January 2010


       Well, this episode ended up being a recap episode that covered most of Sawako’s important moments and experiences. The only new stuff in this episode is the recap was narrated by Pin’s “little drunken men”. This leads me to ask, are the “little drunk men” real in the sense that they come from Pin’s mind making him much more aware of all the high school emo drama around him, or are they just a narrative tool?

      This episode begins with us watching Kanata playing her bugle/trumpet with not much success on a rainy morning, and we also see that Noel has been working on the tank’s optical system also having little success.

      Later, we see that Noel and Kanata are being sent into town on a supply mission; they’re given a list of supplies they need to purchase for the fortress. As Noel is driving through town Kanata tries to talk with her but Noel won’t answer her until she arrives at their destination (it’s not safe to talk and drive).

       The first stop on their supply run is the shop where Kanata met Rio in the first episode. While Kanata is looking around the shop, the shopkeeper (Naomi) asks Noel if Kanata “knows”? No. As Noel and Naomi are conducting business Kanata asks Naomi if she can check out the glass sculpture. Yes. Kanata asks if this is a fish. Noel tells her that the sculpture is called a dolphin and it’s a mammal, not a fish, and it lived in the ocean when there used to be life in the sea (not a good sign). Naomi tells Kanata that the sculpture is made at a factory just outside of town. Kanata expresses an interest in seeing how it’s made, and Noel says they’ll be stopping there later.  Outside the shop, Noel tells Kanata that Naomi is trying to locate parts for the tank, and Noel is having a part made for the tank at the glass factory.

       While the girls continue their shopping, Noel confides to Kanata that she likes machines because they won’t betray you (she’s never had me as BF, get with it).

       As they continue their shopping, Noel and Kanata run into the nun (Yumina) that helped Kanata and the little girl that Kanata had so much fun playing with during the festival in the first episode.  But, the mood is serious because a young boy (Seyia) runs into Noel causing them both to fall, and when Noel offers the boy her hand he slaps it away calling her a murderer, I hate soldiers, and runs off. Later, Yumina tries to apologize saying Seyia is a war orphan but Noel refuses saying, he’s right, we’re soldiers. Later, while on their way to the glass factory, Kanata tries to make Noel feel better by agreeing with her saying, we’re soldiers.

      At the factory, the biggest one Kanata’s ever seen, Noel converses with the Meister (Carl) about how the latest lens he created for the tank was a failure. While this is going on, Kanata talks with a young female worker (Maria) who tells Kanata that Carl is one of only five masters in the whole country. Noel then explains to Kanata the problem with the optics; the tank requires two lenses and they only have one, so Noel is having Carl make a second one but none of them seem to be working right. While they know the composition of the lens they just can’t get it quite right.

       Later, while Kanata and Noel are sitting on a beach, Noel tells Kanata that she likes machines, but sometimes machines hurt people and she’s sure the tank killed many people in the past, and she asks Kanata if she’s frighten of a machine that has killed people? Yes. But, Kanata tells Noel that she’s more frightened by the people that operated that machine. Kanata tells Noel that when she plays the trumpet it sounds bad, but when Rio plays the trumpet it sounds beautiful, and the tank plays beautiful music so she’s sure it’s a good tank. Then Noel falls asleep on Kanata’s shoulder. Carl tells Kanata that Noel probably worked all night, so let her sleep.

      Then Maria and Kanata have a conversation about craftsmanship with Kanata telling Maria that no matter how hard she tries she can’t get her trumpet to sound like Rio’s playing, maybe she doesn’t have the talent. Carl jumps in saying that lack of talent is an excuse to give up, and goes on to ask her if she trying to force herself to make the sound instead of feeling how the sound should be made. Carl shows Kanata some glassblowing, saying he’s not forcing the shape, but the glass wanted to be this shape.

       Kanata jumps up and rushes outside just as dawn is beginning to break, she tells herself to feel it as the sound wants to play itself. When Kanata finally begins playing, the sound is right and true surprising those in the factory.

