The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

The Squad’s Day: Rio Runs- Sora no Woto Third Episode Review and Reflection

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” —James Cash Penney

While practising the fundamentals of music under Rio’s instruction, Kanata falls ill with Roseola. Rio seeks the assistance of local priestess, Yumina, who is able treat Kanata. Later, when she reawakens, Kanata laments being of limited use to the 1121st and creating trouble for everyone, but Rio remarks that an effective military unit is thus as a result of the contributions of each of its members, drawing parallels with music, where the sound of numerous instruments in different roles contributes to a much more complete final product. Taking Kanata into the Takemikazuchi, an armoured vehicle from the civilisation predating theirs, Rio shares with Kanata the song Amazing Grace. Through the third episode, additional insights into Sora no Woto‘s characters are provided in conjunction with allowing Kanata and Rio to interact with one another. Despite her strict mannerisms, Rio is shown to care greatly for those under her command, and her remarks to Kanata illustrate that she sees everyone as being present for a reason, each with a purpose to carry out.

Written by John Newton in 1779, Amazing Grace is a hymn about redemption, written from Newton’s own experiences: after a storm sent his ship off course, he prayed to God and later converted to Christianity. Modern interpretations of the song suggest the worth of overcoming external obstacles, rather than distance from God, and consequently, Amazing Grace presently refers to the seeking of fulfilment (grace). In some cases, Amazing Grace might even refer to self-discovery leading to transformation. Notions of fulfilment, purpose and self-discovery run strong in Sora no Woto; Rio’s reminder to Kanata that the latter has a purpose is the first instance of this theme manifesting in Sora no Woto, and while the forgiveness aspect becomes quite substantial later on in the series, themes of seeking a meaningful purpose in life remain a core element in Sora no Woto. By drawing upon the thematic elements implied by the song Amazing Grace, Sora no Woto‘s third episode begins suggesting to audiences that, well beyond being merely a military-moé anime, additional elements are at play in its narrative.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The morning light sets the land aglow, and glints off Kanata’s bugle. Audiences are set for a hitherto unexpected performance, but Kanata’s performance is remarkably poor, even though her heart is certainly in the right place. Her squadmates largely sleep through the morning call, Rio smiles in understanding that she has much to instruct Kanata on, and the townspeople find themselves in disbelief, with one elderly woman even remarking that the sound is horrendous enough to awaken the dead.

  • On this particular morning, Kanata is responsible for breakfast duty, and she creates a Japanese-style breakfast, complete with steamed rice, miso soup, grilled fish and a green salad. Japanese-style breakfasts are rather more intricate than what I’m used to, and despite having all of the components of a dinner, portion sizes are scaled back to be appropriate for breakfast. I’ve remarked in my earlier Tawawa on Monday post that I end to optimise my morning routines so I can sleep a bit more and still get out early. Breakfast for me consists of baked items, such as muffins, cakes, breads or pastries, and a large glass of milk.

  • It’s shaping up to be a pleasant day in Seize, and here, Kanata waters the corn in the garden. Despite being a military installation, the activities that the 1121st participate do not encompass the training that a tank crew require: aside from being able to operate the necessary equipment (whether it be an armoured vehicle’s weapons, communications equipment or the vehicle itself), the 1121st are never shown going through basic training (including maintenance and operation of their service rifles). This lack of training gives Sora no Woto a very laid-back, casual sense.

  • This is only shown once, but it would appear that Kanata is a capable cook, similar to Yoshika of Strike Witches, who greatly enjoys cooking; in the Strike Witches Movie, she is shown to actively be helping out in an aircraft carrier’s galley with meals until Shizuka reprimands her, saying that officiers do not cook, and later, contributes to dinner at the Clostermann residence while visiting Lynette and Perrine.

  • Refusing a biscuit from Filicia, who notes they are from the local church, Rio expresses a distrust of the organisation, claiming that they resort to calling upon superstitions to extol money from the residents. Most churches collect donations solely to keep the church running, although Rio is quick to assume that the local church in Seize calls upon religion to frighten citizens to line their own pockets.

  • Kureha, Noël and Filicia prepare for a trip to town so that she may replenish the Clocktower Fortress’ provisions. In this time, Rio intends to give Kanata additional exercises on the bugle. The use of colour in Sora no Woto continued to pull me in: it is under a calm afternoon sky that the other set out, and the combination of hues in the landscapes paint a picture of a land that is very peaceful.

  • Early in May 2011, a new outlet had opened at the university’s food court, and I recall ordering a grilled beef and chicken lunch with a side of Korean-style sweet potatoes for the first time while watching Sora no Woto during noon a few weeks into my research. Coming out of the worst semester I had (the courses were difficult enough such that I had to withdraw from one), I resolved shortly after exam season ended, that I would make use of the summer to properly unwind and, having received the OCSS studentship, I planned to spend the summer building an agent-based nephron flow model.

  • If asked, my favourite summer of my undergraduate degree would definitely be 2011: aside from being immensely relaxing, that summer also set in motion the beginning of my undergraduate thesis project. Back in Sora no Woto, Kanata suddenly collapses in the heat, to Rio’s concern. All other goals cast aside, Rio immediately moves Kanata indoors and finds that Kanata’s developed a fever.

  • Being sick is highly unpleasant, as one’s energy reserves are directly wholly towards warding off whatever pathogens have entered the body. Fevers result from the body invoking muscle contractions, elevating its core temperature in an attempt to kill off some of the pathogens. As one of the body’s first line of defense against invaders, fevers are a common symptom, although medical professionals and parents may view it as a serious threat and try various means of treating it.

