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Category Archives: Sora no Woto

Passing of the Typhoon: False and Real Images- Sora no Woto Ninth Episode Review and Reflection

“People say keeping it real is a hard thing to do. Keeping it real is easy. Being fake and being soft is hard to do.” —Maurice Young

In the aftermath of the telephone call, Rio’s behaviour takes an inexplicable shift. Klaus delivers a package for Rio, and the others fill Kanata in on Princess Iliya’s significance and relationship to Rio. However, a typhoon has arrived, bringing heavy wind and rain with it. Yumina arrives with news that Seiya has gone missing, and after a search of Seize turns up nothing, they find him down near the river, protecting eggplants. Kureha and Klaus manage to rescue him, but become stranded by a rock slide in the process. While Kureha admires him for being the legendary Desert Wolf and places her trust in him to extricate them from the situation, it turns out that Klaus merely resembles the Desert Wolf in name and physical appearance. He is reluctant to tell Kureha for fear of shattering her dreams, and the others manage to send over a wire to rescue the two using the Takemikazuchi. Assisted by the wire, Klaus carries Kureha to safety, and later, despite learning that Klaus is not the original Desert Wolf, she nonetheless views him as a hero for having saved her.

Despite the seemingly idyllic life in Seize, the arrival of a major brings with it an unmistakable change in the mood in the skies around seize. Far from the deep blue skies and gentle rains the region is used to, the typhoon’s heavy rain is accompanied by fierce winds, creating plenty of opportunity for tumultuous events to occur. Naturally, Seiya encounters trouble amidst this storm, prompting the others to try and save him. Details conveyed in the environments, whether it be the wind or water, serve to emphasise that the storm’s ferocity — typhoons are predominantly a tropical and subtropical phenomenon, their naming in Seize suggests that the city is located in a geographical region where typhoons may occur. The weather can offer insights into the nature of a setting, and one of the greatest long-standing mysteries of Sora no Woto is where the events are set. This adds to the intrigue of the story in Sora no Woto that contributed to the intensity of discussion surrounding Seize’s location.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Late is the hour that news comes from the top, and ill news is an ill guest even in in Sora no Woto: Rio’s doubts come into full force and she abstains from the activities the remainder of the 1121st partake in. With this in mind, the weather seemingly is portrayed as being unreflective of her feelings. The skies are clear in Seize, and it’s looking to be a beautiful day. The scenery in Sora no Woto never fails to disappoint, and even seven years following its initial airing, it remains comparable to the landscapes seen in some of the better-animated shows of the present.

  • Maintaining a good garden takes a considerable amount of effort, and typically is done as a hobby, but for the 1121st, their garden also allows them to cultivate fresh vegetables and potatoes. Noël is shown to be making a small hill with the garden soil, suggesting that for her stoic demeanour, she can express a certain playfulness on some occasions that do much to show another side to her character.

  • Altocumulus clouds are mid-level clouds with a height of two to six kilometers and take the form of globular masses or rolls in layers or patches, usually forming as a result of convection forces that signal the arrival of a warm or cold front. The latter forms ahead of extratropical cyclones that can bring with them severe weather with heavy wind and rainfall. Their presence before the major storm led me to wonder whether or not the typhoon was indeed a typhoon, and it’s been some time since I’ve taken a look through meteorological resources.

  • As evening sets in, the first drops of rain begin falling. The girls begin considering Rio’s unusual actions, ranging from her eating of green peppers without complaint to being more silent and grim than before. Here, the reminisce about their own dinner, where they had made tempura with fresh vegetables harvested from their garden. Vegetable tempura is quite good, and I recall enjoying a Taiwanese variation while I was there back in 2014 December, but I’m a much bigger fan of shrimp tempura.

  • Ever-ready to fall asleep, Noël nods off and takes to sucking Kanata’s fingers. Armed with a bit of background in evolutionary biology, I note that sucking of fingers is an intrinsic behaviour in all infants and small children, stemming from the reflex required to obtain sustenance when their teeth haven’t developed sufficiently for consuming solid food. It’s a habit children fall back on owing to offering a calming effect, but in Sora no Woto, I’ll let the biological origins of this reflex to give readers “ideas” given that Noël is with Kanata here.

  • I typically do not like having a large number of darker screenshots in reviews — the built-in displays on Apple computers (on both the MacBook Pro line and the Cinema HD displays) tend to exaggerate the darkness to a great extent and make the image quite difficult to discern compared to other monitors, even if they make other colours appear much richer by comparison.

  • Admittedly, going through Sora no Woto discussions anew is akin to walking through a tomb: this set of posts was primarily intended to be added to the blog for completeness’ sake and also offer my reflections on a particularly well-done anime some five years after I originally saw it, so I’m not particularly surprised that amongst the reader base, no one’s come in to leave feedback and comments; there’s not much to really add in the way of discussion.

  • In the dark of night, Klaus arrives to deliver a message for Rio, whose been quite glum ever since she hung up during her phone call. Filicia remarks that Rio’s sufficiently distracted by earlier events that her performance as a member of the 1121st is slipping, and while she’s quite understanding of the situation, knowing the importance of morale around the Clocktower Fortress, reminds Rio that her main responsibility is to remain strong for the others’ sake.

