I’m sorry this post took so long but I’ve been sick lately and work has been a real bitch these past three weeks.  Also, this episode was so loaded with juicy themes that I wanted to get my thoughts in order before dropping this post.

      This episode begins one chilly fall morning with Rio burning the letters she’s been receiving from her father. We also hear that Kanata has made great improvements in her playing abilities since she’s had six months of practice time at the fortress.

      Then the scene switches and we see a Yuuko and an old woman up in the hills above the fortress and the old woman seems to be ill. Later in the morning we see Kureha and Kanata helping Noel refurbishing the tank, and it looks almost ready to rock. Then Kanata asks Kureha about the princess and they look for the unit’s army almanac, but its missing and Filicia’s no help in finding its location.

      Over tea, Kureha tells Kanata more about Princess Iliya; she says that Iliya was the eldest daughter of the current Archduke and she was a famous tanker. Kanata asks her about what Claus said. She died two years ago when she assigned to the royal guard, on her way to visit a city, she drowned saving a child from a river. Kureha goes on to tell Kanata that she relieved because the rumor was….

      Later, Kanata gets a visit from Yumina and Yuuko asking for a favor. Kanata goes to Rio room and asks her through the door for help. Yuuko is the daughter of Martin (one of the shop owners they do business with) and she wants them to check on the old lady (Jacott) who sells them stuff at the market. Rio is just lying in bed in a semi-cationic state but gets up and tells Kanata that she’ll listen to her request.

      Soon, Kanata and Rio are off to the hills to check on Jacott. While they’re walking towards Jacott’s house we hear the rest of what Kureha told Kanata about Iliya; it was rumored that Princess Iliya was going to be married off to the Emperor of Rome to improve relations with them, she would have been his third wife, and Kureha says she would have been a hostage. The idea stopped when Princess Iliya died and they fought with Rome until this year’s peace treaty.

       When they arrive at Jacott’s house they find her working on the construction of a new house, and she’s not in good health. Well, they take her inside and fix her some tea. She tells them the new house is for her son who lives in the city but will return home some day. When, Rio asks. Soon, Jacott replies. Rio tells the woman she must move to the city before winter comes, but the woman refuses, she has to finish that house. Rio says she’s not ready for winter having no firewood or provisions. She laughs and says she’ll be OK.

        Back at the fortress, we see Rio chopping firewood and complaining to Filicia about the stubborn old woman, and Filicia says it reminds her of Rio. Filicia then asks Rio why she showed her the letter, and she goes on to tell Rio that the military is reporting that the Roman army on their eastern border has started to move, Rio expresses shock.

        We then see Rio waiting in the car while Kanata is inside Martin’s shop picking up supplies for Jacott, and another customer asks Kanata for news about the peace conferences. Martin laments, if only Princess Iliya was alive, and the princess had a younger sister, the rumor is that she was an illegitimate child but she’s third in line for the throne. Just as Kanata is asking about the younger sister, Rio walks in the store and asks Kanata if she wants to take a walk.

       They talk about Kanata’s village and her family, large fields and lots of cows and goats, but not many people, and Rio says she can tell Kanata had a good family. Rio grew up in a small town near the capital with pretty lakes and forests, and she lived with her mother, it was boring and nothing happened. Rio’s true joy was her half sister who loved her very much and would stop by to play with her. Rio looked up to her because she was kind, and her sister accepted her fate with pride, she learned the trumpet from her, but her kindness was her undoing. Rio goes on to talk about the town, she got lost and ended up here and felt she had reached her goal, but realized this was a dead end.

      Kanata tells Rio, no, she gets lost all the time, I like to get lost, and who cares if your where lost or if it’s a dead end because that’s how I met you.  Rio tells Kanata that she jealous of her at certain times and she wishes she could be true to herself. The scene switches back to Jacott’s place with Kanata and Rio stocking the firewood and readying it for winter.  Jacott asks Rio why she cares, Rio says she reminds her of her mother, and Rio says she was born of a forbidden love, but her mother waited for him and he might come by once a year and she died living unhappily like that. Why do you think she was unhappy, Jacott asks, I’m quite happy here.  He promised he’d come back for me, it’s all I could do, what could I have done. Is that enough, yes, because I have my memories and the hope I’ll see them again.

      As Jacott and Rio talk, Kanata listens from outside the door as the first snow of the winter begins to fall. Back in the fortress, Kureha comments that it’s cold out there as the snow begins to descend on the countryside. As Kanata and Rio sleep inside Jacott’s house we get a flashback of Jacott’s life and how she ended up this way, she fell in love with a young married merchant and bore his child, because the man’s wife couldn’t have children he took the child and left her there, but promised to come back someday. Later, Jacott thinks the man has returned and rushes to the door to welcome him home.

      In the morning, Kanata and Rio awaken to find Jacott missing and follow her tracks into the snowy countryside, but to an avail.  We hear Jacott’s voice saying in order to lose you have to have gained, and the greater the joy of gain the greater the sorrow of your loss. Kanata’s voice counters with if you have memories of your happiness, with that, you can live on.