      When Noel awakens to Kanata’s music she and Carl realize that they can use Kanata’s fine sense of sound to choose a replacement lens for the tank that most closely matches the original; Kanata chooses the one that most closely matches the original. Opon returning to the fortress, Noel uses the lens that Kanata picked and she installs it inside the tank with the original. This time the tank’s optical system boots up properly accepting the replacement lens. After the success, Kureta makes to comment that this is the first time that she’s ever seen Noel smile. Well, that’s all for this episode.

      OK, this was a very interesting episode that answered a few question while raising many more. This episode gave us a little look into Noel’s personality, while I wouldn’t say this episode qualified as a Noel back story episode I can say she’s pretty interesting. First of all, we understand that Noel is more comfortable around machines, but her comment that “machines won’t betray you” raises a lot of questions like who screwed her over/betrayed her, her parents, a lover, or the government. I feel a bit sad for Noel if she feels that she needs to retreat to the cold solace of a machine instead seeking human interaction. I could see how emotionally dependant she is on her relationship with the tank is when she basically sought out Kanata judgment/approval of the tank. I think that Kanata’s line of thought on the tank is quite right; basically it’s a version of the old line, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, but I say guns make it a hell of a lot easier to do the killing. This brings me to a quote about the intentions of tools.

      “The intentions of a tool are what it does. A hammer intends to strike; a vise intends to hold fast; a lever intends to lift. They are what it is made for. But sometimes a tool may have other uses that you don’t know. Sometimes in doing what you intend, you also do what the knife intends, without knowing. “

Phillip Pullman, from The Amber Spyglass

      After seeing the different modes of operation in the tank’s command menu I wonder if they really want to make it operational, because it could be something as deadly as the God Warriors from Nausicaa. I would start worrying if Kanata starts calling the tank Ohma.

      We also got further information about the decay of the world when Noel informed Kanata about the dolphins, making clear to Kanata that life no longer exists in the ocean. Plus, we also discovered that while Noel and Carl understand what the tank’s lenses are made of they have no idea how it was made. This still leaves me wondering if the war caused the decay and destruction of the environment, or if the war was a result of humans fighting over the dwindling resources of a decaying world.

      Who would have thought that Kanata only needed a little Zen training to become better at playing the trumpet; don’t fight the flow, be the flow. Use the force, Kanata.

      Now, to the most interesting aspect of the entire episode, what is everybody (-Kureha, I assume) keeping secret from Kanata, it’s quite obvious that some people think that Kanata will be a trigger, or her arrival will herald something. If we assume that town places a lot of truth in the legend of the fire maidens could they believe that now that there are five maidens in the fortress something will happen?

        Well, here we are, the girls from K-On! are back with this OVA. The story begins with the girls getting invited to perform their first outside of school concert on New Year’s Eve at Live House. Mio wants to put it to a vote, and she and Azusa vote no, but they get overruled 3-2 by the other girls.

       The girls then pay a visit to Live House where they have to play an audition tape and fill out the application. The group is informed about the meeting and rehearsal schedule, and shown around the club.

        After the tour of the club the girls return to Yui’s house where they discuss what songs they’ll play and what outfits they’ll wear.  Should they where the cute uniforms from their first concert or the uniforms from their second show, or maybe have Sawako make them some new ones, but, in the end, Mio’s suggestion of just wearing their school uniforms wins out (good choice).

       Later, Yui gives her sister Ui two tickets to the concert, and she also gives Nodoka a ticket to the show. When the girls show up on concert day they get to meet Ritsu’s friend from the band Love Crisis, she’s the one who got them the invite to the show. The K-On! girls see that Love Crisis is on a much more professional level, they have their own fliers, Logo, CD, and they’re even doing a future solo show. After attending the preshow meeting the girls find out that they’re the second band up, and they receive their backstage passes. Then the girls are given their setup sheet where they have to let the club know what type of lighting, backing tracks, and so forth, basically they don’t know what they’re doing, so Mio says keep it simple.  But, the girls are overmatched so Yui borrows a filled out sheet from a more experienced group to use as a reference.

