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Tag Archives: Noël Kannagi

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.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manning the Telephone: I Declare an Emergency- Sora no Woto Eighth Episode Review and Reflection

“Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.” — King George V

When headquarters sends a request stating that they will be doing a test of the phone lines, requiring at least one person to be available to pick up the phone when the call is made, Kanata decides to volunteer, as the others have errands to run. Prior to leaving, Rio gives Kanata a book on trumpet practise that was once owned by Iliya Arkadia. While it seems a quiet afternoon, Mishio, Seiya and the local priest arrive, but pandemonium ensues when Mishio spooks the owl. Yumina shows up shortly after, reprimands the others for having created such a mess and offers Kanata a change of clothing. While continuing her wait, Kanata finds herself in need of a visit to the bathroom; she is relieved when Rio returns, and Rio responds to the phone call to learn that an unwelcome figure is in need of her assistance. In a return to the atmosphere characterising earlier Sora no Woto episodes, the eighth episode is decidedly more relaxed and easy-going in nature for its duration. However, the phone call that Rio picks up is the surest sign that, in light of the previous episode, the situation in Sora no Woto is shifting as battle lines begin to form, and Rio’s asked with carrying out a favour she seems opposed to.

The more serious elements in the episode’s closing aside, Sora no Woto‘s eighth episode places Kanata in a rather uncomfortable position, when she’s asked to keep an eye on the phone and answer it. While I’m not sure how things work out in Japan, Kanata’s situation is reminiscent of what is experienced when one asks a worker to come over to their home for work or inspection. As they tend to give a very wide range of hours (e.g. “please be available between nine and one”), it forces one to book a half-day off to wait for said worker. However, the worker may not show up if their schedules are busy, and they might reschedule, resulting in another half-day of lost time. While Kanata is able to spend that time practising trumpet and having an amusing, if unusual time with the priest and children early on, her conundrum is a rather clever parallel to the state that one might encounter should their appointment be given a wide range of hours. Comedy of this variety is admittedly rare in anime, but to see such a scenario in Sora no Woto was most welcome.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the eighth episode marks a return to the more mundane everyday elements surrounding the 1121st, it would be quite difficult to write another post that spans thirty images. As such, I’ve returned to the usual twenty images that have accompanied earlier posts, and I note that it’s been surprisingly quiet on my previous discussion: I was expecting a little more conversation and feedback, especially with regard to my thoughts on vucubcaquix’s thoughts on existentialism. I suppose this is a consequence of being a shade too late to the discussion, to the tune of eight years.

  • The entire episode is set at the Clocktower fortress, starting in the morning, where Kanata is assigned to keep an eye on the telephone at breakfast. Here, she practises answering the phone for the moment the call comes through, and while seemingly a trivial episode, one of the main joys is seeing the different progression of lighting through the fortress as the day progresses.

  • Later in the morning, Filicia shows up and messes with Kanata, who continues to patiently wait for the phone call, before noting that she and Kureha are taking off to deliver mission critical files back to their commanding unit. The most prominent anime reviewers of the day (primarily specialising in summarisation rather than discussion) noted that the episode itself was disappointing, while more vehement complaints saying that Sora no Woto has in effect thrown away an entire episode’s worth of time.

  • Rio drops by to check in on how Kanata is doing here. While period opinion seems to suggest that I’m with the majority who felt that a calm, more relaxing eighth episode after the heavier seventh was a welcome break, some individuals contend that the episode was shallow and pandering, bland in nature. These are the classic arguments that opponents of the moé genre often field in their discussion, and as a consequence of their short-sightedness, have missed details in this seemingly unextraordinary episode.

  • One such detail is how Kanata seems to be in the loop for the Clocktower Fortress’ Calvados operation now, much to Rio and Naomi’s surprise. How this happened would have been a mystery at the time of the episode’s airing, although some folks who were aware of the presence of a pair of bonus episodes to be included with the (then) future releases of the Blu-Rays quickly put two and two together, suggesting that the episode set between this episode and the previous one may explore that in greater detail.

