The Infinite Zenith

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

Resound Into the Azure Sky- Sora no Woto Twelfth Episode Review and Reflection

“Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.” –Ray Charles

After Aisha is captured, Hopkins experiences a reversal of fortunes when Filicia takes him hostage. He reveals his plans to precipitate a war between Helvetia and Rome, making use of the “Invisible Reaper” that Noël contributed to restoring. While Filicia secures him to a chair, Hopkin manages to escape and rejoin his forces with the intent of commencing hostilities despite a ceasefire signal. This leaves the 1121st no choice: the Takemikazuchi enters the fray, neutralising Hopkin’s armoured group before making for the main battlefield. A second signal for ceasefire from Kanata is ignored, but both the Roman and Helvetian armies stop their march in surprise when she begins to play Amazing Grace between the two opposing forces. Before the armies resume their march, a royal detachment from Rome arrives, with a Royal Edict from both nations’ leaders ordering the soldiers to stand down. Relieved that war is averted, the soldiers rejoice, and the Roman Emperor allows Rio to return to her old post at the Clocktower Fortress in the aftermath, reuniting with her friends. This brings Sora no Woto to a solid conclusion; contemporary comments asserted that the ending was “unnecessary” or “too happy”, but it is quite plain that these remarks can only result from a lack of understanding of the thematic elements in Sora no Woto: any other closing would have stood contrary to the message that Sora no Woto sought to convey.

This central theme, the keystone of Sora no Woto, lies in the idea that music is an element that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries. This is unsurprising, given that early instruments have been discovered in archaeological sites once inhabited by prehistoric cultures, being used to convey specific ideas or emotions in conjunction with developing languages. Even at present, there are some moods and feelings that music can convey more effectively than any words that exist within a language, suggesting its significance in human culture. Consequently, Kanata marvels at how music seems to carry the same meaning in its aural properties regardless of what one’s background is, and is able to utilise this to great effect in the final battle to create a sense of forgiveness and mercy amongst the soldiers marching into battle, temporarily stopping their advances. While it is ultimately Rio’s decisions from the tenth episode to accept her responsibilities that end any possibility for hostilities, that Kanata is made the protagonist of Sora no Woto is meant to suggest that sound and music’s ability to convey a clear message cannot be understated (had Rio been the protagonist, then Sora no Woto would have strived to present ideas about accepting one’s responsibilities). When everything is said and done, however, in following Kanata’s journey to become an acceptable bugler for the 1121st, Sora no Woto presents an immensely detailed world, rich in lore and intricate in its depiction of the human spirit, demonstrating the sort of significance that music holds in human cultures as a whole.

The sum of the events, world-building, character development, artwork and sound in Sora no Woto come together to create a masterpiece. The term “masterpiece” is one whose definition is often contested, and amongst audiences, is typically used to refer to a work that is flawless, sublime. However, the proper definition is a little more lenient, being a work of outstanding quality. Sora no Woto certainly is not perfect; narrative elements come across as being under-explored as a consequence of the anime’s short length, and there are minor inconsistencies here and there with respect to the artwork. However, the anime nonetheless counts as a masterpiece, of exceptional quality because of the sum of what it does well – together, these aspects keeps its viewers engaged though much of the anime’s run. From the landscapes and world-building of the first episode, to the gentle depiction of everyday life of the 1121st of the middle episodes, and the dramatic shift in tensions as the threat of war arises, each episode of Sora no Woto offers something noteworthy and unique with respect to the overarching plot. Sora no Woto presents an immensely rich world for audiences, and in conjunction with a colourful cast of characters, gives viewers incentive to continue watching, all the while wondering both what will happen next, as well as what factors could construct such a world, making each episode an interesting one to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The previous episode left off with a shot being fired, ambiguous as to who would be hit. The finale opens, depicting Aisha as having suffered a wound to her left abdominal cavity. On hearing the gunshot, Filicia pulls her own sidearm and holds Colonel Hopkins at gunpoint, ordering him to send his soldiers outside of the Clocktower Fortress and presumably also has him bring Aisha back to their room.

  • Yumina tends to Aisha’s wounds while Noël bursts into tears, relieved that the shot was only a flesh wound. It is here that Hopkins reveals his master plan: to use Aisha as an excuse to start a war between Helvetia and Rome, believing that Helvetia’s leadership is displaying submissiveness by participating in the peace talks. It is quite plain that Hopkins harbours an immense dislike of the Roman Empire, and while it would have been nice to gain more backstory into the Roman-Helvetian relations, especially the battle of Vignt, the quiet shelving of the Anime no Chikara project means that any sort of spin-off would be unlikely.

  • The full nature of Noël’s past actions are revealed here: she bears the moniker “Witch of Helvetia” for contributions to making operational derelict installation for producing a biological agent that was used against the Romans. Noël was scarred by its effects on the victims and has never quite recovered, hence her immense fear whenever the topic is brought up. My memory has grown quite rusty, since I was under the impression that Noël was involved in weaponising an agent, when in fact, she was responsible for using her engineering expertise in restoring function to a productions system. That same engineering expertise is what allows her to restore the Takemikazuchi into a functional state.

  • Previously seen as the easy-going, caring leader for the 1121st, Filicia demonstrates a much more intimidating presence, akin to a mother bear protecting her cubs. She’s willing to openly defy orders in order to ensure those under her command are safe, and while generally quite tolerant compared to Rio, it is Hopkins who goads her past endurance. This is the most indignant we see of Filicia all season: she fires a warning shot that narrowly misses his cranium and asks Kureha to move him to the distillery. However, he has a few tricks up his sleeves, and the naïfs of Tango-Victor-Tango claim that it was a meaningless gesture when it was in fact used to help him escape.

  • As the setting sun casts the landscape in a cold golden hue, Kanata arrives to relieve Kureha. The air is eerily silent, and this the deep breath before the plunge. Kanata is equipped with a single-action rifle here, as well, underlining the dangerous nature of their situation. Kureha wonders if Kanata has the resolve to fire a shot in anger, to which she responds that if it was necessary, she would do so. Of the 1121st, Kanata has not seen any combat or its horrors; while it’s easy to say that one can shoot another man, when the chips are down, making the call and dealing with the consequences can be much tougher than one anticipates.

  • Kanata’s hearing acuity is capable of feats that verge on the supernatural, and after hearing a soldier issue the ceasefire, she immediately reports to Filicia. Hopkins has already escaped by this point and rejoins his forces, ordering his soldiers to begin combat operations. Noël fears that Hopkins will result in the elimination of all humanity, being a warmonger who lives only to inflict suffering. His introduction into Sora no Woto is late, but he is the closest equivalent to an antagonist within the anime.

  • Naomi leaves the castle walls to convey the ceasefire to Hopkin’s protests, and when it is noted that Kanata was the one bearing the message, the entire town stands by her side, attesting to the sort of impact that she’s had ever since arriving in Seize. The citizens refuse to budge, and when Naomi confronts him, he notes that warfare drives progress. There is irony in this statement: all of the technological advances we’ve experienced following the Industrial Revolution, from the internet itself and microprocessors to rockets and nuclear power, were derived from technologies originally intended for military applications and warfare. It’s not as black and white as some viewers make it out to be, although I tend to believe that progress can be made in the absence of total warfare, albeit at a much slower pace.

  • Despite learning the identity of the one who’d participated in the wholesale slaughter of Roman soldiers years previously, Aisha forgives Noël, as they both are human, and Noël plainly regrets her past actions. It’s a moving moment, and a message that Sora no Woto has conveyed time and time again: while war might be impersonal and indiscriminate, the soldiers fighting the war are largely still people, each with their own families, goals and desires. Thus, Sora no Woto paints war as last resort that will have unfavourable consequences if allowed to precipitate, hence the importance of bringing to bear the aspects of negotiation and discussion that make us human.