        Once the paperwork is finished, the girls watch and listen to some of the other groups’ rehearsals, and admire their specialized equipment like special affects petals, and so forth.  Back in the dressing room, we see that Mugi has brought along a supply of tea and snacks, and soon the other groups join them. Basically, all the girls talk about their love of music and their drive to keep playing.

       Time passes quickly and Afternoon Tea Time is called to the stage for rehearsals. Once the girls take the stage they’re pretty confused and nervous, and their first attempt doesn’t go very well, actually it’s a disaster. The other girl groups give them some words of encouragement and they start over from the beginning.

       Later, Yui meets Ui and her friends outside before the show, and they talk a bit. As the concert is starting Sawako shows up wearing her old clothes and she’s recognized by the club’s manager. 

        Afternoon Tea Time puts on a good show, and outside they’re greeted by Sawako, Nodoka, Ui, and her friend. Well, they tell them good job, and the girls thank Love Crisis for inviting them and they agree to play together in the future.

 

         After the show, the girls all return to Yui’s house where Ui cooks for them. As the New Year approaches, everyone but Ritsu and Mio has crashed, they share a smile and a laugh about the other girls, and they soon join them in sleep.

        At the crack of dawn Yui wakes everyone except Sawako, and Ui for the first sunrise of the New Year. While the other girls are initially grumpy then soon head outside and watch the sun come up together enjoying each other’s company at the start of a glorious new year. That’s all for this OAV.

         Well, it’s been awhile since I watched an episode of K-On!, and this OAV reminded me why I loved the first season, and why I’m looking forward to the second season. To, me shows like K-On!, Lucky Star, Sky Girls, Rocket Girls, Aria, and so forth are not about the action, or the plot, but me enjoying the girls interacting with the other characters, situations, and the environment  surrounding them. You can call these formulations Slice of Life, or call it Healing, or call it Moe; I really don’t give a shit, all I know is that I get enjoyment and relaxation from watching these types of series.

          Overall, this episode of K-On! was a typical episode, nothing spectacular. The girls take a major step forward in their musical careers by getting invited to play outside the school for the first time and they take it about as seriously as everything else, not very. But, that’s not the point of the series; the whole point to this series is that we get to watch as the girls personal horizons are widened because of their friendship and the situations they’re placed in. As Mio says throughout the episode, it’s kind of nice to see how far they’ve come, and see all the new things they’re experienced because of their band. I don’t think that the girls are going to be professional musicians, but they’re filling a wonderful treasure chest of memories that someday when they’re older and life starts to run them down they can draw upon to make them smile; after all, you should treasure your youth.

        This episode picks up with Ichigo walking through the doorway and hoping she’s in the all correct room, and she soon finds the princes waiting for her. As Ichigo begins to celebrate with the princes a group of older boys push their way through pushing Ichigo to the ground then they tell the princes that they’re going down.

        Soon, the Chairman takes the stage and congratulates the sixteen passing teams (ten- 3rd years, five- 2nd years, and one- 1st year). The Chairman then explains the first task, each group will have each member bake a different pound cake with the theme of family, and each group will be judged as a whole on good their cakes are, and how well they fit with the theme of family. The chairman then draws the pairings, and Team Ichigo (the boys’ name choice) gets paired against the team of rude third year boys. When Ichigo sets forward and goes to shake the hand of the other captain he makes rude comments and tries to crush our sweetheart’s hand, pissing off the princes, game on.

        The boys have done some research on the other team by locating samples of their cakes, and all four of them taste pretty good. They decide that Ichigo will make a (shock) strawberry cake, Andou will make a green tea cake, Kashino will make a chocolate cake (no kidding), and Hanabusa will make a rose flavored cake.

The bad guys’ cake.

Team Ichigo’s cake.

        Once they get down to practicing, Ichigo, Andou, and Kashino’s cakes turn out just fine but Hanabusa can’t get his idea of a rose cake to work. The others try to ask Hanabusa why he’s so obsessed with roses, but he doesn’t say anything. The group has another encounter with the rude team of third years where they insult to other boys, and Ichigo shows a little flash of that infamous redheaded temper (it does exist, my sister is a redhead) by almost cracking the leader upside the head with a pan.

