Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Ep. 7: Rest in peace… in the sky!

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Very gallant, Mitsuo. Very gallant. But unfortunately, the anime has done you a disservice. I really feel for these two; I really do. They were relatively nobodies in the story until the narrative needed to kill Mitsuo. So all of sudden, we’re spending all this time with these two characters, listening intently to their thoughts and concerns. Despite this, I still felt a pang of sadness when the guy had to let go of Chiharu’s hand. Nevertheless, I say the anime’s done a disservice to these characters because there would’ve been a much, much greater impact had the anime taken the time to flesh out these two pilots from the very beginning of the story. Of course, in doing so, you end up making them ‘important.’ Perhaps not as important as Kal or Claire themselves, but you run the risk of turning these two into major characters. Y’know, like Ari or Ignacio. Why is this a narrative risk? Because most people don’t like it when a major character dies. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil sometimes in order to tell a good story.

Ultimately, this is one of the biggest problems plaguing anime in general. Storytellers are just too afraid to kill off any of the important characters even if it would make for a better story. That’s why something like Game of Thrones can manage to shock audiences left and right because most of us can never tell who’s going to live and who’s going to die. Just as soon as you think someone might end up being the hero or the heroine of the tale, they get killed and without any mercy whatsoever. I’m not saying I enjoy Game of Thrones — trust me, I don’t — but I can at least respect it for having the guts to do whatever it takes to entertain its audience. People actually cared when Robb Stark died and you should want that. Whenever a death occurs in a story, it should evoke emotions from the audience (unless you’re trying to make some sort of point about the senselessness of war, but I don’t think that’s what this anime is going for). I’ve heard people actually say that they needed take a break from watching Game of Thrones as a result of the “Red Wedding” episode.

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On the other hand, are any of you guys going to take a break from Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta after seeing Mitsuo’s heartbreaking sacrifice for Chiharu’s sake? And will anyone feel torn up emotionally as a result? The answer to both of these questions is no, isn’t it? Well, who can blame us? After all, they’re not important characters. I mean, it sucks that that the guy had to die, but y’know… there’s just not enough of an emotional connection between this very brief and hastily-developed love story and the audience. In a better narrative, Mitsuo would have been a major character from the very start of the show. He could’ve been one of Kal’s foil or something. Yes, I know Ignacio is already a character foil, but you can have more than one, y’know? And had he been one of Kal’s foil, we might’ve been rooting for him at every twist and turn of the plot. Then when he dies, it’s like a small part of us dies as well. Now that’s storytelling. But instead, you don’t start caring about Mitsuo until it’s plainly obvious that it’s his time to exit the stage. In the end, his bravery could’ve meant so much more. But… it doesn’t.

Episode summary: The knight commander sends out his fleet to attack the enemy head on, but it turns out they’ve been fooled. The real enemy fleet is set to attack Isla in the cloak of night. On a recon mission, Mitsuo and Chiharu spots the real enemy fleet in time to send a warning message back to Isla. Despite the students’ best efforts, however, Isla’s pilots run into trouble when the enemy forces turn off their lights to conceal themselves in the darkness. Mitsuo and Chiharu realize that they need to fire a flare gun in order to reveal their enemies, but in doing so, they will be noticed and thus shot down. Nevertheless, the two kids take the risk in order to protect their home. In their attempt to escape, Mitsuo is hit in the abdomen with a bullet. Whether or not his injury is fatal — and it most likely is because that type of wound tends to get septic — he decides to sacrifice his own life to save Chiharu’s. He misleads her into thinking that they’ll both eject from the plane, but at the last second, he stays on to lead the enemies away from the parachuting Chiharu. Sonia and Bandareas end up in the right place and the right time in order to save the girl. Still, the battle rages on, and Kal, who had been previously ordered to provide AA support, decides that to enter the fray.

Notes:

• Well, there’s still something wrong with Sonia’s face:

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I guess last week’s ramen was just that good. In any case, my hopes for this episode aren’t high.

• How do the people of Isla feel about these recent developments though? The show has tunneled in so hard on the students’ daily lives that we hardly know anything about Isla’s society and how it thinks. What is its culture like? Is any of them apprehensive about the journey to the End of the Sky? How do the adults feel about the militarization of their children?

• Well, how very lucky for our main characters. They get to stay behind in order “to provide AA support.” I wonder if anyone’s going to be bitter about this. After all, it looks like a disaster is looming.

• Wow, look at this amazing aerial combat:

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It’s like two very angry groups of gnats buzzing around each other. It’s even funnier when they all move in formation through each other:

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I mean, I wasn’t expecting Top Gun or anything, but c’mon now… they could’ve done a whole lot better than this.

• What an idiot: “Everyone’s so lucky, getting to go on the recon…” Claire tries to reassure her boyfriend that their mission is just as important, but we all know it isn’t the importance of the mission that matters to Kal.

