much for that revenge plot….
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• The cold opening begins with one of Kal’s memories. It speaks of isolation and alienation from both his mother and his country. For instance, he rarely ever gets to see the former, so rare moments like waving to their cheering subjects serve as one of the few memories of her that he gets to cherish.
• I guess before the days of mass media, it’s pretty easy for a deposed crown prince to disappear into another society and become a generic pilot without anyone ever noticing: “Say, doesn’t that kid look familiar…?” Still, weren’t members of royalty rather distinctive-looking back in the day due to generations of in-breeding? I guess despite all the siscon nonsense elsewhere, this is the one animeism that our show will avoid. Oh, not that I’m complaining or anything.
• I initially feared this to be the case, and it turns out that I was right: the more interesting narrative will play out through dispersed flashbacks. Meanwhile, the rest of the story dawdles, perfectly content in being another bland anime. Stuff about the revolution and Kal’s former life? That’s sort of interesting. Watching Claire marvel over curry and rice because it’s just the anime thing to do? Ugh.
• What’s next? A hot springs episode? A school festival episode? An impromptu baseball game episode? C’mon now, we know we’ve gotta make this show as anime as fuck.
• Supposedly, life at pilot school is tough. Say, it might be a nice idea to show us why it’s so tough. No, I’m not doubting it. I’m just saying that there’s a disconnect between what we see and what the anime — through its characters — tells us. If the training’s arduous, then show me. After all, the only thing I’ve seen thus far has been relatively stress-free flying. Where’s the tough part? How am I supposed to become immersed into this world when the only information I get comes a conversation during dinner?
• Hey Claire, want another helping of curry? Meanwhile, her plate still looks rather full.
• Shizuka: “I’m just observing an eye on you kids.” What? Also, she looks younger than them.
• Sonia’s boss insists that she teaches her students how to fly in formation. In fact, they need to prepare themselves to dogfight before everyone reaches the Holy Spring. According to the guy, this “will save their lives.” Ominous. If only the anime was a little more this and a little less generic high school in the sky.
• We then cut to Kal and Claire in a flying session, the former attempting to handle a rifle out of a plane. A rather odd thing to see, but I don’t know much about plane combat before the advent of mounted machine guns so shrug. Maybe this was a real thing back in the day. I’m not going to look it up though; not interested enough.
• Well, I’ll give the show credit for one thing: Kal isn’t magically a pro at everything he does. Hell, this scene would imply that he failed the exercise pretty badly. I’ve written elsewhere how boring it is when anime heroes are just instantly good at everything they touch. As such, we lose that journey from novice to expert that adds drama to the narrative. You can see exactly what I’m talking about here. After a poor showing, Fausto begins to bully our hero over the supposedly pathetic display, so now there’s a bit more tension in the air (no pun intended). Sure, this isn’t an original way to introduce conflict, but at least there is conflict rather than the one-sided “I’m going to kick your ass easily ’cause the main character” that so many other stories have going for them..
• The elitist jerk tells Claire that she should pair up with him instead. He even goes on one knee like Kal had previously done in last week’s episode. So despite claiming his superiority over and over, Fausto ends up merely copying a commoner (keeping in mind that Kal’s true identity remains hidden to most of his peers). Good going, friend. I also never get why heroines are so passive. Would I let some random asshole kiss my hand? Hell no, son. Have a five-finger greeting to the face instead! I kid, I kid; don’t resort to violence, guys. Anyway, Claire just stands there and says nothing.
• Oh no, rumors are floating about that the former crown prince of Balsteros has sneaked onto Isla to get his revenge on Nina Viento (her name’s kinda silly when you say it over and over). C’mon anime, time to get to the juicy plot. You know you can do it! Be brave!
• Speaking of the Wind Revolution, what was it?
• Kal’s mutters, “Karl La Hire died a long time ago,” to which Ari grunts in the affirmative. Oh, I wasn’t aware she was in on it too.
• To turn an empire into a republic… well, it’s not very likely that an entire populace would go and overthrow a monarchy without cause. I mean, I’m not trying to imply that a mob mentality is ever the way to go, but let’s be honest with ourselves.
Unless we’re talking about religious extremists whipping the people up into a frenzy, it’s just not probable that the former Balsteros Empire was a just and benevolent institution that unfortunately suffered at the hands of the evil commoners storming its Bastille. The following flashback that we see, however, tries to imply that the rebels are being manipulated by some mysterious, shady-looking duke. Really though? An entire country falls prey to a revolution without the Empire having done something horrible to begin with? We can quibble over whether or not both sides are equally evil, but it’s doubtful that the Empire was ever guilt-free. Unless, however, fundamentalists are at work.
• Nina Viento apparently has some crazy tornado-conjuring powers, which she used to wreck an entire Empire by herself. She’s a priestess too, so maybe religious fundamentalism was at work. Her eyes look empty, however, suggesting that she was not in full control of her own actions at that point in time.
• Karl didn’t exactly help his father’s cause by shouting, “Know your place!” to the frenzied masses. But of course, he was a crown price back then, and crown princes can be kind of bratty.
• Ooh, we see Ignacio as a child in the crowd. I guess he was one of the people who hated the monarchy. Why, though, he feels the need to trail Kal all the way to Isla is beyond me. I guess we’ll find out how strong that hatred really is.
• Fittingly, the deposed monarch is executed by guillotine. Soon enough, Karl’s mother also gets carted away so that we can see sad shounens in the rain. I dunno, buddy, maybe your mom was just another Marie Antoinette, but at least she was nice enough around you.
• For some reason, the rebels don’t want to execute a child, so instead, they’ve been attempting to kill Karl by poisoning him. Uh, that seems a lot more cruel to me than a quick lobbing off of the head, but who can really say they understand how crazy revolutionaries think!
• In a ridiculous scene, the black clouds disperse, allowing for the sun’s judgment to shine down upon the crying Karl. A guy suddenly holds the kid up to the sky like he’s Simba or some shit:
• Back to the current timeline, I don’t really trust Sonia’s judgment here. She stuck Kal and Claire in the group with all the first class because Kal had been — as we already know — fighting with Fausto. Oh, so the teachers do notice… they just opt to stand by and do nothing except engage in silly social experiments like this one. Our brilliant instructor thinks that flying in a giant hunk of metal alongside your enemy is the safest way to get everyone to become friends with one another! I can’t see how this could turn out badly!
• Predictably enough, one of the jerks from first class try to mess with our hero and his girlfriend, ‘causing Kal to plunge into a cloud and disorient himself. He’s really losing it.
• Luckily, Claire was there to support him, so he safely regains control of the plane, but now the two of them are separated from the rest of the pack. Whoops. But hey, prime bonding time. Not for Kal and Fausto though so good job Sonia.
• Kal tries to apologize for putting them both in this situation, but Claire says, “It’s not only your fault.” I half-expected her to say, “If it weren’t for those jerks…,” but she actually replies with, “We’re a team so we’re both a fault.” Yeesh.
• In any case, storm clouds a-brewin’.