 

        After this incident, Hanabusa needs some alone time so he heads off to think. Later, Café comes back to the group and says that Hanabusa even sent him away. Well, Ichigo tells the boys she’s going to talk with him because they’re friends. Andou and Kashino talk, and say they never bothered to ask Hanabusa even though they’ve know him longer than Ichigo and they’re supposed to be friends, so they start to follow Ichigo.

        Ichigo and Hanabusa have a nice talk about how his father was a rose grower, and his mother was a flowerer arranger who also loved to bake sweets. Hanabusa grew up surrounded by love, roses, and sweets and he vowed to someday become a great maker of sweets and someday create a rose cake. Then a few years ago his father when returning from a job in Paris he booked an earlier flight, and on his way to the airport he got into an accident and was killed. So, all Hanabusa has left of his father is the bottle of natural damask rose water, and he also tells Ichigo that’s when he became nicer to girls and women. So, you’re not just a plain old narcissist. Well, Andou and Kashino were also listening and they come out of hiding, and all three of them vow to help Hanabusa create his rose cake.

        When they head back to the practice kitchen all their attempts at a rose cake end in utter failure, and Hanabusa again walks out to be alone. Then Ichigo and the princes spot Hanabusa standing by the lake. Hanabusa thinks to himself that he’s never had a good memory of the rose water, and that maybe even his father might be alive if not for the water. Hanabusa reaches back and throws the bottle towards the lake, Ichigo screams Noooooooooooooo, and makes a flying leap to reach the bottle before it goes into the lake, and……? Cliffhanger time, that’s all for this episode.

After the episode finishes we get a little live action skit featuring two little girls showing us how to make some simple homemade Valentine’s Day treats.

       Well, after watching several episodes featuring the back stories of Ichigo, Andou, and Kashino it was only a matter of time before we had to get Hanabusa’s back story. By far, Hanabusa’s back story is the most emotional and the saddest, while his youth was wrapped in love, sweets, and roses those memories of roses seems to bring him pain (maybe he needs to remember love more than the sadness), and Ichigo just the girl to help him remember the love.

        Hanabusa needs to understand that a child’s dream in many ways becomes the dream of their parents; a parent wants their child to be happy and smile. So, I’m sure that Hanabusa’s father would want him to achieve his dream and smile. I don’t know how Ichigo is going to help Hanabusa remember the love, maybe his mother will help, or maybe his friends will help, but remember he will because that’s Ichigo’s real magical power.

        After Kurumi stops crying she gets angry because Sawako’s been crying along with her, and she demands to know the answer to all sort of questions. Did you tell him you liked him, did he tell you he liked you, are you going out, and so forth.

         Kurumi and Sawako, much to Kurumi’s annoyance, end up talking about Kazehaya’s good points. Even after Kurumi’s behavior, Sawako is happy because Kurumi has acknowledged her as a person, and she’s finally been able to talk with someone about her feelings for Kazehaya.

 

          Well, Kurumi says it’s all over, Kazehaya thinks she likes Pin, and she knows Kazehaya doesn’t have feelings for her. So, why should she care if she exposed or misunderstood? Sawako tries to tell Kurumi to not leave it like that, and she needs to tell Kazehaya. Kurumi basically tells Sawako she’s a fool if she believes that.

        Later, we see Kurumi having a flashback to middle school where we see how she became like she is. Lots of girls wanted to be around Kurumi because she was so cute and the girls felt that they’d be able to meet more guys that way. But, Kurumi’s incisive nature also hurt people around her because she wouldn’t say whether or not she liked a guy, so she ended up getting in the way of the other girls’ love interests. One day, after Kurumi’s overhears some of the girls talking bad behind her back then being nice to her face, she ends up crying in the classroom after school when Kazehaya walks in on her. After Kurumi initially says nothing is wrong Kazehaya leaves the classroom only to return to find Kurumi really bawling her eyes out and from that point on she felt that Kazehaya is the only person who really sees her for who she really is, and she vowed not to tell him what she feels until she knows he likes her.

