First things first: Whoever wrote the summary text for the inside cover of this volume deserves a real *slow clap*. I mean really, ending with “...until the enemy’s tentacles threaten to overwhem her,” suggests an entirely different experience than what this series (or pretty much any title released by Viz) is about. Part of me wants to think that it was just someone being clever, because the alternative is that they were just clueless. I’d like to think that the standards for working at Viz are higher than that.
With that out of the way, now I can get around to talking about whether or not this volume actually deliver on the sublime cliffhanger set up previously?
For the most part, yes. It’s not what I “wanted,” but I can’t fault the resolution offered up by Mohiro Kitoh because it stems directly from how sad-sack Kirie has been portrayed up until now. The resolution follows a long, uneasy, mostly one-sided conversation with his teacher who makes a number of pointed observations about Kirie’s character and the story in general. He eventually provokes the kid into action, but the end result is surprising, yet realistic at the same time. When it’s considered against the rest of his arc, the moment feels like Kirie is testing his capability to end a person’s life in preparation for his upcoming battle. Regrettably, this particular event drives the point home better than what follows as Kitoh gives us lots of talking heads to debate the morality of the situation and have the characters arrive at a conclusion that finally allows the plot to move forward.
Now I thought I was done making comparisons to the anime, but the lackluster second half of this arc made me remember how Kirie’s fight was portrayed there. We’re denied seeing the actual battle in the manga, but in the anime he winds up dominating his opponent in a way that none of the other pilots manage. Thinking about it now, it’s a moment that cuts through a lot of the moralizing about annihilating other worlds to show that this sad, pathetic little kid had this one moment to show everyone that there was something that he was better at than anyone else. Granted, finding “glory in battle” runs counter to what Kitoh has been doing here, but I think Kirie’s temperament would’ve made it work. I guess what I’m saying is that I would’ve liked to have seen the battle play out here so the manga could’ve shown how it could’ve or should’ve been done.
Then we come to Komoda, the general’s daughter who graces this volume’s cover, and her fight with the mecha that has the “tentacles.” To be honest, “tentacles” is probably a misnomer as I think that “harpoon lines” sum up the method of attack much better. Anyway, there’s a major twist with this battle that puts the existence of both realities on the line and forces part of the truth about the pilots and Zearth out into the open. Komoda’s performance at her piano recital is then used as bait to lure the rogue element out into the open.
Kitoh gets points for mixing things up in this fashion and I’m curious to see how things will be resolved in the next volume. That’s “curious,” not “eager.” Part of me thinks that this is a setup for additional moralizing and/or debating along the lines of what we got early on in this volume. Will it drag things down, or give us a new appreciation of the worlds being pruned? I’ll be there to find out in November.