  • Tempting it may be to try and estimate the wind speed based on the angle at which the rain is falling using Newtonian physics, the complex fluid mechanics that drive wind, coupled with the interactions of the airflow with the landscape, means that it is remarkably difficult to estimate just how strong the wind in this here storm is. With this in mind, the storm’s danger does not appear to lie with the wind itself, but rather, the water volume.

  • Anime has always had an exceptional talent for rendering food, and I’m reminded of several things from this screenshot: during the summer of 2011, towards the end of June, I had successfully implemented my model of fluid flow in the nephron using an agent-based approach. For most of that week, I was testing the fluid flow behaviours in a simple environment, and when the time came to try out the same algorithm in a convoluted vessel, I was very happy to see that the system worked as expected. That Friday in late June also marked the first time I stopped by the Korean BBQ place on campus: their BBQ chicken and shrimp skewers made them one of the best places to eat lunch on campus, and I would buy lunch there every month or so until the food trucks began appearing in late 2013.

  • Perhaps unable to sleep as a result of the storm, Kureha, Kanata and even Noël find themselves awake after Klaus arrives and sits down to dinner on Filicia’s invitation. Klaus remarks that Kureha will be a good wife some day, but conversation soon turns to how the peace talks continue to be fraught with difficulties. As their world hurtles closer to war, one of the elements in Sora no Woto that were successfully conveyed is how war can seem so foreign a concept even when nations are at the brink of one.

  • Rio is pensive to open the letter she’s received, but before she can, she’s called to return to the main area. The grim lighting at this point in the episode serves to reinforce the inner conflict that Rio’s experiencing: this is a common motif in Sora no Woto, and while going unnoticed in many discussions about the anime, the lighting and hues in each scene play a substantial role in determining the emotional tenour for each scene.

  • As it turns out, Yumina’s in a bit of a situation, since one of the children in her care has gone missing, and she turns to the 1121st for assistance. Under the storm conditions, things look quite challenging even for the 1121st, but they nonetheless agree to help out, stepping out of the warm and dry interior of the Clocktower Fortress into the wet and wild night in order to help Yumina find the missing child, who turns out to be Seiya.

  • This post comes out a mere two days after the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Open Beta concludes, and I spent much of the weekend playing through it. A review will be coming out at some point in the near future, and for now, we return to Sora no Woto, where I note that some of the prevailing opinions about children are a particularly immature way of reacting to Seiya’s actions: any reasonable adult will try to understand Seiya’s thought process before deciding on what the next best course of action is. The originator of these thoughts, none other than Random Curiosity’s Omni, was not ready for the responsibility of looking after children at the time of writing, but it’s likely that their thoughts may have changed in the past seven years.

  • The missing child turns out to be Seiya, who had taken off to cover some eggplants in a garden nearby when he’d caught wind of the storm. Although foolish, his actions are a gesture of love for Yumina; it’s noted that eggplants are one of Yumina’s favourite foods. He’s unsuccessful in covering them, but before any harm can come to him, Kureha and Klaus manage to locate him. He’s successfully rescued, but a rockslide cuts off Kureha and Klaus from the others. Later, the eggplant patch is washed away by the raging river.

  • Despite their situation, Kureha is confident that Klaus will figure something out. Klaus finds it increasingly difficult to tell Kureha the truth, that he is not the Desert Wolf that she imagines him to be. She views him as a father figure, and later, when the front of the building they’re resting in begins crumbling, Kureha gazes upon his bare chest to find there’s no tattoo there. However, Klaus resolves to protect Kureha in her father’s place.

  • Meanwhile, the townspeople have all gathered to help with rescuing Kureha and Klaus: they haul the Takemikazuchi onto the compound overlooking the river, giving Noël a clear shot to fire an anchor that will allow for Kureha and Klaus’ extraction. The targeting computer on board the Takemikazuchi is a highly sophisticated system, and Noël uses it to fire the anchor with unerring accuracy. The head grazes Klaus’ face, and he immediately moves to secure it.

  • Reaching out to grasp Kureha’s hand, Klaus manages to save her just as the entire section crumbles and is washed away into the stormy river. Putting his own life on the line to save Kureha, this tangible action means that for Kureha, this Klaus is just as much of a hero for her as was the original Desert Wolf. Ultimately, it’s one’s actions, rather than their reputation alone, that determines the hero. I note that some source spell Klaus’ name as “Claus”, while others give the spelling as “Klause”. The variant spelt with “kilo” is more common compared to “charlie”, and for internal consistency, I originally chose “Klaus” because a direct translation of his Katakana name, クラウス, gives “Klaus”.

  • One of the strongest elements in Sora no Woto is how fluidly the storyline for an individual episode is integrated with the overarching narrative throughout the entire series, as well as how the characters interact in this myriad of overlapping events. These elements come together to give the characters a sense of depth and realism that makes them come to life and stand far apart from the K-On! characters folks dismissed them to be when Sora no Woto first aired.

  • With the storm over, the hot, clear skies over Seize make a return. Kureha is asleep, exhausted from the events of the previous evening, Here, he explains that his actions as they appear to the others and how he feels internally may be different: it’s another subtle hint at the events occurring in the future episodes, and there is truth in this. John Wayne said that courage was the ability to saddle up even when in fear: the 1121st must gear up and do their duty as things continue deteriorating in the upcoming episodes.

