“The Force is with me, And I am one with the Force; And I fear nothing, Because all is as the Force wills it.” –Chirrut Îmwe, Star Wars: Rogue One
A mysterious girl named Carol arrives in Lake Kiriya City and begins tailing Noel, who’s settled in to life with Nonoka and her friends. She now works at the Nozomi with Yuzuki: Nonoka pays them a visit and shares lunch with Noel. Koharu arrives and is the first to notice Carol, wondering if she’s lost, but Carol dismisses her. Nonoka and the others share a conversation about their friends: Sōta’s gone abroad to study and has left to prepare, and Shione is also away. Shione’s birthday is coming soon, and the girls decide to get her some sweets. Noel begins to wonder what a birthday is, and when Nonoka explains her the details, she realises that she doesn’t have one. Later that evening, Nonoka looks through old family photos and recalls the day her friends made the wish to bring the saucer into town. She realises that this is when things started for Noel, so this could be her birthday. Meanwhile, Carol confronts Noel, stating that Noel’s original directives were to grant wishes and implores Noel to accompany her back. Noel declines, and the next day, Carol attempts to make a wish of her own, to bring Noel back with her. She’s unsuccessful, and decides to petition for the removal of Noel’s saucer from the area. After running into Nonoka and the others, who are returning from school, Carol becomes frustrated and runs off, only to crash into the monster billboard in front of Koharu’s shop. Saddened at the billboard’s destruction, Carol bursts into tears, but the girls work together to fix the billboard. Later, Noel takes Carol on a trip around town, and they spend their time together before Noel invites Carol to her birthday party. On the day of the party, Sōta arrives in town, Carol runs into Shione, who’s returned for the party and suggests that Carol be up front with her feelings, as she was needed to be in front of Nonoka. Carol returns to the observatory and encounters Noel here: at this moment, her powers are restored, and her original wish was realised. Noel is pulled into the skies per Carol’s original wish, seemingly disappearing. However, by a miracle, Noel and Carol are reunited and show up fashionably late at their birthday party: the others decide that since Carol’s arrival was on the same date as that of Noel’s, they also share the same birthday.
The core theme of Sora no Method was ultimately about the return of friendship to a group of once-close friends who drifted apart when Nonoka moved away, and how Noel’s innocent, naive manner was instrumental in bringing everyone back together. However, when the series’ original run ended, a considerable number of viewers found themselves quite dissatisfied with the series outcome; Sora no Method has therefore become a bit of an under-rated series and was forgotten. For me, this was a quaint series with its own merits, and I enjoyed Sora no Method greatly during its run. With nearly five years having elapsed since I wrote my final impressions post, returning to the world of Sora no Method through a new OVA, One More Wish (Mou Hitosu no Negai), was therefore an especially pleasant and warming experience. Within the OVA, Carol’s arrival and her desire to have Noel come back with her helped me to see a new theme in Sora no Woto; Carol’s arrival and goals parallel those of Yuzuki’s and Shione’s early on, but as she gets to understand Noel better, she appreciates why Noel desired to stay with Nonoka and the others. Sora no Method‘s theme is therefore elegantly and succinctly contained within this new OVA: even among individuals with conflicting goals, there are more commonalities than most would care to admit, and it is through realising that the sum of what people share more in common is greater than their differences, that allow people to reconcile their differences and overcome distance separating them. This was something that Nonoka and Shione had to resolve after the former’s unexpected departure, and similarly, Nonoka had to work hard to convince the others that Noel’s presence was meant to bring them back together after their sudden separation. The outcome of this from the original series is evident within the OVA: each of Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki, Koharu and Sōta are on much better terms with one another, and Shione’s become more open and kind, sharing advice with Carol. Shione’s words are ultimately what prompts Carol to realise her feelings about Noel, reflecting on her own learnings from the original series and reminding audiences of how much Noel’s presence ended up helping Nonoka and her friends.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Last I wrote about Sora no Method, it was for the OVA where Nonoka, Koharu and Yuzuki tail Shione to figure out why she was continuously renting out a certain monster film. That post was published during the summer of 2015. During this point in time, my graduate thesis was in full swing, and I had been about three months into doing a full conversion of my biological visualisation software from Unity into Unreal. It suddenly strikes me that I had much more time as a graduate student than I do now, but this comes with the territory.