      Back at the fortress, Naomi says that she’s found the pictures of Princess Iliya that Kanata was interested in, Filicia tries to stop Naomi, but Rio says it’s OK. The pictures were of Iliya’s unit at the Timekeeping Fortress from five years ago, and in one of the pictures we see Iliya with the owl and Rio’s trumpet.

          Kanata looks to Rio, and Rio nods to Kanata and they head off to the tower together. Rio begins to play amazing grace and Kanata joins in and their duet resounds throughout the fortress and the town. After, Kanata tells Filicia that she thinks her parents wanted her to marry and take over the farm, but she fell in love with the trumpet and ended up here. It was Iliya, wasn’t it she asks Rio. Yes. You met her, too. Kanata says her music welled up inside of me.

       Rio gives Kanata her/Iliya’s charm and tells Kanata that she thinks she ran away to this town, I knew I’d leave someday. Now, I don’t want to leave, but that’s why I have to go to do what only I can do.  She then gives Kanata her trumpet and says she won’t say goodbye, no matter how far away…..Kanata says sounds fills the air……and reaches peoples’ hearts.  Kanata was I a good teacher? Yes.  As Rio walks off, she salutes the fortress and Kanata. Kanata says she’ll forever hear her music, the sound of the sky. Well, that’s all for this episode.

      Here I go; this review will be slightly different than my previous reviews of the series since I think that the real meat of this episode deals with Rio coming to a mature understanding of her nature and her position. One of the main reasons this review has taken me so long to complete is that I had to spend a lot of time looking up, reading, and watching other media to include in this review.

1 Corinthians 13

 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. 

 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(King James Version with “charity” rendered as “love”)

      I feel the highlighted portion of 1 Corinthians 13 really explains Rio’s internal battle that she’s been waging over the past few years. Rio saw/viewed her mother’s relationship with her father through the eyes and understanding of an immature child judging her mother’s action through her impression of their relationship rather that asking her mother what she really felt. I think that Rio and Kanata’s encounter with Jacott served to awaken Rio’s understanding that she was judging her mother on only half knowledge; did she ever ask her mother if she was unhappy, did she ever ask her mother if her father lied to her mother or did they have an understanding, all Rio ever did was become angry and bitter without ever understanding if there was a reason to become so. I’ll get back to the “a glass, darkly” part later.

      I found Rio’s comment to Kanata about “her sister’s kindness being her undoing” to be quite interesting because this is the main struggle that caused all the problems in the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena. A person’s nature can only be what it is, Iliya’s nature as a person and a princess was to be brave and kind and she could no more change her nature then an eagle could change its nature. While Rio might have wanted her sister to be more careful and less kind that would have caused her sister to change from the sister she so admired and loved into something else, think Anthy and Akio.

For further reading on this subject please see Ghostlightning’s post on Utena, and my comments on personal identity and characteristics.

Kanata and Rio; the free bird, and the caged bird.

I know why the caged bird sings, by Maya Angelou.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

        This poem perfectly explains Rio’s jealousy of Kanata, to Rio, Kanata is the free bird that glides along on the current of the winds letting those winds take it to new and interesting places while Rio is the caged bird that dreams of having Kanata’s freedom . Rio lives in a cage constructed by the nature of her birth & her identity, and the responsibilities that society places upon her. No matter how much Rio may wish to be free like Kanata, she’s still a princess and owes her country and the memory of her sister a debt. Some might say that Rio could keeping running away from her father but what would that solve, Rio would still be the caged bird. I think that the only way Rio will be truly be free of her cage is for personal death.

The legend of the Thornbird from The Thornbirds, by Colleen MuCullough.

“There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth.

 From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles.

 For the best is only bought at the price of great pain… or so says the legend…”

       Rio struggles her whole life against the chains and bars of her cage only to discover only in death can she truly be free. On top of the tower, Rio impales herself upon the thorn of her destiny and sings her perfect song and in the process she undergoes death, the death of one existence and she experiences her rebirth into her perfected self.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

       When Rio finally put aside her childlike thinking she was able to see clearly through the obscured glass/mirror that she’s been using to view herself. The darkness is now pulled back and now the light of self understanding illuminates Rio knowledge of her true nature and her responsibilities. The caged Rio dies on top of that tower, her fears and uncertainties fade under the light, and Rio is reborn into her true form. The bastard princess, third in line for throne, now assumes the role she was born to but fled from; she must do what only she can do, and Iliya smiles.

      Well, an interesting thing happened on April 21, 2010, the Crystal Tokyo Anime Blog turned three years old. I know it’s a little late, but I just realized my blog had reached this point last night, so like a belated birthday gift I’ll be doing this little anniversary post.

      First of all, I’d like to thank all the readers of this blog, and all the readers that took the time to leave comments, even the negative ones, sometimes those are the most interesting ones. What I’m going to do with this post is to take a look back to the beginning then I’ll cover what you the readers have chosen as your favorite content (by your page views), and then I’ll go over the status and future of the blog.

(more…)

        This episode begins with the girls looking at, and talking about, Ton-Chan as she swims in her tank, but they’re soon distracted by Ritsu tearfully complaining that she’s sick of the drums. Well, when the other girls get to the heart of the matter, they pretty much agree with Ritsu’s conclusion that she’s invisible as the drummer, and now she’s talking about trying another instrument.

