The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Anime reflection

Nyanko Days: The Pinnacle of Human Achievement

“Sometimes science is a lot more art, than science. A lot of people don’t get that.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Anatomically modern humans have been around for around two hundred thousand years, and human civilisation itself extensively making use of agriculture and other implements only dates back around twelve thousand years. In a comparatively short period, the advancement of technology in our civilisation has progressed at a dazzling speed: throughout our history, there have been several inventions of particular note: the compass, printing press, wheel, incandescent lamps, the telephone, internal combustion engine, powered flight and penicillin stand in history as several of the most influential, far-reaching inventions. Coupled with the scientific process and notions of a production line, substantial advances in the past century has allowed humanity to split the atom and land on the moon. We’ve managed to construct a means of nearly-instantaneously communicating with one another in the internet, and with the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices now, wearable technology and augmented reality stand poised to shape the way we interact with one another and the world as we move into the twenty-first century. However, there is a magnum opus that stands to eclipse all of humanity’s achievements: known as Nyanko Days, this anime depicts the combination of the human genome with that of the Felis catus. Every discovery, advancement and discovery has lead to this single moment, demonstrating our species’ mastery of fiction and the nature of our progress as a form of intelligent life.

Nyanko Days depicts the life of one Yūko Konagai with her “Nyanko”, the fusion of H. sapiens and F. catus genes, results in a novel organism that shares traits both their original species. The anime goes into exceptional detail surrounding the science behind Nyanko, being more similar to a biology textbook than a work of fiction. Anatomically, Nyanko resemble miniature humans, with the distinct addition of F. catus-like ears and a tail; similar to those of F. catus, Nyanko can subtly convey their emotions through the position of their tails. In addition, they are proficient with bipedal locomotion, although as the need arises, they can also move about as quadrupeds. Their dietary requirements are more consistent with those of F. catus than H. sapiens, preferring items high in protein and may find H. sapiens sustenance unpalatable. Most notable is their exceptional intelligence and ability to interact with humans: besides being able to understand human emotions in laughing and crying, Nyanko can also speak Japanese with a very high fluency, and even interact with human implements, such as television remotes, although for some tools, such as a mechanical pencil, their understanding remains rudimentary. The conceptualisation of a novel species with intellect, memory and reasoning capacities similar to that of a human is perhaps a testament to how advanced our society has become in the past hundred years alone: although we have yet to find a clean energy source, resolve the NP-Complete problem or develop faster-than-light travel, our superior understanding of biology and fiction has allowed us to speculate about intelligence and sentience in species beyond ourselves. This is truly a momentous accomplishment for our species, setting the stage for grander, more influential discoveries – for this reason, Nyanko Days is a series that will forever act as a record of this world-changing innovation, a true masterpiece that reflects on the growth and progress of humanity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The shy protagonist of Nyanko Days, Yuko Konagai is a high school girl who’s got a particular fondness for cats. She resembles Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki and Locodol‘s Nanako Usami in physical appearance, and while quiet at school, she takes on a much lighter demeanour when in the company of her three cats.

  • From left to right, z-ordering independent, we have Shii, Rō and Maa. Shii is modelled after a Singapura cat with a relaxed personality, while Rō is the most serious, being a Russian Blue. Maa is a Munchkin and is fond of messing around. Their days consist of hanging around while Yūko is at school, while Yūko yearns to be with her cats more often.

  • While playing a game on her phone, Yūko finds herself losing when Maa shows up and starts nibbling on her fingers. Pets who’ve bonded with their owners are very affectionate and will enjoy being petted, although as Yūko finds out, Maa can often show up at inopportune moments. In spite of this, she’s very understanding of her cats’ behaviours.

  • Small animals in bowls have always been appealing for folks viewing them, and here, Maa enters a bowl, rocking around for the heck of it. Of the cats, she’s the most child-like, finding joy in most everything and acting with little thought for the consequences later. Maa is voiced by Ibuki Kido; she plays minor characters in OreGairu and OreImo, but otherwise, I’m quite unfamiliar with her voice roles.

