The Infinite Zenith

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

Departure: Time of First Snow- Sora no Woto Tenth Episode Review and Reflection

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” —Mother Teresa

The chill of winter begins to be felt over Seize, and Rio discloses the dialogue of her phone call to the others; she’s being asked to help her father out and marry the Roman Emperor with the intent of bringing peace between the Roman Empire and Helvetia. In the meantime, Yumina asks Kanata and Rio to check up on an old woman named Jacotte, who resides in the nearby mountains. Rio tells Kanata of her half-sister on the trek up the mountain, and when they arrive at Jacotte’s cabin, they share a conversation with Jacotte about her lover. Snow begins falling, and the next morning, they find that Jacotte has gone. Kanata is saddened by this, and when the two return to the Clocktower Fortress, Felicia finally reveals that Princess Iliya is Rio’s half sister. Rio subsequelty decides to leave the Clocktower Fortress for the capital with the aim of fulfilling her role in Iliya’s place, and bestows upon Kanata her trumpet before leaving. With Rio’s role in Sora no Woto now in the open, all of the characters’ stories have been presented in some capacity: seeing a bit of herself in Jacotte, Rio thus resolves to act with the interest of her nation at heart.

The parallels between the story that Jacotte presents and Rio’s are meant to signify that lessons from the past can be learnt from even if they are indelible in nature. Rio was born an illegitimate child, and her father had left her mother. However, Rio’s mother continued to maintain her faith that he would return, even unto death. This waiting led Rio to draw the conclusion that her mother would have been miserable, blaming her father for the outcome and ultimately accounting for why Rio’s relationship with her father is so strained. However, Jacotte recounts a similar story: she fall in love with the son of a merchant and giving birth to his child, only to have him leave her. Despite this, Jacotte resolved to wait for him and is content to do so. Whether or not true love is one arising from patience is a minor theme Sora no Woto presents in this episode: Sora no Woto leaves viewers with an ambiguous conclusion on that topic, but ultimately, it is love that motivates Rio to accept her duty. In order to ensure her mother’s love was not in vain, Rio ends up take up her mantle and accept a marriage to the Roman Emperor in order to save her country, leaving Kanata with a token of her own gratitude for having helped her to reach this conclusion.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the previous episode’s storm, the weather has become noticeably cooler in Sora no Woto. A glance at the climate charts finds that Cuenca, Spain, has an average mean of 11.6°C during the winter months. While I consider this to be warm, such temperatures can be quite chilly if buildings have no centralised heating. A few years back, my furnace malfunctioned, and even though the average temperature was around 12°C, it felt cold nonetheless even though I was dressed in layers.

  • Rio burns some papers in a small fire that Kureha capitalises on to warm herself up. These are presumably old documents that Rio wishes to dispose of, and I’m reminded of the several means of rendering unreadable sensitive documents. Burning will almost certainly do the trick, and is a bit more secure than shredding them: in Lord of War, Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) is exposed during a delivery when a zealous Interpol agent, Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) leafs through his refuse and finds the shredded documents, reassembling them to determine that he’s flying weapons in over Africa. There’s another method that turns the paper into a pulp, but this can be a bit messy. A more effective method is a cross-shredder, which cuts documents in both directions.

  • The Takemikazuchi’s repairs are proceeding smoothly, and by the tenth episode, most of the tank’s legs are reassembled. Its assembly and reactivation is not for amusement’s sake: clear and present dangers threatening Seize and Helvetia from without and within necessitate that the 1121st have a functional MBT. Technology from a past age, it is impressive that the Takemikazuchi is still operational after decades of inactivity: while the engines are reasonably durable, the batteries powering the Takemikazuchi’s on-board computer must be more sophisticated than those that are commercially-available; I recall a NOVA special discussing future batteries that are both safer and have a higher energy density than contemporary Li-Ion batteries, so it is conceivable that the Takemikazuchi’s able to power on after all this time.