  • This prediction turned out to be true, and as it turns out, the misadventures surrounding how Kanata comes to learn the secret is a hilarious one. When I embarked on this revisitation of Sora no Woto, I realised that I already had OVA posts completed many years back; these date back to 2012, which would have been only a few months after I had finished watching Sora no Woto back in summer 2011. My old website hosted my Sora no Woto whole-series review, and I figured I would capitalise on my then-unused blog to further explore the OVAs. A quick inspection of these older posts find that they are still of a reasonably high standard, so I’m not going to revisit the OVAs again. Here, Kanata, Rio and Naomi share a lunch here of sandwiches and the Calvados, and Rio gives Kanata a trumpet practise guide that Iliya herself once owned.

  • This landscape still was included purely because one of the few moments in the episode where scenery outside of the Clocktower fortress is depicted. The morning had seen clear skies, and as afternoon sets in, clouds begin appearing over the town of Seize. By afternoon, Kanata begins practising fingering techniques for the trumpet while drinking a copious amount of fluid. Late in the afternoon, the clouds roll over Seize and drop a downpour on the area.

  • This forces Kanata to retrieve the laundry, but as she manages to set it down, the priest and some of the children from Yumina’s convent arrive. It turns out that the priest is set to visit Treize (City Thirteen) for an undisclosed reason, and so, while the episode may prima facie seem inconsequential, minor comings-and-goings show that outside of Seize, things are not so rosy as peace begins seeing disruptions.

  • As the telephone still remains silent, Kanata helps the children in creating some tin can phones for fun. What is initially a fun activity to pass the time soon turns to pandemonium when Shuko is frightened and takes off, causing the others to panic. In the meyhem, Calvados is spilled, and things get knocked over. Kanata takes the brunt of the damage in trying to protect the telephone.

  • All of this comes as Yumina arrives on station: when she beholds the destruction, she immediately sets about lecturing the priest and children for not observing etiquette while visiting. Meanwhile, Kanata is outfitted in a rather colourful dress that Yumina happened to have with her at the time.

  • From a personal perspective, this episode was an appropriate breather from the events that have previously happened. Most of the folks who’ve found the episode to single-handedly render the whole of Sora no Woto unwatchable have since vanished, so I’ve not to contend with them when I note that such individuals probably do not understand how reality works: there are days where things are busy or difficult, and other days where things are rather more straightforward. To expect a high-octane story the entire way is to misunderstand what makes good fiction: without moments of quiet, one has no baseline to determine when disruption has occurred.

  • If such individuals were to come out of the woodwork now and challenge me in discussion, I’d welcome it: things’ve gotten too quiet around these parts. Kanata’s dress seems to cause Seiya to see her in a new light, and he blushes mildly when asked about his opinion of Kanata’s new dress. This point is a minor one, but presumably, it is Seiya who later writes that he wishes to marry Kanata on his wooden plaque during the next Festival.

  • As a sign that I’m beginning to run low on remarks about the eighth episode, despite enjoying it, I deviate from the topic and note that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is entering the open beta stage tomorrow: preloading began yesterday, and the open beta runs from tomorrow to the 27th. I’m set to go on a poker and pizza night with my coworkers on Friday and will lose Friday evening, while on Saturday, I’ve got some financial matters to arrange. I don’t think I’ll be able to play through the game quite to the same extent that I did last year for Tom Clancy’s The Division.

  • With this in mind, I am going to see if I can manage at least five hours so I can experience the beta sufficiently to both write about it and decide whether or not the game will be worth purchasing. If it turns out I can play the game exclusively in single-player mode, and there’s a good mix of urban and rural settings to explore in the full game, I will likely buy it. The Division, while still intriguing, is not single player-friendly beyond level thirty; I’ve had mixed feelings about buying it, and if Wildlands turns out to be more supportive of folks who wish to go solo, I’ll consider picking it up.