Kureha is the youngest of the 1121st Platoon, but despite this (or perhaps because of) status, Kureha is perhaps the most serious and dedicated towards her position as a member of the 1121st, following military protocol devoutly. Sora no Woto has not given her character much exploration beyond this in earlier episodes, but the ninth episode rectifies this, presenting Kureha as someone who does have a much more human aspect to her character. Her admiration for Klaus, and subsequent acceptance of him in spite of the truth is an indicator that Kureha has her own stories to tell, giving her more exposition that finally gives an episode into depicting her character beyond the scope of her interactions with Kanata. Kureha can be quite accepting and understanding, contrary to her usual self, explaining her beliefs about self-reliance to Seiya as stemming from her own background as an orphan, illustrating just how extensive the wars have been, to impact lives to this extent. This becomes important: Sora no Woto is about human nature and how people might be reasonably expected to act when placed into a post-apocalyptic environment, and consequently, it becomes important to delve into each of the protagonists’ backgrounds to make them individuals that audiences can relate to. By episode nine, all of the characters have been adequately presented, save Rio, and the tenth episode will deal primarily with Rio as she comes to terms with her background and its attendant obligations.

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: I was expecting a little more conversation and feedback, especially with regard to my thoughts on vucubcaquix’s thoughts on existentialism. I suppose this is a consequence of being a shade too late to the discussion, to the tune of eight years.

  • 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.

Showering Sound of Cicadas: Spirits Down the River- Sora no Woto Seventh Episode Review and Reflection, Addressing Misconceptions about Existentialism in Sora no Woto

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” —Joel A. Barker

On the day of Fiesta des Lumiéres, the 1121st begin preparations to honour the spirits of those who’ve passed on. However, Felicia begins recalling her old platoon, who were killed in battle. While wandering the battlefield, she fell into a derelict subway tunnel and encountered a dead soldier. As fatigue and exhaustion sets in, Felicia hallucinates a conversation with the soldier, who expresses regret that they were unable to prevent the conflict from devastating the world. She very nearly succumbs to despair, but is rescued by none other than Princess Iliya herself. Back in the present, while watching Kanata and the others set paper lanterns on the river, Felicia and Rio share a conversation about the purpose of their existence; in such a world, where all meaning and value had been stripped from their lives, Rio had long wondered if there’s anything worth fighting for. However, seeing Kanata, Kureha and Nöel leads Felicia to draw a new conclusion — a world intrinsically devoid of meaning is akin to a blank piece of paper, leaving everyone free to find their own paths. Existentialist elements are briefly presented here, and notions that “life is what one makes of it” thus begin taking shape. These themes together form the core of Sora no Woto‘s message as the series progresses, and by setting a precedence for it early on, Sora no Woto establishes itself as having a clearly-defined objective for the audiences.

The seventh episode deals primarily with Felicia’s experiences in an earlier conflict, which yields some insight into the world prior to its devastation. The artifacts and relics left behind are modern constructs, and while the enemy that decimated humanity is never explicitly shown on-screen, it is seemingly equipped with directed-energy weapons. That Felicia is fighting even after this conflict shows that humanity did not learn lessons from the greater war, and while the combat she experiences is in much smaller scale, it nonetheless leaves a substantial impact on her once she loses her comrades, leading her to despair and the edge of death. Her being saved by Princess Iliya is probably intended to show that sometimes, it takes a presence beyond oneself in order to find salvation. Iliya has thus left a significant impression on both Kanata and Felicia, giving the sense that it is fate that Kanata should find herself posted to the Clocktower Fortress; this is intentionally similar to the sort of the sort of coincidence that brought the different events of the previous episode together, reinforcing the ideas of chance meetings and coincidences that took shape earlier in Sora no Woto. From a narrative perspective, the seventh episode also allows Sora no Woto to reiterate the impacts of warfare on the human psyche: earlier episodes depicted the indirect effects of warfare in tearing families apart and devastating the world, but here, the anime exemplifies the direct consequences of warfare. Physical and mental damage invariably result, and to have a core member of the 1121st be effected is to reiterate that the horrors of war can affect anyone indiscriminately.

While existentialism is brought into the picture through Filicia’s remarks towards the episode’s end, it is a comparatively minor aspect of the series. Standing underneath a starry sky, and with a river filled with lanterns in the background, Filicia wonders why she alone survived of her old tank crew. She deduces that her survival was probably a stroke of luck with no inherent meaning, taking joy in the fact that this allows her to project her own meaning into life. This is a core tenant of existentialism, which places a great deal of emphasis on the agent’s choices in governing what is moral or meaningful. Although relevant to Sora no Woto, the prevailing thought is that existentialism is the central theme to the anime. This conclusion is untrue, a misconception reached as a consequence of an incomplete understanding of the world at large. Existentialism here is simply the belief that life has meaning because we choose to give it thus, but it holds a dangerous implication for Sora no Woto‘s thematic element. If we suppose that Sora no Woto was about existentialism, then the anime would suggest that it is sufficient to merely find one’s own meaning in order to have accomplished something meaningful with one’s life. However, existentialism does not exist in a vacuum; values and beliefs only have meaning if they have a tangible impact on a society or those around them. In Sora no Woto, the characters do not merely hold a belief, but they also have a strong enough conviction to act and do what they feel is right. In doing so, they impart that impact to realise their ideas in a tangible fashion: it is necessary to draw meaning from a world inherently lacking so, but alone, it is not sufficient to merely hold ideas if one wishes to impart positive change upon a world. That Kanata is Sora no Woto‘s central protagonist serves to reinforce this point, as she is the one who seems to leave change in her wake through her actions, and so, it should be clear that, while existentialism is very much a part of Sora no Woto, it is by no means the central theme within the anime.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The main aim of this extended post is to properly explain what the seventh episode’s aim was; easily the best episode in Sora no Woto, the episode left in its wake a flurry of discussion about what Sora no Woto is meant to be about. Besides the additional paragraph explaining why existentialism alone is not Sora no Woto‘s theme, I’ve also included ten additional screenshots so that I may flesh out my own remarks further. In a sense, this post will be intended to act as a MythBusters-style discussion as to whether or not existing ideas about Sora no Woto are correct, as well as dispel any misconceptions so that viewers are not predisposed to accepting one particular viewpoint on the virtue that it was first to be presented.

