I haven’t decided yet if I really want to make a post for each episode, or how often. I mostly started this blog to translate interviews and such, and that hasn’t changed (look for new interviews coming soon). That said, I’ve been taking this opportunity to reread each chapter of the novels as they air on TV, so I have a somewhat unique perspective on how the show’s been doing. I’m thinking I may make a post like this every few weeks, depending on how much I feel like saying.
The major thing that leaps out at me, rereading the novels, is that everything is just a little more dialed back than in the anime. Maybe that’s the nature of the medium – things just feel more lively than when you read words on a page. So, for example, Yuuya still mouths off to Yui, but without animation you don’t see him rolling his eyes, and without voices you don’t hear the obvious sarcastic edge to his words. The net effect is that Yuuya doesn’t come off as insubordinate to Yui as he does in the anime. And even then, during his first major argument with Yui, he’s well aware that his attitude towards a superior officer is enough to earn him a beating, and he’s a little surprised that one isn’t forthcoming. This is part of the reason he keeps thinking of her as a “Japanese doll” – she simply doesn’t seem to show the range of emotions that he would expect.
(Don’t worry though, eventually Ibrahim punches him in the face for his trouble.)
Yuuya’s attitude comes from many different factors, of which his hatred of the Japanese is just one piece. He has serious problems with authority, period. He’s been sent to Alaska precisely because his superiors know he’s a problem soldier, and want to wash their hands of him. At one point, when thinking about how he can get along better with Yui, he ruefully admits to himself that if he were capable of adjusting his attitude to please his superior officer, he wouldn’t have been sent to this dump to begin with. He’s probably not wrong when he says to Vincent that this transfer is something of a demotion. In fact, part of the reason he feels free to cop an attitude towards Yui is because, in his eyes, he can’t possibly be punished any further than he already has been.
As for Yui herself, her problem is that everything she sees and does is through a Japanese perspective. Not only does she live in an Imperial Japan that is surely heavy on nationalism, she belongs to an elite samurai lineage. That colors everything she does. She opposed Project XFJ to begin with, not wanting foreign input into a Japanese TSF – and she especially opposes having an American test pilot rather than a Japanese one. So she naturally latches onto Yuuya’s Japanese heritage, hoping to mold him into a “proper” Japanese pilot. She has absolutely no concept of the tolerance for other nations’ cultures and beliefs that must exist in a mixed-nation UN base. So it’s not really a surprise that nobody else seems to like her much. Yuuya quickly bonds with his fellow pilots in Argos Flight, but after a month on base, it doesn’t seem like Yui is friends with ANYBODY. I find that this quirk makes her a lot more likeable as a character. If everybody else simply backed her up and agreed with her, she would become very annoying very quickly, and the show itself would become unbearably preachy. What makes her tolerable is the fact that everybody else sees her as a huge pain, which helps make it clear that she’s not nearly as right as she seems to think she is.
As an example of how Japan-centric her thinking can be, when she first meets Yuuya in the novels, Ibrahim introduces her in Western name order, given name first. She promptly reintroduces herself in Japanese name order, family name first. In her eyes, she is probably trying to maintain her Japanese identity in an intimidating foreign country. In Yuuya’s eyes, though, she is asserting the superiority of Japanese culture over that of her host country, blatantly pissing on the concept of “When in Rome”. And quite honestly, Yuuya is probably closer to the truth than Yui is.
One part in the novel I really liked was Yuuya growing frustrated when it is announced that he will pilot Ibrahim’s Active Eagle. He immediately sees that he’s being slotted into the heel role of the “hotshot new pilot who waltzes in and replaces the beloved captain”. Although everything he says to Tarisa about not being used to the Active is correct, another reason he proposes to switch machines is to avoid this impression. This is also why he asks Stella about winning prior to the simulation starting – he’s worried that Stella may not put her best effort into fighting her own teammates alongside the new guy. Worst case scenario, he’s even worried that it may devolve into a 3-vs-1 fight.
There’s a cute scene in the novel where Vincent reveals to Yuuya that the mechanics all have a pool going on whether Yuuya or Yui will “surrender” first. Apparently, making bets on the various pilots around base is how the mechanics pass the time. Just look at how into it the mechanics are in episode 5 when Yuuya and Yui are arguing in the hanger.
In the novel, Argos Flight spends their downtime in a bar. I liked that; it was a small hint that our characters were slightly more like adults, as opposed to the characters in the original Alternative story, who ate all their meals in a cafeteria. I don’t like how the anime seems to have changed it to some kind of family restaurant. And I especially don’t like how they seem to have changed it to some kind of family restaurant with a big-tittied waitress who dresses pilots up in cosplay. That’s stupid.
The anime doesn’t draw attention to it at all so I imagine a lot of people didn’t notice, but in episode 5 Tarisa’s Active Eagle – the one that was damaged in the fight with Cryska and Inia – has been repaired and is back in action. So as of episode 5, Argos Flight consists of the Shiranui Second, two Active Eagles, and a Strike Eagle. And speaking of that Active Eagle, one shady aspect that isn’t really touched upon in the anime is how nobody seems to have been punished for that accident. Yuuya tests his theory by approaching Soviet territory and taking out a drone being used in an exercise by the Scarlet Twins (the anime used a similar scene in episode 5, reversing their roles). He isn’t punished for his unilateral action either, which leads him to suspect that somebody higher up desperately wants intelligence on the Scarlet Twins and their Terminator, and is covering up the incidents – Yuuya suspects it’s Heinemann.
The incident with Yuuya and the drone is part of a larger storyline that has pretty much been cut from the anime. Frustrated with his new assignment, Yuuya becomes much more intrigued by the pilots who he saw take Tarisa down. He quickly figures out that they must be the strongest pilots on the base, and he intends to strike up a little rivalry with them. He takes down their drone to catch their attention. And when Argos Flight runs a simulation with them, Yuuya becomes frustrated that he can’t hope to match their score with his Fubuki. That’s also why he’s so shocked to find that Cryska and Inia are the Scarlet Twins – he can’t believe that Inia is one of the pilots he had considered his rival.