“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” —Helen Keller
According to the site archives, it was late October and I was on the eve of a cold of sorts, when I had written the “after three” post for Sora no Method. Ten episodes later, the series has come to an end; as Nonoka spends more time in Lake Kiriya City, she gradually recalls why her memories of her friends are so vague as she helps Koharu with a small fireworks show, go on a small trip to a hot springs with Yuzuki and Koharu, and participate in their school’s Hokubi Festival by building a planetarium. It turns out that following her mother’s passing, Nonoka wished to move away from Lake Kiriya and repressed all of her old memories, but spending time with her old friends allows her to accept things and move forward. As the catalyst bringing everyone together, Noel becomes closer to Shione and encourages the latter to rebuild her friendship with Nonoka: seven years previously, Shione and Nonoka had been best friends, but Shione grew to hate Nonoka after the latter had left so suddenly and broke their promise to see a meteor shower together. Despite Shione’s knowledge that Noel would disappear if everyone is able to restore their friendship (as her wish will be fulfilled), Nonoka and the others gather at the observatory to watch the meteor shower as they had promised, and Noel disappears. Nonoka returns to a world where Noel and the saucer did not exist, but retaining her old memories, her persistence and assistance from Shione eventually leads this world’s incarnations of Koharu, Yuzuki and Souta to remember Noel, who is waiting in a field of sunflowers for everyone. This is about as concise as one can reasonably be with Sora no Method, and with the series having reached a conclusion, it would appear that Sora no Method was able to maintain its direction during its run, leading to a heartfelt finale that serves as a proper send-off for this anime.
- I’ll open the “screenshots and commentary” section by noting that I had considerable difficulty in choosing just twenty screenshots for this post; there were many moments in Sora no Method that are worth mentioning and discussing that cannot be conveyed through the “big picture” view offered within the paragraphs. However, attempting to provide commentary on 128 screenshots is unfeasible (again, consider that the largest post I’ve written is the talk for the Gundam Unicorn finale, which has 75 images).
- Noel is seen here with a large leaf that she frequently uses as an umbrella. In Taiwan, I saw leaves of this size in abundance, but as I am not a botanist, I can’t quite pin down what type of leaf it is.
- Sora no Method is heavy on the emotional moments and tears: if one were to play a drinking game every time the emotions hit the fan, I’d be dead. Here, Yuzuki reconciles with Souta and Nonoka; ever since Souta was involved in an injury while searching for Yuzuki, their relationship has not been particularly cordial. Although tensions occasionally still make their way to the surface, Nonoka’s determination allows for things to be remedied somewhat, culminating in a peaceful fireworks display Nonoka and Miharu have set up for her.
- Sora no Method might have a melancholy, distant feel to it, but the characters at least do get to enjoy some things in their everyday lives. Here, Nonoka and Noel are drawing for tickets to the hot springs; during this episode, Yuzuki, Koharu and Nonoka visit the same hot springs that Noel and Shione visit, but never run into each other. Noel becomes closer to Shione, acting as the catalyst for everything else that is to happen later in the season.
- It seems that Souta has a crush of sorts on Koharu, although Souta denies it. The soundtrack in Sora no Method is something that I would love to hear, and contributes greatly to the mood in a given scene, enhancing the emotional tenor that is presented through the character’s dialogue, the camera angels and the choice of lighting in the landscape. There’s been no news of when the soundtrack will come out, which means that it could be a six-month wait (as with the GochiUsa OST), although I’m hoping this won’t be the case.
- Long ago, Koharu Yuzuki and Souta made the monster sign, and after Noel accidentally wrecks it (to a much greater extent than seen in this here screenshot), she works with Souta to restore the sign to its original glory. While some view this as an exercise in futility, what this segment accomplishes is show how Noel and Souta become closer to one another, as well as explain why the monster sign holds a degree of significance to Noel: it is a physical representation of Koharu Yuzuki and Souta’s friendship.