  • With this in mind, I understand that my rebuttals and counterarguments come seven years too late. My disagreements with the notion that Sora no Woto is wholly about existentialism actually dates back several years, when one persistent fellow by the name of sluagh insistently maintained that every action in the anime is existentialist in nature. I firmly digress and remark that it is a common disease of the mind at Tango-Victor-Tango, that ideas have value without action. It’s a testament to the sort of laziness that plagues that crowd, and so, when they see something in an anime that resembles their world view, they chisel that view into something that supports their own belief system without considering other elements in said anime.

  • In a fierce battle between two nations, presumably Rome and Helvetia, Filicia’s tank advances and fires for effect at the Battle of Vingt. However, they manage to hit one of the tanks, causing it to explode. As one of Filicia’s comrades-in-arms steps out to signal a successful shot, a hidden tank takes fire before her crewmates can react. The round mission kills her tank and decimates her crew. The seventh episode opens by establishing the earlier Clocktower Maidens that Filicia alluded to during the fifth episode.

  • In the aftermath, the bugler is blown apart by the round: her arm is the largest bit remaining that’s still intact, bringing to mind the sort of carnage that the 2014 film, Fury, is known for. A fantastic film about a M4 Sherman crew in the Second World War’s final days, it is remarkably visceral about its combat sequences. A German soldier explodes into chunky pink mist when a tank runs him over, and an 88mm round from a Tiger I tears a man’s body open during an armoured engagement.

  • In the heat of summer, Filicia encounters a shadowy, filmy figure standing in the plaza just outside of the Clocktower Fortress. Continuing on from the earlier point, I encountered resistance when I suggested that there’s more to Sora no Woto than just existentialism; the mere suggestion that one must also work hard to achieve their goals is apparently an offensive one. With this in mind, I was originally wondering if the folks who asserted that Sora no Woto‘s theme is entirely driven by existentialism had not seen the series in whole yet. I was hoping this to be the case, as it is an honest mistake, but such beliefs propagated after the last of the OVAs aired, suggesting an unwillingness to commit any effort towards something of value.

  • Kanata constructs animals using eggplants and tomatos in preparation for the Fiesta des Lumiéres; approximating to “Festival of the Lights”, Kanata knows it best as the Obon Festival — lanterns are used to guide the spirits back after their visitation. The Obon festival a Buddhist custom honouring spirits of ancestors, although in Sora no Woto, this festival appears to have been extended to include the spirits of the dead in general, similar to the Día de Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) celebrated in Mexico, as seen in the opening of Spectre. While Kanata holds a sense of wonder towards the Obon, Kureha is concerned about the onryou spirits.

  • Before their conflicting beliefs cause them to clash, Rio and Filicia return to base with supplies for making paper lanterns, as well as a pair of watermelons. While carving the wooden sticks into the slats acting as the lantern’s frame, Filicia accidentally cuts herself. The sight of blood triggers a memory from her past: her old friends were lost in the battle, and as the sole survivor, Filicia is afflicted with a milder form post traumatic stress disorder, occasionally recalling with great clarity what had happened in the aftermath of that incident.

  • A mental illness with a prevalence of around 3.5% in a population, PTSD is poorly detected owing to numerous factors affecting diagnosis. As interpersonal factors are more likely to trigger PTSD than natural causes, it is likely that Filicia’s affliction stems from watching her friends die before her eyes. It speaks volumes about the complexity of the mind when under even these conditions, the mind continues to stress self-preservation. Filicia leaves the site and wanders the battlefield before falling into a subterranean room.

  • The complexity of the biochemical processes within the brain and their effects on an individual are such that even experts have difficulty agreeing on what the mechanisms behind PTSD are: a well-cited article suggests that PTSD results because a traumatic event induces hormonal changes that elevate adrenaline levels and suppress hypothalamus activity (the hypothalamus is an area of the brain central in memory-related functions). Further to this, decreased cortisol levels can result in a longer homeostatic recovery time, lengthening the time to restore brain function, causing a trauma to become more vivid.

  • There are a handful of prominent editorials on Sora no Woto out there dealing with existentialism and memories, but their rambling, imprecise nature suggest that the authors do not fully understand either the implications of their over-generalisations or the science behind why certain things occur. Although I am definitely late to the party, it is not too late to set things right: Sora no Woto is a fantastic anime for dealing with the more challenging topics and depicting them in a plausible manner, but it takes a better mind to work out that these ideas do not make Sora no Woto. Rather, they augment the central themes by crafting characters with depth. Back in the present, Filicia’s patched up and good to go, but the subdued atmosphere, in conjunction with the faded lighting, illustrates that while some physical injuries can heal, mental ones are more difficult to recover from.

