The Infinite Zenith

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

Manning the Telephone: I Declare an Emergency- Sora no Woto Eighth Episode Review and Reflection

“Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.” — King George V

When headquarters sends a request stating that they will be doing a test of the phone lines, requiring at least one person to be available to pick up the phone when the call is made, Kanata decides to volunteer, as the others have errands to run. Prior to leaving, Rio gives Kanata a book on trumpet practise that was once owned by Iliya Arkadia. While it seems a quiet afternoon, Mishio, Seiya and the local priest arrive, but pandemonium ensues when Mishio spooks the owl. Yumina shows up shortly after, reprimands the others for having created such a mess and offers Kanata a change of clothing. While continuing her wait, Kanata finds herself in need of a visit to the bathroom; she is relieved when Rio returns, and Rio responds to the phone call to learn that an unwelcome figure is in need of her assistance. In a return to the atmosphere characterising earlier Sora no Woto episodes, the eighth episode is decidedly more relaxed and easy-going in nature for its duration. However, the phone call that Rio picks up is the surest sign that, in light of the previous episode, the situation in Sora no Woto is shifting as battle lines begin to form, and Rio’s asked with carrying out a favour she seems opposed to.

The more serious elements in the episode’s closing aside, Sora no Woto‘s eighth episode places Kanata in a rather uncomfortable position, when she’s asked to keep an eye on the phone and answer it. While I’m not sure how things work out in Japan, Kanata’s situation is reminiscent of what is experienced when one asks a worker to come over to their home for work or inspection. As they tend to give a very wide range of hours (e.g. “please be available between nine and one”), it forces one to book a half-day off to wait for said worker. However, the worker may not show up if their schedules are busy, and they might reschedule, resulting in another half-day of lost time. While Kanata is able to spend that time practising trumpet and having an amusing, if unusual time with the priest and children early on, her conundrum is a rather clever parallel to the state that one might encounter should their appointment be given a wide range of hours. Comedy of this variety is admittedly rare in anime, but to see such a scenario in Sora no Woto was most welcome.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the eighth episode marks a return to the more mundane everyday elements surrounding the 1121st, it would be quite difficult to write another post that spans thirty images. As such, I’ve returned to the usual twenty images that have accompanied earlier posts, and I note that it’s been surprisingly quiet on my previous discussion. Armed with access to my site metrics, it seems that search engines have not managed to index the page.

  • The entire episode is set at the Clocktower fortress, starting in the morning, where Kanata is assigned to keep an eye on the telephone at breakfast. Here, she practises answering the phone for the moment the call comes through, and while seemingly a trivial episode, one of the main joys is seeing the different progression of lighting through the fortress as the day progresses.

  • Later in the morning, Filicia shows up and messes with Kanata, who continues to patiently wait for the phone call, before noting that she and Kureha are taking off to deliver mission critical files back to their commanding unit. The most prominent anime reviewers of the day (primarily specialising in summarisation rather than discussion) noted that the episode itself was disappointing, while more vehement complaints saying that Sora no Woto has in effect thrown away an entire episode’s worth of time.

  • Rio drops by to check in on how Kanata is doing here. While period opinion seems to suggest that I’m with the majority who felt that a calm, more relaxing eighth episode after the heavier seventh was a welcome break, some individuals contend that the episode was shallow and pandering, bland in nature. These are the classic arguments that opponents of the moé genre often field in their discussion, and as a consequence of their short-sightedness, have missed details in this seemingly unextraordinary episode.

  • One such detail is how Kanata seems to be in the loop for the Clocktower Fortress’ Calvados operation now, much to Rio and Naomi’s surprise. How this happened would have been a mystery at the time of the episode’s airing, although some folks who were aware of the presence of a pair of bonus episodes to be included with the (then) future releases of the Blu-Rays quickly put two and two together, suggesting that the episode set between this episode and the previous one may explore that in greater detail.

  • This prediction turned out to be true, and as it turns out, the misadventures surrounding how Kanata comes to learn the secret is a hilarious one. When I embarked on this revisitation of Sora no Woto, I realised that I already had OVA posts completed many years back; these date back to 2012, which would have been only a few months after I had finished watching Sora no Woto back in summer 2011. My old website hosted my Sora no Woto whole-series review, and I figured I would capitalise on my then-unused blog to further explore the OVAs. A quick inspection of these older posts find that they are still of a reasonably high standard, so I’m not going to revisit the OVAs again. Here, Kanata, Rio and Naomi share a lunch here of sandwiches and the Calvados, and Rio gives Kanata a trumpet practise guide that Iliya herself once owned.

  • This landscape still was included purely because one of the few moments in the episode where scenery outside of the Clocktower fortress is depicted. The morning had seen clear skies, and as afternoon sets in, clouds begin appearing over the town of Seize. By afternoon, Kanata begins practising fingering techniques for the trumpet while drinking a copious amount of fluid. Late in the afternoon, the clouds roll over Seize and drop a downpour on the area.

  • This forces Kanata to retrieve the laundry, but as she manages to set it down, the priest and some of the children from Yumina’s convent arrive. It turns out that the priest is set to visit Treize (City Thirteen) for an undisclosed reason, and so, while the episode may prima facie seem inconsequential, minor comings-and-goings show that outside of Seize, things are not so rosy as peace begins seeing disruptions.

  • As the telephone still remains silent, Kanata helps the children in creating some tin can phones for fun. What is initially a fun activity to pass the time soon turns to pandemonium when Shuko is frightened and takes off, causing the others to panic. In the meyhem, Calvados is spilled, and things get knocked over. Kanata takes the brunt of the damage in trying to protect the telephone.