  • The urgency of her task means that Kanata has not left her post all day, and here, she’s feeling the effects of having consumed all that fluid from earlier: she’s in desperate need of a trip to the facilities, and Rio arrives just in time to keep an eye on the telephone. In general, one can last roughly nine to ten hours without using the bathroom assuming normal hydration levels, and while the parasympathetic nervous system will signal a need to hit the bathroom, these feelings can be suppressed, even if it is inadvisable: it is quite uncomfortable and can lead to renal problems if frequently done.

  • Quite personally, I am not a fan of phones. I will attempt to avoid using them where possible, on the sole virtue that voice communications over a device I am holding close to my ear is an exercise in patience, taking my hands from other tasks. If the option is available, I will route the call over to my computer so I have my hands free while simultaneously talking with the recipient. With this in mind, I’m not a great multi-tasker: unlike computers, which excel at asynchronous processes, I prefer working in a synchronous manner, finishing one task before moving onto the next.

  • At the end of a long day, Rio is the one to pick up the phone, only to learn that it’s her father calling. Overriding the protocol, he calls to ask a favour of Rio, telling her that she is to be involved in saving Helvetia. It is mentioned earlier that peace talks have been unfruitful, leaving Helvetia on the brink of another war with the Roman Empire. Recalling that it is likely the Roman Empire that Filicia’s old tank crew was fighting, the implications are clear: either Rio can shirk her responsibility for her pride’s sake at the cost of thousands of lives, or else face her destiny to stave off an impending war.

  • Rio’s phone conversation with her father may leave something to remind viewers that behind all of the fun and games at the Clocktower Fortress, the 1121st are nonetheless a part of the world, but for the moment, Kanata’s attempts to find a bathroom are unsuccessful when Noël reveals that sleeping in the bathroom is one of her pastimes. This brings Kanata to the brink of involuntary enuresis.

  • It’s nightfall by the time Filicia and Kureha return from their journey to headquarters. Seeing Kanata on the floor seemingly unable to pick herself up, and quite unaware of the situation she’s in, Filicia decides it’s time to “help” Kanata and extract her from the floor. These final moments bring the eighth episode of Sora no Woto to an end, and it strikes me that we’re very nearly a sixth of the way into 2017 now.

  • The end result of the episode winds up being hilarious even in spite of myself, and presumably, Filicia and the others are left with a bit of a mess on their hands in the episode’s aftermath. This episode, though enjoyable from my point-of-view, left some viewers wondering if Sora no Woto would “devolve” into moé trash. I argue that moé is irrelevant in the context of Sora no Woto, and that it is more of the world it is set in, coupled with Kanata’s outlook, that drive the theme in Sora no Woto. I hold this position primarily because I am armed with a perspective that most contemporary viewers lack and as such, with the eighth episode being the exception rather than the rule, I was not bothered by how it ended: I merely selected the next episode and continued with this series.

While this episode of Sora no Woto felt a little unusual in the wake of the more serious tone set by the previous episode (in fact, some viewers claimed it was “filler” or a “step backwards”), it nonetheless shows that life itself is not always meant to be high octane and somber in nature; I imagine that the choice to craft a more comical narrative into the eighth episode was likely to balance out the moody atmosphere the previous episode left behind. With this in mind, the overall tone in Sora no Woto has taken a shift, and it becomes clear that for better or worse, circumstances are shifting with the phone call that Rio receives: there is no going back now, hence the choice to give Sora no Woto one final episode where humour and relaxation is dominant. From here on out, Sora no Woto takes a markedly different direction, as questions about Rio’s background and her relationship with Princess Iliya is discussed in greater detail.