  • The warm light of a hot summer’s day streaming through a hole in the gymnasium’s ceiling and the resulting Crepuscular rays evokes memories of the deep summer. It was around June in 2011 when I reached this point in Sora no Woto, and it was a weekend when I watched the episode shortly after finishing the construction of the HGUC Unicorn Gundam (Destory Mode). This episode impacted me in a way unlike any of the others, acting as the magic moment where Sora no Woto suddenly became more than just another anime I was watching. I subsequently watched Sora no Woto at a much higher pace, finishing this series before leaving for a trip to the Eastern Seaboard in early July.

 

  • The dark lighting of the space where the Takemikazuchi stands in comparison to the beautiful weather to create a sense that the burden that Filicia carries is a difficult one, overwhelming the warmth of summer with an internal sort of cold that results in her feeling much different than her usual self. Nöel shows sign of having her own troubles: having established in the fourth episode that Nöel is mistrustful of others, her own responses to the upcoming festival is yet another indicator that she has a checkered past.

  • While the Karabiner 98k is the successor to the Gewehr 98, the weapon has a turned-down bolt handle that makes the bolt far quicker to operate. The weapon features a tangent leaf sight, making it easier to aim compared to the Gewehr 98, and here, Filicia recalls her early days with the old squad, where she is training to fire her service rifle.

  • These memories give a powerful insight into why Filicia runs the 1121st the way she does: far from being the subordinate/commander dynamics seen in the military, Filicia’s old squad also seem to share the flat hierarchy that Filicia herself uses in operating the 1121st. Besides being comrades-in-arms, they are plainly friends, sharing both joyful moments and duties together.

  • Filicia’s CO, Captain Yukiko Miyaoka(name sourced from supplementary materials) notes the possible extinction humanity faces in a dying world. It is revealed here the extent of the damage done to the world is beyond comprehension: whatever conflict humanity fought with their unknown opponents, it was severe enough to destroy the oceanic biosphere. The only comparable events in history is the Permian–Triassic extinction event, where upwards of 96 percent of all marine species became extinct. Geological records show that recovery from this cataclysm took upwards of ten million years.

  • It turns out that Filicia had fallen into a derelict subway tunnel. Underground, Filicia is isolated and very nearly becomes consumed by her guilt at survival where her friends had perished. It is likely that humanity survived total extinction only by fleeing into the tunnels and awaiting the day when the surface became safe to inhabit once more. Although the air down here must be dank and musty, it has enough oxygen to permit Filicia a small fire to light her surroundings.

  • After chancing upon the corpse of a soldier and finding Hiragana scratched into the walls, Filicia desires to read it: translated, the solider who inscribed it into the walls is expressing regret at not being able to protect his family. In the blackest depths of despair, she hallucinates a conversation with a long dead soldier wielding an assault rifle similar to the Howa Type 98. In this conversation, the soldier apologises for having lost their war against an unknown enemy.

  • A large number of Vector-Type Zero Autonomous Tank Walkers (tanks of Takemikazuchi’s family) are seen opening fire with their main guns against an unseen enemy. The electrostatic discharge suggest that their rounds are electromagnetically accelerated, imparting a far larger amount of kinetic energy than achieved with conventional chemical means used in modern armour. Despite the improved firepower, their enemy returns fire with a laser that destroys the entire area. While the presence of a large, raptor-like organism suggests that their enemies are organic in nature and seemingly corroborates with the fossil seen in the first episode, the largest counterargument against this is that the world in Sora no Woto is not currently under any threat from raptors. If the raptors had truly been the aggressors, they would have distributed themselves over the planet following their victory and eliminated the remainder of our species well before the anime would have started. More than likely, this war was the consequence of human actions (perhaps, if Axis had successfully dropped in Char’s Counterattack).

  • The soldier’s words speak of Filicia’s own desolation, suggesting that she’s losing the will to live where everything else has been lost. While this conversation is depicted, it is likely that she’s considering suicide, having wondered what point there is in living when all that she holds dear is no more. However, upon hearing a trumpet on the surface, Filicia shouts out, hoping to catch their attention.

  • Moments later, a rope is thrown down, and Filicia finds herself face-to-face with Princess Iliya, who is sincerely sorry about failing to arrive earlier to prevent the massacre of allied forces. While subtle (and likely to be missed), it’s another indicator of the coincidences that Sora no Woto is increasingly working into its theme: had Iliya arrived on time with her armoured group, it is unlikely that Filicia would have suffered, leaving her with a decidedly different world-view than the one she’s depicted with in Sora no Woto.

  • Princess Iliya is depicted as being very nearly a messianic being, whose belief in good is imperturbable, and whose actions are largely responsible for shaping the Clocktower Fortress’ inhabitants very fates, binding them together. This adds to her mystique and gives the impression that she is otherworldly, an entity representing purity and hope. Only a handful of fictional works I’ve gone through have such characters, with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lady Galadriel being one such being.

  • Old memories of the war trouble Felicia, but even in front of Rio, she attempts to shift the subject away from what is on her mind and suggests that she’d been down throughout the day because she’d gaining a few extra pounds in the wrong places. Felicia’s concern for those around her is admirable, and also brings to mind Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller from Saving Private Ryan:

“I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you.”

