You know it's going to be an important episode when the series director says he's storyboarding it. But Hirotaka Tokuda went even further than anyone could have expected with this episode: he was also the animation director, the mechanical animation director, and the chief animation director all at once. He went through the effort of personally redrawing large chunks of key frames to make it all fit his vision, on top of all his other work coordinating the entire show. That results in an episode where the character expressions tell a thousand words, and where every single animation choice feels powerful and purposeful. It's easily the best Sigrdrifa episode yet.
Mercifully, the writing also improves here. The silly distractions from the last two episodes are gone, never to be mentioned again. We're in full serious mode here: the complicated relationship between Sonoka and Amatsuka finally gets addressed, and the episode ends with the first big twist of the series. It was obvious from the start that Odin did not have benign intentions in mind when he gave the Valkyries his divine blessings, but it's still a nasty realization for the girls when the plane of a dead comrade shows up to attack. It's the first episode that's gotten me genuinely curious to find out what's going to happen next, so that's something.
Still, there are lingering problems here. As the plot pushes ahead, it leaves significant gaps that are evidently meant to be filled in by the prequel light novels. Claudia's former companions suffer the worst from this treatment. They get introduced (or rather re-introduced because they briefly featured in episode 1) but end up doing nothing here. The twist at the end also gets affected by this approach, because while the horrified reactions from Sonoka and Amatsuka indicate that the plane belongs to someone they knew, there isn't any other context or reason to care at this point. Let's hope that the following episodes do some proper work filling in the gaps without compromising the narrative's momentum.
On a more positive note, props have to go to the episode director Kouta Mori, whom you may remember as the guy who animated Miyako's slick soccer-playing in the first episode. I do think that some parts of the episode were a bit over-the-top in their presentation, like the speech from commander Okita, but I liked how Sonoka's confrontation with Amatsuka was framed, with the backgrounds fading away and the brightness of the blue sky reinforcing the detachment. I also liked Thor's appearance at the end, and it feels very deliberate he is the first enemy to have a face and a commanding presence. All in all, this was a very solid effort from a talented animator making his debut as an episode director.