「ナンジョウ・レイカ」 (Nanjou Reika)
While it was easy to tell what emotional response the writers were going for in this flashback episode, I unfortunately can’t say that it worked that well on me. Even with the addition time from skipping the opening and ending sequences, I just couldn’t really get a sense of how profound Samonji’s relationship with Reika was. There were definitely glimpses of it, which started off with Samonji’s uneasiness around Reika, escalated to him threatening a superior officer, and finally ended with him holding Reika’s body in his arms, but something was just missing in all of that. What should’ve come off as tragic came off as inevitable instead. And what should’ve come off as a death of a lover came off as a death of a high school crush.
Despite the statements that came from both Samonji and Reika that were effectively marriage proposals in the anime world, their screen time together was so brief that it was difficult to tell if there was even any actual romantic chemistry between them. In fact, I got more of a sense of that from the brief sunflower field flashback in episode eight than I did here. As such, I’m left with the memory that Reika willingly put herself on a path of self-destruction—something that Samonji himself identified early on—and crashed and burned at the end. No surprises there. I can’t even fault Samonji for any of it, since his job was just to guard Reika and the test facility. Suzushiro and Quasimodo on the other hand were just witnesses to it all, being members of Samonji’s squad. In other words, this flashback played out as a girl with fleeting idealistic dreams that could never be truly realized and she wound up dying in pursuit of them. Cue death flag scene.
Regardless of whether I felt the tragedy behind Reika’s death, the takeaway for the overall story is definitely that her death had a life-changing impact on Samonji. It affects how he perceives the world, how he tries to command a squad where no one dies, and how he lives with constant regret for not putting a stop to the experiment that claimed Reika’s life. For Tokimune, the end result from this revelation is the second of two possible outcomes that I had in mind—he makes amends with Samonji and pushes on to win the war. The question now is whether Samonji feels “responsible” for Tokimune given what happened to Reika. The experimental Trial Krieger relied on the use of brain waves to remotely control other units, which isn’t too dissimilar from Argevollen’s neuro-link system. If Tokimune and Argevollen went out of control, would Samonji stake his life to at least save the younger brother of the girl that he didn’t? The scene at the end where he looks up at Argevollen suggests that he won’t stand around idly twice, so I’m sort of leaning that way. Plus with Cayenne still around and scheming like he did back then, odds are that Samonji will face additional hardships in the future. On the plus side, it looks like they’ll be getting some new Trial Krigers next episode.
Note: I’ll be away next week so my coverage of Argevollen will likely slip to the following Monday at the earliest. If needed, I may just double-post episodes 13 and 14.
Full-length images: 05.