  • Kureha fills in the gaps for Kanata, who was a little dejected after finding very little in the way of records while trying to learn more about Iliya. Nonetheless, Kureha explains to Kanata that Iliya died in an attempt to save a drowning child and was preparing to marry the Roman Emperor to ensure peace between the two nations some years back. While contemplating this information, Yumina and a girl from the local church arrive, asking her to visit Jacotte, an elderly lady living alone on the mountain.

  • Rio is looking through her old books and is very clearly in melancholy, wondering about her best course of action when Kanata arrives and breaks out of her reverie. Now that I think about it, the acoustic properties of Kanata’s voice, although gentle and kind, can be a little grating on the ears under some circumstances; Rio quickly relents and agrees to help in Kanata checking up on Jacotte, given that she’s not given the townsfolk too much in the way of news owing to her residence deeper into the mountains.

  • Despite the verdant greenery, a slightly lighter, more subdued hue of blue in the skies suggests cooler weather is incoming. In spite of this, the scenery in and around Seize remains absolutely beautiful. Each and every episode showcases the landscapes of Sora no Woto lovingly, contributing to my already-strong inclinations to continue watching the anime, and by the time I’d reached episode ten, it was very nearly the end of June 2011.

  • Upon arrival at her cabin, Rio and Kanata find Jacotte building a second home adjacent to hers, stating that her son will be returning, but this project comes at the expense of her own preparations for winter, which is fast approaching. However, her health’s not in the best of ways, leaving Rio and Kanata concerned. Upon returning to base, Rio and Filicia share a conversation remarking on Rio’s stubborn personality, before things turn to the impending war now that Helvetian and Roman soldiers have both mobilised.

  • To help Jacotte out, Kanata and Rio pick up some provisions around town. At Rio’s request, they take a short walk, where Kanata describes her hometown as a rural area (Japanese: いなか, romanised inaka) with more livestock and fields than people. Rio shares a fair bit about her background, closing the connection between herself and Iliya, her half-sister, whom she looked up to as a role model and someone who’d taught her to play the trumpet.

  • However, Iliya died in an accident, and Rio lost her way, winding up in Seize and joining with the 1121st. Throughout these scenes, an instrumental version of Servante du Feu can be heard, featuring a flute in place of vocals. It’s not featured on any of the soundtracks, and given Sora no Woto‘s status, means that this particular variation of the song can only be heard in Sora no Woto. It brings to mind one song in Ah! My Goddess that featured a clarinet piece, first heard during the first season’s third episode; I never did manage to find that song on the soundtracks.

  • While Rio concludes that her time in Seize is a dead end, a consequence of getting lost, Kanata presents an alternative outlook: being able to wander allows fateful encounters and meaningful experiences to be derived. It’s far from the outlook that I have, being the opposite of how I operate. With this being said, Kanata’s open-mindedness is her biggest strength, and it is often at the insistence of folks like Kanata that people like myself can experience things that would otherwise be unseen owing to our modus operandi. This conversation here in part motivates Rio’s later decisions.

  • Later during the evening, Rio and Kanata drop by Jacotte’s cabin to help her stock up on firewood. It is here that they learn of her story: Jaquette had fallen in love with the son of a merchant and giving birth to his child, but he already had a family, taking the child back with him to his real wife with the promise that he would someday come back for her. The story parallels Rio’s, who was born as the illegitimate child and felt that her mother was miserable in loving someone who would never return her feelings.

  • Jacotte herself counters that there is a happiness in the hope of waiting for someone, and here, I note that I’ve been spelling Jacotte’s name in a manner inconsistent with that of most other sources, which present the spelling as “Jacott” primarily because Jacott is a surname, and my spelling is merely a variation of the name Jacquette, a French name that is keeping with the idea that the Helvetian language is derived off French.

  • Back at the Clocktower Fortress, a light snow begins to fall, signifying that back in the mountains, it is much colder. In reality, the winter we’ve had where I am has been more persistent than usual: the weather over this past week has been miserable, with bitterly cold winds and snowfall predicted for much of the week. Spring is a mere two weeks away, but my gut tells me that this year, the cold weather will not be going without a fight.

