The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Sora no Woto

Rainy Season Sky: Quartz Rainbow- Sora no Woto Fourth Episode Review and Reflection

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Noël learns that the replacement lenses for Takemikazuchi’s targeting system fail to synchronise during testing, and as the skies darken with rain clouds, she and Kanata are tasked with visiting the local glass factory to pick up new glass lenses. Travelling through the town, they revisit Naomi’s shop, where Kanata stops to admire a glass dolphin, and after picking up their supplies run into some children. However, it’s a cold encounter when one of them sees Noël and, asserting his hatred for soldiers, takes off. While distraught by his remarks, Noël and Kanata continue to the factory. Despite the glassworker’s efforts, they cannot reproduce the optics. In spite of it all, Kanata finds the glass factory an amazing place and comforts Noël, saying that ultimately, machinery is only as moral or immoral as their users. In speaking with Carl and Maria, two other workers, Kanata learns that sound shares a similar property to glass in that rather than being beautiful when forced, it should be gently shaped into anything the maker wishes. She takes this advice to heart, and by sunrise, manages to improve her bugling skills. When the others realise that Kanata has perfect pitch, they ask her to help calibrate the optical lenses, picking the reproduction whose resonance matches most closely with the original, and finally manage to get the Takemikazuchi online.

A beautiful episode of rainfall and sound, Sora no Woto‘s fourth episode gives Kanata some time with Noël, learning about the taciturn girl whose genius as a mechanic and love for machines conceals a difficult secret about her past. In slapping away Noël, Seiya’s reaction and marked hatred for soldiers, coupled with Noël’s own remarks about her preference of machines over people, seems to suggest an unpleasant history with people and her own engineering talents. Kanata’s presence, on the other hand, serves to balance this darkness out with hope. Ever-optimistic and willing to learn, Kanata seems to bring sunshine with her regardless of where she goes, and it is her naïveté that allows her to continue wishing to learn and improve even as the world around her feels contrary to allowing such spirits. Ultimately, it is this attitude and Kanata’s own innate talent of perfect pitch, that leads Noël to find the solution for the Takemikazuchi. In succeeding, she and Kanata become closer, both as squad-mates and as friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Noël tests optical lenses for the Takemikazuchi’s targeting system: they are desynchronised and the firing control will not operate without them. Equipped with a sophisticated computer system, the Takemikazuchi is leaps and bounds ahead of anything Helvetia and the Roman Empire possess, although the folks who built its software system appear to have a basic grasp on good English: while the contents are readable, there are grammatical errors all over the place.

  • While some individuals have complained about the minor inconsistencies in how the characters look throughout Sora no Woto, I personally found it to be a part of the anime’s charm, and overall, Sora no Woto has excellent artwork relative to its contemporaries; environments are rendered in high detail, and here, things like reflections in the puddles on the ground show that despite being a one-off, A1 Pictures clearly put in the effort to ensure that Sora no Woto was of a solid quality.

  • Of the earlier episodes, the fourth stands as one of my favourites for rendering Seize under moody, grey skies. The lack of sunshine means the entire area is draped in dark, subdued colours During the summer of 2011, May turned out to be a rather cloudy month, although the weather had cleared during the Victoria Day long weekend, allowing for a day in the mountains. Despite being the middle of spring, the air was quite frigid, and visiting Lake Minnewanka, we found a thick layer of ice on the surface.

  • I did not learn to drive until much later than my peers: I had taken lessons on driving only in the summer of 2010, but never got around to doing the road test. On a sunny morning in mid-June in 2011, I finally took my practical exam, passing with a near-perfect score (only losing points for parallel parking), and I remember buying Chopper 2 for iOS shortly after, before spending the afternoon watching Break Blade. After my probationary period expired, I completed the exit road test for my full license in 2015.

  • Kanata takes a liking to the glass dolphin and, while having insufficient funds to purchase it, Naomi agrees to reserve it for her such that she can purchase it when she has enough money. It is here that a hint of the world’s state is disclosed: dolphins have gone extinct by this point in time, leading audiences to wonder both how extensive the damage to the world must have been, as well as what events led to this level of destruction.

  • While the original speculation suggested that hyperinflation had occurred in the Sora no Woto universe, I posit a more plausible explanation: societal changes resulting from the regression of technology means that paper money cannot be printed to the same as it is in present times, so the use of yen as a dollar unit, and sen as cent unit, is alluding to the fact that it is probably easier to track monetary units in the absence of paper money. Here, a store clerk messes with Kanata but notes that Noël is immune to jokes.

  • We’re now just a ways less than a week into finishing up the first month of 2017, and a cursory glance at the site’s archives in the drop-down menu on the right sidebar shows that including this post, we’ve got a total of thirteen for the month, standing in contrast with the five I had from last year. The rate of passage for time is unreal, and I also note that my old iPod Classic has been in service for nine years now; its hard drive has aged to the point where it no longer operates, although it’s been a good run, accompanying me across the world to a conference and doubling as an excellent portable hard disk.

  • Kanata meets Yumina again, this time in fine spirits, along with some of the children she’s looking after. However, one of the children, Seiya, immediately takes a disliking to Noël, stating that he hates soldiers before running off. This scene is subtly foreshadowing the events of later episodes, and similar to how J.K. Rowling masterfully employs foreshadowing in order to build a rich world where all elements are interconnected, Sora no Woto uses its visuals and characters to achieve this effect to create an intricate world piquing the audiences’ sense of curiosity.

  • After picking up all of their supplies in town, Noël and Kanata head towards a glass-making factory at the edge of town. With its distinct chimney and red roof, the glass factory in Seize is a fictional structure that derives off the architectural style of the area. The factory brings to mind the vacation I took during 2011 to the Eastern Seaboard, where we visited New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston; one of the best surprises of the trip was being able to have Boston-style chowdah and a fresh lobster roll, as well as a whole lobster for dinner.

