February 2010


       This episode begins with Sawako leaving her house for her first sleepover, after saying goodbye to her parents she heads off to school. At school, we see Ryuu run into Chizu in the hall and he’s about to tell her something when she get pulled away by Ayane and Sawako. Before walking off, Ryuu tells Chizu to not stop by his house tomorrow or the next day, and Ayane wonders if Chizu made Ryuu angry.

       Once the girls get to Chizu’s place we see that she’s steaming because she wanted to borrow a game from Ryuu for their sleepover, and Ayane asks Chizu what she did to make him mad. After explaining how she booted him out the other night, Chizu wonders what she’s going to do because one of her banned days is Ryuu’s birthday. Chizu gets really upset about not being able to give Ryuu his birthday gift. Ayane suggests that they drop it off tonight, and if he gets angry, so be it.

       Over at Ryuu’s place, we see that Kazehaya, Ryuu, and four other guys are hanging out and joking around when Chizu, Ayane, and Sawako walks in on them.  Well, it turns out that the boys were holding a party to cheer up Jo after his confession “crash and burn”, and soon a little bit of kidding takes place about how the broken hearted Ayane and Jo should hookup. After joking around for a while everyone just hangs out and chats, and Sawako just sort of enjoys taking it all in.

       When Ryuu gets up to get more stuff Chizu takes the opportunity to follow him and try to give him his gift. Chizu asks Ryuu, “Are you angry with me”?  Ryuu tells her, “no, but I can even be hurt being sent out like that”. Chizu says she’s sorry and she says she’s ready to listen to anything he has to say to her.

        Well, just as Ryuu begins to talk, Tooru walks inside the door. Tooru sees Chizu and calls her Chii, and she rushes over and begins to hug him. Tooru got off work early and came home a day early. During the confusion of Tooru’s arrival, Chizu gets a big shock when a young woman walks in behind Tooru. His girlfriend, Chizu asks? No, it’s my fiancée. Chizu turns as white as a ghost and goes into shock.

        After a few seconds, Tooru formally introduces his fiancée, Haruka Katayama, to his younger brother Ryuu, and to the girl he’s always loved as his younger sister, Chizu. After Tooru and Haruka have said their hellos, Kazehaya suggests that it’s time to break this party up and head home. So, everyone says their goodbyes to Ryuu and heads home. As Chizu turns towards home with a forced smile on her face Sawako wonders what she’s thinking.

       Later, Ryuu thanks Shota for getting everyone to leave because he says if he would have intervened Chizu would have gotten even more flustered. Ryuu tells Shota that he would have been alright with Chizu getting angry with him, but he’s pretty sure she’s depressed now.  As, Kazehaya is ridding off he realizes that Ryuu really loves Chizu.

       Back at Chizu place, after four hours of playing cards, Ayane asks Chizu if she alright. Chizu says she’s OK even though it’s clear that she’s not really OK. Ayane tells Chizu there are other guys in the sea, but that really doesn’t seem to cheer her up. It’s getting really late (4:30) so the girls decide to call it a night and hit the sack.

      Sawako falls asleep thinking about what happened to Chizu and her unrequited love. The next morning Sawako sees Chizu getting dressed, she reaches for the mini-skirt but changes her mind and goes for her regular stuff, and Sawako is at a loss for words. After Chizu sees Ayane and Sawako off, Sawako is upset to the point of tears because she could offer no support to Chizu, but Ayane says she didn’t offer much real support either.

       When Chizu gets to Ryuu’s house she hears laughter coming from inside and sits on the stoop thinking that she’s not really their daughter, not really their little sister, and she’s just a neighborhood kid. Chizu sits there thinking back to all her childhood memories of her trying to get Tooru’s attention; he never got mad and only smiled. Chizu says there were always girls around Tooru but none of them ever lasted, so that’s why she felt that she would have been his wife someday. Chizu gets up and heads towards home thinking that she won’t be the one living the dream of being Tooru’s wife. Well, that’s all.

      Well, it wasn’t much of a surprise watching Chizu’s unrequited love come crashing down in flames around her. In this episode and the last episode Sawako was quite happy watching Chizu bask in the joy of her unrequited love but Sawako is also learning that love is tough. In this episode we saw Chizu at her most girly, normally a tomboy, we watch her worry about her style, her appearance, and we see there’s a really a shy girl buried underneath her tough exterior. Chizu’s upbeat and happy mood about seeing Tooru was perfectly contrasted by Ryuu’s dark and foreboding mood.  