  • Rio and Filicia share a more serious conversation while Kanata and the others play with fireworks in the background to signify the innocence of youth and its contrasts with adulthood. The topic of Iliya is brought up, and it turns out Rio’s relationship with Iliya is an interesting one: she looks up to Iliya as as role model of sorts and yearns to defend the people in their place. Feeling as though she’s fallen short of expectations, she declined participation in the previous year’s Fiesta des Lumiéres.

  • When the last of the fireworks are extinguished, Kanata notices that the lanterns are lit in the river below as crowds gather for the Fiesta des Lumiéres. The strong emotions of Sora no Woto‘s seventh episode are sufficient such that even I feel something, leaving a powerful impact on all viewers; even those critical of Sora no Woto found themselves pleasantly surprised, that the anime was willing to break barriers and do something completely different.

  • While everyone else is holding onto a lantern, Nöel is noticeably empty-handed, with her eyes not visible. Each lantern is meant to represent a guiding torch for the spirits of those whom one wishes to send off, and in Nöel’s case, coupled with her remarks in the fourth episode, further suggests that there are spectres in her past. While I’m technically not supposed to reveal things from future episodes, I do remark that Nöel has chosen not to go with a lantern because a single lantern would not be enough for her to properly participate in Fiesta des Lumiéres.

  • It is in the episode’s final moments where existentialism comes into play, from Filicia’s dialogue. Her remarks mirror the definition of existentialism nearly word-per-word, and it is from this one moment that folks, including vucub_caquix, draw their conclusions. While existentialism is mentioned in Sora no Woto, it is not the singular thematic element within the anime. There is no credit awarded for partial answers, and while I do not dispute that existentialism is a part of Sora no Woto, one particular claim stood out as being problemmatic:

“It’s the difference between us thinking we are paper-knives, made with a predetermined purpose, as opposed to us actually being bits of flint on the beach which can be MADE into something useful and purposeful in reality.”

I take exception to this statement because it implies people are free to be shaped by an external force, rather than guiding their own decisions internally. By suggestion that people can be likened to apparatus, this removes responsibility from the individual to act and find their own course. This is untrue, and people must find their own will and motivation to act in order to become useful or purposeful. What vucub_caquix ultimately misses from Sora no Woto is that it is insufficient to merely find one’s meaning in life: it is necessary to have the will to act that makes the difference, and this is where Sora no Woto shines.

  • Filicia is ultimately able to honour her fallen comrades without being consumed with remorse because their existence has given her something to work towards. Thus, when Kanata tearfully asks Filicia to be more open, that the 1121st will be there for her, Filicia warmly accepts the gesture. Each of the characters find the will to act in subsequent episodes, and it is this that ultimately allows Sora no Woto to bring something new to the table relative to other entries in the moé genre.

  • Filicia and Rio watch as the lanterns float on the river below. Her dialogue demonstrates that she’s come to terms with what’s happened, and with this, her story comes to a close. I’m curious as to how much flak I’ll be drawing for pointing out that existing assertions on existentialism in Sora no Woto are incomplete — I was originally intending to do a separate post to discuss what place existentialism has in Sora no Woto with the final OVA, but decided that here would be a better place to do so because there is so much to talk about within the episode.

  • Near the riverbank, Nöel, Kureha and Kanata share a warm moment with the children under Yumina’s care. Earlier, the children were working on lanterns for the festival; this is a meaningful activity for them, as they are orphans and affected by warfare to a great extent. To see them here in conjunction with Filicia’s optimistic outlook is a central aspect to the episode, that there are things to hope for and look forwards to.

  • With the longest of my Sora no Woto posts coming to a close, I’ll be returning to the smaller posting format for the remainder of the episodes save the finale.

Easily the darkest episode of Sora no Woto insofar (and in the entire series), the seventh episode completely surprised its viewers at the time of its broadcast. Those who were dismissive of the series for its moé were not expecting the series to suddenly bring philosophical elements into the open, and those who figured that military elements would take a backseat to music suddenly gained insight into the wars that were fought before Kanata joined the Clocktower Fortress. It is at this point where Sora no Woto makes it clear that it is a full-fledged anime with its own directions and objectives, and here where I truly took an interest in the world where it is set: while elements of modern humanity have largely been eliminated save for a few traces here and there, the values that motivate and drive a large number of individuals in society appear to have remained intact. The human spirit thus endures, and moving into later episodes, it was pleasant to see how these ideas continue to drive characters and their actions to make a positive difference given their situation.

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 receives 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 fantasy 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!.

Mountain Hiking: The Ends of the World- Sora no Woto Fifth Episode Review and Reflection

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” —John Muir

On a warm spring day, Felicia announces that the 1121st is to take a day trip into the nearby mountains with the aim of inspecting local observation stations. At Rio’s request, Kanata, Nöel and Kureha are made to carry heavy packs up the mountain as a part of their training. They manage to locate the first of the stations, but their packs soon cause the fatigue. Kanata decides to take a break in a nearby stream, and soon, Nöel and Kureha join in. However, wildlife loot their equipment, resulting in the loss of their provisions, including a compass. Despite lacking the means of orienting themselves, Kanata and the others manage to locate the rest of the stations. They run into Felicia at the last checkpoint at the edge of No-Man’s land, who points out signatures left behind by earlier soldiers. With their mission complete, Felicia takes the girls to a hot springs, where Rio is waiting with a stockpile of bayberries after she’d fended off a wild boar. During their trek, the terrain remains green with vegetation, and one might be inclined to think that for a world that’s ended, things are not so bad.