- Carol is the latest addition to Sora no Method; at the episode’s beginning, she’s tailing Noel, and her origins are shown to be similar to Noel: a small saucer follows her around, and she’s prone to accidents whenever this saucer hits something. While she’s been tailing Noel and Nonoka with the subtly of a thrown brick, she’s not yet burned – Koharu wonders if she’s lost and becomes the first person to speak directly with Carol, who’s voiced by Marika Kōno (Yua Nakajima from Hinako Note, and Slow Start‘s Sachi Tsubakimori).
- While Noel is a staff member at the restaurant that Yuzuki and Sōta’s family runs, she’s occasionally prone to wanting to join the customers. With a lull in things, Nonoka invites Noel to help her enjoy the omelette rice together with her, and Yuzuki joins in shortly. The weather in my area stands in stark contrast with the rainy and mild weather of Sora no Method: the cold weather’s finally arrived, and the average temperature during the past weekend was -25ºC. However, a 打邊爐 (jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4, or hot pot) yesterday was the perfect way to warm up: with prawns, oyster, beef, lamb, pork shoulder, fish balls, cabbage, lettuce and yi mein on our menu, I spent the better part of an evening warming up with good food, good conversation and a generous helping of the house special chili sauce from the best Chinese restaurant in town.
- Like Noel, Carol uses large leaves as an umbrella whenever the rain appears, and while I had trouble identifying them in my last round of talks for Sora no Method, I would now hazard a guess that these are the leaves of the Alocasia macrorrhizos, or Giant Taro, a plant who is thought to have originated from Taiwan and then domesticated in the Philippines. With heart-shaped leaves reaching up to 90 centimetres in length, A. macrorrhizos‘ leaves are indeed used by tropical islanders as makeshift umbrellas. This would explain why while in Taiwan, my thoughts strayed to Noel.
- Sōta’s been busy preparing to study abroad, and Shione is similarly doing well. Since reconciling with Nonoka, she smiles much more frequently now, and gets along well with everyone. Seeing this Shione is a far cry from how the series started, and I still remember finishing off the series only after I returned from my travels to Taiwan the year that Sora no Woto was airing. It marked the first time I’d travelled during the winter holidays, and so, did not watch the finale until after I’d returned a ways into the new year.
- My favourite memories of the Taiwan trip was probably visiting the Monster Village, going to the observation deck of Taipei 101, walking amongst Kaohsuing’s night market and the trip up Taiwan’s eastern coast. After the Taiwan leg of the trip concluded, we went to Hong Kong and spent a week with family before heading back to the bitter cold of the Canadian winter. I wrapped up Sora no Method and put out my finale post shortly after, before turning my attention towards Kantai Collection and the last graduate course I would take for my Master’s degree: Multi-Agent Systems and their properties. I took this course to gain a more formal understanding of agent-based modelling approaches, a core component of my old research.
- Noel is voiced by Inori Minase, a highly talented and renowned voice actress known as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, Hestia from DanMachi, Mari Tamaki of A Place Further Than The Universe and numerous other roles. As Noel, Minase does not sound like Chino quite to the extent as she did in Girls’ Last Tour as Chito, or Endro‘s Mei. Nonoka notices that something is bothering Noel, and learns that Noel was hoping to experience the joys of birthdays.
- In the years following my trip to Taiwan, I’ve often found myself considering what might be on my itinerary should I make more concrete plans to return. The Eastern Rift Valley and its hot springs are high on my list of places to visit: it’s beautiful here, and there are a host of Bed and Breakfast style lodges that look like they’d offer comfortable, homely accommodations. As well, I’d also like to properly experience the night markets and try their grilled squid out – in 2014, I got a little overexcited upon arrival and ate too much on the first night, giving me stomach troubles that encouraged me to eat more conservatively for the remainder of my travels: I elected not to take any chances for the remainder of my time in Taiwan.