  • In general, a fever will dissipate on its own over time with adequate rest and so, does not require special effort, but in more serious cases, proper cooling and ensured rehydration is essential for the patient. With Kanata’s condition appearing to worsen, Rio goes on the hunt for medicine but realises their stores are depleted (which is why Filicia and the others set off to town to begin with) — frustrated,  smashes one of the empty bottles.

  • Out of options, Rio sets off full tilt towards town, seeking Sister Yumina’s help. The local priestess, Yumina looks after orphans and is very friendly. Yumina is voiced by Misato Fukuen, whom I best know for her role as Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji. I elicit a great deal of hate when I say that I’m rather fond of Yoshika, and to that, I remark, your hate has made you powerful. Besides Yoshika, Girls und Panzer‘s Anzu Kadotani, Rika Shiguma of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Non Non Biyori‘s, Hikage Miyauchi and Keiko Furukawa of Shinryaku!! Ika Musume are other roles I’m familiar with.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I’ve been around the block (with respect to anime) for nearly a decade now, having firmly established my own preferences and thoughts on the shows that I enjoy. Everything traces back to Ah! My Goddess The Movie, and I will be doing a special talk about the movie come March, when ten years have elapsed in full since I first watched it. Back in Sora no Woto, Rio sets aside her mistrust of the church and asks Yumina for help. Bearing no quarrel against the 1121st, Yumina agrees.

  • Yumina suggests that Kanata’s afflicted with Roseola (commonly known as the three-day fever). Caused by the viruses human herpesvirus 6 and human herpesvirus 7, I imagine that Kanata was infected with HHV-6b (my rationale for that will become apparent as the season progresses), symptoms include fever and the development of a rash. While there are no treatments, the disease is usually not serious and subsides after three days, hence its name. While most cases involve infants under the age of two, it can affect individuals as old as eighteen years of age. Sora no Woto evidently ensured its background was plausible, and my inner health scientist is quite pleased that realism is maintained.

  • It is therefore likely that, ever since joining the 1121st, Kanata’s been acclimatising to life at the Clocktower Fortress and trying her best to improve as a bugler, while at the same time, being introduced to some pathogens in the area. As the evening sets in, Kanata’s condition appears to have stablised, and Rio walks out to the bridge to see Yumina off. Yumina provides medicinal herbs to Rio to help Kanata out; they are presumably to help with her symptoms.

  • With this gesture of kindness, Rio’s mistrust of the church begins fading as she realises that they really are around to help out around the town. Consequently, later episodes feature Yumina and the orphans in her care more frequently as the 1121st come across them, and Yumina gradually comes to play a greater role in Sora no Woto. While Rio’s warming up to Yumina and the church was an integral part of the episode, my focus lies largely with Kanata’s perspectives when I derive themes and episode messages in Sora no Woto.

  • The reason for this is because Kanata is the central character; logically, the events of Sora no Woto are meant to be viewed from her perspective, and so, even though the other characters can learn critical lessons through the anime’s run, ultimately, it is what Kanata experiences that drive the lessons that Sora no Woto aim to present. I am an opponent of “Death of the Author” concept, because it is a highly egocentric world-view: in a work, I am interested in viewing the author’s perspective to understand what circumstances lead them to create a work in the manner that they do.

  • I will explain in a later discussion why I am not supportive of a completely post-modernist approach towards interpreting fictional works. Returning to Sora no Woto, with her disease on the mend, Kanata dreams about the mysterious trumpeter she’d seen as a child and subsequently wakes up to Rio cutting up apples. That Rio is presented shortly after this dream hints at her own roles within Sora no Woto, but as we are only three episodes in, the exact role is not presented.

  • Until I personally stepped in to remove it, some folks from Tango-Victor-Tango asserted that the use of the Takemikazuchi as a mere MP3 player was disappointing. The whole point of this scene, that said folks completely misunderstood, was that Rio had gained something from interacting with Yumina. Thus, when Kanata feels a burden to the 1121st, Rio notes that everyone is here to play a role of importance. She relates this to music and gives Kanata a demonstration: the combination of instruments in Amazing Grace is what gives the song its impact, and so, she urges Kanata to work hard, too.

  • Rio finally shows a more compassionate side to her personality, asking Kanata to let her know of any problems she encounters, such that she may help her grow. Fully motivated, Kanata promises to do her best in giving Rio plenty of grief. These dynamics, although seemingly trivial in any ordinary setting, become a shining beacon of optimism in a world such as that of Sora no Woto.

  • Even as early as the third episode, it becomes clear that Kanata is slowly starting to make her presence felt amongst the 1121st despite any noticeable contributions to the squad’s activities: her spirit leads Rio to listen to Amazing Grace once again, coming to slowly reconsider her past. In retrospect, this was only easier to pick out because I’m watching Sora no Woto a third time, and there are always details one can discern on multiple run-throughs of a work.

The third episode predominantly focuses on the mentor-student (or more informally, the senpaikouhai) dynamics between Rio and Kanata. As the mentor, Rio is able to reassure Kanata that the latter is not merely a burden or holding the squad back in any way. In spite of her serious demeanour, Rio is well-suited for taking the innocent Kanata as a student. Similarly, although Kanata might have been depicted as a happy-go-lucky, ever-cheerful girl, her conversation with Rio shows that she does have doubts about her decision to join the armed forces as a bugler. However, thanks to the grace of her meeting with Rio, she gradually discovers her purpose, and over time, through acting as a mentor for Kanata, Rio will come to define a clear dream for herself, as well. Consequently, by the third episode, it should become quite apparent that comparisons between K-On! and Sora no Woto are superficial at best (and in actuality, would be considered invalid)— the incredible attention to world-building and development of the 1121st platoon’s characters stand in stark contrast with the lighter atmosphere in K-On!, and in time, Sora no Woto will decisively show that it is completely unlike K-On!.

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