What they Say:
“Episode 2 – Cadoques High, Aerial Division.”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Kal, Ariel, and their new classmates start to settle into their daily routine. As the cherry blossoms take flight in the passing wind, so do the youngsters after their school’s opening ceremony. There are three choices for the students of Cadoques High School – there are those who choose not to specialize, those who work to become flight mechanics, and then those who work towards the goal of becoming pilots, to help defend the floating island on the way to its destination. Kal and his sister, as well as those who are training alongside them, all have their reasons for choosing the pilot’s life, and these reasons often seem to override the class boundaries that are already beginning to rear their ugly heads among the students.
Throughout the ordeal of meeting their new teachers and getting acclimated to their duties, Kal notices that there’s one thing missing – Claire, the girl that he met the previous evening, doesn’t seem to be present at school. He searches for her throughout the day, but it’s not until the members of his class are choosing flight partners that she arrives. She’s there with special permission, under the sponsorship of one of the teachers, but all Kal cares about is that he now has the opportunity to spend more time with this mysterious, shy young lady. The two turn out to be a good pair when they attempt a short flight in one of the dual-piloted student planes, and Claire is almost immediately accepted into Kal’s quickly-forming group. But there are those who aren’t too keen on a member of the nobility mixing with those from the lower classes.
Of course, though Kal may not be aware of it himself, his origins might make his links to the nobility more than just a distant fantasy.
Whereas the first episode relied a lot on its ability to induce an emotional reaction in spite of its inherent cheesiness, this episode is mostly just functional with a few moments that poke and prod at the story’s more interesting mythological elements. As characters were introduced throughout the episode, it became a running gag between my husband and I to sum up their character traits as succinctly as possible – “that guy’s the otaku character,” or “I bet her main character trait is that she’s sickly.” It’s not so much that I have anything against large ensemble casts by any means, but at this early stage and with this many characters being tossed into the fray together at one time, it’s hard not to fall back on cliches. I think a real litmus test of how well this series is constructed will be to what extent these characters are developed and what sort of part they’ll have to play in the narrative. Or whether they’ll just be window dressing whenever there’s a need bring up the fact that classism exists.
That subject in particular is one thing that I’m finding unsatisfying so far in how it’s being handled. Class separation and privilege are as relevant as topics today as they were in the time when being a noble actually mattered and the idea of upward mobility for the lower classes was nothing but a pipe dream. This series is taking that complicated subject, though, and handling it in a way that seems especially ham-handed and overly-convenient for itself. The upper-class characters introduced so far (aside from Claire, naturally) almost all seem painted with the same brush – snooty, pooh-pooing of commoners, and in major need of an attitude adjustment. It’s enough to make our milquetoast hero seem like a pretty good guy (which is probably the point), but I also find it to diminish the potential for a more substantial message to come through. People who grow up in a lot of wealth may occasionally be out-of-touch with what the average person has to deal with, but this rarely makes them as sniveling or outright rude as they’re portrayed here.
Perhaps my favorite part of the episode was the brief scene during which the “mission” of the floating island and those chosen to ride it to its destination was outlined. I’m finding that the series’ greatest potential is that which is found in its setting and mythology, and after each little tidbit is offered I’m very engaged and excited to learn more. As the narrative links its creation myth with the reality of what’s happening in the broader, background plot arc, I’m hoping that some of the aforementioned character issues will fall by the wayside or at least not dominate the run time of each episode so much.
Judging by the show’s title, it would be a little foolish to hope that the (Romeo and Juliet?) love story between Kal and Claire wouldn’t serve as the dominant driving force for the plot. Even so, I think it’s reasonable to expect that their supporting cast, as rag-tag (and one-note) as some of them may be, hold their own a little bit more. As the series begins to find some more solid footing and its background plot elements and mythology start coming to the forefront, this will hopefully be the case. When the setting provides so much potential to foster a good fantasy story, it’s difficult not to cling on to high expectations. When the cast is still so underdeveloped, it’s difficult not to be impatient when asking for more.
Episode Grade: C
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Review Equipment: Acer P235H 1080p LCD Monitor connected via DVI input, Logitech S220 2.1 Speakers, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560