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kanata’s Day Off: Hairdressing- Sora no Woto Review and Reflection at the Halfway Point

“My greatest achievement so far is that I’ve been able to continue with my normal life. I love what I do, but more so, I’m glad to have people who care about me close by.” —Kim Smith

Having received her paycheque, Kanata decides to drop by the town, leaving Rio and the others to conduct their business: the Clocktower Fortress also serves as a front for an off-the-books Calvados operation. In order to dissuade some criminal elements in the area from becoming too interested in the operation, Felicia, Kureha and Nöel stage a transaction gone bad, where they “gun down” several clients and frighten the criminals into leaving. Meanwhile, while in town, Kanata sets off to browse the market for gifts to her family, but learns from Yumina about Mishio, who took off after objecting to Yumina brushing her hair. Searching for a box precious to her, Mashio winds up at a derelict house and slips off at the time when Nöel and the others are engaged in their theatrics. She’s saved by Kanata, although the pair dislodge boulders that total the criminals’ vehicle. In a turn of fate, Mishio’s box is found in the vehicle with some other articles, and she gives the box to Yumina as a gesture of appreciation.

The sixth episode of Sora no Woto, though focusing on the daily ins and outs of life around Seize, is done using a parallel narrative that fits nicely together to keep things interesting for its viewers while simultaneously reinforcing themes from the previous episode. In her interactions with Mishio, an orphan who has very fond memoires of her parents, Yumina demonstrates that she is nonetheless a capable foster parent, caring deeply for those in her care. These bonds and dynamics are shown to play a major role in a world that has seen widespread devastation and, similar to themes from the previous episode, shows that even in a ravaged world, beauty and good can continue to exist. Similarly, the existence of criminal elements who take an interest in the Clocktower Fortress’ Calvados operation are intended to illustrate that even in the aftermath of an apocalypse, there are individuals and groups who strive to serve themselves at society’s expense. Although this might be a world where people have found a way to survive together, the more unsavoury aspects of human nature can sometimes appear. In spite of this, so as long as the good people are willing to act and are in greater numbers, society as as whole is more likely to endure and survive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kanata receives her first paycheque from Filicia, and begins wondering how their pay is so quickly accounted for considering their remote location. When Kureha begins to mention the source of the 1121st’s income, the others grow antsy: Nöel hauls Kureha away and Rio covers for her, saying that Kanata should merely have a nice time in town. Kanata thus sets off the next morning, leaving the others to their machinations.

  • With her collared t-shirt and long skirt, Kanata’s casual attire is a far cry from the military uniform the others are wearing: by this point, it’s late into the summer in Sora no Woto. If memory serves, I reached the sixth episode shortly after the Victoria Day long weekend in 2011, and after completing the first filtration controller prototype for my undergraduate research, I could turn my attention to learning the Bullet Physics engine and begin developing an agent-based physics-driven model of flow in the nephron.

  • The cooler colours Kanata sets out to is evocative of a summer morning: where I’m from, summer mornings tend to be very comfortable and are unsurprisingly, the best time of day to take a hike or bike ride. The sun has not quite hit maximum yet, so the air remains cool, and with our distance from any ocean or large body of water, the land cools quickly over the course of the night. This stands in sharp contrast with Cancún, where the air remains very warm even by night owing to the humidity and proximity to the oceans.

  • With Kanata away, the others are free to conduct their business without any interference. They set foot into their secret distillery: producing Calvados (an apple brandy), illegal alcohol production is how the 1121st acquire extra income. This is not unheard of in reality, especially with the armed forces during the Second World War and earlier. While officially illegal, officers often turned a blind eye to alcohol production because the self-made alcohol kept bored soldiers occupied between operations and typically yielded alcohol that was safer to consume.

  • Filicia is voiced by Aya Endō, whom I know best for her roles as Lucky Star‘s Miyuki Takara and Kinue Crossroad of Gundam 00. With a gentle voice in her role as Filicia, Endō projects her nature as a motherly figure for those under her command, exercising a much more casual form of leadership amongst the 1121st. She also looks dashing in a formal dress: here, she is seen “negotiating” with some members of the local mafia about the Calvados transaction.

