Let’s Watch TAKT OP.DESTINY: Episode 5

Let’s Watch is a weekly recap column where I follow an anime for the course of its entire runtime. Expect spoilers!

There is an inherent push and pull at the heart of takt op.Destiny. The show is at its best when it’s giving us pure style. It’s much less remarkable as an actual story, where what we’ve seen so far has been solid but rarely amazing. That continues here in episode 5, “-Equitation -Valkyrie-“. takt op clearly wants it both ways, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a lot better at the former than the latter, so any dose of Plot has to be backed up by at least as much of its visual pyrotechnics. Episode 5 does stay on the right side of that line, and much of what I’m about to say can be chalked up to this being an episode that establishes new elements rather than fleshing them out. But its less inspired moments are a good reminder of why the show has to maintain that balance in the first place.

When takt op ends and people need to refer to this specific episode, they’ll call it “the one where they’re on a train.” Early on, Destiny fights off some D2s, and ends up standing on some train tracks after finishing them all off. Being how she is, she doesn’t move out of the way when a Symphonica train running important cargo (Black Night Siderite, as we soon learn) chugs toward her, so it has to stop. This rather astounding coincidence is how the show deigns to introduce three new characters, all of whom I suspect will be rather important in the weeks to come.

The first of these is Walkure. We learn several things about Musicarts in general through the lens of other characters talking about her; she’s a “conductor-less” Musicart, meaning that while she seems to take orders from another character and perhaps Symphonica-certified Conductors in general, she’s not actually “bonded” with any. Walkure is very straight-laced and by-the-book. She only ever refers to Takt as a disrespectful form of the word “You”* and is generally annoyed when he and Destiny act without official authorization. Later in the episode Takt and Destiny earn her respect after repelling another wave of D2s, and she melts like an ice cream cone in July after a very mild compliment from Takt himself, classic tsundere-style. It’s a little much, but she’s a likable enough character.

Offering that authorization is the conductor Felix Shindler. Shindler is obviously, cartoonishly shady, basically forcing Takt and Co. to “tag along” on his train as it hauls its cargo into Houston. (Our leads are New Orleans-bound, so he argues it’s only logical, given that Texas is on the way to Louisiana.) We don’t get much of a sense as to what he wants here. It’s clear from his monologues and his discussions with first one of his subordinates in the pre-opening, and later with his own Musicart, that he is concerned about Takt because he’s an “unauthorized” conductor.

It’s not totally clear whether that’s actually some kind of problem in the sense that the Symphonica itself would consider it one too, or if Shindler is just a petty wannabe authoritarian. The former would square with the general running implication that there’s something sinister about the Symphonica in general, and the latter would with his characterization here. It’s possible both are true.

As mentioned, the third character here is Shindler’s own Musicart. Her name is Hell. Yes, really. The “vaguely ‘psycho’ berserker” archetype is one that many action anime make use of, and I’ve never been terribly fond of it. We briefly saw Hell for a few minutes back in episode 3, but this is the first time we get any sense of what her deal is. While Shindler is certainly her Conductor she appears to have an agenda of her own, something the show rather hilariously telegraphs by having her play solitaire at one point and flip up a Joker card. I suspect she may end up being more important to the series overall than Shindler is, but if that’ll be the case, only the very seeds of such a development are planted here.

She also gets a genuinely very creepy line where she suggests to Takt that he should bond with Walkure “by force.” Thankfully he’s not interested, but still, it’s kind of out-of-nowhere. Far more arresting than her limited characterization is the fact that her heels turn into….what I will tentatively term “combat rollerblades.”

I don’t think this is what ZZ Top had in mind when writing “Legs”, but perhaps it should’ve been.

Which brings me to my general thoughts on this episode. Most of what we learn was already fairly obvious by implication, and the few new pieces of explicit information we learn aren’t real gamechangers. Takt may or may not be “rogue” in some sense from the Symphonica, but we kinda already knew that. Shindler seems like he’ll be a decent antagonist, but he’s certainly not a terribly deep character, at least not yet. What remains untouchable in takt op.Destiny are the visuals. And true to form, the climactic fight scene of this episode, where Takt, Destiny, and Walkure defend the train from a swarm of flying D2s, is one of the show’s best so far. There are only so many ways to say that a show looks really great, but takt op still does. I suspect it will continue to.

Other than this there are some fun or interesting moments with our main cast scattered throughout. I’d be doing the episode a disservice if I did not at least briefly mention Destiny’s moment of pure euphoria upon eating a new kind of sweet for the first time.

Her and Takt’s relationship continues to soomewhat fluctuate between “bickering siblings” and “a pair of hurt people who take that out on each other because they’re not really on the same page, emotionally.” The whiplash is a little odd, but not so much as to detract from their general chemistry. They work in both modes.

The episode ends with Walkure being coldly dismissed from her post by Shindler and left, I suppose, essentially unemployed?

In the meantime, our main trio get back on the road, still bound for New Orleans. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of all these characters in future episodes. As such, it’s no insult to say that aside from its fight scenes “-Equitation -Valkyrie-” feels a lot like a chunk of setup that has not yet paid off. This is just something that happens when watching a seasonal week-by-week, and it is not really a criticism, merely a fact of the format. Thankfully, the series has enough eye candy to make even an episode like this still feel like a treat.

Until next week, anime fans.

*I don’t speak Japanese, but I believe what she’s saying is “kisama”, a very disrespectful second-person pronoun that, when it shows up in anime, is harsh enough to sometimes be translated as “you bastard” or the like.

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