  • The other memories of the 2011 vacation that particularly stand out, besides the Empire State Building and American Museum of Natural History in New York City, was visiting the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York: aside from their collection of ornate glass works, we were treated to a live demonstration of glassblowing. Early glassblowing coincides with the development of the Roman Empire and spread to Egypt, becoming widespread as the technique for making glass by the Middle Ages.

  • Today, glass making is largely automated, with machines shaping molten glass into its desired form very quickly, although artisans continue to practise this technique to create artworks: larger pieces will require multiple glassblowers working in harmony to create the piece, and in Sora no Woto, the practioners at the factory work under the eye of Carl, an artisan who inspires Kanata when he remarks that glassware turns out because he tries to shape the piece naturally, rather than forcing it into a particular shape.

  • While Noël states that she’s more fond of machines since they cannot betray others, Kanata counters that machines are neither intrinsically good or evil; it is the human element, their users, that determine their purpose. With her optimistic mindset, Kanata acts as a beacon of hope in a world where the other characters are preoccupied with their own internals struggles: in offering this new, positive outlook on the world, she slowly introduces change amongst the other members of the 1121st.

  • This is one of the reasons why I contend that Kanata’s experiences form the core of the thematic elements in Sora no Woto; as the central character, the story necessarily follows her experiences and impacts on those around her to make clear a particular idea. Here, Kanata speaks with Maria, one of the other workers at the glass factory about the Precursors, whose descriptions match a civilisation whose technology is only slightly more sophisticated than our own.

  • The whole purpose of this visit to the glass factory was to secure a set of optics for the Takemikazuchi: the originals were machined to a very high similarity, although with one of the lenses damaged, it falls upon the glassworkers’ expertise to reproduce a copy of the surviving original. Despite their efforts, they are unsuccessful, leading Maria to wonder what kind of civilisation preceded theirs, although Carl is more of a pragmatist, believing that if humans could once create incredibly complex constructs, they must have the ability to do so once more.

  • Asides from her optimism, Kanata’s strongest asset is her open-mindedness. Upon hearing Carl’s remarks about shaping good glass, Kanata immediately links the natural blowing techniques to guide glass into its final form with blowing naturally to create a purer sound. She thanks Carl and takes off to give the technique a spin. Under clearing skies, Kanata is finally able to produce a proper tone from her bugle.

  • Thus, while detractors of the show may assert that Kanata’s “innocence and naïveté directly clash” with the atmosphere and purportedly “makes her character unbelievable”, I counter that, behind these individuals’ pseudo-intellectual drivel and bluster (notably, those of “Nihon Review”), is a lack of understanding of the sort of role that Kanata is intended to serve in the show. She’s clearly bright and sharp-minded, even if her general cheerfulness and propensity to be easily amazed may conceal this aspect of her character.

  • The transition from overcast greys to brightly-lit landscapes vividly thrown into sharp detail serves as a visual representation of how Kanata must have felt to have finally learnt, on her own, to produce a proper sound from her bugle. With her perfect pitch, Noël decides that they can adopt a different approach: rather than producing endless numbers of lenses to test, she can ask Kanata to help her identify which lens has the most similar resonance (indicative of the most similar shape or composition), to find a compatible lens.

  • The afternoon skies are clear as Noël and Kanata leave the glass factory, both having gained something important as a result of having shared a day with one another. Note the choice of colour for the blues in the sky: in contrast to a more saturated, lighter blue colour indicative of a warmer day, the skies here have a slightly greyer, cooler feel to convey the sense that the air is refreshed after a good rainfall.

  • Back at the Clocktower Fortress, Noël prepares to test the lens selected with Kanata’s assistance. Outside, Filicia remarks that Noël’s changed somewhat since arriving at the Clocktower Fortress, vindicating the idea that Kanata’s presence has had a positive impact on her. After a few tense moments of waiting for the system to test both lenses, the OS confirms that the selected lens has synchronised properly, bringing the Takemikazuchi one step closer to being operational.

  • In joy, Noël smiles for the first time. In general, a stoic character smiling in an anime has always elicited a large reaction from viewers, bringing to mind the sort of response that resulted when Yuki Nagato smiled in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. One of the earlier bits of speculation suggested that the girls would be deployed on a combat operation soon after bonding (as darker series are wont to doing), but because I’m coming in with full knowledge of what Sora no Woto entails, I believe that the series is as effective as it was because of the notion that war can be stopped with something beyond superior firepower and fear.

The intricate universe in Sora no Woto continues to be explored, bit-by-bit, with each passing episode, and from a personal standpoint, the fourth episode resonated with me with its detailed depiction of glass-blowing. Modern glass apparatus are formed mechanically, with glass-blowing being considered more as an art form. The Corning Glass Museum in New York State was where I saw glassmaking for the first time, and coincidentally, I took that trip in the summer of 2011, the same summer as when I watched and finished Sora no Woto. To see the processes captured faithfully was a strong indicator that Sora no Woto would be an anime that paid attention to the details, in turn, crafting a much more compelling world that the anime is set in. Besides glassmaking, the fourth episode also portrays Seize on a more ordinary day, under much quieter conditions outside of the festival. One of the elements I always wonder is, what does a place normally look like outside of events or festivals, and with this episode, it turns out that Seize is a tranquil place far removed from centres of activity. Such subtle details speak volumes about the world that characters exist in, leaving audiences curious as to what sort of adventures await the characters in such an intriguing world.

