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.