  • After Maa creates a mess, Rō steps in to clean up; she’s voiced by Mikako Komatsu, whom I know best for her roles as Sora no Method‘s Shione Togawa and Amifumi Inko of Aldnoah.Zero. Mikako will also be voicing Sanae Kouzuki in the upcoming Sakura Days, a P.A. Works anime I’m interested in following for its Shirobako-like premise. To round things out, Shii is voiced by Erii Yamazaki: like Ibuki, I’ve not seen any of the works she plays a role in.

  • Despite only lasting two minutes in length each, the artwork in Nyanko Days is of a high standard: here, Yūko takes a walk with her cats around town and reach a scenic viewpoint that shows the cityscape below. The atmosphere around a pleasant summer day is captured in this moment: it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to go on afternoon walks owing to my work schedule, where things have begun picking up as of late.

  • A chance meeting with Azumi Shiratori and the subsequent discovery that she’s also a cat person allows a friendship to develop between the two. A girl with a wealthy family, Azumi is admired by many at her school; after meeting Yūko, she spends more time with her as the two get to know one another and share their thoughts on raising cats.

  • At an upscale café that her family owns, Azumi and Yūko share a conversation over some rather expensive pancakes. Naomi Ōzora provides Azumi’s voice: the other of her roles that I know of is as Gabriel Dropout‘s Satanachia McDowell Kurumizawa, a rather amusing character whose precise place in the sun is quite worthy of a separate discussion.

  • Elsa is Azumi’s Turkish Angora: proud, haughty but also yearning for friendship, she wonders what Yuūko is like. Elsa spends her days alone at Azumi’s residence while the latter is at school. Initially, I mistook Elsa’s breed for the same breed as Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s cat, which is a Persian Cat: the breed is not of note, since the scriptwriters merely needed a white cat to match Ian Fleming’s novelisations, standing out to provide visual focus for a character who was initially without a known face.

  • On a quiet day, Shii, Maa and Rō try to amuse themselves, first by trying their hand at drawing, then subsequently decide to read books. Rō is quite into reading and has remarked on several occasions that she wouldn’t mind going to school and learning: the cats’ intellect are on par with those of a human in Nyanko Days, although their dexterity is not quite as well-developed, as seen in their attempts to draw.

  • Things quickly devolve when boredom hits a new high: Rō and Maa have different interests as far as television programming goes. While the latter prefers shows tailored for cats, Rō is looking to watch the news. A fight breaks out: rather than hard to watch, it actually ends up adorable – compare and contrast Jerome Iginla’s fight with Deryk Engelland’s during a showdown between the Calgary Flames and L.A. Kings just a few days ago. Fired up by the fight, Iginla would go on to get a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Flames, depriving them of a shot at clinching a playoff spot. That game was amusing but had too many fights for my liking: yesterday’s game against the San José Sharks was rather more appropriate, and with a 5-2 win, we’ve clinched a place in the playoffs.

  • Back in Nyanko Days, when Yūko arrives home, a tearful Shii describes the events that had unfolded earlier, and her lack of success in getting them to reconcile. However, Yūko has other means of rectifying the situation, in the form of a new toy, that let the two make up quickly.

  • One of the things that don’t seem to make sense from a biological perspective about how cats are depicted in Nyanko Days are the thin necks relative to head size. This is something in chibi-type artwork that, while conferring a degree of cuteness, also is strictly unfavourable: our necks are designed to withstand the motions of our head, and there is no way to fit a cervical vertebrae, esophagus and trachea in a neck of a small diameter. Hence, the cats in Nyanko Days must be engineered using means that exceeds all previous technology, as well as possibly, some future technologies.

  • Arashi Iketani is another one of Yūko’s classmates, who constantly competes with Azumi in all areas but finds herself outclassed. During a marathon for physical education, she initially takes the lead but is stopped cold in her tracks when she comes across a cat. She reminds me a bit of Sharo Kirima from GochiUsa in appearance.

  • The biology of the cats in Nyanko Days notwithstanding, I do have a legitimate criticism of the anime – it is remarkably short, and the entire season’s runtime is close to twenty-four minutes. While I am aware that there is only so much one could do with this premise, and that there are only two volumes of the manga out at present, Nyanko Days could be used to present an interesting story akin to that seen in GochiUsa: in fact, one thing that I would like to see is a version of GochiUsa where all of the characters are rendered as anthropomorphic rabbits.