  • The gravity of their situation, and Kanata’s seeming obliviousness to it, leads Kureha to lose her composure: while Kureha feels it is impossible to take on Hopkins, Kanata remarks that theirs is a world worth defending. When the others agree to do their utmost to prevent Hopkins from igniting a war, Kureha finally backs down, admitting that she’s been worried about everyone else, doing her best in her own manner to keep things together.

  • Ultimately, Kureha is worried about losing everyone, and in doubting their ability to fight, is doing all she can to keep her friends safe. Understanding this, Filicial, Kanata and Noël give Kureha reassurance that things will be worked out. Thus, for the first time in all of Sora no Woto, the Clocktower Maidens ride for war with the aim of stopping the upcoming war. While seemingly a difficult task, the 1121st have an exceptional ace in the hole: fully repaired, the Takemikazuchi is at last ready to sortie.

  • The Clocktower Maidens’ actions here in staving off a war is a callback to their mythical counterpart’s actions. During the course of their following engagement with Hopkin’s forces, Servante de Feu plays in the background while a voice-over explains the legend of the Fire Maidens as Aisha knows it. In order to keep Aisha safe, the 1121st decide to take her with them inside the tank.

  • While Sora no Woto did not feature any combat up until this point, with the first gunshot fired being in the penultimate episode, the finale’s final half was an exceptional watch. All of the 1121st’s combat simulation exercises come to fruition here as they activate the Takemikazuchi. With an English-language user interface, it is presumed that either Noël knows the language, or else has experimented with the tank while repairing it, allowing the others to roughly know what the indicators and elements are referring to.

  • Kanata pops her head out of the hatch to signal that they are about to fire, and proceeds to blast a hole in the gymnasium’s walls. Emerging from the rubble, the tank immediately takes off for No-Man’s land. Spider tanks and their cousins, armoured walkers, are a staple of the science fiction genre: multiple legs give them added stability and a lower centre of gravity, as well as the capacity to navigate terrain that might give tracked vehicles trouble.

  • While legged vehicles still seem far-fetched in the present, highly advanced balancing and navigation algorithms are being developed: Boston Dynamic’s “Spot” is a robot capable of automatically determining how much force to apply in its strides based on the terrain smoothness and also balance itself in response to changes in the force. The technology is still in its infancy, but it is not difficult to see what would happen if it were made more sophisticated and scaled up for military applications.

  • One of the elements that is a bit more unusual is the Takemikazuchi’s gait: it scrambles across terrain as would a spider, a far cry from the quadrupedal tanks that the armed forces utilise. Spotting the Takemikazuchi scale a cliff sheer, Hopkins immediately orders his armoured column to begin their operations and take out the Takemikazuchi.

  • The angry townspeople block them, and even though they are armed, Hopkin’s detachment is outnumbered. The citizens wonder why Hopkins won’t place their trust in Kanata and the others, with Seiya even letting slip that he has a bit of a crush on Kanata. However, in spite of their occupying the way out, Hopkins merely has his forces go around, regrouping in a stretch of no-man’s land.

  • According to the Roman version of the legend, an angel descended upon the world to pass judgement, but was injured and healed by the Fire Maidens. But the local populace immediately torched the valley where the angel landed, killing the angel and all but one Fire Maiden. In response, other angels arrived and wrecked destruction until the remaining Fire Maiden sounded a golden horn that signalled for the angels to depart. Her version of the story suggests that humanity was responsible for their own demise, and if this is the version the Roman Empire follows, it might hint at their nation as being less prone to warfare than Helvetia.

  • With chassis similar to WWII-era M4 Sherman tanks and Panzer IVs, the quadrupedal tanks are presumably equipped with 75mm or 88mm cannons, plus .30 or .50 caliber machine guns. When Hopkins’ tanks encounter the Takemikazuchi, they open fire with everything they’ve got, but rounds glance off the Takemikazuchi, causing only superficial damage. I recall a discussion wondering if the Panzer VIII Maus could have done anything to a modern MBT, like the M1A2, and the general answer is no: the Chobham armour is equivalent to 0.7 meters of RHS against HEAT and 0.6 meters against APFSDS rounds at the maximum, meaning that unless the Maus hit sensitive components, the M1 would continue to operate and punch out the Maus. The Takemikazuchi would only be more advanced, making period weaponry next to useless against it.

  • Conversely, the Takemikazuchi’s main cannon, a coil-gun of some sort, effortlessly disables Hopkin’s tanks: they would have enough energy to punch cleanly through the older tanks, but the 1121st are shooting to disable, rather than kill, aiming for the legs to merely stop the tanks. This weapon has been conjectured to be a coil-gun on the virtue that there is an electrical discharge visible when the Takemikazuchi fires: the discharge could result from the electrical current required to power the magnets for accelerating the projectiles, which would exit the barrel at hypersonic velocities.

  • Hopkins congratulates himself when he is able to get behind the Takemikazuchi, sneaking up on it with the aim of disabling it, but his shots deal negligible damage. It then proceeds to stomp on the tank, displacing it from its legs without crushing the cabin, before moving on into No-Man’s land to stop the larger battle about to take place. Climbing onto a tower, Kanata signals for a cease-fire, drawing the combatant’s attention.

  • The sun is closely tied with Kanata’s playing: whenever she’s about to deliver a moving sound, the sun almost always breaks from the horizon, flooding the land in light. By this point in time, Kanata’s versed enough with a trumpet to deliver a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace”. Its sound pierces the hearts of those on the battlefield, but the forces continue advancing nonetheless. Seemingly a meaningless gesture, tanks from the Royal column soon arrive.

  • This moment is probably the single most famous in all of Sora no Woto, as Kanata stands on the Takemikazuchi’s hull overlooking the battlefield. When the anime reached its conclusion, reception was largely positive: praise was directed towards the anime’s original setting and balance of comedy with drama. However, there are some who felt that the anime failed to deliver, feeling that warfare was lacking. Depiction of warfare as a necessity, however, would contradict Sora no Woto‘s theme, and the halting of conflict as we’ve seen is consistent with the message that Sora no Woto aims to convey.

  • Thus, the folks who did not enjoy Sora no Woto are those who were looking for a war story, where the thematic elements would be about the atrocities of warfare. The environment in Sora no Woto clearly painted that this would be a series about the people, rather than the weapons or politics, and so, moved in a direction that meant to tell a story in which people communicate with one another through sounds and words, rather than bullets and explosives, to settle their differences.

  • I mentioned earlier that I am not a fan of post-modernism with respect to interpretation of media, and that I do not agree with the “Death of the Author”. This is because a work of fiction is intended by an author to paint their particular view of the world, which may be indicative of contemporary thought or else show a dissatisfaction with social circumstances of the time. In more casual works, such as Sora no Woto, the authors nonetheless have a goal (here, to show the strength of music as a medium for transcending cultural and linguistic boundaries) that cannot be ignored when discussing the anime.

  • Proponents of the “Death of the Author” hold their beliefs primarily because it is easier to oppose or mold an existing worldview than to create one anew or synthesise one from their own experiences – this is an issue surrounding period Sora no Woto discussions, where the participant’s views on military law and the resultant of the 1121st’s actions seem inconsistent. Realism is not the end-all for a good story, and Sora no Woto‘s ending come as a logical conclusion of Kanata’s belief that there are things that hold magic to them, binding all people together regardless of their ethnicity, religion or creed.

  • Riding amidst the two armies is none other than Rio herself, who has married the Roman Emperor and now holds the political power to bind the two nations together as allies. She has here a treaty that orders an immediate cessation of hostilities, and below, the soldiers express utmost joy that there will be no combat. They toss their helmets and service rifles into the air: while some folks from Tango-Victor-Tango claimed that the rifles would discharge on hitting the ground, these bolt action rifles would likely have a safety catch to prevent them from accidental discharge. With this being said, it’s still not the wisest of actions to toss a loaded weapon into the air.

