The Infinite Zenith

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

Kanata’s Day Off: Hairdressing- Sora no Woto Review and Reflection at the Halfway Point

“My greatest achievement so far is that I’ve been able to continue with my normal life. I love what I do, but more so, I’m glad to have people who care about me close by.” —Kim Smith

Having received her paycheque, Kanata decides to drop by the town, leaving Rio and the others to conduct their business: the Clocktower Fortress also serves as a front for an off-the-books Calvados operation. In order to dissuade some criminal elements in the area from becoming too interested in the operation, Felicia, Kureha and Nöel stage a transaction gone bad, where they “gun down” several clients and frighten the criminals into leaving. Meanwhile, while in town, Kanata sets off to browse the market for gifts to her family, but learns from Yumina about Mishio, who took off after objecting to Yumina brushing her hair. Searching for a box precious to her, Mashio winds up at a derelict house and slips off at the time when Nöel and the others are engaged in their theatrics. She’s saved by Kanata, although the pair dislodge boulders that total the criminals’ vehicle. In a turn of fate, Mishio’s box is found in the vehicle with some other articles, and she gives the box to Yumina as a gesture of appreciation.

The sixth episode of Sora no Woto, though focusing on the daily ins and outs of life around Seize, is done using a parallel narrative that fits nicely together to keep things interesting for its viewers while simultaneously reinforcing themes from the previous episode. In her interactions with Mishio, an orphan who has very fond memoires of her parents, Yumina demonstrates that she is nonetheless a capable foster parent, caring deeply for those in her care. These bonds and dynamics are shown to play a major role in a world that has seen widespread devastation and, similar to themes from the previous episode, shows that even in a ravaged world, beauty and good can continue to exist. Similarly, the existence of criminal elements who take an interest in the Clocktower Fortress’ Calvados operation are intended to illustrate that even in the aftermath of an apocalypse, there are individuals and groups who strive to serve themselves at society’s expense. Although this might be a world where people have found a way to survive together, the more unsavoury aspects of human nature can sometimes appear. In spite of this, so as long as the good people are willing to act and are in greater numbers, society as as whole is more likely to endure and survive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kanata recieves her first paycheque from Filicia, and begins wondering how their pay is so quickly accounted for considering their remote location. When Kureha begins to mention the source of the 1121st’s income, the others grow antsy: Nöel hauls Kureha away and Rio covers for her, saying that Kanata should merely have a nice time in town. Kanata thus sets off the next morning, leaving the others to their machinations.

  • With her collared t-shirt and long skirt, Kanata’s casual attire is a far cry from the military uniform the others are wearing: by this point, it’s late into the summer in Sora no Woto. If memory serves, I reached the sixth episode shortly after the Victoria Day long weekend in 2011, and after completing the first filtration controller prototype for my undergraduate research, I could turn my attention to learning the Bullet Physics engine and begin developing an agent-based physics-driven model of flow in the nephron.

  • The cooler colours Kanata sets out to is evocative of a summer morning: where I’m from, summer mornings tend to be very comfortable and are unsurprisingly, the best time of day to take a hike or bike ride. The sun has not quite hit maximum yet, so the air remains cool, and with our distance from any ocean or large body of water, the land cools quickly over the course of the night. This stands in sharp contrast with Cancún, where the air remains very warm even by night owing to the humidity and proximity to the oceans.

  • With Kanata away, the others are free to conduct their business without any interference. They set foot into their secret distillery: producing Calvados (an apple brandy), illegal alcohol production is how the 1121st acquire extra income. This is not unheard of in reality, especially with the armed forces during the Second World War and earlier. While officially illegal, officers often turned a blind eye to alcohol production because the self-made alcohol kept bored soldiers occupied between operations and typically yielded alcohol that was safer to consume.

  • Filicia is voiced by Aya Endō, whom I know best for her roles as Lucky Star‘s Miyuki Takara and Kinue Crossroad of Gundam 00. With a gentle voice in her role as Filicia, Endō projects her nature as a motherly figure for those under her command, exercising a much more casual form of leadership amongst the 1121st. She also looks dashing in a formal dress: here, she is seen “negotiating” with some members of the local mafia about the Calvados transaction.

