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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 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, 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. Armed with access to my site metrics, it seems that search engines have not managed to index the page.

  • 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.