       The way the last couple of relationships have been going at Sawako’s school reminds me of the Lady Gaga song, Bad Romance. Let’s see, Jo gets shot down in flames, Kurumi can’t get what she wants, Ayane gets treated like shit, Chizu as reality crush her, and Ryuu’s love is in love with his older brother.

      I really felt bad for both Chizu and Ryuu; Chizu for having reality smash her dream, and for Ryuu being in a no win situation. Anyway Ryuu could have played this situation he would have ended up with Chizu becoming depressed over Tooru’s upcoming marriage, or Chizu being pissed at him for not telling her that Tooru was in town. So, maybe, it was best that Chizu found out about Tooru in the way she did.

      If I could do anything to shake this series up it would be to start shipping some crazy relationships; Ayane/Jo, Kurumi/Ryuu, and Pin/Chizu since they’re both dense. Oh-well, I guess I have to wait for 52 episodes before anyone even holds hands or shares a real kiss.

       This episode begins over breakfast with Kanata getting the lowdown on a mission the platoon must complete sometime today. Twice a year, HQ, located in the capital city, conducts a maintenance check on the phone line to ensure it’s in working order, and someone from the platoon must be present to answer the phone. Filicia and Rio go on to state the importance of not missing the call, and Kanata volunteers for phone duty.

          After breakfast, Kanata begins her phone watch, and she takes her mission very seriously, even going as far as practicing how she’ll answer the phone. After a little bit, Filicia and Kureha have to run some reports up to local HQ leaving Kanata with Rio and a missing and probably sleeping somewhere Noel.

       As lunchtime approaches, Rio stops by and asks Kanata what she wants for lunch. Well, Kanata tries her best to have Rio watch the phone, suggesting she’ll make lunch, but Rio wants to know why it seems that Kanata and Kureha have been trying to keep Rio out of the kitchen even when it’s her day. Kanata basically lets it slip that Rio’s cooking has a lot to be desired, and Rio says she was cooking just fine before you two came along.

      In the end, Kanata gets saved from Rio’s cooking because Naomi stops by bearing gifts and needing to talk with Rio. Naomi has brought some apple cider from where they get their apple juice, and Kanata asks if it’s related to our Calvados (their wine).  Naomi seems a bit startled that Kanata found out about their little bootlegging operation. Kanata finds out that some of their wine (?) will be given as a gift at the local guild meeting that’s being held tonight.

      While the girls eat a lunch prepared by Kanata, the subject of how Kanata discovered the bootlegging operation comes up, and Kanata tells Naomi that she’ll tell her that story another day.  Also, we find out that Naomi’s visit isn’t all fun and games when she tells Rio that she wants her to attend the guild meeting. Naomi tells Rio that she’s become quite popular after she played the Flame Maiden during the festival, plus the guild wants an explanation from the military about the news from the peace treaty conferences, it seems to be not going well. Rio tells Kanata that she has to do this, and Kanata’s all in now that she’s a Fortress Maiden, heart and soul (a full member of the criminal enterprise).

 

     Before Rio takes off, she gives Kanata a book of sheet music for the trumpet as a gift for all the hard work and practice she’s been putting in with her trumpet. Inside the front cover of the book, we see the name Fliya Arkadia written. 

      Later, it begins to rain and Kanata has to run outside and collect up the platoon’s laundry which has been drying on a clothesline outside. Just as Kanata drops the clothing in a corner some visitors stop by the fortress. The priest, Seiya, and Mishio and show up, and the priest tells Kanata that he stopped by to say goodbye since he’s leaving town. Kanata shares some of the cider with them and she also tells them about her phone mission. During their talk the priest mentions Rio, and he notices the name inscribed in Kanata’s trumpet book. Once the priest finds out that Kanata’s never used a phone he rigs up a tin and string play phone and has Kanata practice talking on the phone with Seiya.

 

      As Kanata and Seiya play phone, Mishio becomes attracted to the owl and spooks it while attempting to touch it. Well, the owl spooks Seiya, and all hell breaks loose; the priest ends up in the pile of girl’s underwear, Seiya ends up on the floor, and the phone goes flying. While Kanata saves the phone she ends up with cider spilled all over her. At that moment, Yumina walks in on the mess and chews out the priest and the kids for making a mess of the place. After Yumina helps Kanata clean up the place she gives Kanata a dress to wear that’s been donated but was too large for any of the kids to wear. As everyone is saying their goodbyes to Kanata, Seiya seems quite taken by Kanata and her cute, frilly dress.