  • I strongly disagree with the notion that Rio’s return to the Clocktower Fortress was “too happy” and “artificial”, but I contend that sacrifice need not always be a necessity for something to work out. Rio’s action in choosing to giving up her freedom in exchange for her nation’s, and the intent behind her actions is more than enough to demonstrate that a willingness to sacrifice oneself is in and of itself honourable. I grow tired of folks who believe that a sacrifice must be total in order for its effects to be tangible, and remark that reality is complex enough such that things can go both ways: sometimes, a total sacrifice can result and still fail, while other times, a serendipitous turn of events results in a win-win situation.

  • In the case of Sora no Woto, the ending serves to enhance the theme (and anything else would contradict it). With the peace now secured, Kureha and Kanata embrace, ecstatic that war has been averted. Speculation runs in infinitely many directions about who the angels and Fire Maidens really were, with the two most prominent fan theories being aliens or a powerful avian species responsible for the destruction. However, the Roman version of the legend in part suggests that the calamity has a human origin. Given thus, the actual reason, unless the folks running Anime no Chikara write me with a negative response, is that a space-faring faction of humanity succeeded in decimating the Earth’s biosphere in a war against the Earth-bound faction, leaving the planet once its destruction is complete (for instance, if the events of Char’s Counterattack had turned in Char’s favour, or if the SDF wins in Infinite Warfare). Over time, human remnants slowly reach the technological levels of WWII-era humanity. It makes more sense than aliens (who would have taken over the planet and eliminated humanity) or advanced avian lifeforms (who would have increased their distribution around the world).

  • Rio is immensely thankful that her actions have helped, and smiles as Klaus gives her a thumbs up. Owing to challenges in the screen capture and the absence of a clean cut of the finale’s ending, I’ve not included many screenshots from the ending, which depict a Seize under the spring as cherry blossoms kick in. With this finale finished, I’m done my weekly recollections of Sora no Woto, and will turn my attention to various odds and ends upcoming on this blog in the near future, including the Hai-Furi OVAs, Amanchu‘s single OVA, some posts about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2, amongst others.

  • I might (emphasis on “might”) come back and talk about the OVAs in the future, but for the time being, I’m going to take some time off and enjoy my evenings in the company of a good book now that I’m done. Writing about Sora no Woto on evenings between work and on weekends when I could be doing other things was no easy task, but I did wish to see through this project to the end. With this series of Sora no Woto posts concluded, then, it’s time to continue on with my misadventures in Battlefield 1Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition and Titanfall 2.

Sora no Woto holds a magic to it that very few other anime have achieved: with its distinct combination of familiar characters who wind up being unique in their own right, a fantastical world whose lore and everyday life are thoroughly explored to become immersive, fantastic artwork that captures the world’s attributes and a soundtrack that is at once friendly and melancholy, Sora no Woto is an anime that easily earns the strong recommendation, offering a novel and intriguing anime that proved to be highly engaging. As the flagship anime of the Anime no Chikara programme, Sora no Woto sets the precedence for what original anime can accomplish, and as it turns out, the lessons drawn from the one year long Anime no Chikara initiative ultimately led to the creation of powerhouse anime such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Itself a masterpiece amongst many of the viewers, it is quite interesting to learn that its success can be partially attributed to information derived from Sora no Woto. Resulting in no shortage of speculation when Sora no Woto originally aired, this anime might no longer be considered discussion-worthy, but Sora no Woto remains of a very high quality, easily withstanding the test of time and even today, holds up against the newer titles that have come out.

Battlefield 1: I Shall Not Pass- A Spring Patch Reflection

“A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Although I am well aware that the first Battlefield 1 DLC is titled They Shall Not Pass, I’ve chosen to title this post “I Shall Not Pass” because of my present decision to not purchase the DLC or Premium upgrade. While I’ve been having a fabulous time in Battlefield 1 as of late, I’m likely to remain a little more reserved until I learn more about the remaining DLC packages. From the footage I’ve seen of They Shall Not Pass, the French maps look wonderful (and a part of me purchased Battlefield 1 simply so I could light things up in Gallia France): one map features a field abloom with poppies, while another features a sleepy French village that Yoshika might find herself stopping by while visiting Lynette and Perrine. There’s also a map with a large fortress at its center whose close-quarters layout could make it the new Operation Locker. The new weapons are interesting, adding new dimensionality to the play, as well. There is a new Behemoth and French tank, along with the Trench Raider elite class. So far, the DLC looks reasonably fun, and personally, the French maps are the most appealing element of this DLC. With this being said, the next DLC is going to be titled In The Name Of The Tsar, and if the Russian maps provide snowy environments for combat, I will almost certainly purchase the Premium upgrade, if only for the fact that I will be able to experience both the Strike Witches (Gallian) and Brave Witches (Orussia) fronts in the Frostbite 3 Engine. I am surprisingly close to my stipulated goal of having two classes at rank ten, so the Premium purchase could be very real on my horizon.

While I’ve not tried the new maps, weapons or vehicles, the release of They Shall Not Pass has also brought some changes to the gameplay in Battlefield 1: grenades are now lessened in count, forcing players to finally run with fewer gas grenades. Weapons have also been modified, with the most noticeable change coming for the medic class’ self-loading rifles. Spread increase and magnitude has been reduced for these weapons, allowing them to be fired more accurately, with the optical versions acquiring an even more appreciable decrease in spread. The net effect of these changes mean that medic weapons are now more useful at range while being able to maintain a respectable rate of fire (for semi-automatic weapons): in practise, this allows me to hit distant opponents at longer ranges, and during one match, I landed a headshot on another player from around 150 meters. Although they ducked behind cover, that I can now have more confidence in engaging targets at this range is a huge boost. The medic class is my second most-used class, so having better weapons offers a much better experience; I know that I can hold my own at long ranges now while healing team-mates, although better shot placement could also make my close quarters engagements a bit more manageable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve now got some 28 hours in Battlefield 1, and my performance has been steadily improving with respect to contributions to the team. Although I don’t top the scoreboards or have the best KD ratio, I do manage to score quite well despite having a smaller number of kills because of my emphasis on team play beyond merely camping at a capture point. Compared to most folks, I actually don’t game as often or as hard: while my interests suggest otherwise, I’m actually quite casual.

  • In a match of conquest, after spawning into a Mark V whose cannon was jammed despite the vehicle being in full health, I died and respawned, switching out to the medic class so I could try out the M1907 SL Sweeper, a medic self-loading rifle with the option for automatic fire. Because of the setting, options for a good RDS are non-existent, and so, I tend not to do so well with the iron sights. With this being said, it is immensely satisfying to land a good shot with the iron sights, especially at longer ranges.

  • I usually find myself in the thick of things owing to how I play Battlefield, although how hard I push will be determined by which class I’m running with. The medic can occupy the mid-range role quite nicely, allowing me to hang out behind attacking teammates to heal or revive. There are other occasions where I will die from carelessness, but because I’m pushing forward with my team, I will likely get revived by a friendly medic. I don’t communicate with other players with a microphone, preferring the text chat to ask for support or instructions as required.

  • The medic ribbon for getting seven kills in a round looks quite nice, and I obtain one here after lighting up another player with the M1907 Sweeper. As of now, I’ve purchased around four primary weapons for each class except for the scout, but have done nothing about sidearms or melee weapons. For folks who play more Battlefield 1 than myself, the DLC might just be worth it to gain more variety, but in my case, I’ve got a ways to go before I yearn for more diversity in my gameplay. With this being said, the new maps in They Shall Not Pass look beautiful and, while more experienced Battlefield players may digress, seem to be worth the price of admissions.

