I also had no idea Ranka would actually show up on the planet; I thought we'd just get shots of her being depressed, a big fight, and, as you put, "SherylxAlto fluff." Now that I look back at it, the writers never hinted at Ranka riding along in Michel's modified fighter, so when she showed up, I was completely caught off guard. In a good way. I really thought she'd learn to be more assertive after ep. 11, but I didn't expect *this*, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised!
I like the new avatar--Ranka fans unite! My favorite moment in the most recent ep. was the WTF? look on Alto's face when he first realized it was Ranka singing in the middle of a battle. Hopefully he'll become less and less confused about how lucky he is over the course of the series.