Rating: 5 (of 5)
First off, for those who have been reading each week, my apologies for this being up later than normal. Unexpected schedule changes over the weekend left me with no time to write about this episode until the following Monday evening.
Whereas last episode was almost entirely anime-original, this episode was about 80% by the novels; Lena’s part was the first epilogue to novel 1, while much of the 86’s part is actually from the middle of novel 2. The visits to the school and zoo are the anime-original parts this time, and like with the original content last episode, they were both fitting and seamless in their inclusion. The zoo scene in particular was sobering, a reminder of how the sudden deaths or departures of humans can have negative consequences on animals dependent on them as well. The only negative aspect was that Anju’s “they’re just like us” comment concerning the skeletal remains of the animals seemed a bit graceless by this series’ standards on symbolism.
That does not change the fact that both sides of the story were equally compelling in bringing the series to its first-cour stopping point. On the 86’s side, we get to see how Fido ended up as the wreck he was in the final shot from last episode: a battle which also cost the 86s all but one of their Juggernauts, though the pilots all remained intact. Placing the chest of name plaques with the remains of Fido is quite fitting; he served Shin faithfully for years, and helped to collect the scraps used for the name plaques (this isn’t as clear from the anime, but it is in the novel), so what better guardian and gravestone for Shin’s legacy could be asked for? That all eventually leads to a final desperate battle, one which certainly suggests that all the remaining 86s fall; the epilogue even goes as far as suggesting that Shin has joined his brother in the Legion. That’s one hell of a cliffhanger to end the season on. In some senses it would be fitting and especially impactful if this is the true end for Shin and crew, as it would drive home even harder the underlying themes about the unjustness of the 86s’ situation. However, notice that none of Raiden, Theo, Anju, or Kurena are shown bloodied or otherwise with severe injuries as they lay on the ground. This series has not typically been that tame in showing the dead before.
Lena’s scene, meanwhile, is less harrowing but more potentially emotional – which is also fitting, since Lena is the heart of the series. It shows that there are already consequences for her (by the Alba’s viewpoint) brash actions in exceeding her authority to help Spearhead Squadron escape alive, but more importantly, she comes to see where Spearhead Squadron lived. We learn for the first time that the chief mechanic always wears sunglasses for a reason, and his story is a sad one as well. Even sadder is Lena’s discovery that the final five members of the squad anticipated that she might come visit and left messages for her – some light-heartedly rude or teasing, others (like Shin’s request about laying flowers at their final resting place if she should ever come across it) devastating. The bits of symbolism here are interesting, too; the cat toy is actually a pig’s head, and Shin’s final novel is Erich Maria Remarque’s war classic All Quiet on the Western Front. I could almost write a whole essay just about how deep the symbolism and irony of that choice runs, including how the protagonist of that story died with a smile on his face – and Shin likewise has a smile as he faces his apparent end.
The other important part of that scene is the wonderful shot near its end where Lena is facing the future with grim determination. (See the screen shot above.) Though the battle seems to be over for the 86s, it isn’t for her, but her experiences with Spearhead Squadron have forged a newer, harder resolve in her. The red coloring she is shown with during the closing credits could also be symbolic of something that she will do in the second cour.
The one other interesting bonus is the flashes which seem to come from the source of the long-range artillery, another Shepherd who has some serious anger issues lingering from his previous life. However, his rage seems to be over something perpetrated not by the Legion, but by human agents. The emblems shown in those flashes seem to be Imperial symbols, and a young girl referred to as a princess is shown. This isn’t a random inclusion, as it presages a major storyline that will run through the second cour.
The production values remain sharp to the end, as does the flawless use of the musical score. In all, it makes for a strong conclusion to what is easily one of the season’s best titles. Curiously, a Special is advertised for next week. Will it be a look ahead to the second cour in the fall, perhaps? Whatever it is, I will at least briefly comment on it here.
Either way, it’s going to be a long wait through the Summer season until this terrific series is back on again.
English Dub: The first episode is also now available in English dub form. Seems very well-cast and well-performed so far.
OTHER SERIES I’M FOLLOWING:
Fruits Basket the Final ep 11 – Loved the revelation about how the story of the zodiac party has gotten altered over the years, and the true role that the Cat had in it. Still think Akito is getting off too easy, but seeing how the rest of the Zodiac members deal with the final breaking of the curse is very satisfying. (NOTE: The last episode has, I believe, aired as I write this, but I have not had time to watch it yet.)
Higehiro eps 11 and 12 – Loved the way the rooftop scene at the school played out, but all of episode 11 is just a set-up for the big, climactic confrontation with Sayu’s mother in episode 12. I thought that episode stretched just a bit with how the camera moved around the scene while Yoshida was collecting his thoughts, but for the most part I found how the scene was handled and resolved to be generally satisfying. Yoshida makes worthy points: even though he wants to take Sayu in permanently, that’s not his place to do. Theirs is a family matter, and it should be dealt with within their family. Even so, sometimes it takes an outsider to provide the impetus to get things moving. The final episode’s title is “Future,” and I hoped that means that we will see how things turn out down the road.
The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent episode 11 – Nice to see Aria get involved. Sei is definitely going to have some man problems to get sorted out long-term, though, and seeing Hawke get all angry at the other guy’s attention was just adorable.
Vivy -Flourite Eye’s Song episode 13 – I can see the epilogue scene for this final episode being controversial, but up until that point it was a strong finale with a wonderful climactic song, down even to the choice of lyrics. I’ll have more thoughts on this series as a whole in the Spring Season Wrap-Up next week.
Zombie Land Saga Revenge episode 11 – Doesn’t it seem fitting that this story somehow ends up being part disaster flick near the end?