“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Noël learns that the replacement lenses for Takemikazuchi’s targeting system fail to synchronise during testing, and as the skies darken with rain clouds, she and Kanata are tasked with visiting the local glass factory to pick up new glass lenses. Travelling through the town, they revisit Naomi’s shop, where Kanata stops to admire a glass dolphin, and after picking up their supplies run into some children. However, it’s a cold encounter when one of them sees Noël and, asserting his hatred for soldiers, takes off. While distraught by his remarks, Noël and Kanata continue to the factory. Despite the glassworker’s efforts, they cannot reproduce the optics. In spite of it all, Kanata finds the glass factory an amazing place and comforts Noël, saying that ultimately, machinery is only as moral or immoral as their users. In speaking with Carl and Maria, two other workers, Kanata learns that sound shares a similar property to glass in that rather than being beautiful when forced, it should be gently shaped into anything the maker wishes. She takes this advice to heart, and by sunrise, manages to improve her bugling skills. When the others realise that Kanata has perfect pitch, they ask her to help calibrate the optical lenses, picking the reproduction whose resonance matches most closely with the original, and finally manage to get the Takemikazuchi online.
A beautiful episode of rainfall and sound, Sora no Woto‘s fourth episode gives Kanata some time with Noël, learning about the taciturn girl whose genius as a mechanic and love for machines conceals a difficult secret about her past. In slapping away Noël, Seiya’s reaction and marked hatred for soldiers, coupled with Noël’s own remarks about her preference of machines over people, seems to suggest an unpleasant history with people and her own engineering talents. Kanata’s presence, on the other hand, serves to balance this darkness out with hope. Ever-optimistic and willing to learn, Kanata seems to bring sunshine with her regardless of where she goes, and it is her naïveté that allows her to continue wishing to learn and improve even as the world around her feels contrary to allowing such spirits. Ultimately, it is this attitude and Kanata’s own innate talent of perfect pitch, that leads Noël to find the solution for the Takemikazuchi. In succeeding, she and Kanata become closer, both as squad-mates and as friends.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Noël tests optical lenses for the Takemikazuchi’s targeting system: they are desynchronised and the firing control will not operate without them. Equipped with a sophisticated computer system, the Takemikazuchi is leaps and bounds ahead of anything Helvetia and the Roman Empire possess, although the folks who built its software system appear to have a basic grasp on good English: while the contents are readable, there are grammatical errors all over the place.
- While some individuals have complained about the minor inconsistencies in how the characters look throughout Sora no Woto, I personally found it to be a part of the anime’s charm, and overall, Sora no Woto has excellent artwork relative to its contemporaries; environments are rendered in high detail, and here, things like reflections in the puddles on the ground show that despite being a one-off, A1 Pictures clearly put in the effort to ensure that Sora no Woto was of a solid quality.
- Of the earlier episodes, the fourth stands as one of my favourites for rendering Seize under moody, grey skies. The lack of sunshine means the entire area is draped in dark, subdued colours During the summer of 2011, May turned out to be a rather cloudy month, although the weather had cleared during the Victoria Day long weekend, allowing for a day in the mountains. Despite being the middle of spring, the air was quite frigid, and visiting Lake Minnewanka, we found a thick layer of ice on the surface.
- I did not learn to drive until much later than my peers: I had taken lessons on driving only in the summer of 2010, but never got around to doing the road test. On a sunny morning in mid-June in 2011, I finally took my practical exam, passing with a near-perfect score (only losing points for parallel parking), and I remember buying Chopper 2 for iOS shortly after, before spending the afternoon watching Break Blade. After my probationary period expired, I completed the exit road test for my full license in 2015.
- Kanata takes a liking to the glass dolphin and, while having insufficient funds to purchase it, Naomi agrees to reserve it for her such that she can purchase it when she has enough money. It is here that a hint of the world’s state is disclosed: dolphins have gone extinct by this point in time, leading audiences to wonder both how extensive the damage to the world must have been, as well as what events led to this level of destruction.
- While the original speculation suggested that hyperinflation had occurred in the Sora no Woto universe, I posit a more plausible explanation: societal changes resulting from the regression of technology means that paper money cannot be printed to the same as it is in present times, so the use of yen as a dollar unit, and sen as cent unit, is alluding to the fact that it is probably easier to track monetary units in the absence of paper money. Here, a store clerk messes with Kanata but notes that Noël is immune to jokes.
- We’re now just a ways less than a week into finishing up the first month of 2017, and a cursory glance at the site’s archives in the drop-down menu on the right sidebar shows that including this post, we’ve got a total of thirteen for the month, standing in contrast with the five I had from last year. The rate of passage for time is unreal, and I also note that my old iPod Classic has been in service for nine years now; its hard drive has aged to the point where it no longer operates, although it’s been a good run, accompanying me across the world to a conference and doubling as an excellent portable hard disk.
- Kanata meets Yumina again, this time in fine spirits, along with some of the children she’s looking after. However, one of the children, Seiya, immediately takes a disliking to Noël, stating that he hates soldiers before running off. This scene is subtly foreshadowing the events of later episodes, and similar to how J.K. Rowling masterfully employs foreshadowing in order to build a rich world where all elements are interconnected, Sora no Woto uses its visuals and characters to achieve this effect to create an intricate world piquing the audiences’ sense of curiosity.
- After picking up all of their supplies in town, Noël and Kanata head towards a glass-making factory at the edge of town. With its distinct chimney and red roof, the glass factory in Seize is a fictional structure that derives off the architectural style of the area. The factory brings to mind the vacation I took during 2011 to the Eastern Seaboard, where we visited New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston; one of the best surprises of the trip was being able to have Boston-style chowdah and a fresh lobster roll, as well as a whole lobster for dinner.