  • In fact, the blissful world of GochiUsa leads to the question: could all of the anime’s events be the result of rabbits imagining themselves to be humans? With this being said, if such an incarnation of GochiUsa were ever to be made, it must never see the light of day: even with our level of sophistication, humanity as a whole is not quite ready for something like that yet. We thus return to Nyanko Days, where Yūko brings her cats to a summer festival, where she will meet up with Azumi.

  • Maa is excited when she sees goldfish in the legendary goldfish-scooping challenge, but the others let her know that the goldfish are not for eating. Fired up, Maa decides to compete with Elsa to see who can catch the most, but before they know it, Yūko, Azumi and the others have left, leaving them alone.

  • I’ve explored the evolutionary origins of our reaction to things we consider cute, whether it be babies or small animals in earlier posts and remarked that a general aversion to cuteness would be detrimental to evolutionary fitness. With that being said, different people find different things adorable, and for some, Nyanko Days probably won’t do anything. This is perfectly alright, but for the folks who did enjoy Nyanko Days, I have a challenge: how long can you stare at this image of Elsa crying before your heart melts away entirely, leaving you with nothing but feelings of bliss?

  • Despite their predicament, Maa manages to find a solution: they are united Yūko and the others on a short order. In the aftermath of their misadventures, Maa and Elsa become friends, with Elsa off-handedly remarking that she’s okay with hanging out. This brings Nyanko Days to an end.

  • With this post finished, I resume my usual programming soon: there’s a handful of things on the horizon that will be written about, but for the present, I am trying to push further into Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remaster. This is an endeavour compounded by the fact that Battlefield 1 is hosting the DICE 25ᵗʰ Anniversary Battlefest event, with its double XP event that will help me push my scout class closer to level ten, when I can unlock the Kolibri and mess with people.

Owing to its exceptional content, and the implications that the creation of Nyanko entail, I would give Nyanko Days a strong recommendation for all scientists as inspiration for their research. With its detailed depiction of Nyanko, above-par artwork, average soundtrack and unremarkable human characters… so the jig is up; I can’t lie well enough to continue. For those who have not noticed, today is April Fool’s Day, and in the spirit of good fun, I decided to create a post that would be in the spirit of April Fool’s Day. I offer my apologies if I misled or confused anyone with this post’s contents. With this being said, most of the contents in the figure captions are true: I haven’t made up anything about the voice actors, or the events in the anime. Similarly, the Flames did indeed clinch a playoff spot yesterday. Overall, Nyanko Days‘ concept of anthropomorphising cats and their adventures with Yūko form the bulk of the anime, with episodes running for around two minutes each. It’s a fun short series, but its length also runs against things: episodes are hilarious while they run, but they end too suddenly, leaving little time to develop the characters further. With this being said, Nyanko Days stands as one of the most adorable things I’ve seen in a while. It’s probably not enough to warrant a strong recommendation, but I personally enjoyed this anime, for providing two minutes of heart-melting Nyanko antics in most of its episodes every week. Hopefully, the unusual content of this post should have alerted you to the possibility that this was not a serious review; if you’re interested in checking out something light-hearted and frivilous, Nyanko Days will deliver, otherwise, you won’t stand to lose too much if you choose not to watch this anime. Regular programming resumes with this post’s conclusion, so have a good one!

Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

 “An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

Yune is a small Japanese girl who accompanies traveler Oscar Claudel to Paris France, living and working at the Enseignes du Roy. The shop’s current owner, and Oscar’s grandson, Claude Claudel, reluctantly accepts her presence, learning more about Japanese customs and concurrently caring for Yune. Despite the dramatic differences of culture and beliefs between the two, Yune and Claude come to understand one another, sharing more about their backgrounds and interests with one another in a Paris of the late nineteenth century, where the West begins to take an increasing interest Japanese culture. Their everyday lives are joined by Alice and Camille Blanche, who are upper-class members of society; the younger of the two, Alice takes an immediate liking to Yune and attempts to impress her at every turn, while Camille reflects on her own feelings for Claude and regrets that class differences keep them apart. The collection of stories about Yune and Claude’s everyday lives in Paris form the basis for the loosely-structured narrative in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth (Crossroads in a Foreign Labyrinth), providing glimpses into the lives of a Parisian family in the late 1800s and a Japanese girl’s immersion in a culture completely unlike her own, finding interest in the French way of things. Recommended for me from a friend, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth ends up being a reasonably interesting anime that seeks to capture the more mundane, everyday comings-and-goings in a shopping district of Paris. Beautifully animated and with a gentle soundtrack, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth also brings to mind my own travels through Paris a year ago en route to my first-ever conference: when a terrorist attack on Brussels disrupted transportation across France, my own flight from Paris to Rennes was cancelled. After rearranging my flight bookings to ensure I could return home at the conference’s end, I hopped on a shuttle bus from the Charles de Gaulle International Airport through the streets of Paris to Gare Saint-Lazare, managing to purchase tickets and boarding the train to Laval with only four minutes to spare.

Despite having spent such a short time in Paris and having not explored any of the major attractions (the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Louvre come to mind), travelling through the streets of Paris led me to wonder: what would life in a major European city be like? Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth answers this query, albeit from a new perspective — the Paris depicted is that of the late nineteenth century. Owing to the peaceful period that is depicted when Yune visits, it is safe to assume that Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is set well after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, likely in the 1890s. During this time, Yune grows accustomed to Parisian culture and even tries to eat cheese, a major element in French cuisine, despite her own unfamiliarity with it. All the while, she surprises Claude and the others with her actions: distinctly Japanese, they would seem out of place in France. These interactions are amusing and heartwarming, presenting one facet of the culture shock that both Yune and Claude experience when they meet. It’s a world away from the multiculturalism that is a very strong part of the Canadian identity: cultures and values coexisting is how I’ve always known the world, and from my perspective, it is unusual to be in a homogeneous culture. Spending most of its time depicting the journeys that Yune and Claude share in reconciling their different backgrounds and learning more about one another, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth combines the humorous with the dramatic to illustrate the ups and downs of life. This creates a very abrupt but also natural-feeling atmosphere, showing that events in life occupy the whole spectrum of tragic and serendipitous events: the adventures (and misadventures) that both Claude and Yune experience end up changing them subtly, and while Claude’s stubborn, blunt nature remains very much unchanged throughout Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, the dramatically different perspectives Yune brings with her have a nontrivial impact on his own outlooks and actions. Hence, while Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth might deal with a series of seemingly disjoint stories about Yune’s life in Paris, the thematic elements points towards the notion that awareness of different cultures and values invariably affect one’s own perspectives.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a full series-type discussion on a long-finished anime in this format. Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth originally aired during the summer of 2011, running from July to September. During this time, I had just finished Sora no Woto, returned from my trip to the Eastern Seaboard and began was watching Shinryaku! Ika Musume!. This is Yune, a Japanese girl whose surname is never given, and who accompanies Oscar back to Paris to help out around their shop.

  • Practical, blunt and easy to exasperate, Claude comes across as being quite unfriendly and cold towards Yune, in contrast with Oscar, who is rather more open-minded. The owner of Enseignes du Roy (lit. “The King’s Signs”), a sign-making shop, Oscar is often travelling about seeking the companionship of a lady friend, leaving Claude to the day-to-day runnings of the shop.

  • Voiced by Nao Tōyama early in her career (the roles that I best know for her, as Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō and Kongō of Kantai Collection, come later), Yune is considerate of her hosts’ thoughts. Taking quickly to aspects of French cuisine, she finds cheese to be somewhat disagreeable, but does her best to hide this and even works towards growing accustomed to its taste. I find that North American take on cheese is a bit more casual than that of the French, where there are at least four hundred varieties of cheese, and where consumption can reach fifteen kilograms per capita per annum.

  • A sign-smith by trade, Claude spends long hours in front of an anvil, hammering out metal into signs for his clients. While set in Paris, France, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is an anime and as such, it is up to the viewer’s imagination to suppose that Yune and the others are speaking French rather than Japanese. While French is one of two official languages in Canada and the education system had mandate that French be taught in schools, I never did pick up the language owing to how minimal the exposure to the language was. Now that I’ve travelled to Laval, France (having already visited Laval, Canada back in 2008), I find French to be an interesting language that I should have, in retrospect, made a more honest attempt at learning.