  • While reminiscing about her lover, Jacotte sees a figure out in the snow, and rushes out to meet him as an unearthy blue light fills the room. This moment remains one of the most vivid memories I have of this episode, and it is precisely this reason why I chose not to feature a screenshot of this frame; the episode, while moving, also does much to close off the loose ends that have arisen in Sora no Woto. At this point in time, every character has been explored to some extent.

  • The next morning, Rio and Kanata find a set of footprints disappearing off into the distance when they climb the mountain to check on to check on Jacotte. She is presumed to have succumbed to the extremities and might be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of living in the past; her patience and resilience eventually work against her, leading her to hallucinate and ultimately, costs Jacotte her life. Kanata is devastated, but also comes to conclude that memories of a person are what allow people to move onwards into the future.

  • A light dusting of snow is visible at the Clocktower Fortress by morning as Naomi swings by and provides some photographs of Iliya. Her death must be a relatively recent one, if her photograph visiting the Clocktower Fortress dates back five years; in this photograph, the old crew are visible, featuring both male and female soldiers, as is Shuko, the 1121st’s mascot. Here’s a bit of trivia: Sora no Woto itself was not immune to the unscholarly: in a discussion where one individual felt the episode to have fallen short in some areas (a valid perspective), another individual by the name of “SandraS” engaged in ad hominem attacks, wrote incoherent ramblings and claimed to understand quantum chromodynamics (a branch of physics dealing with how quarks and gluons interact).

  • This individual’s tirade was short-lived, but does bring to mind the actions of another onee-sama who plagued Girls und Panzer discussions long ago. Fortunately, I’ve not seen this level of degeneracy in quite some time, and it is unlikely these individuals will resurface. Returning to Sora no Woto Noël and Kureha burst into tears upon hearing Jacotte’s story while Filicia and Naomi look on: Jacotte’s story does wind up being a moving one despite her being a secondary character introduced only during this episode. Thus, the tenth episode is yet another example of how Sora no Woto excels at world-building to create a plausible depiction of how a society might reform after global devastation.

  • After delivering a heartfelt rendition of Amazing Grace, Rio entrusts her trumpet to Kanata. Kanata joins in and performs alongside Rio, signifying just how far Kanata has come as a bugler. While some may consider her improvement to be implausible or unrealistic, Kanata’s been shown to be practising in previous episodes, most noticeably in the eighth; because episodes do not depict all of the events in Sora no Woto, it stands to reason that Kanata’s honing her craft off-screen. Thus, by episode ten, she’s become quite accomplished, sufficiently to keep up with and play alongside Rio.

  • The sum of Rio’s experiences allow her to come to a conclusion: she will accept her duty and help her nation restore relations with The Roman Empire even in the face of war. In the knowledge that there were only two episodes left, audiences of the day were left wondering how Sora no Woto would conclude things — because Sora no Woto is predominantly about the human aspects of war, I myself imagined that the episodes would close off in a manner befitting of its human-focused emphasis. However, unlike contemporary viewers, I came to the party a year later and so, had the advantage of being able to immediately continue watching.

  • My recollections painted Sora no Woto‘s tenth episode as being largely about Jacotte, and I am glad to have revisited the episode, for it ended up being about much more than the worth of hope and the consequences of love — the episode brings everything neatly together, setting the stage for the final episodes. With this weekly post out the gates, I note that the next post will deal with Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days.

While Sora no Woto appears to be maintaining a steady course down the slice-of-life, the tenth episode presents a subtle shift in atmosphere: though not quite as serious as that of the seventh episode, in showing that Rio is resolved to her duty, Sora no Woto is hinting that Rio’s decision will have far-reaching consequences on both her nation and her friends. Shortly after this episode’s original broadcast, speculation became divided, with some folks wondering if two episodes would be sufficient to adequately depict war in a more serious manner. Others supposed that with bits and pieces coming in pertaining to signs of a conflict, a war would break out: Sora no Woto consistently maintains a seemingly peaceful atmosphere in Seize even as nations gear up for warfare to show that war is something that can sneak up on a society in a sense, hitting home with little sign of approaching and leaving an impact few can anticipate. By focusing a large majority of the episodes on the slice-of-life and human elements, this notion is well-captured in Sora no Woto.

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