 

         Yui casually offers up her guitar for Ritsu to give it a go and then complains about Gitah being unfaithful with her. Azusa and Yui try to help Ritsu with some quick guitar instruction but Ritsu quickly gives up saying it’s not for her. Later, as Ritsu is walking down the hallway, she notices that Sawako is very radiant today, and then after lunch Ritsu tells the girls she’s going to try the keyboard and she says she wants to be radiant like Sawako.  After trying the keyboard for a while it’s suggested that Ritsu try the bass but Mio says no way, she’s the bassist, and she gives her emotional reasons why she loves the bass.

 

        That night, after dinner, at Yui’s house, Ui notices her sister banging around on some glasses and saucers and asks what’s up, and Yui tells her that she’s working on operation Ritsu in the spotlight. The next day its class picture day, and Yui puts operation Ritsu in the spotlight into effect but none of her ideas really work out. On their way home from school, Yui tells Azusa that she’ll play drums if she has to but Azusa tells her that she needs her right where she is.

         Later, in Ritsu’s bedroom, we see her think over her current drum situation, and we see how everything got started with her and the drums. Soon, Ritsu is doing some drumming with her sticks and some CD cases, and she seems to be enjoying herself. The next morning we see Ritsu and Mio running really late for school because Ritsu stayed up late watching a Who DVD. You like their drummer, Mio asks?

        Ritsu and Mio get caught sneaking into class late thanks to Yui, and they notice Sawako with her lower face mostly covered. Later, Sawako shows Yui and Ritsu the damage, she tried something new to look even younger, and the girls tell her she over did it. Up in the clubroom, Ritsu is back to her normal self saying the drums are the only thing for her. Yui tells Ritsu that they’re all one part of a greater whole even though they have different roles. Well, Ritsu tells them why she loves the drums and she’s OK if she’s not really noticed. Mugi tells the other girls that she come up with a new song thanks to Ritsu.

        Well, Mugi plays a few cords of the song with her keyboard for the girls and they like the melody. Mio is put in charge of the lyrics, and Mugi tells her that she’s already named the song, honey sweet tea time. While Azusa, Ritsu, and Yui dig into some tea and honey sweets that Mugi brought, Mio and Mugi try to work on the lyrics for the song. Well, that’s all for this radiant and sweet episode.

        Sorry this review took so long, after watching this episode a few days ago I realized that I really liked the episode but I struggled trying to put it to words. So here it goes, and I hope it makes some sense. While I loved the first season of K-On! for all the reason that I covered in my previous reviews I always thought that the one thing that was the most unrealistic about the series was there no guys, or even interest in guys. Come on now, it’s highly unlikely that five heterosexual cute girls and one hot woman would not have boyfriends or at least some guys sniffing around them, I think most guys find rocker girls very intriguing and attractive. Well, since I guess this anime would never dare to introduce the idea of the girls getting boyfriends or let alone have the girls run into some guys their own age I think I’ll settle for having one of the girls (Ritsu) get a little dose of self awareness. What I mean by this last statement is that most “moe blobs” in these types of shows happily go about their “moe blob” existences without ever achieving any awareness of how the external world views them, so I think that Ritsu desire to be more radiant is a major step in the right direction. Ritsu wants the world to notice her and is thinking about ways to make it happen; after all don’t most of us want the world to take some notice of us. Go ahead Ritsu, shine, baby shine.

       Well, this episode begins with a little skit involving the girls trying to wake a sleeping Yui, and the overflowing storage closet in the music club’s practice room. The closet is so bad that the girls are forced to do some spring cleaning; they have to pull out all the crap out and go through it with everybody taking home what’s their shit. After the girls separate what belongs to them there’s still a lot of stuff from the previous members including an old guitar that Yui finds.

 

       When Sawako enters the room she sees the guitar and tells the girls that it’s her old guitar. Well, the girls tell Sawako that everyone has to take their personal belongings home, but since the guitar is old and musty Sawako suggests that they pawn it and use the money to fund the club. On their way to the music shop the girls decide to stop at a home center to look at a storage unit for the clubroom, and guess what, its Mugi’s first time in a home center. Ritsu and Yui turn the visit into dress up time and have a jolly good time. After Mio and Ritsu pick the unit and setup the delivery we see that Mugi has really loaded up on stuff from the store.

       After finishing up at the home center, the girls take the guitar to the music store and the guy has to take the guitar and do an assessment of its value. When the guy returns the girls are shocked to hear he’ll pay 500,000 yen (about 5,000 USD) for the guitar.

       The girls then get an explanation of why the guitar is so valuable, and they head off for burgers and fries after taking the cash. Over the meal the girls debate what to do with the money and we see the effect it has on everyone except Mugi.