  • The dynamics between Claude and Yune fluctuate between hot and cold quite frequently in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth: the cold moments has me a touch irritated that Claude is not more aware of his surroundings, but he’s also considerate and caring, taking the time to introduce Yune to different elements of Paris, such as when he brings her to a Paris market to purchase some ingredients for the evening’s dinner. The Paris of Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is lovingly depicted and looks beautiful, with the buildings being faithfully reproduced to be consistent with period French architecture.

  • While unmentioned in the anime, Yune is thirteen in age, although her physical stature suggests that she is only ten. Much as how Claude can be quite set in his ways, Yune is also quite stubborn: her interactions with Claude force the two to meet one another halfway on multiple occasions, setting in place growth for each character. However, rather than anything dramatic, these changes are much more subtle.

  • Yune’s Japanese background might differ dramatically from that of Claude’s, but Claude nonetheless grows to appreciate Yune – when she writes out kanji for her name, they act as inspiration for Claude to finish a sign. Here, the two take a walk around the streets of Paris by evening, as crepuscular rays punch through openings in the clouds to create a truly magical moment. In general, the atmosphere in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth never strays too far from neutral: moments can become a little tender or a little stressful, but do not otherwise evoke particularly strong emotions in audiences.

  • A member of the upper class, Alice Blanche grows enamoured with Yune after meeting her for the first time and promptly sets about trying to invite her to tea. Similar to Alice Cartelet of Kiniro Mosaic, she is fascinated with all things Japan, although the Alice of Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is rather less versed with Japanese implements than her counterpart in Kiniro Mosaic. While Alice attempts to sway Yune into living with her, Yune’s sense of loyalty means that she declines each offer.

  • Some individuals regard Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth as the spiritual successor to ARIA, but I contend that there are more differences than similarities between the two anime such that the definition is not satisfied: themes and elements are different as night and day between the two anime, with the only commonality being that the anime are both slice-of-life. Other than that, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth utilises a difference in culture to drive Yune’s everyday life, while in ARIA, the inner mysteries of Neo Venezia are interwoven with Akari, Alice and Aika’s journeys to become Prima Undine.

  • Most of the scenes in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth are rendered with great detail, but there are moments where the artwork takes on a more deformed, stylised format, usually to signify irony or humour. Here, Yune pouts in the classic anime style when she overhears Claude describing to Alice her single-mindedness. She’s holding a pot of sukiyaki, a Japanese dish of thinly-sliced beef boiled in a special broth that is quite warming.

  • While of a generally cheerful disposition, Yune can sometimes grow disheartened on some occasions when either recalling her past or Claude’s restrictive mindset on things. Claude comes across as being overbearing and strict; his conversations with Oscar suggest that he has Yune’s interests at heart when he speaks, but the manner of his delivery is blunt.

  • On closer inspection, Yune’s reaction to cheese stems from the fact that cheese is not a part of the traditional Japanese diet – it was introduced during the Meiji Restoration but only became more widespread during the 1960s and 1970s. One of the joys in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth was the fact that minor details are portrayed well to convey the location, and it is welcome whenever an anime or manga authentically illustrates locales overseas.

  • Claude’s conversations with Alice frequently degenerate into squabbling; Claude despises her attitude and lack of concern for her actions, while Alice finds his stubbornness an impediment to her goals. In spite of this, he reluctantly allows Yune to spend time with Alice; each and every time Alice comes through the storefront, some sort of disagreement will ensue.

  • After Yune attempts to look for a boy who’d stolen from Enseignes du Roy, Claude reprimands her. She later falls ill, leading Claude to remark that this boy, a vagrant, might have given her an illness, and looks after her. He turns to the Blanches to obtain a Japanese recipe for a congee-like dish to help Yune, and later runs into the boy, who sought to give Yune a flower.

  • One element in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth that is very much under-appreciated is the soundtrack. Consisting of gentle songs that capture life around Enseignes du Roy, as well as vocal pieces, the song that stood out most for me was A.m.u.’s “Tomorrow’s Smile”. This single song seems to convey the entire spectrum of emotions that Yune encounters while in Paris, and serves as the ending song for episode eight.