           Well, Kurumi and Kazehaya run into each other after school and Kazehaya drops the I didn’t know you liked Pin on her, hell no. Kurumi quickly comes to understand that Sawako must have intervened because Kazehaya doesn’t know about her role in the rumors. She asks him about Sawako, what’s she like. She’s easily misunderstood but always truthful no matter the risk, and that’s why Ayane & Yano trust her, and I always believe her when she tells me something.

       Well, as Kazehaya is about to ride off, Kurumi takes Sawako’s advice and tells Kazehaya that she doesn’t like Pin and he’s the one she likes, the one she’s always liked, and she only thinks of him. Kazehaya stops his bike and rushes up to Kurumi and says he’s sorry but he already likes someone else and he can only think about her. She asks him if he’s glad she confessed to him; yes, thank you. Kurumi asks Kazehaya to call her by her first name just once. Kazehaya calls her Ume, and as she’s walking off she says that she miscalculated him, he has bad taste in picking girls, and he’ll never get a cuter one then her. Kazehaya asks were you always like this, and Kurumi just walks off smiling.

       Later, Sawako talks with Ayane and Yano about her feelings for Kazehaya, and about how Kurumi was the catalyst for Sawako coming to terms with her feelings for Kazehaya. The girls think that it’s going to get really interesting from now on.

       When Kurumi shows back up at school Pin sees her and tells her she’ll meet a guy her own age to fall in love with, and that a high school guy would be thinking about her all day long if she confessed to him. Later Kurumi talks to Sawako, Ayane, and Yano and tells Sawako that she’ll never give her blessing to her relationship with Kazehaya. Sawako asks if they’re friends, no way, we’re rivals. As Kurumi is walking off, Yano says that if Kurumi was like that from the beginning she would have liked her better.

        When the sports festival resumes, Sawako’s class loses all their remaining events, but they still end up finishing in a very respectable 6th place. Afterwards, Sawako gets invited to her very first after party. While everyone is having a great time at a karaoke club Sawako continues to talk about Kazehaya with Ayane and Chizu where she tells them that she loves him. When Sawako is taking a break, Kazehaya comes looking for Sawako so Ayane points him in the right direction.

Remember it’s the After Party, Sawako

Stay thirsty Sawako

        When Kazehaya finds Sawako it looks like she’s sleeping on the stairs, at first he calls her by her last name, then halleluiah, he calls to her using her first name. Sawako says yes and Kazehaya thinks she may be sleep talking, but Sawako leans over and puts her head on his shoulder, and thinks to herself that by the time he called me by my first name I was already in love. That’s all folks.

 

       This was a pretty sweet episode for several reasons. First of all, I found myself not hating Kurumi very much, and somewhat understanding how she turned out the way she did. It must have been quite a shock for Kurumi to find out that most of her friends in middle school were just using her for her looks to draw guys to them. But, Kurumi’s nature also contributed to the problem, she seemed like she was the type of girl who in an attempt to please everyone around her never wanted to make a decision, she’d never say yes or no about a guy so I can see why some on the other girls would be angry with her. You could also see that while Kurumi was very popular in school she never had any close friends; I noticed that while all the girls were friendly to her in school she never seemed to get invited to do anything with the other girls after school. I do agree with Yano that the more open and aggressive Kurumi is much more likeable. So I feel that Kurumi might still be as cute as a button, at least she a doll with some substance.

        Pin was very funny in this episode, in his attempt to be funny with Kurumi I think that he actually cheered her up in his own silly way; I’m sure that if you confessed to any high school boy they would be thinking about you all day, I guess that’s as good as it gets from Pin.

       I found it very nice that Kazehaya was finally able to call Sawako by her first name; it’s really funny how he can admit to Kurumi that he’s really got the hots for someone, but all he can manage is to say is “Sawako”. I can understand that he’s shy because Sawako is probably his first serious love/crush, but I find it a stretch that he’s such a nice guy that all he can manage is “Sawako”. When the love bug first hit me all I could think about was how I wanted to talk with her, look at her, touch her, be near her, and kiss her, and I did when the first opportunity arose, hormones always wins over shyness.

