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From the end of episode 12 we knew that bad stuff was going to go down in episode 13. After a week off for the season break, that calamity is fully-realized. The first episode of the second half of the series marks a major transition point as the status quo for the setting is completely disrupted.
That transition is heralded by a new opener sung by Yoko Takahashi – yes, the singer probably most famous to anime fans for Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s “Cruel Angel’s Thesis.” Although a decent song, it pales compared to the original opener and is the weakest of Takahashi’s mostly-excellent body of anime work. (And as noted in another article, there were apparently production issues with this.) Fortunately that’s an aberration compared to the rest of the episode, and its mostly-updated visuals do suggest that we will be seeing much more of both Tusk and the Dragon Princess this season. (He does, indeed, have a small but significant role here.) Although the closer’s song is different, the visuals remain the same except for the final shot.
Tusk gets involved because Julia/Alektra’s rejection of Emperor Julio’s likely-false offer of aid triggers an all-out, no-holds-barred attack on Arzenal. Julio’s troops are out for blood, with orders to secure Ange, the Vilkiss, and any other Para-mail pilots they find and kill everyone else. And that they do, in chilling fashion, using both guns and flame throwers in scenes reminiscent of SEELE’s attack on NERV HQ in End of Evangelion. The production softens the blow by having massacre victims only shown as vague outlines and minimizing graphic detail in one scene where a bunch of Norma captives are gunned down, though it doesn’t pull its punches in showing invading soldiers getting shot or one long-standing named character taking an apparently fatal gunshot wound. (Back to this in a moment.) While Jill and those around her foray to a secret low-level hangar containing some kind of warship and initiate Operation Libertus, Salia tries (unsuccessfully) to corral Ange, Hilda and most of the other pilots try to foray to fight the attacks, Ersha tries in vain to save the young Norma, and Ange doesn’t cooperate with anyone else and goes directly after Julio. In the process she encounters Embryo, who has been going around doing many mysterious things, for the first time and learns that he can sing the Endless Song to operate special mecha powers, too. To Ange’s surprise he uses those to obliterate Julio, but when he tries to do the same to an interfering Tusk, Ange’s attempted defense triggers a new color shift for Vilkiss and some kind of teleportation effect.
This episode irrevocably forces the plot into a new stage, as the Norma are now on the run and possibly scattered, too, as whether or not some of them get to the new warship (or even survive) is unclear at episode’s end. It also raises a lot of questions, which is not at all bad for a season-starting episode. Chief among those questions is about what game Embryo is really playing here, since his actions in this episode seem to at least partly contradict what he did, and what we were told about him, in episode 12. Just as mysterious is what the heck this particular shot at left, from one of the early explosion scenes, is supposed to mean.
But the series has all season to sort out those mysteries. What matters most here is the heaviest concentration to date of both mecha and non-mecha action and mayhem, all juiced up by a musical score kicking into high gear. A better way to start the second half probably couldn’t be hoped for.