• But providing AA support still isn’t quite safe enough for our dear shoujo governor. As a result, her countess comes to retrieve both her and Ignacio. Yes, it turns out Ignacio had been Claire’s bodyguard all along. Still, I half-expected Claire to put up at least some form of resistance, but I guess not.

• The countess wants Claire to inspire the people of Isla even if she can no longer command the wind. I guess only a small group of people are privy to the fact that their priestess has long lost her powers.

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• Not that it’s surprising, but does the show’s soundtrack feel really cheap to anyone else? It’s like some guy’s just hammering away at a synthesizer to create a tense musical piece The sound effects don’t fare much better either. Isla’s cannons sound like flapping fabric slowed and pitched down. I dunno, it’s all just rather ratchet.

• At some point, someone’s sense of self-preservation’s gotta kick in. I’m not saying that they should all ignore the orders that they’ve been given, but the students all seem very passive and accepting of their fates. The older-looking student is like, “This is a war. We have to be willing to risk our lives.” But for what? All you guys wanted to do was to find the End of the Sky. Is that really worth going to war over?

• Why did Mitsuo start bleeding from his forehead?

• Okay, it’s a little too convenient that Bandereas happened to be in the exact right place and the right time to rescue Chiharu. C’mon Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta, quit while you’re ahead. In other words, don’t ruin what has been a decent episode thus far. Yes, this episode has been decentish… the production values in the first half are still garbage though. Yeah, the anime looked okay once it started to focus on Mitsuo and Chiharu’s tragic love story, but it could’ve been a great episode from start to finish.

• So we finally get to see where the “barbarians” are coming from:

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I don’t love world-building, ’cause I feel like anime is often too… clinical with it, if that makes sense? Basically, a story should make me feel something; it should be an emotional experience. Whether it makes me cry, laugh, excited… whatever. The exact emotion it evokes is not important. What’s important is that I feel anything at all. The problem that world-building runs into is when it only manages to be mildly interesting at best. Still, world-building is necessary from time to time in order to give the audience the proper perspective with which to view and comprehend the events of the story. And I think Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta would’ve greatly benefited from just a teensy, tiny bit of world-building… so long as it isn’t boring. After all, we’ve been floating through episodes after episodes of nothing but clouds and the ocean beneath. Out of nowhere, a giant hunk of rock appears and this is supposedly where the “barbarians” are from. Something about the show just doesn’t feel like it flows organically from one episode to the next, and the lack of world-building, I think, is a large reason why.

• Hm, that’s an anti-climactic way for the episode to end. It just faded to black, and then the credits rolled. Welp, show’s over!

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14 thoughts on “Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Ep. 7: Rest in peace… in the sky!”

  1. Given that Chiharu and Mitsuo were so unimportant before this episode, I kinda wish both of them had bitten the dust. If the anime isn’t going to bother with properly introducing characters to the audience until it’s time to off them, it could at least commit to the whole death thing fully. I mean, if I don’t care that Mitsuo died (and I really don’t), I care even less about Chiharu’s miraculous survival.
    The other thing that annoyed me about the episode was Bandereas telling Chiharu that Mitsuo was “a true pilot.” Dude, you weren’t even there, how the heck would you know? Even if you accept that he made an educated guess, it’s basically sentimental rubbish – and it’s not as though Bandereas was in any way close to Mitsuo, either.
    However, I suppose I can at least say that this episode was roughly… I’ll think I’ll go with nine times better than the last couple. Which wouldn’t exactly be difficult, but still. Small mercies.

    1. It’s really no skin off my back whether or not Chiharu should’ve died. I just think Mitsuo’s death was wasted potential.

      I imagine Bandereas was only trying to comfort her the best he can. Comforting words are usually sentimental rubbish.

      1. It just felt off to me. Bandereas seems like a nice guy and all, but not one to coddle his students. If nothing else, I imagine doing so would be a disadvantage in the long run to trainee soldiers. But to be honest, sentimental rubbish often annoys me in real life too, so maybe I just don’t get it.

    2. No, it wasn’t sentimental rubbish. It was a perfectly accurate compliment. Mitsuo’s job was a dangerous and difficult one, and he did it well. It was obviously very effective recon work on Mitsuo’s part. If not for Mitsuo, they’d all be getting bombed to smithereans. Then, on top of alerting his superiors to the true military threat, Mitsuo even managed to effectively use flares in order to reveal the enemy forces. He did fantastic work, and his actions put him into mortal danger, and everybody knows it. In a military sense, how can you get much more “true pilot” than this?

      Plus, Mitsuo’s pilot skills had been elaborated on before this episode. It was talked about a bit in previous episodes. I think that both you and E Minor are overly critical of this episode. Mitsuo was a minor side-character prior to this episode, but it’s not like him and Chiharu came absolutely out of nowhere. They’ve been part of the gang for the entire show, it’s just that they didn’t have many lines until the last two or three episodes.