However, the introduction of No-Man’s land, a vast desert, seems to hint at the extent of the devastation the world experienced in the aftermath of whatever war was fought. Thus, the area surrounding Seize is a refuge, the vestiges of what remains of the world’s inhabitable lands. While this shows the scope of the conflict, the presence of lush mountain passes and clear brooks that form the backdrop for Kanata and the others’ adventure shows that even in a ravaged world, beauty and life continue to endure. How one views this world’s situation is largely a matter of perspective: either the devastation is slowly overwhelming all that is good in the world, or else the good in the world continues to find a way even if despair appears to have won. As an optimist, I stand firmly with the latter, and it is this approach that Kanata seems to take. Finding joy in most everything she encounters, Kanata is driven to bring out the positives in the world around her, turning what was otherwise an arduous trek into a journey that leads to new discovery.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a mock battle with the Takemikazuchi’s newly restored simulation system, the girls take five under the hot summer sun. Kanata receives a letter from home and signs off using an East Asian seal (印). While creating some obfuscation amongst the anime’s speculators, the presence of seals foreshadows Sora no Woto‘s actual setting. I have a personal seal carved out of jade with my Chinese family and given name, although there aren’t any occasions where I might use it.

  • Nöel also receives a letter: her all-business remark that it’s from a colleague in a distant province leads Kanata to believe her until Nöel notes that it’s a joke. Whether or not Nöel actually is in contact with such an individual remains unknown, but it is equally likely that she’s lying to dispel Kanata’s curiosity and seemingly unbound energy: even amidst the heat of day, she’s ever-cheerful.

  • Outside, while Kureha offers him a bottle of their Calvados. Kureha grows quite shy around Klaus and views him as a hero of sorts. Filicia thanks Klaus for his deliveries and has a request to make of him, after reading a letter sent from headquarter: he is to look after the Clocktower Fortress while the others are out on an excursion. The sound of cicadas in conjunction with the hues of the blue sky suggest a hot summer’s day.

  • It turns out that the assignment from headquarters is to perform inspection on automated observation outposts in the area, and while Filicia pegs it as an outing, Klaus’ remarks to Kureha suggest that some exertion or challenges might await them. By this point in May 2011, I was a few weeks into my summer research and had completed a prototype of a binary-string based collision membrane to mimic selective filtration. One of the Master’s students would make use of it in his work, and I would revisit the project later in the summer when implementing a model of agent filtration within the nephron.

  • As a part of their training, Rio has Nöel, Kanata and Kureha carry heavy packs with them. An average soldier in the United States military carries around sixty pounds of equipment with them, while extended patrol will require nearly double that to be carried. I imagine that here, the girls are walking around with a figure between those two, roughly eighty pounds of gear, and they struggle to walk. Even Rio struggles to get onto her feet with the pack, but her yelling motivates the three to continue. A ways back, while learning how to squat, one of my friends told me to stick my rear out and keep my back tight, then push the world straight down, to lift the weight: failing to observe technique can lead to back injury.

  • I still vividly recall the Victoria Day long weekend shortly after completing the prototype: I attended a LAN party on Friday evening and played Halo Reach with friends as Otafest was underway back at campus. Saturday, I took a day trip to the mountains, where I hiked around trails at Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake. There was still a thick layer of ice on Lake Minnewanka that resisted a forty-pound rock I chucked onto its surface. Subsequently, I visited the abandoned town of Bankhead, although some of my photographs of the area turned out fuzzy. As the morning gave way to the afternoon, I returned to the town site for an Angus burger and browsing around the shops.

  • That weekend, I also purchased the HGUC Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) with the 1/48 head display stand, having decided against attending Otafest 2011. Back in Sora no Woto, Kanata laughs at the minor verbal sparring that’s broken out between Nöel and Kureha. She does resemble K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa to some extent on several occasions, and here, Kanata finds herself distracted by a passing butterfly. When she takes another look, the group has reached a beautiful meadow covered in white flowers.

  • There is a joy to seeing Kanata’s smile, and here, she marvels at the expanse of unspoiled beauty that lies in the meadows. The magic of the fifth episode lies in the depiction of the settings around the town of Seize; up until now, besides a depiction of the countryside during Kanata’s journey into Seize, events of the previous episodes were largely set in the town itself. With its depiction of life as a member of the 1121st, some reviewers found it difficult to predict what directions Sora no Woto would take, and after five episodes, found themselves classifying it firmly as a slice-of-life anime.

  • Kanata is the first to take off towards the derelict observation station, as Kureha and Noël lie on a brick wall in exhaustion. One of the remarks I’ve seen is that, if the packs everyone’s been carrying were so heavy that lifting them was nigh-impossible, they would have never been able to walk this far. However, in practise, the trickiest part about moving heavy objects is initially picking them up; once they are picked up, it becomes somewhat easier to move with them. Hence, this is not a failure on the part of Sora no Woto to write plausible comedy, but rather, a demonstration that the individual who made that remark probably does not even hoist.