  • After being given increased horizontal recoil in the previous patch, light machine guns are a little trickier to use, but during one match of domination where my team was steam-rolled by the other, I finally acclimitised to the recoil patterns of the BAR Storm and scored seven kills to obtain the support ribbon. In the latest update, ribbons now give 500 experience points rather than 300, making them even more rewarding to obtain.

  • Post-patch, the BAR Storm remains a formidable close-quarters LMG. As of late, I’ve found less time to play Battlefield 1: things have been rather active in the real world. This past weekend was a double experience weekend, but I only got three conquest matches in. On Saturday, I visited the International Truck and Auto Show, stopping by a restaurant in the neighbourhood to have Chinese-style fried chicken marinated in oyster sauce and a grilled fish with deep-fried bones. Yesterday was my dōjō’s annual Spring Banquet (a buffet style luncheon featuring sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, fried noodles, spring rolls, fried chicken, gaozi and beef skewers, plus mango tapioca). I attend with my family every year, although I skipped last year on account of the banquet being set on the eve of my flight to Laval.

  • In a particularly brutal match of TDM where my team was losing, I managed to find a flamethrower and went on an 8-killstreak, burning to death players who tried to knife me. It was enough to raise my KD ratio and turned the entire match around, with my team winning by exactly one point by the time everything was said and done. I’ve been in several losing matches where my team would somehow mount a comeback and win by a very small margin, sometimes, these were as close as one point.

  • It’s the first day of Spring today, being the Vernal Equinox. This bitterly cold winter comes to a close, although with the weather in the Foothills, I imagine we could be hit with a handful of spring snowstorms before warmer weather sets in to stay as the days grow longer. Last week marked the beginning of Daylight Savings time, and while it did mess with some schedules out there, in addition to potentially reducing the amount of time one sleeps, it also marks the welcome return of light.

  • A sharp-eyed viewer will note that I only do major posts for the winter and summer solstices: the transition from winter to spring, though welcome, is set in the month of March, which has always been a quieter time of year for me. During my school days, it would be midterm season, and in the present, I’m pushing further into the ResearchKit and CoreData frameworks for my work. It feels a little strange, but very liberating, not to have a number of assignments, papers and exams on my plate: while work is definitely more high-paced than university, gone are the days of rote memorisation to pass exams.

  • I tended to end up KD negative or lose on Sinai Desert, making it one of my least favourite maps. However, this is a map that is quite unsuited for close-quarters weapons in most areas – I’ve had the most success either by equipping a good weapon with optics, such as the Mondragón sniper here to shoot someone from a ways away, or else simply stayed within the town area to pick off lone players with close quarters weapons. This particular match turned out quite entertaining, and I did quite well.

  • I definitely will need to go back and give all of the weapons I’ve unlocked a shot; at the minimum, I should get service stars for all of the weapons I’ve already got, and aim to try the weapons whose specs are less suited for my play-style. The concept of weapon mastery returns from Battlefield 4, with a special codec entry unlocking for folks with five hundred kills in a weapon. The counter only began with the winter patch, so it’ll be a while before I get to any weapon masteries in Battlefield 1.

  • During one match of conquest, I spawned into a light tank, having forgotten to set it to the heavy tank in the menu earlier, but I went on a 9-killstreak with the tank, rolling over the hill and blasting the enemy team with the canister shells. Playing more carefully and strategically allowed me to last much longer than I usually would: my efforts very nearly allowed my team to catch up in scoring as we captured points charlie and delta on Giant’s Shadow.

  • The light tank remains my favourite vehicle in spite of how toned-down it is in Battlefield 1 compared to its beta incarnation: as a single-seater, it means that if I am surrounded as a result of ill-fortunates or carelessness, then only I die as a result. With a heavy tank, a successful kill can lead to the deaths of up to six team members. The ribbon here is for scoring seven or more kills with a tank in a round, and now, with ribbons present, there is definitely more incentive for me to try out other play-styles.

  • With my team losing and a terrible driver operating the armoured train, I was on the verge of death here, but managed to get another kill to earn my first-ever ribbon for scoring three or more kills with a behemoth. I typically avoid spawning into the driver seat, since I lack the means to effectively communicate with teammates on where the behemoth should go. Instead, my most effective operation of the armoured train is when I’m given access to a weapon for defending the train from threats. I’ve never used the sixth seat before, but the 20mm auto-cannon wrecks both light vehicles and infantry. There was a landship bombarding us from across the map, and although the 20mm rounds did negligible damage, its firing rate meant I could put enough shells down-range to force it to retreat. Ultimately, an incompetent driver meant the train contributed minimally to the team’s attempt at a comeback, but it was fun to try the 20mm auto-cannon for the first time.

  • I don’t normally run with the scout class, but like every Battlefield before this one, I’ve always taken up the scout class last. Sniping has never really been my speciality in multiplayer shooters, but with some time, it’s a class that I can perform modestly well with. Battlefield 1 has proven especially friendly to new-time snipers: the SMLE Mk.III Marksman variant, the starting sniper rifle, also happens to be one of the best weapons. With a sweet spot spanning 40 to 70 meters, it’s ideal for closer range engagements, although as I learn here with a 158 meter headshot, it’s also effective out to longer ranges.

  • Although dealing little direct damage to vehicles, the main utility of K-bullets is to stop a vehicle from repairing at range, allowing one’s teammates to finish it off. My first ever kill with the K-bullets, however, came on a match of conquest. I was running from capture point echo to foxtrot and noticed a heavy tank nearby, so I hid in some foliage after spotting it. Some teammates began shooting at the tank, dealing some damage, and I fired a few K-bullets at it. What I did not expect was for the tank to explode after I fired my third round. Through all of this, the tank driver never noticed me sitting in the bushes.

  • My team ended up winning this round by quite a margin, and I was surprised at how much fun the scout class can be. While I cannot heal or resupply teammates as a scout, I can use my spotting flares to help friendlies determine where hostile forces are – it’s fun to fire a flare into a capture point, watch as the map lights up with hostiles, and then watch as teammates come in to clear it out.

  • This conquest match of Suez was quite one-sided: my team pushed forward and quickly captured every point except for alpha, pushing the enemy team to one side of the map. They dug in and soon, most of their players had taken up long range weapons, going prone. I managed to go on a kill-streak thanks to these stationary players, racking up a number of sniper kills on these players. On some occasion, the other team would sneak up and take capture point delta, but alert teammates would expediently recapture it.

  • Here, I end up with another scout ribbon after making my fourteenth kill in the conquest match. I ended up placing fifth overall on a team of thirty despite having only a small number of kills relative to those who placed in the top five primarily because of my PTFO styles. All of these points contribute to my scout score, so I’m not bothered as to whether or not they come from kills or team contributions. During the course of this match, I also made rank two for the sniper class, allowing me access to the Gewehr M.95 marksman variant and M1903 marksman, plus new melee weapons that can cut through barbed wire.

  • After a hectic match on Monte Grappa to test out the longer range medic weapons, I ended up on a flank that saw me cut back to capture point echo, where I shot an unsuspecting AA operator in the head. I proceeded to nearly finish capturing echo with some teammates, with the game ending before I could fully capture the point. With the ending of this post and the beginning of spring, we look ahead into the future: upcoming posts will include Sora no Woto‘s finale discussion, plus a talk on Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth to coincide with my setting out for Laval a year ago.

Looking ahead, Battlefield 1 continues to play well, although regenerating grenades has not been welcome, taking away from the traditional Battlefield feel of having a necessity to depend on a good support player. Recent news of the prospect of regenerating consumable gadgets is equally unwelcome: being able to resupply these only with a support player’s assistance contributed greatly to the team component of earlier Battlefield games, and to be able to allow these to regenerate on their own would decrease team play. Hopefully, negative reception from the community will prevent this feature from seeing the light of day. The joy of Battlefield for me is being able to resupply and heal players, so if players have no incentive to seek out a means to replenish their stores of gadgets, then it means the support class would become next to useless. Team play is an integral part of Battlefield, and while I might not be the best shooter or vehicle operator, I do my utmost to help my team out using the means available within the game. This is why a Premium purchase will likely wait until both more DLC is released and to see if DICE is intending on reducing elements that encourage players to work together towards victory — if DICE is responsive to the feedback and continues to deliver DLC that adds variety to Battlefield 1, I could see myself going down the premium route. If that happens, one might also reasonably expect to see a GochiUsa emblem if they fall to me.