  • When some ruffians from out of town appear, Naomi immediately alerts the 1121st, and they stage an elaborate performance to scare off the competing mafia members. Kureha is armed with the MP-40 submachine gun, while Nöel takes up the MG 42 (a mainstay weapon in Strike Witches). Both girls are using blank ammunition, and fire on Filicia’s signal: gunning down even mafia in cold blood would almost certainly defeat Sora no Woto‘s message and atmosphere, and the lack of any wounds are an indicator that this is a show even before Filicia makes it clear to the viewers.

  • When the dust settles, Rio appears outside and threateningly asks whether or not these two were with the folks inside; frightened senseless, they take off before any harm comes to them, but a rockslide crushes their vehicle, agitating them further. The geography in and around Seize is varied, filled with canyons, cliff faces and mountains, creating an additional sense of fantasty in Sora no Woto. While fictional, the anime captures the terrain around Cuenca, Spain to some extent: the Júcar river that runs through Cuenca has carved a river valley through the area with sheer cliff faces.

  • Rio expresses surprise and irony when she beholds the falling rocks, indicating that destroying the other mafia’s vehicle was probably never intended to be a part of their show. She’s holding a Mauser C96 pistol here, which served as the inspiration for Han Solo’s DL-44 Heavy Blaster: the movie weapon was constructed using a C96, utilising parts from model airplane kits to produce the weapon’s vents. The Dl-44’s flash suppressor is sourced from the MG81, a WWII-era German machine gun used in their fighter planes. Finally, the weapon’s sights is the Hensoldt Wetzlar Ziel Dialyt 3x scope, typically affixed on German sniper rifles such as the K98.

  • After the mafia elements try to make for their vehicle, rocks smash the vehicle and render it nonoperational, forcing the crooks to leave on foot. The feint appears to have held its effect, leaving Filicia to properly make a transaction with the locals. Alcohols made from apples date back to the eighth century, although the modern incarnation, distilled in the Normandy region of France, has its roots in the 1500s. Made by distilling apple cider and allowing it to ferment, aging in oak barrels, the production of Calvados requires a minimum of two years, suggesting that Filicia’s predecessors were already manufacturing this alcohol.

  • On Filica’s end, things go rather smoothly, and so, the episode transitions to Kanata’s side of the story. Shortly after she leaves for town, she returns to Naomi’s shop and notes the price of the glass dolphin is 10.25. As she admires the sculpture, two ruffians shove her roughly against the glass, tipping Naomi off about the presence of unsavoury types in the area. Consequently, it is Kanata being in the right place, at the right time, that allow Filicia and the others to prepare their ruse.

  • Despite having sufficient funds to buy the glass dolphin, Kanata finds herself in a bit of a quandary. After being asked about what Kanata would do if someone had planned to purchase the dolphin, Kanata suggests that she’d deceive the other individual to dissuade them. This gives Naomi a fantastic idea in dealing with the goons, and Naomi agrees to set the dolphin aside until the day where Kanata wants to buy it, or else is okay with allowing another buyer to pick it up.

  • While most of the elements in Sora no Woto have some sort of symbolic or thematic relevance, the glass dolphin that Kanata covets winds up being a red herring: as the series wears on, Kanata does not mention the glass dolphin again and is not seen purchasing it, either. In logic, the so-called red herrings are counted as a fallacy, but in literary terms, they can be used to mislead viewers and surprise them. The term is supposed to originate from the use of smoked herring, which take on a red colour, to lay down a false trail for distracting hounds, although whether or not this tale holds any truth remains a point of discussion.

  • Seize was depicted in previous episodes as a quiet town where the streets were empty, but that was on moody, rainy days. When the weather is more favourable, the town square is paced with people. An open bazaar of sorts, Kanata arrives here to find souvenirs for her family. The attention to detail is exceptional in this scene; close inspection of the image will find that everyone is rendered with a reasonably high quality, and the buildings enclosing the square are given textures to suggest an aged, weathered look.