The Squad’s Day: Rio Runs- Sora no Woto Third Episode Review and Reflection

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” —James Cash Penney

While practising the fundamentals of music under Rio’s instruction, Kanata falls ill with Roseola. Rio seeks the assistance of local priestess, Yumina, who is able treat Kanata. Later, when she reawakens, Kanata laments being of limited use to the 1121st and creating trouble for everyone, but Rio remarks that an effective military unit is thus as a result of the contributions of each of its members, drawing parallels with music, where the sound of numerous instruments in different roles contributes to a much more complete final product. Taking Kanata into the Takemikazuchi, an armoured vehicle from the civilisation predating theirs, Rio shares with Kanata the song Amazing Grace. Through the third episode, additional insights into Sora no Woto‘s characters are provided in conjunction with allowing Kanata and Rio to interact with one another. Despite her strict mannerisms, Rio is shown to care greatly for those under her command, and her remarks to Kanata illustrate that she sees everyone as being present for a reason, each with a purpose to carry out.

Written by John Newton in 1779, Amazing Grace is a hymn about redemption, written from Newton’s own experiences: after a storm sent his ship off course, he prayed to God and later converted to Christianity. Modern interpretations of the song suggest the worth of overcoming external obstacles, rather than distance from God, and consequently, Amazing Grace presently refers to the seeking of fulfilment (grace). In some cases, Amazing Grace might even refer to self-discovery leading to transformation. Notions of fulfilment, purpose and self-discovery run strong in Sora no Woto; Rio’s reminder to Kanata that the latter has a purpose is the first instance of this theme manifesting in Sora no Woto, and while the forgiveness aspect becomes quite substantial later on in the series, themes of seeking a meaningful purpose in life remain a core element in Sora no Woto. By drawing upon the thematic elements implied by the song Amazing Grace, Sora no Woto‘s third episode begins suggesting to audiences that, well beyond being merely a military-moé anime, additional elements are at play in its narrative.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The morning light sets the land aglow, and glints off Kanata’s bugle. Audiences are set for a hitherto unexpected performance, but Kanata’s performance is remarkably poor, even though her heart is certainly in the right place. Her squadmates largely sleep through the morning call, Rio smiles in understanding that she has much to instruct Kanata on, and the townspeople find themselves in disbelief, with one elderly woman even remarking that the sound is horrendous enough to awaken the dead.

  • On this particular morning, Kanata is responsible for breakfast duty, and she creates a Japanese-style breakfast, complete with steamed rice, miso soup, grilled fish and a green salad. Japanese-style breakfasts are rather more intricate than what I’m used to, and despite having all of the components of a dinner, portion sizes are scaled back to be appropriate for breakfast. I’ve remarked in my earlier Tawawa on Monday post that I end to optimise my morning routines so I can sleep a bit more and still get out early. Breakfast for me consists of baked items, such as muffins, cakes, breads or pastries, and a large glass of milk.

  • It’s shaping up to be a pleasant day in Seize, and here, Kanata waters the corn in the garden. Despite being a military installation, the activities that the 1121st participate do not encompass the training that a tank crew require: aside from being able to operate the necessary equipment (whether it be an armoured vehicle’s weapons, communications equipment or the vehicle itself), the 1121st are never shown going through basic training (including maintenance and operation of their service rifles). This lack of training gives Sora no Woto a very laid-back, casual sense.

  • This is only shown once, but it would appear that Kanata is a capable cook, similar to Yoshika of Strike Witches, who greatly enjoys cooking; in the Strike Witches Movie, she is shown to actively be helping out in an aircraft carrier’s galley with meals until Shizuka reprimands her, saying that officiers do not cook, and later, contributes to dinner at the Clostermann residence while visiting Lynette and Perrine.

  • Refusing a biscuit from Filicia, who notes they are from the local church, Rio expresses a distrust of the organisation, claiming that they resort to calling upon superstitions to extol money from the residents. Most churches collect donations solely to keep the church running, although Rio is quick to assume that the local church in Seize calls upon religion to frighten citizens to line their own pockets.

  • Kureha, Noël and Filicia prepare for a trip to town so that she may replenish the Clocktower Fortress’ provisions. In this time, Rio intends to give Kanata additional exercises on the bugle. The use of colour in Sora no Woto continued to pull me in: it is under a calm afternoon sky that the other set out, and the combination of hues in the landscapes paint a picture of a land that is very peaceful.

  • Early in May 2011, a new outlet had opened at the university’s food court, and I recall ordering a grilled beef and chicken lunch with a side of Korean-style sweet potatoes for the first time while watching Sora no Woto during noon a few weeks into my research. Coming out of the worst semester I had (the courses were difficult enough such that I had to withdraw from one), I resolved shortly after exam season ended, that I would make use of the summer to properly unwind and, having received the OCSS studentship, I planned to spend the summer building an agent-based nephron flow model.

  • If asked, my favourite summer of my undergraduate degree would definitely be 2011: aside from being immensely relaxing, that summer also set in motion the beginning of my undergraduate thesis project. Back in Sora no Woto, Kanata suddenly collapses in the heat, to Rio’s concern. All other goals cast aside, Rio immediately moves Kanata indoors and finds that Kanata’s developed a fever.

  • Being sick is highly unpleasant, as one’s energy reserves are directly wholly towards warding off whatever pathogens have entered the body. Fevers result from the body invoking muscle contractions, elevating its core temperature in an attempt to kill off some of the pathogens. As one of the body’s first line of defense against invaders, fevers are a common symptom, although medical professionals and parents may view it as a serious threat and try various means of treating it.

  • In general, a fever will dissipate on its own over time with adequate rest and so, does not require special effort, but in more serious cases, proper cooling and ensured rehydration is essential for the patient. With Kanata’s condition appearing to worsen, Rio goes on the hunt for medicine but realises their stores are depleted (which is why Filicia and the others set off to town to begin with) — frustrated,  smashes one of the empty bottles.