A Visitor: A Burning Field of Snow- Sora no Woto Eleventh Episode Review and Reflection

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” —Albert Einstein

While on patrol duty following a fresh snowfall, Kureha and Kanata discover an unconcious Roman soldier. They bring her to the Clocktower Fortress and treat her for frostbite. The next day, she awakens, but because she does not understand Helvetian, Kanata and the others only learn her name: Aisha. However, it turns out that Yumina is fluent in Roman, learning that Aisha arrived to check out the fossilised remains of the gargantuan creature that Kanata had seen when she’d fallen into the lake. Yumina also brings with her ill-news — the Helvetian armed forces have surrounded the Clocktower Fortress and are demanding that Aisha be surrendered to the Helvetian forces, lead by none other than Colonel Hopkins, the infamous “Demon of Vingt”. Noël is gripped with fear and Filicia conceal both Noël and Aisha from his detachment. Upon recognising Noël as the Witch of Helvetia and bringing up the Invisible Reaper weapons project, Noël succumbs to fear, exposing their position and allows Hopkins to capture them. Meanwhile, the situation deteriorates further when news reaches Filicia and the others learn that the Roman army has mobilised and has entered no-man’s land, driving both nations closer to war. When originally aired, the eleventh episode of Sora no Woto would have completely surprised viewers to the same capacity as did the seventh episode, marking a dramatic departure from the slower pacing of earlier episodes.

In choosing to introduce Aisha ahead of the Roman Army, Sora no Woto reinforces the idea that even in times of war amongst humanity, the combatants remain people, rather than the monsters or dæmons that propaganda portray the enemy to be. The realisation that an enemy is human often drives participants’ appetites for war to dull, and it is for this reason that propaganda played such a major role during the World Wars, urging soldiers and civilians to view their opponents as being less than human, in turn causing savagery on an unprecedented scale. Sora no Woto does just the opposite: even if the Romans are enemies to the Helvetians, Aisha is human. While communicating with her might not be a particularly an easy task, Aisha proves to be accomplished with the trumpet, as well: it is here that Kanata realises that music is a means of conveying thoughts across even if one is separated by a language barrier, and the single act galvinises the notion that regardless of whether or not one is Helvetian or Roman, they are people. This particular conclusion is one that Hopkins’ forces refuse to address. In order to avert bloodshed, humanity must prevail over violence, although Sora no Woto masterfully presents a set of circumstances that threaten to transmute into a full-on conflict. Having presented the Romans as being people, audiences are riveted in anticipation of how Sora no Woto might turn out and would remain hopeful that, even in the darkest of times, a war can be prevented.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In contrast with the cooling but still-predominantly-green landscape around Seize in the previous episode, the snowfall has left the world gently blanketed in a layer of white, conveying a sense of coldness. Here, Kanata and Kureha continue their patrol into the mountains – only Kureha is equipped with a rifle, and she has optics mounted, suggesting that the two are acting as a sniper-spotter unit. However, patrols typically are intended to deal with close to medium range threats, and it would make more sense for Kanata to have a rifle, as well.

  • The dark blues of the sky in this screenshot really accentuate that the weather has shifted, far removed from the warmth seen in previous episodes. Kureha and Kanata returns to the observation outposts seen during the fifth episode: the snow-covered terrain is a far cry from the inviting,  verdant meadows, and here, Kanata spots a figure in the snow.

  • The figure turns out to be a Roman soldier who’s suffering from frostbite. Uncertain of what the best course of action is, Kureha and Kanata decide to do what’s right: bring this soldier back to the Clocktower Fortress and in the infirmary, treat her injuries. There is a sharp contrast between what is counted as morally right and what one’s orders are: these lines blur during warfare, and contrary to what the self-proclaimed experts claim, there is no easy means of making a good call during warfare. Actions that are in accordance with orders may contribute to an unacceptable number of casualties, while at the same time, contradict with the idea that a soldier must follow their responsibilities.

  • Typically expressionless and quiet, Noël is seen expressing a wide range of emotions in Sora no Woto‘s penultimate episode. The Roman soldier here brings back a startling memory in her past: a dying Roman soldier, and a military official praising Noël for her role in revitalising a WMD that resulted in an untold number of casualties. While the Roman Empire’s presence has always subtly suggested that they were the antagonists, but Helvetia’s use of WMD suddenly complicates the picture — in war, neither side can be seen as innocent or holding the moral high ground, explaining the oft-used phrase that history is written by the victors.

  • While looking through the Roman soldier’s loadout, besides a M1911, Kanata also finds a bugle. It comes across as strange that a soldier would be found without their service rifle, indicating that this particular individual may be moving independently of the Roman army. Beyond reaching the conclusion that this soldier is probably a scout, Filicia is uncertain about how to proceed next.

  • Under the dark of night, an armoured column advances amidst the snowfall. The mood and emotional tenour surrounding the soldiers of Sora no Woto are consistent with the depiction of warfare following the First World War: previously, to fight in war was considered an honour, and young men would enlist for a chance to prove their worth for the glory of the nation. The Industrial Revolution and sophisticated weapons turned war into death, radically altering society’s view of conflict. Machines now made the act of killing a streamlined, efficient process, and for the first time in history, a single man with a machine gun could kill hundreds of men. It is therefore unsurprising that World War I is considered to be the dawn of modern warfare.

  • Under a screenshot of the Clocktower Fortress under a brisk morning, I remark that, contrary to claims that it is “not Felicia’s job as a low ranking officer to decide if she does or doesn’t want war or whether to aid and abet an enemy agent” means that, taken to the logical conclusion, Filicia and the others would have done well to execute the Roman soldier. Such an action would certainly lead to the war that Sora no Woto is so persistently and plainly trying to illustrate as an immensely costly action whose benefits may not necessarily be worth said costs.

  • Ultimately, if the 1121st followed orders, the anime would fail to deliver its theme. This point is something that those criticising Filicia’s call do not understand, and consequently, they would be the naïveté, rather than those who support Filicia’s decision. In fiction, actions must be consistent with whatever message that a work is aiming to present: characters acting against military regulations in works of fiction is not uncommon, and they usually do so because their actions are intended by the author to represent an idea.

  • Back in Sora no Woto, Noël checks in on the Roman soldier to find that she’s awakened. The Roman promptly attacks her. Noël’s action, to grope her, diffuses things immediately: modesty kicks in and the Roman soldier stands down. It’s probably the only instance where materials of this type is not intended to be taken out of context, although it’s a gamble to execute these types of take downs, considering that not all individuals have the same standards. Moreover, Noël’s intentions are left ambiguous: while my assessment is that Noël is using a simple method to stop the attack, some folks believe that Noël knows she’s screwed and wishes to do one thing before she is fragged.

  • Learning that the Roman soldier’s name is Aisha, the others quickly find that their inability to understand Roman (presented as German in Sora no Woto) hinders their ability to communicate and learn more about her objectives. Voiced by Nami Miyahara, who took her middle school education in Austria, Aisha’s German is syntactically correct. However, her Austrian German differs from High German in minor choices of vocabulary and phrasing.