       For all of Sawako’s social immaturity and shyness I really found myself cheering with joy when she ended up being the one to make the first move, while Kazehaya finally managed to say “Sawako” it was Sawako who initiated the first skin to skin contact. Now, the ball is in Kazehaya’s court, come on and man up, and kiss her.

      This episode begins with Kanata getting the honor of sounding the morning wake up call, and she’s as bad as before. Then the platoon enjoys a breakfast cooked by Kanata, and her cooking is much better than her bugle playing. Later, Felicia informs Rio that she’ll be going into town in the afternoon with Kureha to pick up a shipment of supplies sent by HQ.

       The squad spends the morning doing typical army things; cleaning the area, cleaning & practicing with their weapons, and conducting classroom training. Kanata also cooks lunch for the squad, and Rio takes her lunch with Felicia in her office where Felicia talks about how well Kanata is fitting in. Rio tells Felicia that Kanata works hard and tries hard but those qualities aren’t enough by themselves, Felicia just smiles at her.

       After lunch, Felicia heads off with Kureha and Noel to pick up the supplies leaving Rio and Kanata at the fortress. Rio has Kanata practice with just her mouthpiece, and later she asks her what she things about military life and why she joined the army.

        Well, Kanata tells Rio that she found out that the military would teach you music for free, oh protecting the country is also important. Kanata than asks Rio why she joined the military. Rio says her reason were almost the opposite of Kanata’s. While Rio is explaining her situation to Kanata she notices that Kanata is looking really sick. Kanata starts to collapse, and she starts babbling about how Rio’s music sounded like music she heard as a child and that was the sound of the sky.

       As Rio rushes to Kanata’s aid, when Kanata starts calling to her mother saying she’s burning up. Rio carries Kanata inside where she gets Kanata out of her uniform and into bed. Kanata thinks Rio is her mother and reaches for her saying she wants to eat snow (ice?).  Well, Rio rushes around the fortress looking for snow (ice?) and medicine where she discovers the first aid supplies empty and ends up cursing the supple corps. Rio has a flashback from her childhood where her (mother?) was sick and jumps on the unit’s motorcycle and rushes to town for help.

       Rio ends up in front of what looks like a church where she asks a young female (nun?) for help. Once the woman has a look at Kanata she says it’s most likely Malaria, and she gives Kanata some medicine. She (Yumina) tells Rio that Kanata should be fine with the proper rest, and she gives Rio some additional medicine for Kanata before leaving.

       While Kanata is sleeping, she has flashbacks of her encounter with the bugle player from her youth where Kanata is standing there listening to her play amazing grace (?).  Kanata awakens from her feverish sleep to hear Rio humming that very same tune.  When Kanata gets Rio attention she apologizes for being useless, and she asks Rio the name of that song. When Rio doesn’t reply, Kanata begins to hum the tune and Rio says that it’s amazing she knows the song so well after only hearing it one time. Kanata tells Rio that she heard the tune long ago. Rio takes Kanata to the tank and powers it up, and she hits a command key and the tank begins to play the tune.

       Kanata and Rio listen to the tune together, and Rio explains to Kanata that music and a squad function alike, every note and member is needed. She tells Kanata that she needs to tell her if something is wrong, and she’ll help her.  Rio goes on to tell Kanata that it’s all right to not be able to do something right the first, and she should remember how it feels to be helpless because someday it’ll be her job to teach someone.

      Once everyone returns to the fortress they discuss Kanata illness, and Rio’s use of the tank. Felicia asks Rio why she listened to the song when she swore that she’d never listen to that some again? It’s a secret. Well, that’s all for this episode.

Getting the feel of military life right.

        After finishing this episode I have to give the writers and creators credit for getting the feel of what it’s like to be stationed as small military away from the main force correct. Back in the day, when I was a young soldier I spent six months performing duty with the Multinational Force and Observers Group verifying the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace accord in the Sinai Peninsula. When we were stationed  at the remote checkpoint we (about 12 soldiers) lived at a camp that consisted of about three trailers for a period of two weeks at a time and our day went pretty much along the lines of what the girls are doing at the Time Keeping Fortress: we had first call for PT at about 5 AM then ate breakfast together; then we performed weapons/equipment maintaince and barracks cleaning in the morning, then we ate lunch together; then we would conduct some classroom type instruction during the afternoon then we ate dinner together. Of course, we had our observation patrols and watch shifts, but overall it was very low stress and mellow duty unless a higher up decided to stop by.