      Now, Kanata left alone with the phone and a ever growing desire to pee. Since the phone cord stretches nowhere long enough to reach the bathroom she decides to hold it in. As times drags on, Kanata’s need to pee grows ever larger, and she begins to worry about pissing her pants. Kanata gives a quick thought to using a pail but decides to hope that someone will return soon.

      At the last moment, Rio returns from the guild meeting and relieves Kanata so she can use the bathroom. As Kanata rushes off to the head, the phone begins to ring and Rio comments on Kanata’s timing.  Rio gets stuck answering the phone, and she hears a voice that she didn’t want to hear.  The voice says I heard we were confirming your phone line so I insisted, and Rio makes a disgusted sound, and the voice asks Rio if you’re going to run, no. So, you still haven’t forgiven me.  Rio asks, what do you want after all this time. Please, I want you to save this country, save Helvetia.

        While Rio is taking the phone call, Kanata rushes to the bathroom and almost runs into Noel who’s exiting the bathroom. In an attempt to avoid a collision with Noel, Kanata ends up on the ground and ready to burst her kidneys. Kanata learns that Noel had spent the entire day sleeping in the bathroom, oh, the irony. Just then, Filicia and Kureha walk in on the scene, and after assessing the situation they help up a frozen in place Kanata leading to a breaking of the dam (?). Well, that’s all for this fluid episode. 

      Well, this episode was very interesting and intriguing for several reasons, and it seemed to have set in motion the buildup for the final story arc. But, before I get to the major points, I have to say that watching Kanata perform her phone watch was very funny. Lesson 1 Kanata, NEVER VOLUNTEER FOR SHIT! Leaving that aside, Kanata took her phone duty very seriously and followed her three general orders to a tee, but someone should have taught Kanata the additional two unofficial general orders.

The Three Official General Orders.

1. I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.

2. I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner.

3. I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions to the commander of the relief.

 The Two Unofficial Additional General Orders.

4. I will guard my post from flank to flank and take no shit from any rank.

5. Fuck it!

      If I was Kanata I would have been really pissed at Noel for not checking on me. I mean, come on, it’s the job of NCOs to check on the welfare of the junior troops when pulling guard duty, she failed as an NCO.

      Now, to the real meat of the episode, foreboding and foreshadowing. While this series has been walking a fine line between fluffy moe and more serious dark leanings this episode firmly places Sora no Woto down the path of a darker, sadder, and probably more meaningful ending. While this series has been hinting at the possibility that Rio was very important or even royalty, this episode pretty much confirmed Rio’s status as a VIP. I don’t really understand the source or reasons for Rio’s estrangement from her father. I thought that how he asked Rio not to help him but to save this country was an important indicator to how bad their relationship really is; her father had to call on Rio’s responsibility to country not family.

      To me, the foreshadowing in this series has been very heavy, beginning with the seasonal hints of how the freshness of spring moved to the lazy, slow day’s of summer, and how summer is now giving way to the stormy days of fall to be followed by the cold embrace of winter. The foreboding and foreshadowing in this episode also was reflected by the mood of the guilds members over the news of how the peace negotiations aren’t going very well, they wanted reassurances directly from the uniformed military not a BS press release. When the series first began I had figured that if anyone was going to be sacrificed it was going to be Filicia, but now I’m pretty certain that’s its Rio who’s going to have to pay her pound of flesh. The only real question will be what the form and nature of the sacrifice that Rio will be asked to make, and I think that she’ll most likely be asked to give up her freedom in form, maybe via marriage or assumption of the throne. So, I think Sora no Woto will end with the sadness of the girls having to part ways with Rio having to sacrifice freedom, joy, and happiness for duty, honor, and country.

        Well, this episode begins with Filicia having a dream/flashback from the war. In her flashback, Filicia’s a young member of a tank crew that’s just destroyed an enemy tank, and the tank commander orders the communications officer to signal the rear and orders Filicia to back her up. As the bugler is signaling the rear, Filicia notices an enemy tank on their flank, but it’s too late. The enemy tank fires a shell at point blank range, Filicia’s tank is destroyed and Filicia is blown out the hatch, shaken and injured, she’s the sole survivor.

        Well, summer is fully upon the fortress, and it seems that the local version of Obon is near. Kanata spends her time making food offerings for the deceased in the shape of animals. Kureha inquires about Obon and Noel explains the purpose and origin of the festival; Kureha freaks out about the idea of the dead returning.

        Later, we see Rio and Filicia returning from the town with additional materials for the festival, and we also discover that the local church is in on the festival even though the main church would frown upon the practice. Kanata explains to the platoon how her town/village would celebrate Obon, the making of food animals, the Bon-Odori (the Bon Dance), and so forth.

