Initially, we start off in much the same spirit as the first episode; a touch of the lighter aspects with occasional flashes of more serious storyline. However, it doesn't take long for the story to take a turn for the serious and the more unpleasant sides of the harsh realities of a world at war. With small pieces of information slowly being revealed, viewers start to understand why characters react as they do. Likewise, background information is also revealed about Lala-ru and we are introduced to more characters who will prove to be important in subsequent episodes.
Indeed, introductions abound in this second episode as we are transported to Heryud, where the bulk of the story is to unfold. Most of the introductions are focussed around the youth troops who had cameos in the first episode. Here we have a sense of the troop of young adults in general and the personality clashes which may well come to a head later in the series. Nabuca is very much the leader who is level-headed, capable and follows orders well, Taboul is bold, confident, and a bit of a bully, and Boo is still very much a young child who doesn't fully understand what's happening around him or the hows and whys of war. All are solidly portrayed by their voice actors who breath life into the characters they present.
Also introduced in this second episode is Hamdo, the leader of Heryud, and more than a little insane. Half the time in a world of his own, viewers are made aware very quickly that he is definitely not the most stable of leaders. Indeed, it begs the question of why people would follow him or why he hasn't been targetted for assasination. However, I get ahead of myself. While he is not stable, neither is he completely insane, and perhaps this aspect more than anything else makes him a potentially dangerous character to come.
Nabuca's character is particularly interesting at this point for a minor character. As leader of a small group of youth troops, being saved by Shuu has made an impression on him, enough so that he replays the incident in his mind after curfew. Undoubtedly we'll see more development of his character as time goes on. Most likely dealing with Shuu's actions which are unlike what he would normally expect given the realities of his world.
The story itself moves at a good pace, and, with little in the way of extraneous material, we are drawn further into the story. Background information helps fill in details for character motivations and presents other questions. While we discover the realities of the world and Lala-ru's pendant, we are left with the question of why Lala-ru is important, why children are used as soldiers, and why Abelia does Hamdo's bidding.
The music continues to be solid in this second episode with a good variety of different melodies complimenting the various scenes. And while some may not make for the best listening as a soundtrack, working with the animation and voice acting, the music truly works to enhance the atmosphere of a given scene.
Interestingly, the animation in this second episode is not as strong as the first. Particularly notable is the use of blank or plain coloured backgrounds rather than having the detail we'd seen in the first episode. While at times this is noticeable in a negative way, there are other times where this emptiness is used to enhance the scenes as well. Despite the slight drop in overall quality, it is still good overall for a TV series.
As in the first episode, this episode also ends with an interesting ending scene, and viewers already caught in the story being told, are left curious about what new pieces of information and what new characters are to be introduced in the next episode.
- JYN, 2001.04.10