  • All of this comes as Yumina arrives on station: when she beholds the destruction, she immediately sets about lecturing the priest and children for not observing etiquette while visiting. Meanwhile, Kanata is outfitted in a rather colourful dress that Yumina happened to have with her at the time.

  • From a personal perspective, this episode was an appropriate breather from the events that have previously happened. Most of the folks who’ve found the episode to single-handedly render the whole of Sora no Woto unwatchable have since vanished, so I’ve not to contend with them when I note that such individuals probably do not understand how reality works: there are days where things are busy or difficult, and other days where things are rather more straightforward. To expect a high-octane story the entire way is to misunderstand what makes good fiction: without moments of quiet, one has no baseline to determine when disruption has occurred.

  • If such individuals were to come out of the woodwork now and challenge me in discussion, I’d welcome it: things’ve gotten too quiet around these parts. Kanata’s dress seems to cause Seiya to see her in a new light, and he blushes mildly when asked about his opinion of Kanata’s new dress. This point is a minor one, but presumably, it is Seiya who later writes that he wishes to marry Kanata on his wooden plaque during the next Festival.

  • As a sign that I’m beginning to run low on remarks about the eighth episode, despite enjoying it, I deviate from the topic and note that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is entering the open beta stage tomorrow: preloading began yesterday, and the open beta runs from tomorrow to the 27th. I’m set to go on a poker and pizza night with my coworkers on Friday and will lose Friday evening, while on Saturday, I’ve got some financial matters to arrange. I don’t think I’ll be able to play through the game quite to the same extent that I did last year for Tom Clancy’s The Division.

  • With this in mind, I am going to see if I can manage at least five hours so I can experience the beta sufficiently to both write about it and decide whether or not the game will be worth purchasing. If it turns out I can play the game exclusively in single-player mode, and there’s a good mix of urban and rural settings to explore in the full game, I will likely buy it. The Division, while still intriguing, is not single player-friendly beyond level thirty; I’ve had mixed feelings about buying it, and if Wildlands turns out to be more supportive of folks who wish to go solo, I’ll consider picking it up.

  • The urgency of her task means that Kanata has not left her post all day, and here, she’s feeling the effects of having consumed all that fluid from earlier: she’s in desperate need of a trip to the facilities, and Rio arrives just in time to keep an eye on the telephone. In general, one can last roughly nine to ten hours without using the bathroom assuming normal hydration levels, and while the parasympathetic nervous system will signal a need to hit the bathroom, these feelings can be suppressed, even if it is inadvisable: it is quite uncomfortable and can lead to renal problems if frequently done.

  • Quite personally, I am not a fan of phones. I will attempt to avoid using them where possible, on the sole virtue that voice communications over a device I am holding close to my ear is an exercise in patience, taking my hands from other tasks. If the option is available, I will route the call over to my computer so I have my hands free while simultaneously talking with the recipient. With this in mind, I’m not a great multi-tasker: unlike computers, which excel at asynchronous processes, I prefer working in a synchronous manner, finishing one task before moving onto the next.

  • At the end of a long day, Rio is the one to pick up the phone, only to learn that it’s her father calling. Overriding the protocol, he calls to ask a favour of Rio, telling her that she is to be involved in saving Helvetia. It is mentioned earlier that peace talks have been unfruitful, leaving Helvetia on the brink of another war with the Roman Empire. Recalling that it is likely the Roman Empire that Filicia’s old tank crew was fighting, the implications are clear: either Rio can shirk her responsibility for her pride’s sake at the cost of thousands of lives, or else face her destiny to stave off an impending war.

  • Rio’s phone conversation with her father may leave something to remind viewers that behind all of the fun and games at the Clocktower Fortress, the 1121st are nonetheless a part of the world, but for the moment, Kanata’s attempts to find a bathroom are unsuccessful when Noël reveals that sleeping in the bathroom is one of her pastimes. This brings Kanata to the brink of involuntary enuresis.

  • It’s nightfall by the time Filicia and Kureha return from their journey to headquarters. Seeing Kanata on the floor seemingly unable to pick herself up, and quite unaware of the situation she’s in, Filicia decides it’s time to “help” Kanata and extract her from the floor. These final moments bring the eighth episode of Sora no Woto to an end, and it strikes me that we’re very nearly a sixth of the way into 2017 now.

  • The end result of the episode winds up being hilarious even in spite of myself, and presumably, Filicia and the others are left with a bit of a mess on their hands in the episode’s aftermath. This episode, though enjoyable from my point-of-view, left some viewers wondering if Sora no Woto would “devolve” into moé trash. I argue that moé is irrelevant in the context of Sora no Woto, and that it is more of the world it is set in, coupled with Kanata’s outlook, that drive the theme in Sora no Woto. I hold this position primarily because I am armed with a perspective that most contemporary viewers lack and as such, with the eighth episode being the exception rather than the rule, I was not bothered by how it ended: I merely selected the next episode and continued with this series.

While this episode of Sora no Woto felt a little unusual in the wake of the more serious tone set by the previous episode (in fact, some viewers claimed it was “filler” or a “step backwards”), it nonetheless shows that life itself is not always meant to be high octane and somber in nature; I imagine that the choice to craft a more comical narrative into the eighth episode was likely to balance out the moody atmosphere the previous episode left behind. With this in mind, the overall tone in Sora no Woto has taken a shift, and it becomes clear that for better or worse, circumstances are shifting with the phone call that Rio receives: there is no going back now, hence the choice to give Sora no Woto one final episode where humour and relaxation is dominant. From here on out, Sora no Woto takes a markedly different direction, as questions about Rio’s background and her relationship with Princess Iliya is discussed in greater detail.

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