 

        The next day the shelving/storage system is delivered and installed in the clubroom but there’s a problem, Yui still hasn’t taken all her stuff home due to her fear of Ui’s reaction. Then Sawako visits the club to check out the shelves and find out how much they got for the guitar. Well, after trying to dodge the question, Ritsu tells Sawako 10,000 yen, so she asks for the receipt since the money will be added to the club’s account. Just as Ritsu is about to hand over the receipt she attempts to eat it to the cheers of the other girls, but, alas, Sawako retrieves it from Ritsu’s mouth before the meal is finished. When Sawako sees the receipt, the girls beg forgiveness with Ritsu saying the amount overwhelmed her judgment. Sawako says OK, I’ll deposit the 10,000 you claimed, and say the rest was spent on the club stuff, but I’ll buy one thing that you girls agree on. Before Sawako leaves with the cash Yui asks to be slapped in the face with the money and she seems happy.

 

          On their way home, the girls try to decide what they want for the club, an amp, an effects unit, or another frog and the girls see the other clubs working with their new members causing Azusa to sigh. The next day, the girls talk about how they feel that Azusa needs a freshman to look after no matter what she said before. So, Yui comes up with an idea…..later, that afternoon when Azusa enters the club room, the girls introduce Azusa to Ton-chan the new club member, the turtle from the home center that Azusa and Yui were looking at. Azusa isn’t really thrilled, Yui says she thought that Azusa liked it, no I just thought it was strange, Yui liked it. Well, the girls tell Azusa that they thought that she was lonely without a junior to look after, and she seems to accept the turtle saying she’ll look after it from now on. Well, that’s all for this episode.

 

        This episode K-On!! continues its slow paced, five cm/s drift towards graduation and the future. What I mean by this is that while the seasons and the school year slowly moves forward, the girls see the coming end of their halcyon days, and no one more than Yui struggles to enjoy the remaining time as long as possible. I think that the metaphor of the spring cleaning of the storeroom serves this purpose with Ritsu and mainly Yui trying to avoid this task. Yes, it’s partly laziness, but the act of taking all their personal stuff home also symbolizes that their blissful time in the light music room will be ending. Also, this fight against coming adulthood is brought to the forefront when Mio tells Yui that she’s acting like a kid and to act more mature, and Yui says that she’s still a kid. I feel that Yui has it quite right by trying not to rush too quickly to adulthood because don’t most of us look back at high school and think how easy we had it no matter how we felt about it at the time.

      I felt this episode had several funny skits, and it was very adorable watching Mugi’s reaction during her first visit to a home center/super center, while she’s a rich girl she’s really a common girl at her core. Also, seeing Yui in action with the cordless drill and tool belt was priceless, it’s my Moe crack. Seeing how the girls reacted to their share of the money was pretty funny, and all I can say is that Yui’s got some pretty strange money fetishes. Hell, I smack her in the face with a thousand bucks anytime she wants to stop by my house. Overall, I found this episode of K-On!! to be a nice, lazy, but enjoyable dose of Moe entertainment.

 

       This episode begins with Yui arriving at the school early and heading up to the practice room to work on her skills, and once the other girls arrive we find out that Yui got her wake up time wrong again. After the new OP we find out that it’s the beginning of a new school year, Azusa is now a junior, and the other girls are seniors. After Yui makes some small talk about being a senior the girls head to the class assignment board to find out where their home rooms are. Well, Yui pushes her way through the crowd to discover that all four of the girls are in class 3-2, and Mio sheds tears of joy.

        Once the girls see that even Nodoka is in the same class, Mio wonders if the fix was in. Mio’s question is soon answered when they discover that their homeroom teacher in none other than Sawako. Later, in the hallway, Sawako confirms Mio’s suspicion and girls all express their thanks before being sent to the welcoming ceremony. During the welcoming ceremony we’re treated to the student body singing the school song, and a strong motif of the segment is falling cherry blossoms. Also, Nodoka reminds Yui that the club needs to find new members so Azusa won’t be all alone next year.

         The club concentrates on trying to get new members, passing out fliers, wearing costumes but to no avail. The club redoubles their efforts to get new members by trying all sorts of sneaky tactics and even resort to observing other clubs. Back in the club room, Sawako and Nodoka join the girls and they plan for tomorrow’s performance at the orientation ceremony, and Yui hopes someone will join the club after hearing them play like Azusa did.

         Before their performance, Yui makes a pitch to get new members to join the club, and we only see the last few seconds of the show. Later, the girls feel their show went great and they head off to pass out fliers. After no one shows up to the club Azusa tells her other friends that the club must not be popular but they tell her the club looked awesome, and they heard some freshmen say so. They tell Azusa that the problem is they might appear too hard to mingle with because they seem so close. While Azusa is with her friends, the other four brainstorms about how to get new members and Yui says it’s OK like this for a while longer with just the five of them. Sawako reminds them that they only have this year; Yui says it’s a long time but Sawako says a year is really short; Azusa overhears this conversation and seems happy.

       As the girls are about to dig in to some snacks Azusa walks in and Yui is about to rush out to continue passing out fliers but Azusa stops her. She asks for some tea and the Banana cake Yui felt Azusa wanted, and she tells the other girls that she’s fine with this year just having the five of them. Azusa tells Yui that she’s not going to go easy on her this year, and Yui pleads to the sky for a freshman to save her. Then we get treated to a new ED song and animation, and that’s all for this episode.