  • Alice is voiced by Aoi Yūki: I am most familiar with her roles as Sora no Woto‘s Noël Kannagi and Komachi Hikigaya of Oregairu. With the number of voice actors I’m now familiar with, one wonders if I have a favourite actor/actress from films originating from this side of the world. Surprisingly, I do have an answer for this: Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee are my favourite actors, having a distinct style that I can pick out from any movie they’re in.

  • When they were children, Camille and Claude were close friends who had spent much time with one another. Camille had fallen in love with Claude and had resolved that the two should spend time together even if she is married to someone else, understanding their socio-economic differences preclude their being together. Over time, a distance grows between the two, and they regard one another cooly by the time of the events in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth.

  • It was a bit surprising to learn that Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth was produced by Satelight, the same folks who produced The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. Unlike the latter, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth has consistently high animation quality, and the visuals, both for the characters and cityscapes, are of an excellent standard. I get the sense that Satelight was trying to find their feet when working on The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan – earlier episodes were very light on details, but as the series wore on, backgrounds became more detailed, and animations more fluid.

  • I admit that I am not terribly fond of Claude’s personality, but in a bit of irony, I see a bit of my own bluntness and stubbornness in Claude. One of the shortcomings in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth was that his manner changes very little overall through the anime’s run: while shifting over the course of an episode, he almost always reverts back to his old self come a new episode. Granted, personality traits take time in order to alter, and so, it is likely that a longer series would have been necessary to properly depict how Yune and Claude’s time together changes the two.

  • Prior to Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric incandescent light in 1879, gas lamps were the primary means of illuminating a city. By the 1860s, Paris had some 56000 fixtures, earning it the moniker “City of Light”. These gas lamps slowly began to be displaced by electric lights, which were much safer and more inexpensive; presently, gas lamps are nonetheless retained in some areas, such as Boston, for the sake of aesthetics.

  • The French countryside is beautiful, as I found out first-hand when I took the train from Paris to Laval. Evidently an inconvenience, taking the train from Paris also ended up being an adventure that gave me a slightly closer look at Paris and rural France. Here, Claude has traveled into the country to meet with a client, and the pastoral feelings conveyed in this image brings to mind the peaceful ambiance seen in the regions of Gallia in Strike Witches unaffected by the Neuroi; this stands in sharp contrast with the state of things during the First World War (examples of this are vividly brought to life in maps such as St. Quenin Scar of Battlefield 1).

  • From what I’ve heard, there’s a manga spin-off following Alice’s adventures with Yune, titled Ikoku Meiro no Alice-chan (Alice-chan’s Foreign Labyrinth). Aside from Alice’s squabbles with Claude, one element seen frequently in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is the dramatic differences in cultural values that Yune brings to the table. Her actions can be quite subtle: she politely and subtly declines Alice in favour of Claude, rather than outright rejecting invitations. Japanese culture is very much driven by face, so in order to avoid embarrassing others, it is the norm to indirectly decline. A “maybe” in Japanese would correspond to a “no”, standing in contrast with other cultures, such as the Dutch, who are very direct.

  • So, after leaving the Charles de Gaulle International Airport, I spent around 40 minutes on a shuttle bus en route to the Saint-Lazare train station. On the way, my colleage and I received an email from my supervisor, who had received news of the attack in Brussels and was wondering if there was anything he could do to help. I was able to access wireless internet and replied to my supervisor, saying we were okay, then turned to my colleague and joked that, short of sending air support, help would be unlikely. We had grown a little pensive after learning of the difficulties in rearranging our transportation both to Laval and back home, but we managed to make things work.

  • The conference subsequently went off without a hitch, and I delivered my first ever presentation overseas. While in France, there was little time to properly sit down for a French-style meal, so one of my plans for the future will be to visit France for sightseeing: with this being said, I did have a chance to sight-see in Laval, taking a walk around the old town on the morning of the conference’s opening. I’m surprised that a year has elapsed so quickly, and it was a little more than a year ago that I skipped all of my classes, setting out to Amsterdam for the flight into Paris. Back in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, Yune enjoys a sandwich while on a picnic with Claude and Oscar.