  • Out of options, Rio sets off full tilt towards town, seeking Sister Yumina’s help. The local priestess, Yumina looks after orphans and is very friendly. Yumina is voiced by Misato Fukuen, whom I best know for her role as Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji. I elicit a great deal of hate when I say that I’m rather fond of Yoshika, and to that, I remark, your hate has made you powerful. Besides Yoshika, Girls und Panzer‘s Anzu Kadotani, Rika Shiguma of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Non Non Biyori‘s, Hikage Miyauchi and Keiko Furukawa of Shinryaku!! Ika Musume are other roles I’m familiar with.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I’ve been around the block (with respect to anime) for nearly a decade now, having firmly established my own preferences and thoughts on the shows that I enjoy. Everything traces back to Ah! My Goddess The Movie, and I will be doing a special talk about the movie come March, when ten years have elapsed in full since I first watched it. Back in Sora no Woto, Rio sets aside her mistrust of the church and asks Yumina for help. Bearing no quarrel against the 1121st, Yumina agrees.

  • Yumina suggests that Kanata’s afflicted with Roseola (commonly known as the three-day fever). Caused by the viruses human herpesvirus 6 and human herpesvirus 7, I imagine that Kanata was infected with HHV-6b (my rationale for that will become apparent as the season progresses), symptoms include fever and the development of a rash. While there are no treatments, the disease is usually not serious and subsides after three days, hence its name. While most cases involve infants under the age of two, it can affect individuals as old as eighteen years of age. Sora no Woto evidently ensured its background was plausible, and my inner health scientist is quite pleased that realism is maintained.

  • It is therefore likely that, ever since joining the 1121st, Kanata’s been acclimatising to life at the Clocktower Fortress and trying her best to improve as a bugler, while at the same time, being introduced to some pathogens in the area. As the evening sets in, Kanata’s condition appears to have stablised, and Rio walks out to the bridge to see Yumina off. Yumina provides medicinal herbs to Rio to help Kanata out; they are presumably to help with her symptoms.

  • With this gesture of kindness, Rio’s mistrust of the church begins fading as she realises that they really are around to help out around the town. Consequently, later episodes feature Yumina and the orphans in her care more frequently as the 1121st come across them, and Yumina gradually comes to play a greater role in Sora no Woto. While Rio’s warming up to Yumina and the church was an integral part of the episode, my focus lies largely with Kanata’s perspectives when I derive themes and episode messages in Sora no Woto.

  • The reason for this is because Kanata is the central character; logically, the events of Sora no Woto are meant to be viewed from her perspective, and so, even though the other characters can learn critical lessons through the anime’s run, ultimately, it is what Kanata experiences that drive the lessons that Sora no Woto aim to present. I am an opponent of “Death of the Author” concept, because it is a highly egocentric world-view: in a work, I am interested in viewing the author’s perspective to understand what circumstances lead them to create a work in the manner that they do.

  • I will explain in a later discussion why I am not supportive of a completely post-modernist approach towards interpreting fictional works. Returning to Sora no Woto, with her disease on the mend, Kanata dreams about the mysterious trumpeter she’d seen as a child and subsequently wakes up to Rio cutting up apples. That Rio is presented shortly after this dream hints at her own roles within Sora no Woto, but as we are only three episodes in, the exact role is not presented.

  • Until I personally stepped in to remove it, some folks from Tango-Victor-Tango asserted that the use of the Takemikazuchi as a mere MP3 player was disappointing. The whole point of this scene, that said folks completely misunderstood, was that Rio had gained something from interacting with Yumina. Thus, when Kanata feels a burden to the 1121st, Rio notes that everyone is here to play a role of importance. She relates this to music and gives Kanata a demonstration: the combination of instruments in Amazing Grace is what gives the song its impact, and so, she urges Kanata to work hard, too.

  • Rio finally shows a more compassionate side to her personality, asking Kanata to let her know of any problems she encounters, such that she may help her grow. Fully motivated, Kanata promises to do her best in giving Rio plenty of grief. These dynamics, although seemingly trivial in any ordinary setting, become a shining beacon of optimism in a world such as that of Sora no Woto.

  • Even as early as the third episode, it becomes clear that Kanata is slowly starting to make her presence felt amongst the 1121st despite any noticeable contributions to the squad’s activities: her spirit leads Rio to listen to Amazing Grace once again, coming to slowly reconsider her past. In retrospect, this was only easier to pick out because I’m watching Sora no Woto a third time, and there are always details one can discern on multiple run-throughs of a work.

The third episode predominantly focuses on the mentor-student (or more informally, the senpaikouhai) dynamics between Rio and Kanata. As the mentor, Rio is able to reassure Kanata that the latter is not merely a burden or holding the squad back in any way. In spite of her serious demeanour, Rio is well-suited for taking the innocent Kanata as a student. Similarly, although Kanata might have been depicted as a happy-go-lucky, ever-cheerful girl, her conversation with Rio shows that she does have doubts about her decision to join the armed forces as a bugler. However, thanks to the grace of her meeting with Rio, she gradually discovers her purpose, and over time, through acting as a mentor for Kanata, Rio will come to define a clear dream for herself, as well. Consequently, by the third episode, it should become quite apparent that comparisons between K-On! and Sora no Woto are superficial at best (and in actuality, would be considered invalid)— the incredible attention to world-building and development of the 1121st platoon’s characters stand in stark contrast with the lighter atmosphere in K-On!, and in time, Sora no Woto will decisively show that it is completely unlike K-On!.