- Upon hearing Noel voice a desire to have a birthday party, Nonoka decides to look back through her old albums and see if she can find any inspiration. Nonoka comes across a bunch of old family photos she can’t ever recall experiencing, and while this might be seen as a sign that Nonoka’s selective amnesia might still be at play here, I note that this is unlikely to be the case – people aren’t typically able to perfectly remember all of their previous experiences, and the mind also has a way of distorting some memories where they appear as the truth to us. We can chalk this up to a scientifically-motivated explanation, and return to the importance of this scene: Nonoka is able to figure out a way to celebrate Noel’s birthday, marking the day her friends made the wish as the day they’d met Noel properly.
- Carol finally has a chance to speak with Noel: it turns out that she and Noel are part of an organisation that works to grant wishes, travelling about to strong-willed individuals to realise their desires. While she has trouble expressing so, it’s clear that Carol misses Noel and wants the latter to return to her duties, rather than spending time with Nonoka and the others, so that they might be together again.
- Like Noel, Carol is adorable in her own right, and does things that bring to mind the sort of things that Noel would do on her own while Nonoka and the others were in classes. Here, she’s trying to use her own saucer’s powers to fulfil her wish of bringing Noel back with her – besides bouncing the pocket-sized saucer on a A. macrorrhizos leaf and trying to do a bit of a summoning ceremony with it, nothing appears effectual.
- Shione’s birthday arrives, and the gift that Nonoka and her friends send her ends up being a year’s supply of sweet buns. Shione smiles warmly and notes that she’ll go through the buns in a heartbeat, indicating that Nonoka and the others were right on the money about Shione’s love for sweets. Her portrayal in the original series saw her return to a friendly personality as Nonoka and Noel did their best to get through to her. In the first OVA, released during the summer of 2015, Shione was shown to be quite cold and distant: this was set during the middle of the series, although even here, it shows that Shione did have a delicate side to her, as well.
- Sora no Method is set in a small town modelled after Tōya: the series takes place around the hot springs district located on the shores of Lake Tōya, and Mount Usu Eruption Memorial Park, with its distinct sculptures, are featured frequently in the anime. Here, Nonoka and the others cross Tōya Bridge. On the left of the image is the Tōyako Onsen Bus Terminal: like most other anime, Sora no Method did a phenomenal job with reproducing the locations of its setting, giving it a life-like feeling.
- When the girls see Carol out protesting the saucer’s existence, Yuzuki is reminded of back in the day when she had done the same thing herself, and immediately approaches Carol with the aim of coaching her to be more effectual. This backfires, however, and Carol is scared off. She runs off and collides with the monster billboard – Noel had previously destroyed this one in Sora no Method‘s original run, and her desire to help the others repair it helped her to bond with the others.
- The very same thing happens in the OVA: after colliding with and shredding the billboard, Carol dissolves into the most adorable (and pitiful) tears I’ve seen in an anime in quite some time. I’m not sure why it is the case, but the crying of small children melts my heart, and I am overcome with the want to offer comfort, to say that things will be alright. Noel takes this on and reassures Carol: the girls set about rebuilding the monster billboard anew.
- After spending a better half of the day, the girls’ efforts are met with a restored monster billboard. Carol shares manjū and tea with Koharu and Noel: she’s thrilled that the sweetness of the buns and the bitterness of the tea balance out so well in spite of herself. Carol can be seen as a combination of Noel’s naïveté and Shione’s perceived coldness at being unable to express how she genuinely feels about herself. The next day, she decides to follow Noel around, and Noel figures that here is an opportunity to really help Carol to have fun.
- In spite of herself, Carol does end up having fun with Noel; the two take a pedal-boat ride over Lake Kiriya, manage to land some tickets to an onsen after running into Yuzuki, who’d won the tickets from a prize draw. This Sora no Method OVA, technically an ONA (as it was uploaded to YouTube), has a rather curious designation: it is labelled as the seventeenth episode, and the explanation is that in production, the “fourteenth” and “fifteenth” episodes were the opening and ending sequences, respectively. The first OVA was then marked as the sixteenth episode in production, and so, this OVA winds up being tagged as episode seventeen.