      1. I never said they came out of nowhere. I said they weren’t important characters. That’s not even a subtle distinction; it’s just true by virtue of the fact that “they didn’t have many lines.” And I contrasted this with how GoT killing important characters made for a more impactful story, which shows that our anime could’ve done a whole lot more with these characters. How is that not true? Especially when we got pointless ramen-selling and beach funtime episodes, so you can’t even say the anime was pressed for time. If that’s overly critical, then I’d say you’re just being overly sensitive.

        1. How do you know “important” characters won’t die? Ignacio could die. Airi might. It’s not unimaginable. Mitty’s death may well just be the start of named character deaths in this show.

        2. Your question is irrelevant. The fact of the matter of that matter is that Mitsuo’s death could’ve been more meaningful had he been an important character. But he wasn’t, so you can’t blame some people for thinking, “So what?” Since you obviously think his sacrifice was noble, I don’t even know why you’re arguing against this. People would care more had he been a better developed character.

  2. While this is probably a bit of a nitpick, I have to mention that it drives me nuts when characters die the way Mitsuo did in this episode. It’s not that he was a minor side-character, or even that he was used as disposable drama-fodder for fear of an important character’s death being “too meaningful” for the audience to take. No… it’s that he jumped headlong into death after saying he’d try his best to survive.

    I know the poor guy got shot in the abdomen, but even before this he was gearing up into the too-familiar “we’re doomed, time to take a dive on living” zone. The instant he takes a wound of moderate seriousness he starts this routine where he has to trick his girlfriend into saving herself, then just goes and commits suicide because hey, it’s apparently absolutely certain that he’ll die from that bullet, and he knows this despite a total lack of medical knowledge, not even checking the entry zone to see if it was just a bit of shrapnel.

    I know, I know. Heroic sacrifice for dramatic tension. Still, for a character with things to live for he sure abandoned his own life in a hurry. I would respect the guy so much more if he at least tried to buckle on a parachute and jump to safety, hole in his gut or no, only to die in some other way in the attempt. It’s a minor difference in details, but a major one in message, and much stronger in my opinion.

    1. On the one hand, a character knowingly sacrifices his or her life for another. On the other hand, he or she tries to survive, but dies anyway. I think people find the latter to be more of a failure whereas the former is seen purely as a noble action. The idea that he gives up easily is relatively simple to hand-wave away when you’re overwhelmed by the emotions of the sacrifice itself.

      1. I guess I don’t really see it as a more noble action if the character in question just resigns themselves to death in a situation like this. This isn’t to say I look down on sacrifice – the idea of risking (and ultimately suffering) death to protect something greater than oneself is a powerful one, and it’s no surprise that it comes up in our stories over and over again.

        But I just don’t think it was done well here. A character makes a pact with someone he loves that they’ll both survive an impending battle, is wounded, but manages to get this person to safety in the process. And then… he just sighs and resigns himself to a potentially avoidable death now that he can rest easy knowing they’re alive? That’s just plain selfish.

        Having accomplished what he set out to do, the second thing he should be fighting with every fiber of his being to maintain is his own life – not just for himself, but for the loved one he just put everything on the line to protect. You made a promise, dude. Don’t just give up; defy fate. Flip martyrdom the bird. Fight to the last to save yourself for the sake of the people who care about you.

        I don’t think there’s any shame or failure in dying while doing that. It’s the placid “Go on… live… without me…” that comes across as hammy and artificial to me.

        1. And then… he just sighs and resigns himself to a potentially avoidable death now that he can rest easy knowing they’re alive?

          I think the idea was that he wanted to lead the enemy pilots away from Chiharu so that she could slip away safely. If they had both parachuted away, there was a high chance these giant white cloths would be spotted. I don’t disagree with you necessarily; it was poorly conveyed. The whole thing felt like a rush job, but oh well.

        2. Yeah, the whole thing was sort of a traffic jam of rushed developments, anachronisms, and missing information. The threat to Chiharu itself isn’t all that clear. The series evokes pretty strong World War 1/2 vibes with its technological designs and flight academy stylings, yet shooting at ejected pilots has been strongly looked down on basically since planes were first used in warfare.

          While this clearly isn’t Earth, I don’t see why the same moral quandary isn’t at least brought up in this series as a point of interest. Hanging a lampshade on the enemy’s seemingly barbaric behaviour would be much more interesting content than a diatribe on the merits of wheat products in broth. There are humans in those other planes too, guys.

          It feels wrong to see planes shooting at unarmed parachutists, no matter where you are in history. Without acknowledging this weirdness one way or the other before turning it into a major plot point like this, I’m left wondering if the author knows what they’re writing about, rather than nodding and going “Yeah… those barbarians really are jerks.”

        3. I don’t think the author cares that much about making sense as much as simply delivering an emotional punch in a story that sorely needed one. But yeah, when the story’s full of nonsensical aspects, it takes the viewers out of the moment and, as a result, the emotional punch is blunted. Again, not disagreeing, but for what it’s worth, I felt bad for Mitsuo nonetheless. I’m always looking to see how a show can improve, however, so I harp on its inability to develop its characters much to people’s chagrin.

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