Ichika and Houki face off against the Gospel – but it goes sour.
The episode begins on a tense note as Ichika and Houki summon their IS right before the operation commences. Houki, though, doesn’t seem tense at all and in fact, sounds joyful enough for Chifuyu to warn Ichika that she might do something stupid.
The operation begins with Ichika holding on to the Akabatsuki’s back to make use of its amazing speed. They soon catch up to the Gospel, and Ichika activates Reiraku Byakuya for the first strike.
Ichika, however, fails his ninja check, and the Gospel dodges the attack. A fight breaks out, but it goes poorly when Ichika takes a hit to protect Houki and falls to the ocean. Houki catches him, they hurtle into the ocean, and the Gospel flies away. Operation: failed.
The rest of the episode enters extreme angst mode, as Houki falls into depression, blaming herself for Ichika’s condition and their failure. Ririn confronts her on the beach, where Houki expresses her desire to give up piloting IS. Ririn, outraged, slaps some sense into her and then reveals that all the other girls are prepared to disobey orders and go after the Gospel (which Laura has found from her secret German intelligence). Houki finds the determination to fight and win against the Gospel.
The fight against the Gospel was tragically short, and tragically confusing and nonsensical. Several points to consider:
1. Ichika does not attack the Gospel when Houki has it immobilized, instead preferring to fly past to look at the fishing ship.
2. What the heck was that weird colorful space that Houki and Ichika appeared in when they were talking. Perhaps their last meals were laced with ecstasy.
3. Houki undergoes some sort of mental trauma after that conversation, which causes her to drop her weapon mid-fight as well as not notice a barrage of projectiles headed toward her.
But other than that rather abstract fight, this episode does a good job of highlighting Houki’s inner turmoil. She is initially overjoyed, as she believes she is receiving power in the form of the Akatsubaki. Ichika introduces doubts about whether she uses her power correctly, as he tries to protect everyone he can regardless of whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, telling her off for abandoning criminals. I believe this makes her realize the similarity to her past, when she practiced kendo only for power, and that this realization conflicts with her desire to do justice (expressed in some earlier episode whose number I do not remember). Ririn says the same thing as Ichika – that people with power, those with personal IS, cannot be selfish. Moreover, even with the Akatsubaki they fail to subdue the Gospel – showing a failure of the power she was so excited to receive. As a result, she feels powerless, insignificant, and that she is still similar to her past self, culminating in her desire to stop piloting and give up her power.
The whole main cast, minus the lead character, is prepared to fight the Gospel. No doubt Ichika will somehow enter the fray (probably escaping his hospital bed). And (hopefully) no doubt the Gospel will be defeated. Yet I wonder how the romance situation will be resolved, if at all. It seems inevitable that if Ichika ends up with a girl, that girl will be Houki. But Ichika hasn’t even showed a hint of romantic interest (except for way back when in Episode 1) – hence I feel that the series might have an open ending.
One episode left!