- While Noel and Souta are repairing the monster sign, Nonoka goes with Koharu and Yuzuki to the countryside to visit her mother’s grave for her birthday. The journey starts out under clear skies when the girls are trying to locate the cemetery (they eat lunch at the train station, having missed the last train), giving way to snowfall as the day progresses. At the cemetery, they encounter Shione, who is visiting her own family’s graves.
- Whereas Ayu’s injury and Yuichi’s cold-shoulder to Nayuki is what prompts Yuichi’s motivated forgetting in Kanon, Nonoka’s inability to remember things stems from her mother’s passing. In order to shut out the pain, she also ended up forgetting her time with her friends, answering the question as to what the crux of the conflict in Sora no Method is.
- By giving Noel an opportunity to hang out with Shione and Souta, and having Nonoka do the same for Koharu and Yuzuki, a friendship is slowly rekindled amongst the different members of a once-closely knit group. When everyone had made the wish seven years ago, Noel’s presence might be seen as a the means to that fulfillment. This technicality means that once Nonoka, Shione, Koharu, Yuzuki and Souta are friends once more, she will vanish, and this sets in motion the conflict for Sora no Method‘s conclusion.
The predominant theme in Sora no Method concerns the nature of wishes, specifically, how they are made on the spur of the moment and as time passes, individuals may realise that fulfilling a wish from many years ago might not be in their best interest. As well, Sora no Method illustrates that friendships are largely driven by committment to one another. The former is most evident when Shione learns that their wish, to stay together as friends forever, would cause Noel to vanish: seven years ago, Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki, Souta and Koharu had not met Noel yet, so their wish only encompassed five. However, when Noel appears to bring everyone back together, everyone in turn becomes closer to her, in time viewing her as dear of a friend as they had amongst their own group. Thus, it becomes difficult (especially for Shione) to allow their own wishes to be granted. In spite of this, Nonoka and the others eventually decide that if Noel is happiest after their wish is fulfilled, then this is what must be done. The friends’ night at the observatory show that while Noel is happy, she suddenly is filled with a yearning to be with everyone, as well, and through some hitherto unexplained means, this results in Nonoka being moved to a world where there is no saucer. Such a mechanic is unconventional and would normally break the flow of events, but in Sora no Method, it fits in quite nicely; Nonoka’s commitment to their friendship is put to the test when she is prima facie the only person to have remembered Noel. She comes very close to giving up, but with Shione’s encouragement, Nonoka is able to pull everyone together, have them make a new wish to be with everyone, plus Noel, forever. While the wish seemingly goes unheeded, the finale shows that the combined commitment everyone demonstrates to one another and Noel is sufficient to grant everyone’s new wish, allowing for them to be reunited with Noel once again.
- Spurred on by Noel, Shione decides put her faith in Nonoka once more: Shione’s open hostility towards Nonoka throughout the series was a consequence of her feeling shafted after Nonoka had left suddenly seven years back. Trust is difficult to earn and remarkably easy to lose, and this is something that Sora no Method goes to great length to illustrate. Shione’s words later on reflect on how Nonoka’s persistence and conviction is what allows her to have rebuilt trust amongst everyone.
- For the Hokubi Festival, Nonoka and company decide to build a planetarium, and despite some hi-jinks that cause the first prototype to catch fire, the end product is beautiful. Under its first run, Nonoka and Shione share a tearful reconciliation. This was one of the most moving moments in the anime, and it was superbly rewarding to see seven years of mistrust melt away as Shione reveals that she’d wanted to remain friends.
- I’ve seen enough school culture festivals to last a lifetime: the reconciliation is short lived after Shione learns that Noel will disappear once her task is done. In doing so, Shione’s coldness is shown to be a coping mechanism towards any adversity she experiences, and she also prefers taking on the heat so that no one else will suffer. It’s admirable, but Sora no Method aims to show that sharing a burden with friends is a more effective means of lessening it.