  • Attesting to the age of the facility, the observation station has vegetation growing over it, and some of the concrete has begun to crack. According to Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, assuming that modern concrete is used, the structure is anywhere from five to ten decades old. Touching a control panel sends out a flash of kanji characters, showing the girls that it is still operational, and allowing them to mark off a waypoint on their map.

  • As the day wears on, the girls find themselves growing uncomfortably hot under the summer sun. When they chance upon a creek with crystal clear waters, they set their gear aside and blissfully frolic about. While subtle, I noticed that the water effects were well-rendered to really convey the sense of a cool, refreshing mountain stream. However, when Kanata and the others return, they find that their gear has been rummaged through when they return (probably by a boar looking for food). Their compass is also missing.

  • In spite of this set back, Kanata and the others push on forwards, with Noël navigating by means of a map. Her sense of direction surpasses that of Kanata and Kureha’s, and strictly speaking, it is possible to navigate using nothing more than a map, a general sense of where landmarks are and the shadows of the sun to estimate direction. Before I had a smartphone, this is what I did to estimate my bearings while hiking the largest park in the city, and over time, I memorised the layout, so I could traverse sections of the area with ease.

  • While they’re not lost per se, hunger does set in for Kureha, Kanata and Noël. Kanata spots some mountain peaches on a tree perched on a high ledge. It’s not accessible, and Kureha recalls a story where the Desert Wolf managed to survive for three days without food or water, driving a tank to assault an enemy installation; their situation is less dire, so Kureha reasons they’ll be fine. Sora no Woto did its research in that this story would check out: man will last around three hours without shelter in extremities, around three days without water (although longer periods are possible), and upwards of three weeks without food.

  • By the time Kanata, Kureha and Noël locate the second waypoint, the afternoon has given way to evening. Kanata climbs a tree to gain a better vantage point to ascertain their location, and here, the lighting saturates the land in a gentle golden tone. It’s a feature of summer I’m fond of: at my latitudes during the summer, sunset doesn’t really begin until around seven or eight, making it perfect to go for an evening walk: it’s only around nine and ten that the sun actually dips below the horizon, and even then, the sky remains aglow.

  • Fearing a wild boar has been stalking them, Kureha breaks out her Karabiner 98k, a bolt-action rifle of the Mauser family. It is derived from the Mauser Standardmodell of 1924 and the Karabiner 98b rifles, which were themselves the descendants of the Gewehr 98. Looking through the infantry arms available in Sora no Woto, if I were to run the Clocktower Maiden loadout in Battlefield 1, I would go with the Gewehr 98 Infantry, the M1911 as my sidearm, smoke grenades, the trench periscope and flare gun.

  • Rio chances across some mountain peaches while hiking to link up with the others. Besides the usage of an East Asian seal, the presence of mountain peaches in the Seize area hints that the location is not simply Cuenca, Spain: Myrica rubra (commonly known as yangmei or yamamomo) are native to eastern Asia, mainly in south-central China and can be found in Japan. They are identified by their distinct knobby surface and red colouring, in conjunction with Kanata’s description of them as being sweet and tart. While speculators missed this particular detail, the distribution of M. rubra provides further evidence that Sora no Woto might not be set in Spain.

  • Despite the challenges in their day, Kureha, Kanata and Nöel reach the final relay station. Here, they rendezvous with Filicia, who reveals that he reveals that the Clocktower Maidens undertake this assignment as a rite of passage of sorts, carving their names into the furthest of the stations and also gaze upon the edge of their world under a setting sun.

  • While the effects of a devastating war are only hinted at up until now, here, audiences get to see the true extent of the war, lending credence to the idea that life in the oceans has been hit hard, too. While this seems a pessimistic end to the episode, Filicia has one final surprise for the trio.

  • The surprise turns out to be an onsen-style bath, the perfect place for relaxing in after a long day’s hike. Despite the ever-looming sense of desolation in a world whose biosphere was ravaged by war, Sora no Woto shows that people will nonetheless find a way to continue surviving, and that societies are inclined to make their existence one where there is something to look forwards to. This imagery is in keeping with the themes in Sora no Woto, although the speculated theme, that the anime is about cycles, ultimately proved to be incorrect.

  • As it turns out, Rio fought mano-a-mano with the wild boar for the yamamomo, and judging from the cache that is available, it’s quite clear she’s won. With a distribution spanning across Eurasia, boars are seen as fearsome and reckless in Japanese culture: they are known to attack humans, although in turn, they are also hunted for their meat, which has a greater nutritional density than that of pork, as well as a richer, beefier flavour. While it would have been possible to shoot a boar in Sora no Woto, it would probably also go against the anime’s theme, so wisely, the writers do not take this route.

Optimism is one of the most predominant themes early on in Sora no Woto: through Kanata’s eyes, audiences are presented with the seemingly trivial elements in Seize and its surroundings that manage to make Kanata’s day upon discovery. Positive attitudes and outlooks become critically important when times are tough; Sir Winston Churchill’s stance on morale, for instance, allowed the British to endure during the Second World War, and in general, the sense of hope conveyed through high spirits in light of adversity is a powerful motivator for people, allowing them to continue trundling forwards. While some folks find Kanata’s personality to be inappropriate for such a world, I note that Kanata’s energy, in being so infectious, has an overall positive effect on Nöel and Kureha, further demonstrating the impact she’s having among the 1121st; with her example, Nöel and Kureha manage to have a good time in spite of their situation, and these lessons impact how they act in response to difficult situations later in Sora no Woto.