First Battle: The Story of a Chair- Sora no Woto Second Episode Review and Reflection

“It would be difficult to write a convincing ghost story set on a sunny day in a big city.” —Susan Hill

After introductions to the remainder of the 1121st Platoon, Kanata is asked to explore their facilities with Kureha Suminoya. Despite Kureha expressing despondence that the 1121st is under-equipped and oft-ignored, Kanata manages to find joy in the facilities, known as the Clocktower Fortress. Later during the evening, Noël Kannagi, another member of the 1121st, claims that she’s spotted a ghost; to test their fortitude as soldiers, Rio tasks Kanata and Kureha to hunt down the source of the commotion. They reach the derelict ends of the fortress and realise it was once a school. Although they do not find any traces of spectral activity, they encounter the same owl that had taken off with Rio’s bell. After capturing said owl, they keep him as the team mascot and christen him Shuko. Much as how the first episode focused on portraying the locales in and around Seize, the second episode deals primarily in Kanata familiarising herself with the Clocktower Fortress’ layout and facilities. Aspects of the world in Sora no Woto are further shown via maps found in the Clocktower fortress, with a vast no-man’s land separating habitable regions. All of these elements, seemingly minor and easy-to-miss, serve as foreshadowing for events to occur in later episodes. With that in mind, the first episode is set predominantly on the dynamics between Kanata and Kureha.

Ever-optimistic and cheerful, Kanata’s personality is presented as the polar opposite to that of Kureha, who attempts to convey a sense of seriousness and devotion to her task even in light of the knowledge that other sections of their military do not supply the Clocktower Fortress’ soldiers with adequate provisions or instructions. Whereas Kureha sees a deficiency that exists to be rectified, Kanata sees value in most everything she encounters, making the most of the moment and whatever is available at hand. These disparate personalities mean allow Kanata and Kureha to bounce off one another as they carry out their initial assignment of tracking down a ghost, and although it will take the Kureha additional episodes to warm up to Kanata, it becomes clear that the contrasts in their characterisations allow both to mature as the series progresses. This dynamic is surprisingly similar to the one seen between K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and Azusa Nanako, although in a different setting, the impact that both individuals have on one another serve to fulfill a different purpose.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A glance at my site’s metrics shows that this is my 777th post, meaning that since my 666th post back in March, I’ve made 111 posts since then. Kureha derides Kanata’s poor form with the bugle as the morning sun rises, filling the Clocktower Fortress’ courtyard with a chilly-looking light. The Clocktower Fortress is inspired by the Parador de Cuenca, a four-star hotel in the city converted from a convent, although there are some differences in its layout and the terrain it is set on: the hotel is accessible by road, but it looks like the Clocktower Fortress is only connected to Seize by a foot bridge.

  • The 1121st prepare for a Western-style breakfast of salad, fried egg, sausage, ham and biscuit, bringing to mind the breakfasts that I usually have while abroad. Normally, I don’t have much time in the morning for heartier meals; a continental breakfast of some sort with a glass of milk is how I roll, and dinner is typically the largest meal of the day, but when I travel, I usually tuck in to a larger breakfast unless it’s the morning of a flight.

  • After Kanata catches a gander of Rio’s assets, she resolves to eat better and digs in, enjoying the morning meal. Kureha grows displeased with how quickly Kanata is settling in to life at the Clocktower Fortress and is quick to remind the latter that she technically outranks her despite being younger. Rio assigns her to give Kanata a tour of the facilities as a part of her orientation.

  • This screenshot captures the sense of scale of the locales in Sora no Woto, and the location corresponds with a plaza that also doubles as a parking lot for the Parador de Cuenca. Located on the southern edge of the hotel, it provides a fantastic view of the river gorge: while Seize’s river cuts through the area and appears quite impassible, the route CUV-9144 runs along the valley in Cuenca and becomes the Paseo del Huécar as it enters town.

  • It’s a moody, overcast day, and the lighting surrounding the Clocktower Fortress is dark in equal measure to reflect on the weather. Weather and lighting tend to play a much greater role in setting the tones for shows focused on drama: whereas anime like Kiniro Mosaic or Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? tend to have consistent lighting in reflecting that places more emphasis on interpersonal interactions, while shows like Hibike! Euphonium or Tari Tari make use of lighting to a much greater extent with the aim of portraying the weather vis-à-vis the characters’ moods and feelings.

  • A map of the area surrounding Seize can be seen here as Kureha explains to Kanata the importance of their telephone: their only communication channels outside of the fortress, it’s a direct line to the capital and is said only to ring for the most critical of situations. Closer inspection of the map finds other cities named as French numbers, and Seize itself is “City Sixteen”, suggesting there are at least fifteen other cities in the area.

  • While touring the remainder of the base, Kureha enters the baths to find Filicia cleaning them. I’ve just finished Aria: The Origination a few days ago. On closer inspection, I find Filicia to be very similar to Alicia in appearance and manner: while she’s the oldest and most senior of the 1121st, she plays an active role in maintaining the Clocktower Fortress, showing that here, the 1121st’ members tend to have a flatter hierarchy compared to most branches of the military.

  • While sleepily wandering around base, Noël’s eyes widen in fear as she spots something unnatural in one of the windows. This “something” is a ghost, the spirit of a deceased woman trapped at the installation. Decidedly benign, the ghost makes a few appearances, and was something I mentioned in a standalone post published some four years ago. Rio later helps the spirit finalise its ghostly business, and it leaves, content to find peace; this information comes out of the drama CDs and clearly shows that the anime alone cannot explore all of the interesting aspects within Sora no Woto.

  • The 1121st’s main battle tank is known as the “Takemikazuchi”, the Japanese deity known as the Thunder God, who duels with a gargantuan catfish and pins it to the rocks of the shore, being responsible for the earthquakes that Japan experiences. Known more formally as the Vector-Type Zero Autonomous Tank Walker, this spider-like vehicle dates back to a previous age, and is highly sophisticated, but is still being re-assembled here. Kureha seems quite sensitive to the fact that the 1121st are not particularly well supplied, or even in the loop for communications from the Helvetian forces.