  • During this picnic, Yune reveals a bit more about her past and her sister, Shione. Someone she greatly admired and had been very close to, Shione had eyes of vivid blue rather than the brown colours more predominant in people of an Asian ancestry. While our modern knowledge of genetics means that we’re aware of the genes affecting eye pigmentation (HERC2 and OCA2), as well as their hereditary patterns, the work of Gregor Johann Mendel and his beans were still revolutionary at the time of their publication in 1866; his discovery’s value was not realised until nearly three decades later. Hence, the locals dæmonised Shione, who pretended to be blind to escape scrutiny on Yune’s suggestion.

  • Over time, Shione’s vision decayed to the point where she became blind, and Yune has blamed herself for this turn of events, supposing that her wish was responsible for this. Oscar reassures Yune that far from being the cause of Shione’s suffering, Yune’s words and gestures would have given her sister strength. The notion of visual prosthesis has been in consideration since the time of the events in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, but substantial advances in medical science means that technologies like these can now be fitted to aid blind individuals. Although the technology is still primitive, there will come a day where it can be used to restore sight in the blind.

  • The finale presents Claude’s story as one also filled with challenges: his father was a masterful sign-craftsman but had never really seen his son in a favourable light. Claude constantly strove to improve with the aim of someday earning his father’s praise, but one day, his father fell from scaffolding in an accident and perished. Since then, Claude has never spoken much about his father, until Yune arrives, causing him to open up in a way that was hitherto unseen. Despite perhaps despising his father, Claude seems to be quite strict in his own right, although moments show that he does care for those around him.

  • Thus, when Yune makes to find a cat upon hearing its bell and winds up on the roof of the Galerie, the district housing the Enseignes du Roy. It’s a perilous spot, and after searching the area for her, Claude finally manages to find her. He carefully makes his way to Yune and manages to catch her before she falls off a ledge. It is unsurprising that the tensest moment of Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is found in the finale, and similarly, the outcome was quite straightforwards: there are no unnecessary or surprise deaths.

  • While the rooftops might be a dangerous place to be, Yune and Claude also gain a beautiful view of the Paris cityscape. It is a fitting way to conclude Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, and now that I’ve seen Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, I conclude that this is a modestly relaxing anime that offers a perspective into Paris of the late 19th century. Ultimately, it was quite enjoyable to watch this at work: I admit that my procrastination tendencies show up in full force here, since I finished Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth back in January, watching one episode a day while on lunch break at work.

  • Despite mentioning briefly that I would write about Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth early in February, I became sidetracked by the Wake Up, Girls! posts. I weighed my options about reviewing this anime, and considered shelving it, but then I looked at the calendar and realised that today marks a year since I presented my research at the Laval Virtual Conference. The paper is dated to one year ago today in the ACM Digital Library, and it costs 15 dollars to purchase. I won’t be sharing the paper, but I could probably provide an overview of that paper if one were to ask nicely. Jokes aside, that’s pretty much it for this post, and up next on the horizon will be a whole-series talk on Urara Meirocho.

In Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, the interplay between Claude and Yune’s respective French and Japanese backgrounds confers change in both individuals for the better; diversity and respect are core tenants of multiculturalism, and it is through understanding that cooperation and trust are built. This is the reason why multiculturalism are desirable, unifying shared human values and bringing the best of all cultures together; acceptance and understanding is what it means to be Canadian, where enjoying Cantonese cuisine while watching the Calgary Flames defeat the Pittsburg Penguins to match the franchise record of ten consecutive victories in a shootout is a part of life rather than anything noteworthy. Although small in stature, similar to Yune herself, the theme of Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth nonetheless has a large presence within the anime: Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is enjoyable for this reason, even if the juxtaposition of happiness and sadness can come across as jarring, and where Claude’s personality comes across as being irritating at times. Ultimately, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth earns a recommendation — the total sum of the anime’s message, sincerity in Yune’s character, authentic depiction of a late-nineteenth century Paris and a cathartic, beautifully-presented soundtrack makes the anime a worthwhile one, capturing the atmosphere surrounding the city. Paris might have been a stepping-stone on the way to my destination in Laval, but the short few hours I spent in Paris, coupled with Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth means that I am interested in visiting Paris again to sight-see somewhere in the future.

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.

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.

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.