- While Noel is quick to enjoy the onsen, Carol is a little more reserved about swimming about, but later related and actually out-swims Noel. This OVA was released on October 11, 2019, and admittedly, was not something I was aware of. It was serendipitous that I was able to find it at all, and with a lull in my posting (Rifle is Beautiful‘s finale won’t be airing for another week), I decided to take a look through a series that I rather enjoyed upon finishing it. While reception to the series was mixed, and Sora no Method was eventually forgotten, I still remember the series.
- As such, it was not a particularly large surprise that there are no full discussions of the OVA out there on the internet: having looked around, I can say with confidence that this is probably the only talk on the second Sora no Method OVA out there with screenshots. Besides hanging out at an onsen, Noel takes Carol to visit Nonoka’s school for a culture festival, where they enjoy the food and also have a chance to check out the planetarium exhibit that was showcased in Sora no Method‘s original run: the planetarium was something Nonoka had built for their culture festival, a time when Shione and Nonoka were on rocky terms.
- Noel invites Carol to her birthday party, but Carol declines, feeling left out after seeing just how close Noel is to the others. The page quote is sourced from Rogue One, being Chirrut Îmwe’s most well-known line from the film, referring to his faith in the Force throughout the film. Sora no Method‘s theme initially seemed incoherent, but as I progressed further into the anime, it struck me that the outcomes were always going to be a positive one, and with this in mind, I placed my faith into the writing and therefore was able to enjoy the journey it took to reach the end.
- On the day of the party, Sōta arrives in town ahead of the party but hesitates to join the others until Koharu notices his presence and hauls him inside. Having long held feelings for Koharu, Sōta remained quite disinterested in the events surrounding Noel and Nonoka in Sora no Method but appeared owing to his interests towards Koharu. Koharu does not appear to be aware of these feelings as far as I can tell, but by the time of the second OVA, she’s become rather more playful and “encourages” him to come on in and join the others, who are amidst preparing for the party.
- En route to the party, Shione runs into Carol, who is at a bit of a crossroads about what to do. Shione shares some wisdom with Carol, suggesting that she simply be forward and open about her feelings rather than trying to suppress them. As it turns out, this had been precisely what Shione had done during Sora no Method‘s original run. After she’d been hurt by Nonoka’s sudden departure, she rejected Nonoka’s return and refused to speak with her out of fear that should the two become friends again, she may experience the same hurt again. This barrier was resolved, and having seen it for herself, Shione now knows when something is happening to someone else.
- Shione’s smile is really a pleasant one, and while Sora no Method may have had those in short supply, the second OVA more than offsets that. The biggest joy about the second OVA is that all of the characters are likeable: one of the leading gripes about the original run was that most of the characters had not been easy to sympathise with owing to their decisions and actions. In retrospect, this was because each of Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki and Sōta had to make certain discoveries in order to begin reconciliation with one another; as their journey continues, it became easier to empathise with everyone, and the path towards resolution of everyone’s conflicts was a rewarding one.
- Noel reappears to Carol, and the latter admits that she’s only wanted to be together with her. The strength of her emotions, and truthfulness in her statement activates her saucer, which promptly takes its original form and begins fulfilling Carol’s wish of bringing Noel back to her old assignments. However, Carol realises now how much Noel means to Nonoka and the others, and begins to second guess her wish.
- One thing about Sora no Method that I didn’t mention in much detail during my original discussion of the series was the soundtrack. The incidental music in the series is by Tatsuya Kato and Kazuya Takase, featuring a variety of pieces that capture the emotional tenour of every moment, all of the highs and all of the lows from humourous moments and reunions, doubt and even resentment, within Sora no Method. I greatly enjoyed the music, and to hear familiar pieces make a return was most reassuring and welcoming. My favourite song on the soundtrack is はっぱの傘、溢れる笑顔 (Hepburn happa no kasa, Afureru Egao, or “Leaf Umbrella, Overflowing Smile”), a joyful and happy piece that reminds me of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”.