  • In order to assess Aisha’s familiarity of the Helvetian language, Filicia administers a simple test that leaves Kanata and Kureha flustered, causing even Noël to blush. Since Aisha doesn’t respond to the phrase, it’s quite plain that Aisha does not speak Helvetian, a language whose spoken form is that of Japanese, and where the written form is French. Such divergence in linguistics, though seemingly unlikely, can result from geographical separation and migration patterns. Owing to the extremities in Sora no Woto, it is conceivable that French and Japanese could merge, although more than likely, Japanese is used simply because Sora no Woto is an anime. To recall Filicia’s question for my amusement:

“You have really nice breasts, don’t you? I’m rather fond of them. I wonder if it would be alright I played with them for a bit? Would be it be alright if I played with your entire body? It seems she’s really unable to understand Helvetian.”

  • While initially cold to her captors, Aisha warms up to Noël and Kanata, who spends the most time with them despite their language barrier. The choice to depict a Roman soldier coming ahead of the advancing army is meant to demonstrate that the combatants in both Roman and Helvetian armies are human in the end, contrary to how the Roman army’s lack of portrayal thus far, coupled with the fact that audiences are only aware of the Helvetian perspective, means that audiences are more likely perceive them as antagonistic in nature.

  • An accomplished bugler and trumpeter, Aisha immediately begins playing Amazing Grace when Kanata gives her Rio’s trumpet. It is here that Kanata realises that music is a universal: despite their language barrier, the emotions and ideas a song carries can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers. This moves Kanata and ultimately shapes her actions in the finale, but in the present, the arrival of Yumina allows the 1121st to finally learn what Aisha’s mission and objectives are.

  • With translation from Yumina, it turns out that Aisha is here in Seize to check out a fossil ostensibly belonging to the dæmons of yore, and that Aisha’s grandmother was once a member of the Clocktower maidens. In the Roman mythology of Sora no Woto, the dæmons are a saviour passing judgement on humanity, saving the species from its own machinations, “cleansing” humanity of its sins. In this interpretation, the remnants of humanity are the ones who are blessed to rebuild the world. Yumina immediately rejects this, while Aisha similarly finds that Yumina’s beliefs are heretical in nature.

  • This small-scale disagreement occurs in parallel with the impending conflict between Roman and Helvetian forces. The heavy atmosphere stands in stark contrast with the weather: a cold but otherwise pleasant-looking day. Intentionally done to emphasise that warfare and conflict occur independently of human feelings, this is one of the instances in Sora no Woto where the skies do not mirror how the characters are feeling, reminding audiences that warfare is impersonal and indifferent to who lives or dies.

  • Colonel Hopkins, the Dæmon of Vingt, is one of the most feared commanders of the Helvetian forces, who had previously ordered the deployment of WMD, earning his moniker. Arriving at the Clocktower Fortress, he intends to take Aisha and execute her with the aim of starting an all-out war between Helvetia and the Roman Empire. While Helvetians have been shown to be a friendly, ordinary people thus far, Hopkins embodies a sort of evil that is meant to show how both sides have their own dæmons. In response to his arrival, Filicia orders that Noël and Aisha be hidden.

  • The placement of the table legs contribute the sense that Noël is caged, trapped within her own mind and memories as a consequence of the guilt resulting from her actions. This is why she fears Colonel Hopkins, and when Aisha learns of Noël’s role in releasing the WMD, known as the “invisible death reaper”, Noël finally caves, letting out a piteous scream that alerts Hopkins’ men to their position.

  • The expression, “when it rains, it pours” is used as a narrative device to deepen the gravity of a situation, and here, the phone rings, alerting Kanata and the others to a large contingent of Roman forces moving through No-Man’s land towards Helvetia. The episode left audiences surprised that war could be explored in what was otherwise a seemingly run-of-the-mill anime, and with all of the events in this episode, discussion erupted. Gone were the accusations that Sora no Woto was lapsing into familiar territory, and even the skeptics felt that the anime was exploring interesting directions.

  • So tangible was the anticipation that some discussions wondered if it would be possible to watch the episode in real time as it was airing in Japan. Coming to the party a year later, I would encounter no such difficulty, and simply watched the finale immediately after this penultimate episode concluded. While the Helvetians have amassed a sizeable force outside of Seize, the cut outside shows that the Roman Force is no slouch, either: if this conflict came to fruition, the casualties would be unacceptably high for both sides.

  • Even in spite of her role in eradicating the lives of countless people, Aisha’s concern for Noël is far greater than her response to having met the individual responsible. Before Aisha can pick Noël off the floor, Helvetian soldiers arrive and open fire, with the shot’s outcome left ambiguous. We’ve finally reached the penultimate episode of Sore no Woto and concluded its review: next week, I will be pushing out the last of the reviews on next Wednesday to conclude my revisitation of Sora no Woto. Being the finale, it will be larger than usual, featuring thirty images rather than the typical twenty.

Aside from the introduction of Aisha, Sora no Woto‘s eleventh episode also places Noël’s story into the spotlight. Her remarks from the fourth episode become clear by this point; she deeply regrets her involvement in the synthesis of a biological terror that decimated enemy forces, human lives, and consequently, closed her heart until Kanata slowly began bringing her optimism and hope. From what Sora no Woto presents in its characters, it is apparent that war has affected each and every member of the 1121st to an extent, but for better or worse, each character must come to understand and accept their own duties within the present in order to have a chance for a better future. Leaving viewers with the greatest cliffhanger of the season, Sora no Woto‘s penultimate episode proved to be a thrill to watch that stands in stark contrast from the tones conveyed by earlier episodes, and with the seventh episode, serves to demonstrate that Sora no Woto is not merely another K-On! knockoff in presenting complex themes that provoke further discussion and considerations.

Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days OVA- A Review and Full Recommendation

“Hey chief, you screwed up. There’s nothing in here.”
“Oh, it might appear empty, but the message is clear. Play Santa again, and I’ll kill you next year!”
— Bender and Robot Santa, “A Tale of Two Santas”, Futurama

Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days released back in November 12, 2016; it was only a week ago that it finally became available, and if this is the trend for OVAs, I imagine that the wait for the upcoming Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? OVA could be a non-trivial one, as well. With preparations for the culture festival ongoing, Shinobu finds herself completely immersed in her class project, contributing both the script and her considerable talents as a seamstress to making costumes for everyone. Amidst the busy activities, Aya finds herself feeling distant from Shinobu, wondering if Shinobu is closer to Yoko, Alice and Karen for their own attributes. When Shinobu steps out with Isami, Aya begins to reminisce about the time she’d spent with Shinobu in middle school, where Yoko and Shinobu were struggling with examinations for high school. While on break one day, they take a walk and visit Moegi High SChool, where they run into Sakura and get a tour of the grounds. After guidance from Aya and much effort on Yoko and Shinobu’s part, the girls manage to make it into the same school; Aya herself had her sights set on a more prestiguous all-girls school, but decides to join Shinobu and Yoko at Moegi high when they are all accepted. Back in the present, the play itself hits a hitch when the student playing the princess is afflicted with the flu, forcing Aya to step in. Despite the play starting off on the wrong foot, the girls pull together and manage to improvise something with Shinobu’s help, turning the play into a success. In the aftermath, Aya is grateful to have chosen the same high school as Yoko and Shinobu. A touching story with the light-hearted, warming feel that Kiniro Mosaic excels at presenting, Pretty Days is a welcome return to a series characterised by a colourful group of characters whose life in high school is filled with hope, wonder and a never-ceasing sense of cheerfulness.