       Well, theirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr back, cute girls doing cute things for my male amusement, and I love it. Yes, I can’t deny it, Lucky Star, Sora no Woto, and K-On! what can I say, I love watching cute girls doing cute things. The world could be ending and all I would need is a couple of beers and a good dose of Tsukasa, Kanata, and Yui and I’d feel fine.

        OK, the new series gives us a new OP and ED, I think the new OP featuring Yui’s vocals is all right but not great, and the new ED featuring Mio’s vocals is good, but neither is as good as the first season’s OP or ED.  While the first episode of second season pretty much follows the same formula as the previous season there are some differences, the first season began with Yui’s frantic rush to make it to her first day of high school on time which could be viewed as Yui’s unorganized, disjointed, and chaotic journey towards the future and maturity. But, the way Yui started the second season infused the episode and the start of the second season with a totally different flavor, and I tasted a strong dose of mono no aware along with a hint of melancholy.

        While Yui and the other girls are still moving towards their bright futures, whatever they may be, Yui who’s been the most emotionally receptive of the girls is realizing that an important chapter of their young lives is about to come to a close. I don’t really know if Mugi, Mio, and Ritsu understand how close the five of them are but Yui understands this and Azusa was made aware of how close they all are to each other by her friends telling her how other girls view their group.

         While the second season might have all the silly stuff from the first season I think the series is going to become more focused on the girls’ relationships with one another and we’ll see a pretty heavy dose of introspection before it’s all over. Good animation, good music, a few laughs, and cute girls doing cute things, that’s good enough for me.

      Here’s a few new anime & manga motivational posters for the week of 3/22/2010. Feel free to share and enjoy these posters, but please at least give me a link or track back if you’re going to post them to a board or forum, Click on the poster to view at full size, enjoy.

       This episode picks up with Aisha being shot but not killed in front of Noel, and Filicia pulling a gun on Hopkins and saying she’ll shot if he doesn’t escort his men from the fortress.  Well, Hopkins’ men have left the fortress, and he’s now tied up while Yumina treats Aisha. Filicia demands to know what’s going on, and Hopkins says that they detected the movement of the Roman army over a month ago and have been following in from the rear, so far, the Archduke has ordered them to do nothing.

         Hopkins says the peace talks are a farce, and if they execute a POW in front of the Roman’s they’ll attack, he wants to restart the war because he says that Rome needs to be destroyed. Hopkins asks Noel if she agrees, and he calls her his Witch of Helvetia. Filicia gets mad at Hopkins saying he used Noel, and Yumina asks if Noel had something to do with the invisible reaper. Hopkins tells Yumina that Noel is one of the greatest scientists and helped revive the old weapons, Filicia orders Kureha to toss Hopkins in the cellar, but he says his men are already moving to attack the Romans.

 

       After Kureha returns from locking up Hopkins, she says it’s messed up because the Flame Maidens are supposed to protect the city not cause a conflict. Yumina chimes in with what Aisha told her of the Roman version of the legend and it’s different from our version. The scene then switches and we see Hopkins preparing to escape, and we see Kanata reliving Kureha from her guard duty, Kureha asks Kanata if she could shoot someone, and Kanata says if she felt it was right then she thinks she could. As Kureha and Kanata discuss the legend of the Flame Maidens, Kanata hushes Kureha and says she hears something, and the scene switches to Claus telling someone he doesn’t know how good her ears are.

          Kanata rushes in and tells Filicia that she heard the signal to stop fighting, Kureha says she heard nothing and Kanata could be wrong. When it’s suggested that they inform Hopkins about the signal, Yumina discovers that he’s escaped. Well, it’s decided that they still have to be informed but Noel says he won’t listen, when Hopkins saw the reaper kill all those people all he did was laugh, she says he’ll fight and kill until no ones left, and it’s her fault for helping him. Yumina tells Noel that if she really feels that way than she should save more lives than she took.

 

        Naomi informs Hopkins about the ceasefire order and he says no way and orders the arrest of the civilians, and when questioned about his love of war he says “war advances civilization and science”.  Then the girls find out that the Romans or Helvetians (?)Are going to attack the next morning, and they find out about Naomi’s arrest, Kureha thinks war can’t be avoided. Kanata says she still wants to go and deliver the sound she’s been given, Kureha says it’s a selfish request, Yumina asks for them to stop the war and Aisha tells Noel that like her ,she’s killed, and if no one else does, she forgives her.

 

         Kureha says if they do this there’s no going back, Filicia says OK, Kanata says OK, Kureha says do what you want, and she says she doesn’t want a girl her age to be tortured either and Kureha breaks down in tears. Noel says it’s time to go, and Yumina asks for god’s blessing to be upon the Flame Maidens.