- After several episodes worth of build-up, everyone is able to watch the meteor shower together as they had promised seven years ago, fulfilling their promise to be with one another. Tears flow freely here as everyone attempts to properly bid Noel a farewell, and she disappears shortly after, resulting in what appears to be a complete reset of the universe, creating a world where the saucer never arrived and no one has any memories of Noel. The precise mechanism for this is left ambiguous, and this is for the better, given that any talk of quantum physics to account for this would fly well over the viewers’ heads and not be particularly meaningful towards the story.
- Despite their wishes being fulfilled, Noel suddenly realises that she’s grown close to everyone, and is unable to hold back the tears. Elsewhere, I’ve noticed individuals who consider Sora no Method to be mediocre on the sole virtue that they did not understand what happened in the series, that explanation for what was shown on-screen was inadequate, and that the characterisation seemed “out of place” in the story. I absolutely disagree with these assessments, since the story itself ultimately was about the static nature of wishes being unable to accommodate for changes in people’s hearts. The core message in a story is not always apparent, and a part of the joy in consuming media is to find these messages, so expecting that they be spoon-fed to the viewers is downright ludicrous.
- In the newly-minted world, Nonoka struggles to come to terms with what’s happened, and when hope is about to fade, Shione reappears. Having remembered everything, she gives Nonoka encouragement to bring everyone back together. Nonoka’s conviction in Noel’s existence begins to stir doubt in Koharu, Yuzuki and Souta’s minds; everyone feels as if they’re forgetting something important, and consent to listen to Nonoka.
- Just as they had done several years ago, a wish is made at the observatory, for a saucer to appear. While no saucer arrives, a miracle occurs, taking the form of a full field of sunflowers coming into bloom below the observatory. Sharp-eyed viewers note that this incarnation of the observatory is even more dilapidated than it had been in earlier episodes, hinting that Noel had been caring for it in the previous universe.
- Miracles can take a very subtle form, and although no saucer will appear, everyone gradually regains their memories of Noel. Back on the side of the screen where this article was drafted, my academic semester has resumed once more, and my schedule is now busiest in the afternoon. I am a morning person, so for most days, I’ll still be waking up earlier and lift weights or work on the thesis project before going to/teaching classes.
- Overall, Sora no Method is a solid anime that is, though being a little heavy-handed on the emotional aspects, quite entertaining to watch, presenting a melancholic and simultaneously heart-warming story for the audience. A majority of the elements are tied together in a satisfactory manner, and with a coherent story, paired with excellent graphics and music, I would consider to be a title I’d recommend. The ending is solid and leaves nothing to the imagination…
- …for Noel appears once more, allowing everyone to be friends for all eternity. With a decisive ending, Sora no Method ends on a high note, and I do not see a continuation as being likely. Even though there is a manga for the anime, the anime is the source for the manga, rather than the other way around, so the manga will probably just depict events in the anime. With this, I’ve largely finished writing about the anime for Fall 2014. I’ll be putting out posts about the other Winter 2015 anime I’m following once I’ve reached the three-episode mark, and at some point in the future, I’ll also do a talk on Shirobako once I clear the halfway point. This probably won’t be for a while, but readers do have my word that the aforementioned posts will be published at some point.
Sora no Method ultimately winds up being a solid anime that differentiates itself from Kanon despite the similarities that were seen; the similarities that remain include amnesia, a group of childhood friends rediscovering their past friendship and a general sense of distance and loneliness that permeates the anime’s setting. This series’ strengths lie with the story’s direction and how subtle elements come together to serve a non-trivial role as time wears on, and all of this is set to a wonderful soundtrack that accentuates the emotions in the anime. It is rewarding to see the characters become closer to one another as they open up, and while I find that emotions were invoked quite frequently (in regard to the quantity of tears shed during the season’s run), overall, the execution of these scenes allowed the feelings and thoughts of every moment to be presented in a clear manner, so there weren’t any moments where I became lost in the story. As such, even if Sora no Method will probably not stand up against giants like Kanon, it easily remains an enjoyable watch for individuals looking for a drama story with a slower pacing that ultimately leaves them with a satisfying, decisive conclusion.