9. The Miracle Operation of the Kiss

Over ten years ago on Mars, a young Akito was feeling depressed and upset. His constant shadow, Yurika, promised to show him a magic trick that would get ihm back to normal- and all Akito had to do was close his eyes. Akito did so, only to open them again and find Yurika kissing him- and to young Akito, what could be more gross? Well, at least it got him back to his normal self.

Nonetheless, it may have a more lasting effect than Akito would like- he’s just woken up from dreaming about the kiss, and it’s not the first time. But the past as always must make for the present- Munetake is about to give a briefing, and Erina wants to know why Akito isn’t there. Akito isn’t too sure he wants to see Munetake- he’s sure that the admiral was the one who killed Gai, even if it was one of subordinates that stepped forward to take the blame. Erina knows exactly how to pull his strings, suggesting that if he skips the meeting, the captain might think it was a play for attention.

On the bridge, Munetake has a new mission for everyone. Yurika reminds him that they don’t have to follow his orders, but Munetake assures the crew that this isn’t about fighting. Instead, the Nadesico must sneak past enemy forces to rescue a goodwill ambassador stranded on the inhospitable Uchatsuwaratosk Island. The island is in the Arctic Ocean, and the snowstorms and blizzards common there at the current time of year make the Nadesico the only ship that has a hope of getting through.

As the admiral continues his impassioned briefing, Yurika can do little but agree, and the Nadesico sets off on its latest mission- one which leaves the pilots little to do. Whilst the others sit around and listen to Izumi’s bad jokes, Akatsuki takes Akito for a few rounds in the combat simulator. It is not just fighting he wants to practise, though- his ulterior motive is to ask if Akito is going out with the captain. And if Akito isn’t interested in Yurika, he explains, as he delivers a winning blow, then Akatsuki himself wants her. Akito isn’t too interested in sorting out that tangle, but one thing’s for sure- he wants another chance to beat Akatsuki in the simulator.

The Nadesico has finally made it to the Bering Strait, leaving visibility and scanning range virtually nonexistent, although as Goat points out, their enemy must be facing the same problems. All the interference also means that communications officer Megumi has nothing to do, but she has a perfect idea to fill the spare time. Dragging Akito away from Gekigangar, she takes him down to the Virtual Recreation Centre. Designed to relieve stress, the users put VR helmets on their heads, and “step into” whatever fantasy will best help them relax.

As Megumi loads up the 21st century high school program, she and Akito are transported into a virtual classroom, where Megumi is a student, and Akito is her advisor for after school activities. And it soon becomes clear to a flustered Akito that the kind of activities Megumi has in mind are a bit more adult than the scenario would suggest.

On the bridge, Yurika is more than a little distracted when she overhears Izumi and Hikaru telling Ruri that Megumi and Akito are together in the virtual reality room. The ever-bossy Erina isn’t too happy to seeing the captain zoning out and the rest of the crew slacking off, and tries to restore order- but not even her words can get through to Yurika, who is despairing over whether Akito could really prefer Megumi after all.

Whilst Yurika slumps into despair on the bridge, Megumi tries desperately to get Akito into the spirit of the simulation, even locking the door and starting to undress. Akito tries to bypass her advances, both feeling uncomfortable and inexplicably distracted by memories of Yurika…

Perhaps fortunately, for the situation at least, Megumi and Akito are jolted out of virtual reality by an emergency warning. In her depression, Yurika slumped down onto her console and accidentally activated the gravity blast cannon- alerting the enemy to the presence of the Nadesico. It is time to go to battle stations.

The crew gather for an emergency briefing to plan their next move, and, in Erina’s case, to scold Yurika about causing this problem in the first place. As Akatsuki reminds them, however, the future is more important, and indeed, this briefing is about what to do next. The western passage to the island is no longer an option now that the enemy knows they’re there, so Inez explains that they will have to taken the eastern route, despite the 72% risk of running aground.

As the briefing ends, the crew suddenly realise that Yurika has disappeared, and Akito breaks away from his fellow pilots to find her. She is in the VR centre, and just as Megumi did for him, Akito activates the high school program so that they can talk. After Akito asks why she is being so uncharacteristically quiet, Yurika begins pouring her heart out, explaining how depressed she is that her ditzy nature seems to ruin things for everyone.

Remembering that day back on Mars, Akito replies that has a trick that can help, and prepares to kiss Yurika, just she like asked for back on Mars. But to his surprise, before their lips can meet, she stops him. Back on Mars she thought she wanted Akito to kiss her, but now she realises it isn’t yet the right time- she doesn’t want to waste something as important as her first kiss. Akito tries to remind her that technically it isn’t her first kiss, but once again the VR session is interrupted, thanks to another enemy attack.

With Munetake insisting that they just rescue the ambassador before he starves to death (apparently he’s so fat that freezing won’t be a problem), it is time for the pilots to spring into action- Akito will go after the ambassador, whilst Ryoko and the others will form a defensive screen. As Ryoko and the others take down the enemy grasshoppers with their “Buttercup Formation”, Akito streaks ahead, only to find himself beyond the energy transfer range of the Nadesico; now he has only a limited power supply, and it looks like he’ll be using it all up fending off the enemy.

With the snow making it impossible to get a clear shot at the enemy, Akito tosses a flare and detonates it, lighting up the surrounding area. With the enemy’s position located, Akito surges forward and takes them down with a Gekigan Flare. Watching the explosion from the Nadesico, the crew wonder if Akito could have survived- and even if he has, whether he has the energy to get back.

As the crew alternate between hope and despair, the interference lifts, allowing the Nadesico to receive transmissions. Unfortunately, there is still no word from Akito, and Yurika begins to fear that she has sent him to his death. Even as she worries, however, Akito sends a transmission to the bridge, explaining that he is alive and well on the ground below the Nadesico, and he even has the ambassador- a polar bear- with him. The bear was equipped with a fortune in instrumentation, but as it was unlikely that anyone would want to risk their lives picking up a mere bear, it was given the title of ambassador.

His mission complete, Akito returns to the ship, bypassing the excited Megumi to report directly to the captain. Happy as ever to see him, Yurika smiles and laughs, leaving poor Akito to wonder how a woman who cares for him this much could have possibly forgotten their very first kiss back on Mars…