- Having Carol’s wish granted, despite her protests that her desires have changed, creates quite a poignant scene that mirrors Noel’s departure once her original purpose was fulfilled. However, Sora no Method is rather known for driving things towards a happy ending, and so, I was never under impressions other than the fact that despite Carol’s wish, Noel would return. The OVA draws many elements from the original TV run, and in many ways, I see the OVA as simultaneously clarifying a few things that were unanswered from the TV series, as well as condensing the TV series’ core messages into a twenty-eight minute long run.
- Thus, when Noel and Carol appear in time for their birthday party as the first snowfall of the year kicks in, I saw such an outcome to be inevitable rather than surprising. The rules of Sora no Method favour happy endings, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way things turned out. Here, since Carol’s evidently learned why Noel is so insistent on staying with Nonoka and the others, she’s earned her happy ending with them. My yardstick for whether or not a happy ending is deserved is a relatively simple and fair one: if the characters have gained something meaningful from their journey that betters them, or expands their perspective, then a happy ending is justified.
- If I had to guess, I’d say that the restaurant that the Mizusakas work at is the Boyotei: this restaurant is known for its quaint atmosphere, attentive staff and solid food that combines Western with Japanese elements. Their beer and omelette rice are supposed to be excellent, although some feel that the restaurant’s prices are a bit expensive. Working out the location from looking through satellite data wasn’t tricky: knowing that the girls were close to the bus terminal earlier meant it was relatively simple to swing by the area and look at areas within walking distance. In a few short moments, I found the distinct ceremony arch at the restaurant’s front, and the rest is history.
- The atmosphere inside the restaurant is pure joy as everyone celebrates Noel and Carol’s birthday: since Carol arrived on the anniversary as Noel, they also share the same birthday, and the others have gone ahead and prepared the cake with this in mind. It is a satisfying conclusion to the OVA, and also wraps things up in a definitive manner. The folks who did end up enjoying Sora no Method wondered if a second season could ever be a possibility, although given both the finality of the OVA and the fact that it’s been five years since any sort of Sora no Method project was announced, it’s safe to say that this series is probably in the books.
- When everything is said and done, the second of the Sora no Method OVAs is well worth watching, being a valuable addition to the series that answers some lingering questions and acts as a satisfying epilogue. I admit that writing about Sora no Method‘s OVA was not something I expected to have on my schedule, but I am returning to the scheduled post for Rifle is Beautiful, and as time allows, a short talk on Azur Lane. In addition, Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record are fast approaching their third episodes, so I’m looking to get talks for those done at the appropriate time. Finally, I have a surprise post in the works: folks following my Twitter will have a good idea of what this is, but my remaining readers will get to find out once the post is out!
The last time I wrote about Sora no Method, I was still in graduate school; time’s definitely flown by, and so, I was quite surprised to learn that there was another instalment in Sora no Method five years after the series’ original run. Despite the gap separating Sora no Method‘s original run from the latest OVA, it is clear that the series has not lost any of its magic, and the OVA ultimately ended up being a very succinct and enjoyable retreading of themes from the TV series, using Carol’s development as the basis to reiterate what Sora no Woto had originally been about. At the same time, the OVA also shows how far Nonoka and the others have come since Noel was able to grant their wishes: the rifts amongst this group of friends have healed, and Noel’s become a welcome part of this group. In addition, the OVA also reminds viewers as to what the significance of the saucer was. Viewers have criticised the series for using the saucer as a MacGauffin originally, missing the idea that the saucer was meant to represent the group of friend’s wishes. Hanging over the city like the weight of an unfulfilled promise, its arrival in Lake Kiriya was meant to show what Nonoka had left in the wake of her unexpected departure, and that in this world of miracles, the saucers are meant to help people grant wishes that mean something dear to them. The OVA thus provides a new perspective on the saucers and also summarises the original series’ messages neatly, making it a valuable addition to the Sora no Method series that can be helpful in wrapping up loose ends. With the freshly-gained insights from the second of the Sora no Method OVAs, it might even be worthwhile to go back and give Sora no Method a re-watch: the anime may have been somewhat of a challenge to follow, but Sora no Method portrays a very moving and heartfelt journey at its core.