NOTE: Episode 4′s blog is HERE, read it first!
NOTE 2: Ghostlightning at We Remember Love is also covering this series, check out his articles too –
After the nationalism-driven rivalries come to a head in the previous episode, episode 5 of Total Eclipse continues to focus closely on the conflict between Yuuya and Yui. The episode once again begins with a training flight, and once again this ends with Yuuya complaining about the inferiority of Japanese TSFs.
Again he is shut down, with Yui reminding him that any difficulties he is having result from a lack of skill and familiarity which must be addressed with further – and more difficult – training. By this point, though, Yuuya’s arrogance manifests as tired, immature posturing to save face even to the point of insubordination – while the “arrogant ace pilot” is a stock-in-trade of mecha anime (and most effectively shown in the character of Isamu Dyson in Macross Plus, a series Total Eclipse draws on), Yuuya is an interesting spin on it. He does not have the innate skill to succeed first time, and has a skewed perception of how much effort he needs to put in to actually become that good. His excuses are always focused on how with more practice he will get the hang of the new TSF, but simultaneously try and divorce responsibility for his failure from himself. Getting used to the new machine requires mastering its perceived flaws rather than adapting to its strengths.
A subsequent montage of Yuuya’s failures brings with it the only sound argument he can lay against Yui and her machine; that a TSF that requires extensive specialised training to even pilot capably is useless in a situation such as the war against the BETA. Were this coming from a dedicated and likeable character, and thus appearing justified, it would be a strong case against Yui’s criticisms; instead, it comes from Yuuya, who has been show to overestimate his own skill and blame personal failings on his equipment, and so seems hollow. As Yui pointed out in episode 4, the TSF that is allegedly so useless is in fact a unit she has combat experience with. When the whole confrontation finally climaxes, with Yuuya claiming his criticisms are being ignored and Yui’s plan is endangering the lives of his countryment, the hollowness of the argument is clear. Yui’s riposte is a simple one; that despite all this feigned concern, it is all a front to make up for his own weaknesses and assert some kind of superiority. While the viewer is likely to at this point be highly sympathetic to Yui, it is then revealed that Yuuya’s comrades, especially Tarisa, support him; they too find her nobility and perceived arrogance unbearable.
However, their position is more well-rationalised; unlike Yuuya, Tarisa has seen combat and seen the same trauma, and her outgoing and immature personality is apparently exaggerated as a means of coping. Being reminded of this by his friends – and people prepared to fight his cause – provides Yuuya with the context he needs to calm down. Yet while Yuuya reflects on how he may need to change his tone, Yui is seen to be trying to accept his point of view – she cannot deny how he is making steady progress in training, and questions whether he really is as useless a pilot as she thinks. Both sides are beginning to question their previous intractability – Yui through personal introspection when away from the demands of her position as an officer, and Yuuya through hearing from others why he should reconsider. Subsequently, Vincent explains to him why his piloting skill (which has yet to be shown to the viewer in any useful situation, only in simulation and human-versus-human engagements) is not helping – the Japanese TSFs are designed to be used by technically proficient pilots rather than relying on brute force and simplistic strategies. Since Japan has lost much of its population, it is relying on keeping those pilots that remain alive and so must design equipment to suit a small number of skilled soldiers, rather than any kind of blunt-instrument strategy involving hordes of simply-designed units.
Come the next mock battle, Yuuya again fails; this time because he is too conscious of his failings. The consistent criticisms, both harsh from Yui and more compassionate from Vincent and his wingmen, have finally had an impact and he tries to pilot as he imagines a Japanese pilot would. He is even more gracious in defeat, admitting finally that the fault was his – through a lack of good practice – not the machine’s. When the exercise is interrupted by Yui’s arrival, in her own personal TSF, the stakes are raised; she comes in with live weapons and gives Argos Flight – and Yuuya in particular – the chance to vent their frustrations with her. Yui is giving Yuuya the chance he has wanted to prove his skill – and come to terms with the weaknesses of his piloting technique – in real combat. The fight is, like the other human-versus-human engagements, exciting and visually redolent of traditional mecha anime, and the combination of the risk of death and the chance to once and for all settle his score with Yui brings out Yuuya’s piloting skill plainly (although again and problematically, not in human-versus-BETA combat.) Winning the fight with Yui gains Yuuya the respect of his team, and finally apparently brings an end to the squabble – Yuuya has accepted he is not yet good enough and must improve because finally he has seen real combat.
Other Thoughts on this Episode and the Series So Far
This was a particularly strong episode; while it delved deeply into cliché in its handling of the climactic duel between Yui and Yuuya, it had been hinted throughout previous episodes that has arrogance, inability to fit in and lack of useful skill was a result of never having seen action. Facing the actual risk of injury – and subsequent humiliation as Yui would have been proved right in his defeat – provided the impetus for him to improve. This is another move away from traditional cliché; usually the arrogant lone wolf is brought down to earth as his failure results in someone else getting hurt, but for Yuuya it was the risk of his own ego being bruised that resulted in him finally taking training seriously.
It seems at this point there is finally a proper team dynamic among Argos Flight and its commanding officer Yui; this marks the first time she has returned to the controls of a TSF since her initial battle and it is done almost as an act of discipline to rein in an uncooperative and insubordinate pilot. If episodes 1 and 2 showed the trauma and loss that drove Yui’s character and defined her role in the narrative, these episodes did the same for Yuuya.