Welp, sucks to be that guy.
Episode summary: Kal and company take off to defend Isla, but they are outnumbered and suffer heavy casualties as a result. Claire tries to help, but she still can’t channel her lost powers. Luckily, Kal and Ari luckily make it out alive anyway (was there any doubt?). De Alarcon receives a letter from some emperor and the episode ends on that note.
• Looks like the enemy bombers still manage to make their way to Isla proper. So much for Mitsuo’s sacrifice last week. I feel like the start of this week’s episode just ends up cheapening the poor guy’s death even further.
• Old people in anime always look so odd. Like, you know how most anime girls look, right? They all have the same facial structure pretty much. But when you look at the countess, her face is so angular and gaunt that it’s hard to imagine how the average shoujo will turn into that over the next few decades. Just something that struck me as funny, I guess.
• I’m surprised Ignacio hasn’t used the chaos and confusion of the current situation to carry out his revenge on Kal. It seems like it would be the perfect opportunity to commit a crime unnoticed. Actually, maybe he’s going to do that right now…
• You’d think with Isla’s level of technology, i.e. a flying island, they’d have mounted guns on every fighter. Having the students fight back with handheld rifles seems like a suicide mission to me. But somehow — just somehow — our students still manage to take out quite a few of the enemy fighters by themselves. They’re all crack shots and those hulls are pretty flimsy, I guess.
• The city of Centezual’s getting ripped apart, but like with Mitsuo, we hardly know anything about Isla outside of its flight acdemy, so… I can’t say I’m getting too worked up about this apparent tragedy. If the narrative’s not willing to develop its characters and setting to a satisfactory level, you can’t blame me for not caring.
• “Don’t die, Wolf. I can’t make Ari-men without you!” Snort.
• A bunch of people end up dying, but I don’t really feel anything for them. As far as I’m concerned, there are only four well-developed characters in the show: Kal, his sister Ari, his girlfriend Claire, and his foil Ignacio. But even then, this isn’t entirely true. You could easily make the argument that only Kal and Claire are the characters that are truly well-developed. In any case, Ari gets hit in the shoulder, but let’s be honest, she was never going to die. You just knew she was going to be alright in the end. Same with Kal. It’s even funnier when a mysterious blue fighter just shows up out of nowhere to save his ass. How convenient, huh?
Anyway, my point is that even Ari’s injury has little to no emotional impact, because there simply isn’t any tension in The Pilot’s Love Song. Ari even got to look super cool when she did that about face to take out an enemy fighter. Meanwhile, Fausto’s death is meaningless because he’s been a jerk all season, so it’s kinda hard to convince me to care about him now. Wolfgang’s death is meaningless too, because he has even less lines than Mitsuo. They were nobodies in the story, and they got sent to their graves like fodder. What makes it even worse is that their deaths are senseless, but not even in the “Oh, I’m ruminating on the pointlessness of war” sort of way. Their deaths are literally senseless because we have no context to which we can understand this present conflict.
We know next to nothing about the enemy. We know next to nothing about the Holy Spring. We know next to nothing about why Isla is so hellbent on this pilgrimage to the End of the Sky. We know next to nothing why the entire populace is going along with this crackpot plan. We just get to see a bunch of kids die for no reason whatsoever. I don’t even have a clue who’s right and who’s wrong. But it’s not like, “Oh, this conflict is morally ambiguous.” No, it’s not even that. Instead, you literally have no clue what either side stands for. Maybe Isla and its inhabitants are the invaders, but even then, we don’t really know. It’s just all a big ol’ mystery. Yes, not every character that dies in a war story necessarily has to be well-developed, but at least give me something work with.
I can certainly feel for a dying character in, say, Platoon, because I at least know what the conflict was all about. I can at least understand the plight of young kids being drafted into a brutal war being waged all the way on the other side of the planet. The Vietnam War itself serves as a linchpin for the drama even if I don’t personally know the dying soldiers all that well. As for The Pilot’s Love Song, we know nothing. There’s nothing to tie any of these events together. We have two sides and they just happen to be fighting one another. I guess I’m supposed to root for the kids because I’ve seen them serve ramen and camp out in their swimsuits or something, but it just doesn’t work that way. You can’t just tell me to start caring; it’s not a light switch.
You wanna know where my emotional investment is? I’m vaguely interested in seeing how the Kal, Claire, and Nina Viento dynamic plays out, because — well, guess what! — that’s what the show has focused on till now. I mean, when you devote flashbacks after flashbacks toward a singular storyline in the narrative, you can’t just suddenly get me to care about the plight of the dying unknowns in a hazy conflict. So naturally, the eponymous love story is the only storyline I really give a damn about.
• How will Isla, a rather isolated floating island, go about rebuilding its infrastructure after that relentless bombing attack? It’s only fitting that Sonia called it a “pure defeat.” I wonder if any of the populace will protest or even their concerns about the rest of this pilgrimage. I’d find it highly odd if nobody complains in next week’s episode.
• So Kal’s sobbing his eyes out when Ari suddenly wakes up and calls him an idiot. Not only does she wake up, her eyes are wide open. She’s not even severely tired, exhausted or weakened. At best, she’s kinda groggy, but that comes with the territory of sleeping for long hours. Basically, Ari just seems like her normal self! Y’know, despite Ari saying that she was bleeding a ton and it doesn’t look like Isla has much of a blood transfusion program going for it. And then she makes Kal get into the bed with her. That seems sanitary.
• “But we can’t be scared and beaten forever,” says Ari. Forever? Yes, this would be an excellent point to make… if there was actually a pattern of people acting scared and beaten outside of this very instance of Kal weeping by his sister’s bedside. The story knows what it wants the audience to feel, but it’s unwilling to work for it. So it’s funny to hear Ari then follow up with, “Instead, work hard, so you can fly better next time!” Yo, why don’t you follow your own advice, anime?
• Oh boy, now they’re fighting over who’s older. I’m sure you guys are very touched by this example of sibling love.
• Next week, I guess Kal will find out that he’s been consorting with Nina Viento all along. Can’t wait!
Of course, Ari wins the arguments about Kal being the older sibling… making her now the dreaded imouto.
You write, “… They were nobodies in the story, and they got sent to their graves like fodder. What makes it even worse is that their deaths are senseless, but not even in the «Oh, I’m ruminating on the pointlessness of war» sort of way. Their deaths are literally senseless because we have no context to which we can understand this present conflict. …”
While I don’t argue with your point, I’d like to underline how sudden it was for the show to kill off pretty much all of the kids. It was a given that our four protagonists would survive, but to kill off even Fausto or Wolf… I half expected them to miraculously survive. If this accomplished anything, it was to show how irrevocable and devastating military conflicts can be. *poof* and all your buddies are gone forever, leaving you with a permanent sense of loss.
Another thing I would like to point out is that it was very unrealistic for the kids even to stand a chance of the much faster, much advanced fighter planes (that somehow bore a resemblance to WWII fighter planes) even with the given suspension of disbelief of VTOL planes the show has primarily been using so far. I mean, Kal could figure out the emblem of the plane in motion against backlight from quite a few hundred meters far? He surely has impressive eyesight. They managed to shoot down a few enemy planes with rifles? Sorry, that simply doesn’t fly in my book (pun intended). Up to now the show had some kind of steampunk atmosphere; what’s with the sudden introduction of realistic fighter planes?
For me, they weren’t expected to die, but at the same time, their deaths weren’t unexpected either, if you know what I mean. I agree, the current message of the story is that military conflicts can be devastating. But this same message is being conveyed in such a perfunctory way that I just can’t see anything redeeming about it.
Rest in peace, imouto-chan.