  • When some ruffians from out of town appear, Naomi immediately alerts the 1121st, and they stage an elaborate performance to scare off the competing mafia members. Kureha is armed with the MP-40 submachine gun, while Nöel takes up the MG 42 (a mainstay weapon in Strike Witches). Both girls are using blank ammunition, and fire on Filicia’s signal: gunning down even mafia in cold blood would almost certainly defeat Sora no Woto‘s message and atmosphere, and the lack of any wounds are an indicator that this is a show even before Filicia makes it clear to the viewers.

  • When the dust settles, Rio appears outside and threateningly asks whether or not these two were with the folks inside; frightened senseless, they take off before any harm comes to them, but a rockslide crushes their vehicle, agitating them further. The geography in and around Seize is varied, filled with canyons, cliff faces and mountains, creating an additional sense of fantasy in Sora no Woto. While fictional, the anime captures the terrain around Cuenca, Spain to some extent: the Júcar river that runs through Cuenca has carved a river valley through the area with sheer cliff faces.

  • Rio expresses surprise and irony when she beholds the falling rocks, indicating that destroying the other mafia’s vehicle was probably never intended to be a part of their show. She’s holding a Mauser C96 pistol here, which served as the inspiration for Han Solo’s DL-44 Heavy Blaster: the movie weapon was constructed using a C96, utilising parts from model airplane kits to produce the weapon’s vents. The Dl-44’s flash suppressor is sourced from the MG81, a WWII-era German machine gun used in their fighter planes. Finally, the weapon’s sights is the Hensoldt Wetzlar Ziel Dialyt 3x scope, typically affixed on German sniper rifles such as the K98.

  • After the mafia elements try to make for their vehicle, rocks smash the vehicle and render it nonoperational, forcing the crooks to leave on foot. The feint appears to have held its effect, leaving Filicia to properly make a transaction with the locals. Alcohols made from apples date back to the eighth century, although the modern incarnation, distilled in the Normandy region of France, has its roots in the 1500s. Made by distilling apple cider and allowing it to ferment, aging in oak barrels, the production of Calvados requires a minimum of two years, suggesting that Filicia’s predecessors were already manufacturing this alcohol.

  • On Filica’s end, things go rather smoothly, and so, the episode transitions to Kanata’s side of the story. Shortly after she leaves for town, she returns to Naomi’s shop and notes the price of the glass dolphin is 10.25. As she admires the sculpture, two ruffians shove her roughly against the glass, tipping Naomi off about the presence of unsavoury types in the area. Consequently, it is Kanata being in the right place, at the right time, that allow Filicia and the others to prepare their ruse.

  • Despite having sufficient funds to buy the glass dolphin, Kanata finds herself in a bit of a quandary. After being asked about what Kanata would do if someone had planned to purchase the dolphin, Kanata suggests that she’d deceive the other individual to dissuade them. This gives Naomi a fantastic idea in dealing with the goons, and Naomi agrees to set the dolphin aside until the day where Kanata wants to buy it, or else is okay with allowing another buyer to pick it up.

  • While most of the elements in Sora no Woto have some sort of symbolic or thematic relevance, the glass dolphin that Kanata covets winds up being a red herring: as the series wears on, Kanata does not mention the glass dolphin again and is not seen purchasing it, either. In logic, the so-called red herrings are counted as a fallacy, but in literary terms, they can be used to mislead viewers and surprise them. The term is supposed to originate from the use of smoked herring, which take on a red colour, to lay down a false trail for distracting hounds, although whether or not this tale holds any truth remains a point of discussion.

  • Seize was depicted in previous episodes as a quiet town where the streets were empty, but that was on moody, rainy days. When the weather is more favourable, the town square is paced with people. An open bazaar of sorts, Kanata arrives here to find souvenirs for her family. The attention to detail is exceptional in this scene; close inspection of the image will find that everyone is rendered with a reasonably high quality, and the buildings enclosing the square are given textures to suggest an aged, weathered look.

  • It is here that Kanata runs into Mishio, who is searching for a memento from her family. Earlier, she swats Yumina in response to having her hair brushed, and describes a patterned box that she’s looking for. Despite the odds of finding the box at the market being quite slim, Kanata tries to help her look for it, but Mishio runs off before that can happen. Kanata continues browsing the bazaar and later, finds an “I LOVE SEIZE” t-shirt before encountering Yumina.

