「帰らざる無宿」 (Kaerazaru mushuku)
“No Place to Return”
Among the pirates, the birds, and the anomalocaris, there’s a story of a girl with a dream.
3DCG in animation has always been a tad unsettling to me. The most recent series of this nature I’ve seen is Ajin, which used the uncanny valley to purposely make its focus characters alien, reminding the viewers that they were isolated from humanity and strange. While the animation choice here seems to be more a case of convenience, it does make for some incredible visuals, especially when it comes to the fights in the sky.
The first dogfight of the episode started a little over five minutes in and it was stunning. There were times when the camera angles shifted to first person, making you feel the spins and dives with the characters. While these battles are going on, there’s a bombastic score to enhance the atmosphere of the scene, as well as propeller and engine SFX so realistic it was like I could hear them coming from right next to me.
Something interesting, the aircraft that goes by the name of Hiryu (飛龍, “Flying Dragon”) was probably inspired by the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier in the 1930’s, and the Hagoromo (羽衣) comes from the feathered kimono of spiritual beings in Japanese Buddhism. Those allusions to past and culture have been a part of the series from the beginning, but as a recent watcher, color me intrigued. Lonely landscape shots, sometimes dotted with abandoned aeroplane parts, reminded me of Nausicaa. The abandoned manmade machines left to nature’s elements around the vast plateau of Ofukouyama, a former pilot training ground, seemed to serve as a reminder to the viewer of how easy it would be for Kirie’s plane to crash one day and not fly again. Through flashbacks, we learned the story of her encounter with an ex-pilot, the man who ignited her desire to travel and see the world. He appeared to be from a mysterious group called the Yufang, and it was this group came from a hole that opened up and may or may not be responsible for the current state of Kotobuki‘s world. Basically, imagine if the isekai wasn’t about the protagonist, but rather the natives of the world struggling to come to terms with the damage left behind in the aftermath.
On a lighter note, this episode’s dialogue was delightfully quirky – Kirie’s first conversation with Ol’ Sab (Tanaka Kan), for example, consisted of her asking if he was dead in a cheerful, upbeat fashion – though sometimes it can focus a little too heavily on exposition.
As for the group dynamic of the pilots, they have enough faith in Kirie not to suspect her of sneaking the money, a testament to how much trust they have in each other’s integrity, and how well they’ve come to know their squadmates.
I’ll admit that between the build-up, the flashbacks, and the score, I was biting my nails at the last take-off scene. Now, I may not be an expert on piloting, but do you really have to wait until the last second to pull up?
It’d be nice if the series expanded more on the rest of the cast in future episodes, as well as the budding mystery, and who knows? Maybe we’ll be seeing the old man again, someday.