       Also, I thought that the episode captured the nature of a relationship between the sergeant (Rio) and the young recruit/private (Kanata) nicely. A sergeant, contrary to popular media portrayals (movies), is much more than someone who yells at you when you screw up; they’re combination of a leader, a teacher, a surrogate mother & father, a marriage counselor, a motivational speaker, and on occasion an amateur physiologist. When you receive a private fresh out of basic training they’re going to suck, the recruit was taught only the most basic military skills necessary for survival, and it’s your job as the sergeant to bring them up to speed, it’s like going from kindergarten to high school. I also loved the conversation that Rio and Kanata had about joining the military, my first squad leader asked me that very same question, and I also asked every new soldier that got assigned to my team/squad/platoon that very same question. Like Kanata, I also told the truth, I joined the army because I was bored with college and because the navy’s nuclear program wouldn’t take me because of a color vision defiency. 

Rio, religion, and mythology.

       I found the entire Kanata illness segment to be fascinating insight into Rio’s views on religion and mythology. On one hand, Rio seems to have a dislike/distrust of religion stemming from a childhood incident involving her (mother?) and a priest, while on the other hand, Rio’s mind flashed to the legend of the fire maidens as Kanata was falling ill, and she also played the major role in the town’s annual festival.

Oh, I found this interesting forum post  concerning a Chinese myth that’s strikingly close to the myth in the series.

The tank, the apocalypse, and lost technology.

       When I watched Rio activates the tank a couple of thing struck me. Firstly, no matter how you want to argue the point, the tank clearly originates from a technological base that’s totally beyond anything that’s currently operating in the world of Sora no Woto. When the interface popped up, one of the options on the screen was for stealth mode. Hell; none of our current modern tanks come anywhere close to being as advanced as that tank. I also liked the navi reference, could that be a shout out to Serial Experiments Lain, her computer interface was a navi.

      So, I’m tending to assume that Kanata’s world is a future version of our world that underwent some great apocalypse that caused the loss of technology and culture. I’m almost to the point where I’m going to assume that something much deeper and darker is hiding/obscuring the truth of the world ala, Green Legend Ran, Scrapped Princess, A Wind Named Amnesia, or the Matrix. 

The Sound of the Sky: Amazing Grace and the promise of salvation and power of redemption.

       I really liked how we were shown that the music that touched both Rio’s and Kanata’s souls was Amazing Grace. While I’m not very religious, I’ve always be touched by the powerful emotions that Amazing Grace manages to stir up every time I hear it played, it gives me the feeling that no matter how bad something gets that there is always hope for salvation and redemption just around the corner. 

So, in the context of Sora no Woto, here’s my crack at the meaning of the song.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
We have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John Newton, 1779

       So, I think that the playing of Amazing Grace with the proper internal understanding of the beauty and the joy of life will unlock some failsafe in an illusion or program that’s currently obscuring that truth of the world. Maybe, the world is being punished by someone or something because of past behavior and that punishment will only be lifted when some person is able to sound the correct call for salvation and redemption.

         The holidays are finally over and all the students have returned to the school. The school’s cake grand prix is about 15 days away, so the princes tell Ichigo that she’ll have to undergo intensive training before the contest starts.

        Meanwhile, we see the school’s staff discussing how this year the number of middle school teams that have applied has skyrocketed. They discuss how the number is unmanageable given the allotted time, so one of the teachers suggests that they give a pliminary test to separate the teams that actually have a chance of winning from those who don’t.  As this is going on, the three princes begin Ichigo’s intensive training program, Kashino starts Ichigo off with physical fitness training; pushups, sit ups, and running. Then Andou continues Ichigo’s training on the science of cooking & baking, and Hanabusa teaches Ichigo French.