  • Yumina recounts Mishio’s story to Kanata: after her parents’ passing, possessions from Mishio’s family fell into the hands of creditors, including a box that Mishio had held dear. As having her hair brushed reminds her of her mother, having it done by someone else triggers unpleasant feelings for her, reminding her of her old family. It typifies Sora no Woto‘s ability to create detailed backstories for the different characters to show that this is a world populated by multi-faceted individuals.

  • In turn, plausible characters lend themselves to one of the overarching ideas portrayed in Sora no Woto: that the consequences of war are far reaching, well beyond impacting just the combatants and the politicians that order soldiers onto the battlefield on behalf of their interests. While these elements are short, they offer glimpses into the different perspectives the characters have to create the sense that this is a multi-layered world, offering just enough detail without burning excess screentime.

  • Reminiscing on the roof of a derelict home similar to the Hanging Houses, Mishio slips and falls off when gunfire below sounds. Hanging on for dear life, Kanata arrives and manages to save her, although their efforts loosen some boulders that fall below. It is fortunate that Kanata arrives when she does: as per MythBusters, it is impossible to hold onto a ledge indefinitely — Corey, Grant and Jessi could only hold on to a three inch ledge for about a minute. Managing to pull Mishio, Kanata learns that Mishio does care greatly for Yumina.

  • Back in the valley below, Naomi wonders if the two were responsible for destroying the vehicle. Kanata panics, wondering if the vehicle belongs to Naomi, but nothing of the sort is the case. In the vehicle, they serendipitously find the same box that Mishio was seeking out. It is here that all of the episode’s events come together: while perhaps contrived to some, that coincidences can occur and their magic is the subject of no small discussion. I personally believe a hybrid approach: some things in life are governed by fate, but what happens largely depends on what one makes with the hand they are given.

  • Realising that Yumina is as loving as her biological mother, Mishio finally consents to allow Yumina to braid her hair. This lends itself to the title: the episode might be titled “Kanata’s Day Off”, and for the longest time, I imagined that it was Kanata who would visit a hair stylist on her day off, but it turns out that the title deals with Mishio. It’s a solid resolution for the episode and signifies the impact that Yumina has on those around her, in bringing people together and giving them hope.

  • Free will and determinism occupy opposite ends of the spectrum; it was the subject for a discussion back in high school, and I was leaning towards free will, since I like to believe that humans have control of their destinies. However, if we suppose that the fatalists are correct, and that everything that will happen to me are set in stone for a particular purpose, I would still maintain that it’s what one makes of their fate that counts the most. We’re now at Sora no Woto‘s halfway point, and while the series proper concludes at twelve episodes, there are two more episodes in the series. My posting’s slowed slightly this month — with most of the major posts done, on the table for February will be a talk on Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth and as time permits, a discussion on the movie Wake Up, Girls!- Shadow of Youth.

Elements that are introduced or explored in Sora no Woto are all present for a reason: the sixth episode strongly demonstrates this in subtle details to remind audiences that everything has a purpose in the anime if it is shown. For instance, Kanata is roughly pushed aside by one of the criminals in town, and this immediately tips off Naomi that unsavoury figures are in town. The destruction of their vehicle, seemingly a fluke, was actually an accidental event resulting from Kanata and Mishio, who had reached that state themselves after gunfire from Felicia and the other’s performance. In short, Sora no Woto suggests that everything happens for a reason, this episode’s events are utilised to guide a particular outlook among viewers — small details in the earlier episodes likely will foreshadow or hint at revelations or events in later episodes. It becomes clear that, in spite of its artistic style or the audiences’ initial impressions, Sora no Woto is intending to explore new territory; the upcoming episode demonstrates exactly this and ended up being quite a surprise for the viewers, especially among those who were quick to dismiss Sora no Woto as a military incarnation of K-On!.