        Well, the girls power up tank-kun, and they have also brought along the wounded Aisha. After Filicia orders Kanata to signal attack with the trumpet, they fire the main cannon blasting a hole in the fortress. When Hopkins sees the fully operational spider tank exiting the fortress he orders his forces to stop it but the civilians and Naomi say they’ll stand in his way, they don’t want more war. After Hopkins backs down and heads off to use another route, we hear the retelling of the Roman version of the legend. Long ago, god sent an angel to punish the world, but the angel was wounded so it landed to rest near a western town, and the maidens that lived in the fortress saved the angel. Even though he was sent to destroy them they took pity on him, and using the help of a giant spider they gave refuge to him in a nearby valley. They each took turns embracing the angel’s neck to staunch the blood flow, and in return he gave the maidens a golden horn but the townspeople found out and set fire to the valley. They burned the maidens, and took the angel’s head. Then a army of angels appeared and covered the sky, but a glorious sound filled the air and the angels left, the last maiden using her last breath had sounded the golden horn. While this retelling is going on; the girls use tank-kun to fight their way through (disabling but not killing) Hopkins’ forces.

        Just as dawn is beginning to break, the order is given to charge, as both sides charge towards battle tank-kun basically flies through the air to land near the Helvetia forces.  Tank-kun climbs atop a ruined building and Kanata gives the ceasefire signal but the Helvetia forces refuse to stop. Kanata exits the tank and plays amazing grace as the sun rises across the plain. The forces come to a stop and they listen to Kanata’s song. Some of the soldiers from the first episode remember Kanata from the train. A Helvetia officer starts yelling at the men for stopping the attack, but he’s soon interrupted.

        Rio appears with the royal guard, and declares as second in line for the Helvetia throne and the finance of the Roman emperor that the peace talks are concluded and both sides are to disband. Rio holds out a peace treaty signed by both royal leaders, and she goes on to say that anyone disobeying this order will be punished by the royal guard in the name of both royal rulers.  After this news sinks in both sides begin to celebrate the end of the war with Kanata getting a shout out from those guys from the first episode.

          Well, spring has sprung and the cherry blossoms are falling at the Time Keeping Fortress, and the girls are talking about a letter Noel received from Aisha but they haven’t heard from Rio. Just then, Kanata hears Claus’s bike approaching, a new girl is arriving, no, Rio has returned. Rio is now a lieutenant who asks Captain Filicia for permission to enter, make it so. Well, Rio says the emperor isn’t really a bad guy, he’s a pretty decent guy, and he told Rio that he’d grant any wish for stopping the war, so she chose this. Rio is given a warm welcome home.  Well, that’s all for this series until the bonus episodes.

 

       Well, all good things must pass, and on the whole, Sora no Woto was a wonderful but slightly flawed series. Before this series began, I like many others had sort of dubbed this series K-On! goes to war, and one could hardly be blamed for jumping to this conclusion when we saw how close the character designs where to one another. But, as I watched this series progress I became engrossed in the many mysteries the post apocalypse world of Sora no Woto presented me with; I fell in love with the legends, the history, and the characters of Sora no Woto.

      Before I continue with the series review I’ll cover the events of the final episode, for me this episode consisted of three parts.

      Part one, Hopkins and the girls; in this portion of the episode we discovered a lot of information about Hopkins and Noel, and Hopkins’s true intentions. We and girls learn from Hopkins that the Helvetia army has known about the Roman army’s movement and intentions for a long time, they’ve been following it for about a month. We can also assume that their actions are meant to apply pressure on the Helvetians during the peace negotiations; it also seems that the Archduke has made the same conclusion due to the fact that he ordered Hopkins to take no actions. We also learn that Hopkins is off his rocker, while he might have been a good and efficient soldier in the past he’s decided to take matters into his own hands and restart the war with the Romans. I support Filicia’s decision about taking Hopkins into custody when he pretty much admitted that he doesn’t care what the Archduke’s orders where, and he’s going to do what he wants to do. Also, I thought that Aisha’s act of granting forgiveness to Noel was very well done and pretty realistic, only a person who’s killed in war can truly understand the burden that taking another’s life places upon one’s self. When Kanata heard the ceasefire signal in the distance it left Filicia with a pretty important decision, if Kanata is right and they do nothing the war will restart, if Kanata is right and they take action they could still be killed and the war could restart anyways, if Kanata was wrong and they take action they could be viewed as traitors and executed, if Kanata is wrong and they don’t action the war could restart and they be killed anyways, or they could take action and they could stop the war, well, that’s 4-1 for a bad outcome, but they decide to act. 

       Part two, the charge of the light brigade the Flame Maidens. Well, it was pretty sweet seeing the fully operational tank-kun in action and it was even more advanced that than I thought it would be. While tank-kun didn’t cut through Hopkins’s forces like a hot knife through butter, the girls’ intentions were to disable and not kill, plus speed was of the essence, if the girls were out to kill they could have stood off at a distance and put the tank into stealth & sniper mode and just picked off the enemy one by one with center mass kill shots. I didn’t think that the ending was as good as it could have been but I wasn’t totally bummed out about how it finished. So, the girls and tank-kun appear on the scene, and once Kanata figures out that playing ceasefire won’t work she goes and plays amazing grace which has a universal appeal for both sides buying enough time for Rio to appear on the scene with the signed peace treaty, while this ending does stretch the bounds of reality it wasn’t totally impossible. I had wondered as the series progressed how the writers where going to incorporate the legend of the flame maidens without sending the series into BS mode , so I was quite delighted when Aisha played the role of the demon/angel, with the girls protecting her instead of killing her. It was also very interesting seeing how different the Helvetia and Roman versions of the legend where. While I had hoped that the girls and Rio would have kicked some ass and made the Romans back off, I guess Rio trading herself as a royal wife was probably the better outcome for the two war weary countries. I also think that while both countries and their leaders where tired of war, Rio had to pay her pound of flesh if the Roman side had someone like Hopkins demanding something more than just a signed peace treaty with a return to status quo prewar relations, now the emperor can tell his hardliners, see we got our war reparations and our honor is restored, now STFU.

