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