  • As the evening sets in and rain begins to fall, Filicia and Rio share a conversation about Kanata’s assignment to the 1121st, and that Kureha’s reaction to Kanata’s arrival was probably in response to something she picked up. While the characters do not outright make it apparent, a recruit for assisting in the operation of the Takemikazuchi was originally supposed to be sent rather than Kanata, but Filicia simply remarks that they will have to make do with who they’ve got. Although this is not immediately noticeable, Kanata’s arrival in the 1121st will have far-reaching consequences that impact the others to a much greater extent than was initially apparent.

  • Frightened by the sighting, Noël reports her ghosting sighting to Filcia and Rio. The contrast in the warm lighting of the room where Rio and Filicia are conversing and Noël’s partially-shadowed countenance conveys a sense of unease and doubt amongst the audience: for the briefest of moments, Noël herself looks like a ghost, building suspense as Filicia and Rio contemplate how they will best address Noël’s concerns.

  • Kureha and Kanata have completed their tour of the facilities and are recalled to be briefed on their latest assignment: hunt down the cause of the commotion even as a thunderstorm rages on outside. While it may seem a little strange for a location with a seemingly arid climate, Cuenca actually has a continental Mediterranean climate and receives on average, more precipitation than does my home city.

  • I’ve alluded to this previously, and while it may come across as a bit unusual for someone who holds science in a much higher regard than the paranormal, ghost stories are something I enjoy reading about. This probably a consequence of reading Barbara Smith’s Ghost Stories of Alberta (published in 1993) back when I was in primary school, and since then, I’ve become quite interested in ghost stories surrounding Canada and the Rocky Mountains, even if they do not make much sense (such as how one couple managed to enjoy a perfectly delicious steak-and-eggs at a phantom restaurant in Spokane).

  • The endurance of ghost stories even in a time where society marches on its bandwidth could be a sign that reality as we know it is a simulation: paranormal activity can then be chalked up to bugs and glitches in whatever engine is running real life. Kureha’s insistence that ghosts cannot exist, paired with her bravado, culminates in her being assigned to check the ghost out with Kanata.

  • Equipped with the Karabiner 98k bolt action rifle, Kanata and Kureha move into the deep corners of the base. The presence of desks and chairs, coupled with a blackboard with the remnants of a “日直” still visible, suggests that the old Clocktower Fortress is a school. Inspection of the large hanger housing the Takemikazuchi shows that it is in fact a gymnasium: a basketball net is visible, and there is a stage in the background. For the briefest of moments, Kanata wonders what things might be like had there been no war: she, Noël and Kureha would be underclassmen in the music club, while Filicia and Rio would be senior students.

  • Flashes of lightning reveal the ghost’s presence, but as I’ve already done a post on that long ago, we will leave that for the present. Towards the end of their excursion, Kureha and Kanata unearth a large den of rats, and are subsequently attacked by the same owl who’d taken Rio’s bell in the previous episode. Chalking the ghostly activity as a consequence of the owl, Kureha manages to capture it.

  • Frustrated at the owl’s sense of flippancy, Rio angrily declares that she’ll eat him, but Filicia decides that the owl should be kept as a pet, naming him Shuko in the process. A Ptilopsis leucotis (common name “Northern White Faced Owl”), members of Shuko’s species have a unique defensive strategy, being able to respond to threats by both puffing itself out to appear larger, or else flattening itself to become more inconspicuous.

  • As some folks discovered, the distribution of P. leucotis is not particularly helpful towards determining where precisely Sora no Woto takes place: this owl is found in Africa between the Sahara Desert and the equator. As Shuko is found well outside of his geographical range, it stands to reason that he’s been around the base for quite some time, perhaps even with the previous occupants of the Clocktower Fortress: while the life expectancy of wild P. leucotis has not been studied, they have been recorded as living for thirty years in captivity.

  • A further indicator that Shuko has lived around the Clocktower Fortress for quite some time is the fact that the 1121st’s mascot is an owl. A part of the joy in re-watching Sora no Woto stems from the fact that there are so many subtle clues and hints scattered throughout the anime that, when assembled together, shows that the writers had clearly thought things through in creating Sora no Woto. This is one of the reasons why J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter resonates amongst its readers, in being able to bring everything together, leaving very few stones unturned.

  • The next morning, the skies have cleared out, and a gentle blue hue is present in the lighting to mirror this. At breakfast, Kanata receives a new chair that Kureha picked out. Matching the other chairs in the room, it signifies that after their adventure, Kureha is a bit more accepting of Kanata (along with the others), although Kureha is still reluctant to openly state that this is happening. This lends itself to the episode’s title and ultimately, with the chair being only a minor part of the story, Sora no Woto alludes to the idea that the journey itself is of greater substance than the destination.

The single most dramatic element in the second episode is the presence of a ghost: while the absence of additional information could easily allow one to dismiss the ghost as a defect in animation or a simple Easter Egg, supplementary materials clarify that the ghost was the residual spirit of a girl who died before the war that devastated the world. Trapped on Earth, it is ultimately Rio who helps this spirit move on, and she is not seen again at the Clocktower Fortress. It typifies Sora no Woto‘s expert capacity to utilise their characters in a seemingly mundane task to further outline both their interactions and details pertaining to the world that Sora no Woto is set in: even something as simple as the 1121st’s base of operations is an intriguing location with a past so rich in detail. The use of weather further serves to accentuate the atmosphere; weather patterns and the associated lighting are used to great effect in Sora no Woto to drive specific messages across in future episodes.