       Part three, the ending, and the return of Rio. OK, this was probably the hardest part of the episode for me to accept, I could actually see the emperor giving his future wife a very long leash especially if my above conjecture is correct, but I can’t picture the Roman emperors future wife and the second in line for the Helvetia throne being allowed to return to an isolated and understaffed fortress, it would present to many opportunities for peace haters like Hopkins a shot at killed Rio and undermining the peace.

        Now, for the series review; like I said earlier, I found Sora no Woto to be a wonderful but slightly flawed creation. I loved the mysteries of the past wars, the lost technology, the mixed cultures, the conflicting legends, and the political intrigue, but what I didn’t like was the many unresolved plot threads and unanswered questions. I’ll forgive Sora no Woto these faults because it was probably impossible to cover all the issues and ideas raised in the series due to the nature of it being only twelve episodes long. I think Sora no Woto would have been better served as a 24 episode series, but that’s water under the bridge. I think Sora no Woto did a great job at portraying the laid back nature of secluded military garrison life, and showing the interesting things that make up a soldiers life when not at war. I think that Sora no Woto did a believable job in portraying how a military unit might function where the age of adulthood has dropped to as low as 13-14 (Kureha is 14 at the start of the series, so she probably was 13 in basic training), so I wasn’t very bothered by how Filicia and Rio sometimes acted more like mothers and fathers to the girls rather than hard assed leaders. Overall, Sora no Woto managed to provided me with an entertaining and enjoyable viewing experience that included just the right balance of Moe, Mono no Aware, drama, and lighthearted comedy.

      This episode begins while winter is in full swing with Kureha and Kanata conducting a patrol that was ordered by HQ. While deep in the back country, near the observation stations, Kanata spots a fallen person in the snow. When Kanata and Kureha are examining the fallen woman they discover that she’s a Roman soldier.

 

      Back at the fortress, we watch Noel standing near the completed tank having a flashback from several years ago, Noel is getting praised for completing a project and we hear a military officer tell her that we can win with this.

 

        Then Filicia brings Noel in a room where Kureha and Kanata are working on the woman and Filicia tells Noel that they found a Roman soldier, Noel seems to go into shock. As the woman’s condition is touch and go, Noel says she’ll care for the woman. Filicia, Kanata, and Kureha search the woman’s pack finding a bugle, pistol, map, and other things and Kanata says she thought the enemy would look more evil.  Well, Kureha gets angry at Kanata but Filicia defuses the situation by reminding Kanata that she has to play recall. Kureha asks Filicia about the peace conferences not going well, no.

 

      Kureha asks Filicia about reporting this, Filicia says if so, she’ll be taken and interrogated, Kureha says she’s in enemy territory, so torture can be expected, Filicia says interrogation and asks Kureha for more time to make her decision, Kureha tells Filicia to remember that they’re soldiers. Filicia asks her if anyone saw them bring her back but Kureha doesn’t know since they were busy with her.  Alone, Filicia asks what Rio would do. Then the scene switches to the observation posts where we see a Roman army unit making their way through the area, and we see part of the observation post light up.

 

      The next morning, the Roman soldier wakes and tries to overpower Noel but a quick breast grab puts her back in her place with a scream. Kanata and Kureha come rushing in and Kureha tries to question her but all they get out of her is her unit, name, and serial number, (she’s A’ishah Aldora, from Company B, 13th Tank Battalion, 1st Tank Division of the Roman Empire) none of them speak Roman. Filicia enters the room and makes some pretty racy comments seeing if she can get a reaction out of her to determine if she understands any of their language.  Filicia says they need to find someone who speaks Roman, they’ll hold her until they interrogate her and file a report, and Kureha says whatever happens it’s not her fault. When the Roman girl hears the name of the Time Keeping Fortress she begins to breakdown saying she made it.

 

      Well, as Kanata and Noel feed the captive and attempt to communicate with her, Noel says she wishes she had studied Roman, and Kanata gets an idea. Later, Kanata plays the trumpet for the captive, and Kanata offers it to the prisoner and she plays a few bars of amazing grace. Kanata tries to ask her about the song but they still can’t understand each other.  Well, at that very moment Naomi shows up with Yumina, it seems that someone saw Kureha and Kanata returning with the Roman soldier after all. Well, Naomi tells Filicia and the girls that the army is on the move to this town and if it has anything to do with this Roman soldier then there’s trouble.

 

      Yumina knows how to speak Roman and starts talking to A’ishah and she calls Yumina a heretic, Kureha starts to get pissed. Yumina asks A’ishah why she’s here, she won’t say anything about her mission but she does say she wanted to see the bones of the angel that’s supposed to be in this town. A’ishah says her grandmother was at this fortress and was captured on the Eastern front where she met her grandfather, and she told her about the bones when she was a child. I’ve always wanted to see the angel my grandmother had seen. The angel of apocalypse that brought retribution upon the world and it seems that A’ishah and Yumina have a slight religious disagreement.