  • It is here that Kanata runs into Mishio, who is searching for a memento from her family. Earlier, she swats Yumina in response to having her hair brushed, and describes a patterned box that she’s looking for. Despite the odds of finding the box at the market being quite slim, Kanata tries to help her look for it, but Mishio runs off before that can happen. Kanata continues browsing the bazaar and later, finds an “I LOVE SEIZE” t-shirt before encountering Yumina.

  • Yumina recounts Mishio’s story to Kanata: after her parents’ passing, possessions from Mishio’s family fell into the hands of creditors, including a box that Mishio had held dear. As having her hair brushed reminds her of her mother, having it done by someone else triggers unpleasant feelings for her, reminding her of her old family. It typifies Sora no Woto‘s ability to create detailed backstories for the different characters to show that this is a world populated by multi-faceted individuals.

  • In turn, plausible characters lend themselves to one of the overarching ideas portrayed in Sora no Woto: that the consequences of war are far reaching, well beyond impacting just the combatants and the politicians that order soldiers onto the battlefield on behalf of their interests. While these elements are short, they offer glimpses into the different perspectives the characters have to create the sense that this is a multi-layered world, offering just enough detail without burning excess screentime.

  • Reminiscing on the roof of a derelict home similar to the Hanging Houses, Mishio slips and falls off when gunfire below sounds. Hanging on for dear life, Kanata arrives and manages to save her, although their efforts loosen some boulders that fall below. It is fortunate that Kanata arrives when she does: as per MythBusters, it is impossible to hold onto a ledge indefinitely — Corey, Grant and Jessi could only hold on to a three inch ledge for about a minute. Managing to pull Mishio, Kanata learns that Mishio does care greatly for Yumina.

  • Back in the valley below, Naomi wonders if the two were responsible for destroying the vehicle. Kanata panics, wondering if the vehicle belongs to Naomi, but nothing of the sort is the case. In the vehicle, they serendipitously find the same box that Mishio was seeking out. It is here that all of the episode’s events come together: while perhaps contrived to some, that coincidences can occur and their magic is the subject of no small discussion. I personally believe a hybrid approach: some things in life are governed by fate, but what happens largely depends on what one makes with the hand they are given.

  • Realising that Yumina is as loving as her biological mother, Mishio finally consents to allow Yumina to braid her hair. This lends itself to the title: the episode might be titled “Kanata’s Day Off”, and for the longest time, I imagined that it was Kanata who would visit a hair stylist on her day off, but it turns out that the title deals with Mishio. It’s a solid resolution for the episode and signifies the impact that Yumina has on those around her, in bringing people together and giving them hope.

  • Free will and determinism occupy opposite ends of the spectrum; it was the subject for a discussion back in high school, and I was leaning towards free will, since I like to believe that humans have control of their destinies. However, if we suppose that the fatalists are correct, and that everything that will happen to me are set in stone for a particular purpose, I would still maintain that it’s what one makes of their fate that counts the most. We’re now at Sora no Woto‘s halfway point, and while the series proper concludes at twelve episodes, there are two more episodes in the series. My posting’s slowed slightly this month — with most of the major posts done, on the table for February will be a talk on Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth and as time permits, a discussion on the movie Wake Up, Girls!- Shadow of Youth.

Elements that are introduced or explored in Sora no Woto are all present for a reason: the sixth episode strongly demonstrates this in subtle details to remind audiences that everything has a purpose in the anime if it is shown. For instance, Kanata is roughly pushed aside by one of the criminals in town, and this immediately tips off Naomi that unsavoury figures are in town. The destruction of their vehicle, seemingly a fluke, was actually an accidental event resulting from Kanata and Mishio, who had reached that state themselves after gunfire from Felicia and the other’s performance. In short, Sora no Woto suggests that everything happens for a reason, this episode’s events are utilised to guide a particular outlook among viewers — small details in the earlier episodes likely will foreshadow or hint at revelations or events in later episodes. It becomes clear that, in spite of its artistic style or the audiences’ initial impressions, Sora no Woto is intending to explore new territory; the upcoming episode demonstrates exactly this and ended up being quite a surprise for the viewers, especially among those who were quick to dismiss Sora no Woto as a military incarnation of K-On!.

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