       Day after day Ichigo continues her basic training with all three of the boys pounding as much of their baking knowledge and skill into Ichigo as possible, and she’s showing signs of improvement.

 

        One night Ichigo decides to go to the kitchen by herself for some addition self-practice and she begins to melt down because she can’t seem to remember what she was just taught. All the sweet spirits show up to lend Ichigo their knowledge and help, but Ichigo is overwhelmed and tells them she’s not a genius like  President Tennouji and the others and they’re just wasting their time on her.

        Vanilla calls Ichigo over to her and tells her to have a look. When Ichigo looks where Vanilla is pointing she sees President Tennouji is also working late into the night. President Tennouji notices Ichigo and calls her over, and she asks Ichigo about her physical fitness training and tells her that developing good stamina is part of the job. Then she notices Ichigo’s worn out and bruised hands and tells her that she’s beginning to develop the hands of a first class patisserie. Tennouji goes on to tell Ichigo that it’s possible that they might meet in the finals, and she looks forward to the match. Later, Tennouji tells Honey that this year’s cake grand prix is going to be very interesting.

         Well, President Tennouji’s words and Ichigo seeing that even that best have to work hard rejuvenates Ichigo and she dedicates herself to training  even harder than before.  When the big day finally arrives, all the students are told about the pre-selection test, and no one is worried until they hear the terms of the test. All students will take an individual skill test, and if one student fails their entire team fails and will be eliminated from the competition. Ichigo’s is really nervous but the princes tell her that they’ve taught her enough skills that that she should easily pass any basic skills test, as long as she doesn’t do anything stupid.

 

        When Ichigo’s number is called she heads off into the unknown, and enters a room (the tasting room) that has a piece of cake sitting on a little plate. Ichigo wolfs the cake down and heads to the next room where she realizes how bad she screwed up. The next room has three sticks of butter on the table and a card asking which butter (A, B, or C) was used in the cake. Then Ichigo sees three doors each with having a letter on them that corresponds to a stick of butter, and she then understands that she made a stupid mistake when she just wolfed down the cake; she hadn’t bothered to use her tremendous natural sense of taste, and now she’s screwed. But, all of Ichigo’s training with the princes finally pays off; she’s able to remember all the baking basics they pounded into her and answers the question correctly. After Ichigo navigates the two next rooms involving milk and sugar she makes it to the final room of the test involving flour.

        Just as Ichigo is working out the final challenge, the school’s PA system tells her she only has one minute left to finish the test. As time is running out, Ichigo mixes water with the flour to test the firmness of the dough. Inside the “all correct” room, the princes nervously wonder if Ichigo will make it out in time. As the final countdown has commenced, Ichigo makes her choice and heads to that door hoping she is correct, and Ichigo has……Well, cliff hanger time, that’s all for this episode.

       Well, with this episode, I think Ichigo finally realizes how hard she’ll have to work to become a truly skilled Patisserie. In the beginning of the series we discovered that Ichigo was born with a tremendous sense of taste, and this ability has served Ichigo well throughout the series, until now. Ichigo being her normal rush forward without really thinking self rendered her natural talent useless. If Ichigo had saved her sample of cake she probably could have just sampled a little bit of the cake at each test station and quickly made it through the test but now she had to rely on knowledge earned through hard work rather than talent earned through grace.

       In Philip Pullman’s, His Dark Materials book trilogy one of the main characters, Lyra Belacqua has obtained the ability to read a device through grace and by the end of the series Lyra loses that ability.  Later, Lyra is told that she can regain that ability through hard work and sweat, but once she regains the ability her readings will be even better than before because she’ll have a full understanding of the task, and she’ll now have certainty and the skill will never leave her.

       So, when Ichigo’s god given talent fails her she was able to rely the knowledge that she earned through hard work and practice; Ichigo was able (I assume) to pass the test  using her brain rather than her intuition.

For further reading about the differences between innocence & experience, and skills obtained through natural grace and skill earned through hard work see, On the Marionette Theatre by Heinrich von Kleist, 1810.

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