 

       A bugle call sounds in the distance and Kanata decodes it saying that the 1st Royal Guard Battalion, 9th Mobile Division has arrived. The unit is commanded by Colonel Hopkins, the demon of Binnenland who revived ancient weapons that wiped out three towns in one night, at the mention of his name Noel slides to the floor in a fetal position. Filicia hugs Noel and says that the Colonel doesn’t know she’s here. Naomi says whatever you’re going to do you better hurry, Kureha says they have to hand her over but Kanata argues that Rio wouldn’t what her to suffer, so Filicia issues an order as the commander and takes sole responsibility.

 

       A few moments later, Colonel Hopkins tells Filicia and the group that a Roman scout was captured in Treize but due to an accident during interrogation, well……. He says there were reports of Roman forces in the area and maybe even a prisoner, Filicia says she doesn’t know anything, and the Colonel says effective right now command of this fortress is transferred to the 9th Mobile Division.

 

       Meanwhile, Noel, A’ishah, Naomi, and Yumina are hiding while the Colonel’s forces search the fortress.  Yumina and A’ishah share a private conversation on the legend of the fire maidens and it gets a start out of Yumina. A’ishah asks Yumina what Noel’s name is so Yumina tells her it’s Noel, and A’ishah calls her Noel Kannagi which Yumina says is correct. A’ishah calls her Noel Kannagi of the invisible death; Noel screams and runs away from the rest of the group.

 

      When the Coronel hears the scream he begins to grin, A’ishah follows Noel into the hallway as soldiers are drawn towards the scream. The phone begins to ring as soldiers stumble into Noel and A’ishah in the hallway. Kanata answers the phone and is informed that a large Roman force has been spotted massing between no man’s land and the town of Seize.  The episode ends with Noel and A’ishah being surrounded by soldiers with their rifles at the ready, a shot rings out and……Well, that’s all for this episode.  

 

       Well, here we go, war has shown up on the doorstep of the Time-keeping Fortress, and what the hell was Felicia thinking. While we’ve been shown that the peace talks between Helvetia and the Roman Empire weren’t going well the beginning of the episode gave us a hint that Helvetia is getting really worried because it struck me as highly unusual to see Kureha and Kanata out on winter patrol which is later confirmed by Hopkins mentioning the capture of a Roman scout a few days earlier.

       I think that Kanata and Kureha did a great job handling the injured Roman soldier; In the Army we had a procedure for handling EPW’s (Enemy Prisoners of War) called the 5-S’s which stood for #1-Search the prisoners for weapons and documents, #2-Segerate the captives by rank and status, #3-Silence the prisoners so they can’t plan with others for escape, #4-Speed the captives to your HQ or other collection point, and #5-Safeguard the prisoners while in custody, a dead or abused prisoner has no intel value.

       But, I have to ask Felicia what the hell was she thinking; Filicia was supposed to be the combat experienced leader that would keep the girls as safe as possible even in a war situation, and make no mistake, once the girls found a Roman soldier inside Helvetia territory Filicia should have known they were back at war. Once Kanata, Kureha, and Filicia searched A’ishah’s pack even a fool could tell by the light nature of her load that she was an advance scout and the main force would be close by. It might have been a different story if they found the scout lugging an 80 pound pact with a few weeks of food in it but that wasn’t the case. Filicia didn’t call HQ and report the incident. Hell, the least she could have done was put the fortress and town on higher alert, she could have sent the girls out on a rotating basis checking for the enemy. What was she going to do, just sit around like normal and wait till the enemy captured the town and fortress and end up having the girls captured, raped, killed, or maybe all three. I have to agree with Kureha saying that they should have reported it, when you’re a soldier you know what can happen if you’re captured by the enemy, sorry, but that’s the breaks.

        While I found Noel’s further back story interesting it does strain the bounds of reality; in this world only a loli girl can unlock the secrets of the past to recreate a weapon of mass destruction. Also, Filicia is completely wrong, I’d be willing to bet that Hopkins knows damn well where his angel of death is hanging out; Noel’s too valuable a military asset to just forget where she’s located. 

        Now, about the ending, I can accept a lot of different endings. I could accept all the girls dying in battle together, or Kanata being the sole survivor just like Filicia was. I could accept Hopkins coming out with some crazy nuclear weapon and the harmonics for Kanata’s music being the key to deactivating it. I could accept the war being fought and Kanata having to play amazing grace to remember the fallen. I can accept the girls’ using the tank to kick the shit out of the Roman’s whose equipment looks a lot older. I could even accept Rio showing up at the last minute with a peace treaty and all three of the girls playing amazing grace to signal the end of the war since the Roman emperor got his third piece of ass. But, one thing I won’t accept is Kanata using her trumpet to cause everyone to sit around the campfire together drinking, smoking, and hugging each other. Well, only time will tell, make love not war, Claus keep your dirty hands off Kureha she’s all mine.