Resounding Sound: The City at Dawn- Sora no Woto First Episode Review and Reflection

“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” —Plato

The first of the now-derelict Anime no Chikara project, Sora no Woto (stylised So・Ra・No・Wo・To, translating to Sound of the Sky) is an anime that aired during the winter 2010 anime season. An original anime, Sora no Woto is set in a post-apocalyptic world, after a devastating global conflict regresses humanity to late ninetieth century technological and social levels. Kanata Sorami is a fifteen-year-old girl who volunteers to join the Helvetician armed forces as a bugler and is assigned to the 1121st Platoon in the town of Seize. On arrival, the normally-quiet town wrapped in festivities to celebrate local legends: Kanata finds herself lost amidst the activity and dirties her uniform, but is quickly found by Rio Kazumiya, her superior officer. While cleaning herself up, an owl makes off with a bell belonging to Rio’s father; Kanata resolves to retrieve it but winds up falling into a chasm. Using her bugle to signal for help, Rio rescues her and formally introduces herself as Kanata’s bugle instructor. Long decried for its resemblance to K-On!, Sora no Woto‘s first episode belies very little about the events that will occur through the anime. Instead, Sora no Woto immediately establishes itself as an anime where their unique world is the centerpiece for the narrative, taking the time to render the town of Seize and its surroundings in great detail.

Indeed, world-building lies at the heart and core of Sora no Woto; architectural and cultural elements in and around Seize are depicted to a very high quality, giving the sense that this is a world that could have logically arisen as a result of society rebuilding following a devastating war. In particular, the Legend of the Fire Maidens is presented as being of importance, driving traditions and beliefs in their society. These aspects come together to give the sense that Sora no Woto is indeed capitalising on its position as the flagship anime of the Anime no Chikara project; anime of this category strove to be completely original, and Sora no Woto succeeds in crafting a completely different world for its audiences to explore. From the first moments of the anime when Kanata is seen passing through the countryside en route to Sieze, or the Hanging Houses she stops at to clean herself up, it becomes apparent that the novel environment in Sora no Woto is intended to allow the anime to explore stories that are deeply entrenched into their world, resulting in an immersive and compelling story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It was a clear evening back in May 2011 when I began my journey into Sora no Woto. As the vast countryside under blue skies scrolled by, my heart was won by the atmosphere the anime initially presented and immediately, I knew that this would be an intriguing anime. Sora no Woto would accompany me through my favourite summer during my time as an undergraduate student, during which I had many an adventure and found myself refreshed to begin my third year.

  • A small coal-fired train travels along a lonely countryside, leaving a grey plume of smoke in its wake as a guitar piece plays in the background. Before I delve further into the anime, there are some formalities that need to be addressed. The first is that I am revisiting a seven-year-old anime, whose plot and surprises are well-known owing to the passage of time. I myself watched Sora no Woto some five-and-a-half years ago, so this series of posts will certainly not be my initial impressions. They will be shorter in length compared to my standard reviews, and each episode’s talk will deal primarily with what I found the episode’s contributions to the anime as a whole were.

  • En route to her destination, Kanata Sorami buffs up her horn. The protagonist of Sora no Woto, Kanata brings with her a ceaselessly optimistic and cheerful disposition, as well as the talent for perfect pitch, into the anime. Voiced by Hisako Kanemoto, who also provided the voice for Ika Musume of Ika! Musume and Girls und Panzer‘s very own Katyusha, as well as Asteria Lizamarie de Roschefall of Rinne no Lagrange, Kanata’s voice has very similar properties with that of K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and as such, contributes to the sense that Kanata is someone who sees the positives in most everything she encounters.

  • Kanata’s train travels far, moving from flat plains into more mountainous terrain. While the paragraphs discussing the episode proper will be shorter than those of a conventional episodic post, I will continue to use the twenty image format for all of the posts, which should provide plenty of space to point out random aspects of an episode that might otherwise not fit in with the remainder of discussions. Because this is an older anime, I may also begin reminiscing about the summer of 2011 throughout this series of posts, as well.

  • Kanata drifts off after boarding a second train destined for the town of Seize. A tin of caramels are visible on the window sill, and closer inspection finds that the can was inspired by a real-world equivalent. Many elements in Sora no Woto take off after historical elements, an aspect of the series that was particularly impressive, considering that it was part of the Anime no Chikara programme, which aimed to produce completely original anime. Launched seven years ago today with Sora no Woto, the program lasted a year and also resulted in the production of Night Raid 1931 and Occult Academy.

  • Kanata’s gaze is directed to Seize by Major Klaus, a dispatch rider who works frequently with the 1121st. The terrain surrounding Seize is visible, and the glass factory can be seen in the image’s left side. Folks wondering why Anime no Chikara was not continued in spite of its success, and while different avenues turn out conflicting intel, the actual causes are rather more mundane. In an interview with Aniplex’s president, Koichiro Natsume, it turns out that Anime no Chikara fulfilled its intended purpose, and information learned from experiences in producing Sora no Woto contributed to the success of anime such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • Kanata makes her way through the streets of Seize, modelled after Spain’s Cuenca, as a festival is under way. I’ve already covered most of the details surrounding the world of Sora no Woto and the associated mythos in a project of my own that involved the re-construction of speculation charts that were produced during Sora no Woto‘s original run. Information about the Legend of the Fire Maidens and the Water Festival can be found there, along with all other bits of trivia and speculation. I won’t be revisiting them in great detail, as they’ve already been covered.

  • While exploring the town, finds a small shop with an assortment of glass ornaments that she immediately takes a liking to, but she’s frightened off by an intimidating-looking face in the window. Later, Kanata is splashed with dyed water that stains her uniform. Caught up in the moment, Kanata merrily partakes in the festival, only to realise that she has an appointment to keep at the Clocktower Fortress.

