22. So That I Can Remain Myself

Thanks to Ibuki’s mental withdrawal, Dai-Guard did not fare very well in its last battle against the Heterodyne. Fortunately, the Heterodyne did not stick around long enough to finish the robot off, and after a few days in the hospital, a somewhat bruised and aching Akagi and Aoyama are back in the office. Ibuki is back too, but for her, most of the bruises are on the inside…

Over lunch, the rest of the office discusses Ibuki- clearly, she has some problems to work through, but they aren’t too sure about the details. Domeki is only too happy to fill in the blanks; Ibuki’s whole sense of identity and purpose were based around the belief that her father was a hero who figured out that the Heterodyne were coming and tried to warn everyone about the danger. The revelation that her father was just out for scientific glory and the validation of his theories completely crushed her. Domeki is quick to take credit for being the one to expose Ibuki to the truth, but her announcement is not well received. The rest of the team cannot believe that she would do such a thing to a friend, and Domeki is only saved from the brunt of their physical anger when Sumida whips her away.

No one is holding her performance in the last battle against her, but nonetheless Ibuki doesn’t feel ready to return to piloting just yet. Her parents are concerned when Ibuki tells them that she is taking a vacation, but Ibuki insists she is fine and perfectly able of taking care of herself.

Meanwhile, Akagi and Aoyama are having some problems of their own. With Ibuki taking time off, they have been assigned a replacement navigator- army pilot Matsutouya, who previously piloted Dai-Guard with Makise and Tsuge. Matsutouya is just as dependent on the manual as ever, and in every drill, Dai-Guard ends up falling on its knees.

Akagi cannot take much more of Matsutouya, and meets with Ibuki in a café to ask that she return. Despite Akagi’s heartfelt pleas, and his promise to protect her if she gets into trouble, Ibuki cannot do it. She is scared of messing up again, scared that next time she could get her fellow pilots killed. Before Akagi can stop her, Ibuki leaves.

Back home, Ibuki finally makes a decision about her future- she will turn in her resignation and quit as a pilot. To her surprise, her stepfather does not immediately celebrate the news that she is finally doing what he wanted her to do; instead, he asks if this is what she really wants. He explains that, despite what she might think, he cares for her, and only wants her to be happy. She should think things through before making any big decisions.

That night, the Heterodyne appears again, and as the Dai-Guard team prepares for action, Professor Momoi has a mission of his own. He will be helping volunteers in caring for those wounded by the Heterodyne attack- and he’d like Ibuki to go along with him.

Accompanying her father, Ibuki watches and helps out as he treats as many people as he can. As he works, Momoi explains that, when he is treating people, the weight of his responsibilities is unimportant- all that matters to him then is helping them to the best of his ability. Listening to his words, Ibuki finally understands- it is the same as when she is piloting Dai-Guard to save people from the Heterodyne. Knowing that his daughter will want to act on this revelation, Momoi hands her the car keys and tells her it is time to go and do what needs to be done.

Thanks Matsutouya’s less than impressive navigation skills, Dai-Guard is not faring well in its battle against the Heterodyne. After a few falls, the robot manages to grab the Heterodyne, but the creature escapes before they have time to attack with the Drill Arm. The fight continues, but the robot only succeeds in getting its arm damaged.

Watching from the sidelines, Saeki wonders if it is time to bring the army in and use explosives on the creature, but Shirota has seen that something better is on the way- Ibuki. Spotting her from afar, Akagi walks Dai-Guard over to talk to her, and asks if she has come back to rejoin the team.

Ibuki explains that she still isn’t sure if piloting is what she wants- but she knows that it is something she has to do. Akagi and Aoyama tell her that they (not to mention Dai-Guard himself!) need her back- sure, she made a mistake, but doesn’t everybody do that sometimes? The very reason they work as a team is so that they can look out for each other- if one person stumbles, the others will catch them.

Realising that they are sincere, and that the team really does want her, Ibuki steps up with new resolve and takes her place as navigator. A relieved Matsutouya is only too glad to relinquish his position, and the re-united trio strides into battle once again.

Later, Ibuki is back at home, and for the first time, she addresses her stepfather simply as “father”. She tells him that she is doing much better now, and thanks him for his help. As Ibuki leaves, a proud Momoi turns to the news, where a shot of Dai-Guard drilling through the Heterodyne is a testament to Ibuki’s role in the robot’s latest victory…