Episode 13 of Shangri-la, “Flying Girl”, is about the right time to have a recap for a show with a couple of dozen episodes planned. And a recap is exactly what we get: all two minutes of it, that is. Instead of a full-scale and redundant recap episode, we get to see a short look at the path Kuniko had taken to become the leader of Metal Age. And back in the present, Kuniko is broadcasting a motivational speech emphasizing the need to take over ATLAS just before the invasion is to begin, which is heard by Metal Age members everywhere, including those that have infiltrated the construction crews for ATLAS.
While final preparations for the invasion are undergoing in Duomo and elsewhere, we get to see ATLAS executives other than just the president we have all come to know and hate. I shouldn’t have been surprised at how ordinary the executives look, including the vice president, but I am. They are waiting for the top consultant to ATLAS to arrive from outside Japan, even though they have no idea why he’s coming. I do get the feeling that they hardly have any power or access to sensitive information in the first place. The top consultant is a sharp-looking old man, and surprisingly he is called Tarsian, the same person who happens to be so mean to Karin.
Meanwhile, Kuniko, Momoko, and Takehiko head to the now defunct Yokota Air Force Base. Their means of dropping into ATLAS is to be found at the base, which turns out to be a huge boomerang that Kuniko asked for in the previous episode. Except it’s actually a Boomerang, an old flying wing with upgrades such as modern stealth materials and engines. This must be stretching Metal Age’s budget to the limit even if it’s an old aircraft …
The pilot is an old man called K.D., who is skeptical of Kuniko’s enthusiasm of getting everyone to live in ATLAS for a better life. His criticism is based on the question of who else besides Kuniko thinks living in ATLAS is a good idea. I think he also indirectly touches on a good point: lots of people want to live in ATLAS, but not many of them, including Kuniko, actually seem to know what life in ATLAS is like. And we’ve seen some really bad stuff … K.D. will be flying the Boomerang with Kuniko and other members of Metal Age for an infiltration into the higher levels of ATLAS, where they will target the center of government.
The revolt starts around the lower levels of ATLAS, while the Boomerang manages to fly quite close to ATLAS without getting detected by radar. Unfortunately, the Boomerang is not hidden from plain sight. Once it is detected through visible means, a couple of F-35s are set on its tail. The Japanese Air Force must be severely gimped: even with upgrades, the F-35 must have been obsolete for decades. And with obsolete equipment, it wouldn’t be surprising if the pilots were poorly trained as well. This seems to be the case, and K.D. himself seems to be a much better pilot, as the fighters can’t hit the huge target with their guns. It helps that K.D.’s bluff prevented a clean shot at the beginning and that the fighters are trying to avoid damaging ATLAS.
Within ATLAS, Tarsian has set up shop and is monitoring the situation. He also seems to be watching Ryouko without her knowledge. Given that Tarsian is the top consultant for ATLAS, I guess that he’s the intelligence source that informed Ryouko of Medusa’s existence in episode 9. Not that I think Tarsian is Ryouko’s lackey: he probably leaked Medusa’s existence to provide a challenge for Medusa, and in fact I suspect that Ryouko is an unwitting pawn of Tarsian. At the same time, Karin is quite happy about the outbreak of war, which is always an opportunity to make money: even if carbon emission increase from the battles might be minor, market fluctuations would be major in a war.
Outside, the fighter pilots just suck too much to hit the Boomerang with guns, so permission is given to use air-to-air missiles. The first volley misses thanks to flares and evasive maneuvers, so the pilots self-destruct the missiles that are about to hit ATLAS. Interestingly, we soon see projectiles being fired from the ground towards ATLAS around where the missiles were self-destructed, and they look similar to the attacks we saw at the end of episode 1. Another couples of missiles head towards the Boomerang, so Kuniko heads out the aircraft and uses her boomerang to intercept them.
This is where even I have a hard time suspending belief. A normal human being would have been blown off the aircraft without a solid hold. I’ll just have to rationalize it as Kuniko’s ultra-high-tech boots being capable of adhesive attachment along with Kuniko’s superhuman abilities. Although this would mean they missed a chance for humor where Kuniko comically tries to overcome wind resistance while her feet are firmly attached to the aircraft. I’m not the only one having a problem with suspension of belief; K.D. also can’t believe that Kuniko has just intercepted a couple of missiles using her boomerang.
Ryouko is displeased with the performance of the Japanese Air Force, so as prime minister she has the commanding officer of the Japanese Air Force stripped of his position and arrested. The responsibility for the defense of ATLAS is transferred to the computer Zeus, and Leon suggests something interesting to handle the air defenses. Elsewhere in ATLAS, Mikuni is having fun watching the battles, which doesn’t suit Miko, and Miko tries to teach Mikuni the value of human life. Miko is probably the first person to do so, and it looks like a promising start as Mikuni gets the point with the hypothetical loss of Miko, although Miko probably has a long way to go with teaching empathy to Mikuni.
Outside, odd-looking flying machines have arrived in the area, which must be the interesting thing that Leon mentioned. They don’t distinguish friendlies and enemies, however, with one F-35 shot down and another shredded. Given the new threat, Kuniko decides to head outside again to deal with them. Kuniko has earned K.D.’s respect by now, so before she jumps outside the aircraft with Momoko, K.D. tells her that his name is Konoe Daichi. Inside ATLAS, Ryouko is informed of the possibility that the artillery fire earlier may be related to the unknown party responsible for the attack from Ikebukuro in episode 1, which really annoys her.
Kuniko and Momoko go through crazy stunts to deal with the odd-looking flying machines, where they discover that they are unmanned, while K.D. maneuvers the Boomerang near ATLAS so that the Metal Age members on board led by Takehiko can infiltrate ATLAS using their personal jetpacks. Once they’re away, however, the Boomerang is ambushed from behind by one of the odd-looking flying machines that had disguised itself as a cloud using mimetic camouflage. That is some advanced mimetic technology, and within ATLAS, Leon explains that the odd-looking flying machines are mimetic fighters still under development.
There are only a couple of the mimetic fighters left, though, and while one of them shoots a few Metal Age members into bloody shreds and damages the Boomerang, Kuniko gets rid of it quite handily with her boomerang. The other is engaged with the Boomerang, and while K.D. tries to shoot it down, the Boomerang explodes instead. So Kuniko destroys the last mimetic fighter with rage fueling her boomerang throw. Too bad her personal jetpack malfunctions soon after, but at least she’s saved by Momoko. And things get even better as it turns out that K.D. ejected from the Boomerang safely: K.D. is brave and competent, he’s not stupid.
Now that Kuniko and everyone else has reached the higher levels of ATLAS, the episode ends with Kuniko saying something funny, where she talks to a pillar of ATLAS about having met before. No surprise there, considering that it was the heavenly pillars that talked to her at the end of episode 10. And the preview for the next episode suggests that a more discrete reconnaissance may have been advisable before the invasion, since it looks like ATLAS is going to play havoc on everyone’s mind with how it looks like a copy of Tokyo itself.
Tarsian looks like he’s pulling a lot of strings in the background, and given that he normally does not reside in Japan, this may be the introduction of foreign influences on Japan where it has been mostly the other way around so far. And with the way that mimetic stuff keeps coming up, I suspect that mimetic ore will be much more important than being a simple experimental gimmick to disguise things as might have been implied when it was first mentioned in episode 5. Perhaps my crazy theory that ATLAS and the Digmas are based on sentient mimetic ore is not so crazy after all …