  • Shortly after, Kanata runs into Rio Kazumiya, the seventeen-year-old Master Sargent of the Clocktower Fortress. She’s the one who originally frightened Kanata off and upon seeing Kanata’s state, grows infuriated, taking her off to get cleaned up. She’s speaking with Naomi, the owner of the glass shop that Kanata takes interest in and is quite familiar with members of the 1121st.

  • A warm bath later, Kanata finds herself squeaky clean, and her uniform’s been properly tended to, freeing it of any dye. The attention to details are impressive in Sora no Woto despite its relatively small presence of the market, and even things like the tiles in the bath that Kanata’s using are intricately rendered to give the sense that the world Sora no Woto is set in is an authentic one, feeling consistent with Spanish architecture and technological advancements of the early twentieth century.

  • Kureha Suminoya grows impatient at Kanata’s late arrival at the Clocktower Fortress. Long counted to be Sora no Woto‘s equivalent of Azusa Nakano, all of the characters in Sora no Woto, with the exception of Noël Kannagi, share some similarities in appearance and mannerisms with the central characters with K-On!. These similarities lead to comparisons between Sora no Woto and K-On!; at the time, K-On! was still very much a widely-discussed topic amongst the community, with some vocal members deriding Sora no Woto on account of these superficial elements.

  • After freshening up at the Hanging Houses, Kanata gazes out into the scenery of Seize under the endless blue skies. The atmosphere conveyed by Sora no Woto‘s stunning landscapes is unique, and beyond the works such as those of Makoto Shinkai or Studio Ghibli, or Kyoto Animation, very few anime are able to tell so much about a world through the landscapes alone: typically, anime studios do a fantastic job with their artwork, but largely use them in conjunction with characters to create a particular mood and frame the narrative.

  • Sora no Woto tends focus on world-building and depicting how the characters interact with one another, so instances of fanservice taking the form of “accidents” or pantsu is virtually non-existent in the anime. There are two exceptions, with the first being here, as Kanata relaxes after her bath. Rio shows her a bell that Kanata takes a liking to, but out of the blue, an owl appears and makes off with it, very nearly causing Kanata to fall from the balcony in an attempt to stop the owl.

  • Here, Rio is fending off the dæmon in the legends of old, which tell of a group of maidens who fended this beast off. How much of this remains mythical is ambiguous, and while the presence of a large, winged skeleton at the bottom of the river suggest that the myth may have plausible origins, the lack of evidence to corroborate this beyond word-of-mouth in-universe leaves me to conclude that the dæmons were likely native species, and that humans were the original aggressors that brought about the catastrophe in the legends.

  • Filicia Heideman and Kureha enjoy the festivities. Earlier, they had been drawing lots to decide who will take on the role of the Fire Maiden in this year’s festival: Rio gets the short end of the stick and ends up with the role, grudgingly taking it on. At this point, I will note that one of the greatest challenges I will foresee in this series of posts will be to stay on topic and not jump ahead to discuss details pertaining to later episodes.

  • Kanata is determined to locate Rio’s bell, feeling it is precious to her, but winds up at the bottom of a cliff face with no way of climbing back out. She realises that she has one means, using her bugle to signal for help. The world “bugle” is a rather interesting one; for one, its pronunciation differs from its spelling (IPA “byü-gəl”, or beau-gle), original from the Middle English term for buffalo in reference to the fact that early instruments were made from animal horns.

  • Here, the festival prepares for its finale. Sora no Woto marked the first time I’d watched a native 1080p anime: by 2011, the technology had finally reached a point where HD anime could be viewed without putting strain on my internet, and the quality immediately became apparent. The anime’s lines and details are sharper than usual; even when converted from BD to a resolution suitable for the iPad Air 2’s 1536 x 2048 screen, the quality remains razor-sharp.

  • Kanata’s bugle calls elicit a response from Rio, who answers with her trumpet. Kanata cries in relief upon realisation that her sound has gotten through, and she is rescued by Rio and the others. Soon after waking up to Rio, she starts, fearful of a tongue-lashing. Instead, Rio summons her to a parapet overlooking the Clocktower Fortress

  • Rio is an accomplished trumpeter, and while I imagine that I’ve mentioned this in my Hibike! Euphonium posts, a long time ago, I was a trumpeter for my middle school’s jazz band, having taught myself to play the instrument during the course of a summer. The first week, I could not get any sound from the instrument (that is actually why I played the clarinet for concert band), but with the passage of time, I found that I could make a few sounds, and intonations soon followed. By the end of two months, I was playing well enough to comfortably keep up with the music of the band and had a wonderful time playing jazzier pieces.

  • During Rio’s performance, the sun peeks over the horizon and bathes the land in morning light, casting shadows along the still-dark features and the resulting contrast gives the sky a heavier darkness. Lighting is liberally used in Sora no Woto to great effect and here, after performing the morning call for Seize, Rio notes that she will be Kanata instructor, and that it is now her turn to give it a shot. The resulting sound is out-of-tune and generally quite abysmal, signifying just how far she has yet to go before she can be effective as the 1121st’s bugler.

While the precise means of how I came about Sora no Woto is lost to history, I do remember being captivated right from the anime’s beginning, and that I watched the anime around five years ago. The rich world-building in Sora no Woto was immediately appealing for me, and the presence of detailed speculation posters around the ‘net suggests that numerous other viewers shared my amazement and intrigue for the anime. This attention to detail, whether it be Sieze’s similarities to its real-world equivalent of Cuenca in Spain, or the different equipment and events Kanata encounters in Sieze, is impressive. By presenting such a rustic, pleasant-seeming world, Sora no Woto‘s first episode draws in the viewer’s interest; I imagine that it would have definitely piqued the viewers’ interests after its first episode aired into seeing what would happen next, and what other elements would differentiate Sora no Woto from K-On!.