In its premise, Pretty Days is centered around Aya and her memories of middle school with Yoko and Shinobu. While she’s initially doubtful that her friendship with Shinobu is a strong one, Yoko recounts their pivotal moment in middle school when it was Aya who motivated the two to buckle down and study for their entrance examinations such that they could be admitted to the same school. Even when Aya receives an admissions offer from a more prestigious academy, she ultimately turns down their offer, suggesting the strength of their friendship with one another. Although such an action might be seen as a poor decision from a certain perspective, Pretty Days presents this as a heart-warming choice that underlines just how strongly Aya cares about her friends, if she’s willing to pick being with them over a high school that might help her with post-secondary admissions. In addition to a well-executed central narrative, Pretty Days also brings back all of the elements that made Kiniro Mosaic so entertaining, whether it be Shinobu’s gifting of “heart” to her friends, or her determination to ensure the success of their class play, exhibited when she goes to the length of improvising lines for Karen and Aya when their original play disintegrates after Karen completely forgets her lines. The end result is fifty minutes of comedy that captures the spirit of Kiniro Mosaic, being an indispensable watch for all audiences who’ve enjoyed Kiniro Mosaic. While folks entering sans familiarity with Kiniro Mosaic may find some elements in the OVA a bit unusual, the overall pacing and structure means that this OVA can still be quite enjoyable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Owing to Shinobu’s tendency to not wake up on time in the mornings, the girls are forced to sprint the distance to their school, leaving Aya short of breath. It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything about Kiniro Mosaic: the last time the likes of Aya, Yoko, Shinobu, Alice and Karen graced this blog, it was the middle of summer 2015, when I had turned my focus entirely towards building visualisations of biological spaces in the Unreal Engine. This OVA is a fifty-minute feature and as such, features thirty screenshots rather than the usual twenty.

  • After Yoko expresses a wish to see Aya on stage when everyone is discussing their roles in their classes’ respective activities, Aya grows a bit sulky and is seen here with the classic anime pouty face. Conversation drifts towards reminiscence, where Yoko recounts how Shinobu’s been excited about performances and events for as long as she can remember. This is the conversation that gets Aya thinking; she becomes a little envious of Yoko and Shinobu.

  • With the culture festival arriving rapidly, everyone heads over to Shinobu’s house to continue working on the costumes for their play. Alice and Karen have already arrived, modelling Shinobu’s old middle school uniform and Isami’s high school uniforms, respectively. One common criticism I often hear for anime such as Kiniro Mosaic are the fact that the characters’ voices are too squeaky, having the acoustic properties of ultrasound, taking the form of noise complaints. As it turns out, higher frequency sounds are easier to discern because our ears are not quite so effective at picking up lower frequency sounds.

  • While Shinobu may not be particularly studious, her talents as a seamstress are ridiculously high, and from an objective perspective, she’s much more likely to be at home in an occupation involving sewing and adjustments, as opposed to linguistics and diplomacy. With this in mind, my perspectives have changed dramatically since my time as a high school student: during this time, dreaming big is an asset, allowing youth to explore their options. However, as time wears on, reality also kicks in, and people gradually choose paths that strike a balance between what they enjoy doing and what they’re good at doing.

  • In this moment, the characters’ personalities are captured succinctly in what they’re doing: Shinobu is plainly very focused and into her tasks, while Alice and Aya help out as best they can. Karen and Yoko, by comparison, are totally slacking off. However, Shinobu is whisked off with Isami on an errand of sorts, and when Alice wonder about how everyone knows one another, it is Yoko who steps up to the plate and recounts the story of their time as middle school students.

  • After Shinobu and Yoko receive their latest test scores following an in-class exam, their spirits plummet when Aya lectures them about the importance of performance in helping them get into their high school of choice. The girls decide to take a walk, and it is here that they visit Moegi High School for the first time, running into instructor Sakura Karasuma (Satomi Satō, best known for being K-On!‘s Ritsu Tainaka, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s Chiya Ujimatsu and Hyouka‘s Eru Chitanda). After some introductions, Sakura gives them a short tour of campus.

  • Despite their prospects appearing low, Sakura encourages the girls to work their hardest and even gives them a cheer that Aya finds embarrassing. One of Sakura’s strongest traits is that she can go to great lengths to help the students even if her actions can come across as embarrassing; her students find this endearing and consequently, place a great deal of faith in her, accounting for why she’s held in high regard by the student population.

  • In the Canadian education system, there are no entrance exams, and students moving from middle school to high school are placed based on their geographical location relative to the school. There are provincial standardised exams that students must take, which influence the courses they can take once in high school. With this in mind, while the education systems here are less competitive, once folks finish their education, things become much more difficult when it comes time to find an occupation (whereas in Japan and other parts of Asia, the education system is gruelling, but finding work becomes a little more straightforwards based on which institution one graduates from).

  • For the time being, I’m done my education – I’ve stared down countless exams throughout my post-secondary career. Of my conventional exams, the most difficult exam I’ve ever written was for my Organic Chemistry II and Data Structures II course during my second year, while the worst performance was for Introductory Biochemistry (which I only just passed). The best exam was my Physics II (Electricity and Magnetism), written when I was in fourth year, during which I was still considering medicine as a career path, and the fastest I’ve ever finished a final was ten minutes (where I ended up missing exactly one question).

  • These exams pale in comparison to the MCAT (2012), my undergraduate honours defense (2013) and my Master’s defense (2016): these exams took a considerable amount of time to prepare for, and of the three, the MCAT was probably the most challenging. I have vivid recollections of spending the summer of 2012 studying for the exam even though it’s been nearly five years since I wrote the MCAT. Back in Kiniro Mosaic, Aya steps into the summer sun to visit Yoko’s house, where they may continue studying for their own exams.

  • Friends are often depicted studying together in things like Kiniro Mosaic: I’m predominantly a lone wolf who prepares independently for exams, but for several courses during my undergraduate degree (most notably, organic chemistry) and the MCAT, I was fortunate to be in similar company. The advantage about studying together is that help is available; this might offer a different perspective towards a problem that makes it easier to solve, and if there are people in the group who are unsure about a concept, teaching them can also help one reinforce their own knowledge.

  • With that being said, I’ve never studied with friends at my place (or theirs) before: the environment of a library or quiet room is rather more conducive towards work – Yoko, Shinobu and Aya captialise on such a space to shore up their own knowledge. Clean and minimalistic, the artwork in Kiniro Mosaic is intended to keep the viewers’ focus on the characters; this is quite similar to the approach taken in Yuyushiki, and drives home the notion that Kiniro Mosaic is more about the characters than their setting.

  • During the New Year, Yoko, Aya and Shinobu pray for their success in examinations at a local Shrine, as well as for one another’s success. The Chinese have an equivalent saying as a form of New Years’ wish: “學業進步” (Mandarin pronunciation xué yè jìn bù, literally “improvement in [your] studies”), but no such equivalent prayer. Some elements in anime, such as praying at a Shrine for success in studies or love, bring to mind some of the pre-game rituals people, especially athletes, have prior to a major event or trial. Mine is to halt all revisions twenty four hours before an examination and do something completely unrelated, whether it be study something else or outright stop studying altogether.

  • The rationale for this is that, if I were to be in trouble for an exam, a day is likely not to make too much difference; in the typical case, I could also lose confidence as I encounter material that may or may not be outside the scope of the exam. By relaxing, I calm my mind and allow the material that already exists to be consolidated. This strategy is my own exam-writing technique and may not work for everyone. During the winter, Shinobu and Yoko run into Aya, who’d just passed the exam for her first choice. However, feeling that she might be giving up time with her friends, she also applies to Moegi High School.

  • Although the exam turned out to be slightly more difficult than even Aya had imagined, Yoko and Shinobu put in their best efforts. The exam leaves the two slightly dejected, and this time, it’s Aya who picks up the slack and suggests that everyone relaxes with something delicious. Following my MCAT in 2012, contrary to the suggestions from a friend to have ice cream, I went for a hearty dinner at a Chinese Bistro and then proceeded to sleep like I hadn’t slept all summer. While my ability to recall things is quite powerful, I cannot recall what I did the day after the MCAT.

  • When the results for Moegi High School are made known, Aya is offered admissions. Yoko and Shinobu are initially frightened to learn their results, but with Aya’s encouragement, the two find that they’ve also been accepted. While Aya is normally presented as a shy but disciplined, no-nonsense type of person who is quick to dismiss the others’ antics, Pretty Days makes it clear that she’s also got a more caring side to her, as well.