- The other memories of the 2011 vacation that particularly stand out, besides the Empire State Building and American Museum of Natural History in New York City, was visiting the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York: aside from their collection of ornate glass works, we were treated to a live demonstration of glassblowing. Early glassblowing coincides with the development of the Roman Empire and spread to Egypt, becoming widespread as the technique for making glass by the Middle Ages.
- Today, glass making is largely automated, with machines shaping molten glass into its desired form very quickly, although artisans continue to practise this technique to create artworks: larger pieces will require multiple glassblowers working in harmony to create the piece, and in Sora no Woto, the practioners at the factory work under the eye of Carl, an artisan who inspires Kanata when he remarks that glassware turns out because he tries to shape the piece naturally, rather than forcing it into a particular shape.
- While Noël states that she’s more fond of machines since they cannot betray others, Kanata counters that machines are neither intrinsically good or evil; it is the human element, their users, that determine their purpose. With her optimistic mindset, Kanata acts as a beacon of hope in a world where the other characters are preoccupied with their own internals struggles: in offering this new, positive outlook on the world, she slowly introduces change amongst the other members of the 1121st.
- This is one of the reasons why I contend that Kanata’s experiences form the core of the thematic elements in Sora no Woto; as the central character, the story necessarily follows her experiences and impacts on those around her to make clear a particular idea. Here, Kanata speaks with Maria, one of the other workers at the glass factory about the Precursors, whose descriptions match a civilisation whose technology is only slightly more sophisticated than our own.
- The whole purpose of this visit to the glass factory was to secure a set of optics for the Takemikazuchi: the originals were machined to a very high similarity, although with one of the lenses damaged, it falls upon the glassworkers’ expertise to reproduce a copy of the surviving original. Despite their efforts, they are unsuccessful, leading Maria to wonder what kind of civilisation preceded theirs, although Carl is more of a pragmatist, believing that if humans could once create incredibly complex constructs, they must have the ability to do so once more.
- Asides from her optimism, Kanata’s strongest asset is her open-mindedness. Upon hearing Carl’s remarks about shaping good glass, Kanata immediately links the natural blowing techniques to guide glass into its final form with blowing naturally to create a purer sound. She thanks Carl and takes off to give the technique a spin. Under clearing skies, Kanata is finally able to produce a proper tone from her bugle.
- Thus, while detractors of the show may assert that Kanata’s “innocence and naïveté directly clash” with the atmosphere and purportedly “makes her character unbelievable”, I counter that, behind these individuals’ pseudo-intellectual drivel and bluster (notably, those of “Nihon Review”), is a lack of understanding of the sort of role that Kanata is intended to serve in the show. She’s clearly bright and sharp-minded, even if her general cheerfulness and propensity to be easily amazed may conceal this aspect of her character.
- The transition from overcast greys to brightly-lit landscapes vividly thrown into sharp detail serves as a visual representation of how Kanata must have felt to have finally learnt, on her own, to produce a proper sound from her bugle. With her perfect pitch, Noël decides that they can adopt a different approach: rather than producing endless numbers of lenses to test, she can ask Kanata to help her identify which lens has the most similar resonance (indicative of the most similar shape or composition), to find a compatible lens.
- The afternoon skies are clear as Noël and Kanata leave the glass factory, both having gained something important as a result of having shared a day with one another. Note the choice of colour for the blues in the sky: in contrast to a more saturated, lighter blue colour indicative of a warmer day, the skies here have a slightly greyer, cooler feel to convey the sense that the air is refreshed after a good rainfall.
- Back at the Clocktower Fortress, Noël prepares to test the lens selected with Kanata’s assistance. Outside, Filicia remarks that Noël’s changed somewhat since arriving at the Clocktower Fortress, vindicating the idea that Kanata’s presence has had a positive impact on her. After a few tense moments of waiting for the system to test both lenses, the OS confirms that the selected lens has synchronised properly, bringing the Takemikazuchi one step closer to being operational.
- In joy, Noël smiles for the first time. In general, a stoic character smiling in an anime has always elicited a large reaction from viewers, bringing to mind the sort of response that resulted when Yuki Nagato smiled in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. One of the earlier bits of speculation suggested that the girls would be deployed on a combat operation soon after bonding (as darker series are wont to doing), but because I’m coming in with full knowledge of what Sora no Woto entails, I believe that the series is as effective as it was because of the notion that war can be stopped with something beyond superior firepower and fear.
The intricate universe in Sora no Woto continues to be explored, bit-by-bit, with each passing episode, and from a personal standpoint, the fourth episode resonated with me with its detailed depiction of glass-blowing. Modern glass apparatus are formed mechanically, with glass-blowing being considered more as an art form. The Corning Glass Museum in New York State was where I saw glassmaking for the first time, and coincidentally, I took that trip in the summer of 2011, the same summer as when I watched and finished Sora no Woto. To see the processes captured faithfully was a strong indicator that Sora no Woto would be an anime that paid attention to the details, in turn, crafting a much more compelling world that the anime is set in. Besides glassmaking, the fourth episode also portrays Seize on a more ordinary day, under much quieter conditions outside of the festival. One of the elements I always wonder is, what does a place normally look like outside of events or festivals, and with this episode, it turns out that Seize is a tranquil place far removed from centres of activity. Such subtle details speak volumes about the world that characters exist in, leaving audiences curious as to what sort of adventures await the characters in such an intriguing world.