  • Ultimately, Aya turns down her acceptance offer to the more prestigious high school in favour of Moegi High, much to Yoko and Shinobu’s surprise. This attests to the strength of their friendship, and the moment also presents an opportunity to see everyone wearing the Moegi High uniform properly: in Kiniro Mosaic, only Shinobu wears her uniform properly Yoko dispenses with the outer jacket, while Aya wears a sweater over hers. Karen wears her uniform in a very casual fashion, while Alice has a pink Cardigan over hers.

  • Alice and Karen both find this to be a very moving story. Karen’s reaction is rather adorable, and Alice is outright crying at the journey. A cursory glance at the calendar on the wall suggests that it’s 2014: Kiniro Mosaic originally began its manga run in 2010, and the anime dates back to summer 2013, although I only picked up the anime one term into my graduate program in late 2014. Unlike most anime, which I procrastinate to an extent most folks would find ridiculous, I managed to finish Kiniro Mosaic just in time for the second season to start.

  • It turns out that Shinobu and Isami went on a cake run; after Shinobu returns allegedly bearing gifts, Alice and Karen become rather excited, only to wilt in disappointment when it turns out the gift is Shinobu’s love. This forms the motivation for the page quote, where Bender receives a similar “gift” from Robot Santa in one of the Futurama holiday specials. The Futurama incarnation is rather darker with respect to its comedy, standing in contrast with the lighter atmosphere conveyed in Kiniro Mosaic.

  • Shinobu plainly remembers all that Aya’s done for her, and even though she might spend more time with Alice and Karen, Shinobu has never forgotten just how important Aya is to her. Thus, while Alice and Karen might recoil at Shinobu’s “gift”, Aya is well aware that Shinobu is being serious and genuinely appreciates their friendship, leading to this moment here.

  • Isami reveals that a cake is also on the table as a gift, turning Alice and Karen’s mood around instantly. Isami is voiced by Yukari Tamura, whom I also know for her roles as Sakura Yoshino (Da Capo), Mai Kawasumi (Kanon), Mei Suonohara (CLANNAD), Tabane Shinonono (Infinite Stratos) and Remon Yamano (Ano Natsu De Matteru). It’s actually a bit of a surprise to see just how much anime I’ve watched over the past ten years, and in the near future, I’ve got a special post reviewing the Ah! My Goddess The Movie, which was my entry into anime. It’s a thrilling story, and I wish to do it justice, so that story will be explored in full once I kick that post off.

  • Looking back, I’ve never done anything quite with the atmosphere of a culture festival during my time as a secondary student, but in university, I’ve participated in many open house events, speaking with parents and prospective students about the health science program. During my final year of graduate studies, I also had the opportunity to participate in a special celebration for the university’s fifteenth anniversary, alongside a TEDx talk: while not quite as festive as a cultural festival, things were nonetheless quite enjoyable.

  • Sakura enjoys a corndog and candied apple here prior to the play’s start, much to Yoko’s surprise. Today, besides marking the beginning for this year’s Daylight Savings, also saw an afternoon outing to watch the critically-acclaimed Logan. Prior to the movie, I stopped at Opa’s for lunch: I admit I’ve never eaten at the one on campus in all of my time there as a student, so at my friend’s recommendation, I went with the lamb wrap and fries, as well as sharing a plate of fried calamari. After lunch was over, with another friend inbound, and the movie set for a few hours later, I dropped by BestBuy to pick up a new USB hub.

  • Logan, with its thematic elements and violence (though, not quite as violent as either Wolfenstein or DOOM), sits quite far removed from the likes of Kiniro Mosaic, being a direct and forward film that is to-the-point with the presentation of its narrative. I can say that Logan is worthy of the praise it has garnered, but as the movie is still a new one, and partially because this is a Kiniro Mosaic post, I won’t go into further details.

  • With encouragement from Alice and Yoko, Aya begins her performance, masterfully delivering her lines despite being drafted at the last possible moment to perform. Despite her aversions to publicity, Aya can be quite capable, and here, she embraces her role, giving audiences a chance to see a side of her personality hitherto unexplored. It is in this play where most of the artwork comes from, then: in the aftermath of the OVA’s theatrical release, Japanese artists generated a non-trivial amount of artwork.

  • In anime such as Kiniro Mosaic, unexpected setbacks are presented for the sake of comedy rather than for drama: Karen’s completely forgotten her lines and immediately falls back on her improvisational skills. Unsurprisingly, Aya is unable to keep up, and the entire play seems to be at jeopardy. This brings to mind the Giant Walkthrough Brain from several years back, where a thunderstorm knocked out the power mid-game during the show’s first performance at the Banff Centre. Jay Ingram and his band excel at improvisation, and the use of laptops meant that we didn’t skip a beat: the show transitioned smoothly back in once power were restored, and the first performance ended up being a great success.

  • With the play in peril, Shinobu activates her NT-D summons a blonde wig and begins writing new lines in response to Karen and Aya’s predicament. While typically air-headed and incapable as a student, Shinobu’s highly talented in other areas. Academics is not everything, and while education systems place a very strong emphasis on academic performance, I’ve found that, especially in graduate school, the learnings and take-away messages from a course far exceed one’s grade: the thing I value the most of my graduate school experiences isn’t the Unity or Unreal Engine, how to formally describe a multi-agent system or mine data, but rather, how to communicate effectively.

  • Thus, what was supposed to be a structured play quickly turns into a free-for-all musical that winds up being a great success. Pretty Days grossed a total of 26 million yen (around 300000 CAD) on its first weekend. The original news article announcing Pretty Days is a deliberately misleading one, reading that Pretty Days would be predominantly about Shinobu’s situation when Yoko and Aya notice that she’s been overextending herself for the culture festival. Giving nothing away about the OVA’s contents, this blurb turned out to be a blessing and contributes to the OVA’s impact.

  • The Pretty Days OVA reaches its conclusion, with Shinobu and her classmates receiving warm applause for their performance in spite of all of the setbacks they’ve encountered. With Pretty Days in the books, eyes now turn towards the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? special. Titled “Dear My Sister”, the OVA was announced back during the Rabbit House Tea Party in 2016 and originally set to receive a limited theatrical screening in May this year – it is speculated to involve more music than seen in the anime proper. At present, it’s been delayed by production issues, and the updated release date remains unknown.

  • At present, even OVAs are receiving the anime movie release pattern, taking at upwards of a half-year to finally become available in the home release format now; the wait for these OVAs has become as long as those for movies, accounting for why Pretty Days, released in November 2016, is only being reviewed now. In spite of the waits, I will definitely be returning to do a talk on the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? special once that is available, and for the present, regular programming resumes as I push towards the end of Sora no Woto.

As is the modus operandi for OVA posts, one wonders if the OVA is the end-game, or merely a stepping stone for a continuation. Kiniro Mosaic performs reasonably well with respect to sales, and with the manga ongoing, it is possible that an animated adaptation depicting Shinobu and the others’ third year could come to fruition in the future, dealing with the girls as they finish their third year and move towards graduation. Nineteen months separated the first and second seasons, and by this trend, if Kiniro Mosaic is to receive a third season, it would likely be aired during the Winter 2018 anime season, just slightly less than a year from now. In comparison to my remarks that a second season of Yuyushiki, would be unlikely owing to how much time has elapsed since 2013, Kiniro Mosaic has already received its second season: the Pretty Days OVA comes at an intermediary point, so I am a bit more optimistic about the prospects of a third season. A continuation of Kiniro Mosaic would therefore be most welcome, acting as a conclusion of sorts to the series. Aside from graduation, a continuation could also open the possibility of Shinobu and her friends visiting England once more before they set off for whatever their futures have in store for them (with this being said, such an adventure might even be presented as a movie).

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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