     While all this talk of the Bon festival is going on, Filicia cuts her hand and has another flashback of the war. This time we see a heavily injured Filicia traveling through an active combat zone in an attempt to make it back to friendly lines. Filicia encounters rifle fire, machinegun fire, canon fire, and tank fire; it’s like hell on Earth. When Filicia comes out of her daze Kureha says it’s not like her to make Kanata-like mistakes. Filicia says it’s been hot and she hasn’t been able to sleep much and walks off.  Kanata is about to go after Filicia but Rio stops her and says to leave her alone because there are things she doesn’t want other people to know.

       Noel goes after Filicia saying she knows about what happened first hand, and she finds Filicia standing next to the tank lost in thought. We see that Filicia is remembering different experiences she had with her dead tank squad mates, and we hear them discussing the war and the end of the world.

       Then the scene switches back to Filicia’s combat experience and we see must have been knocked unconscious from a shell blast and now she’s waking up to find that she’s fallen from the active combat zone into a basement where she discovers a dead soldier who’s written his last words in what appears to be Japanese style writing. Filicia lights a small fire and begins to cry for all her fallen squad mates wondering why she’s the only one left alive. Then the dead soldier begins to speak to Filicia, and once he realizes that there are survivors left in the world he apologizes to her. The soldier says he’s sorry for losing to “them”, and we see a battle scene that looks like it was a terminator-like, man vs. machine war, with the humans resorting to nuclear weapons at the end. The dead soldier asks Filicia “so, you’re the last remnants of humanity”, and he goes on to tell Filicia that the world will never regain its former glory so why not end it. He asks her if surviving in a world like this is really worth it, and as she’s tries to answer him she hears a bugle (amazing grace) call in the distance. The bugle call snaps Filicia back to reality and she begins to yell that she’s trapped below and someone needs to save her.

        Soon, someone breaks through from above and lowers themselves to rescue Filicia, and we that it’s the woman from Kanata’s memory, the woman from Rio’s past, and it turns out to be Princess Iria.

     Later that night, as Kanata, Noel, and Kureha are playing with fireworks, Felicia and Rio have a serious talk about duty, the past, and what happens if “they” come back. Rio gets mad at Filicia and tells her not to carry all the weight herself, and Filicia agrees to tell her. But, Filicia starts up with BS and Rio gets mad and asks her directly what happened at the front.

       At that very moment, the town is beginning to send the lanterns down the river, so Filicia decides the platoon should join them at the river. Everyone but Noel has made a lantern, and we see that Filicia’s lantern contains the name of her fallen comrades plus the unknown Japanese soldier. Kanata tells Filicia that since she makes her worry so much she would listen to any of her problems and she tells Filicia that she loves her; Filicia says she loves Kanata too. Filicia hugs Kanata and tells her to stay the same, and she also hugs Kureha, and Noel.  As each girl places their lantern in the river they say a little prayer for their departed ones; Kureha for her parents, Filicia for her comrades and Rio for her mother and sister. As Rio is placing her lantern in the river the priest sees her and says that girl is ……..

        Later, Filicia and Rio continue their conversation about whether or not there is some meaning in this world and Filicia tells Rio that since she was the sole survivor this question has haunted her and she’s come to the conclusion that there isn’t any. Later, Filicia points to all the people and asks Rio, isn’t this wonderful, and she goes on to tell Rio that her meaning is to be here because she doesn’t want them to suffer like she did. Well, that’s all for this episode.

        Well, each additional episode of Sora no Woto continues to impress me with how writer manage to give just enough additional information to keep me hooked. This episode gave us quite a bit of history about the latest war and the “great war/cataclysm”. Firstly, we learned from the dead soldier that Japanese-Asian culture and technology had spread across the European/Asian continents (it’s never explained if this occurred by means of war, or more likely due to natural population expansion on one side and depopulation on the other side), and they failed to protect the population of “them”. Well, the use of “them” is quite interesting, because, to me, that word would seem to imply that they were fighting something “other”, meaning other than human. So, what I’m going to assume is the “them” was some form of human technology or AI that got out of control ala The Matrix or The Terminator; I know I’m jumping to an conclusion by excluding the possibility of some sort of alien invasion or just a plain old human vs. human war of annihilation, but I’m leaping. Also, it seems that nuclear weapons were used as a final option to stop the attack, and the dead soldier makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t think very highly of the way life is going.

       Filicia’s war flashbacks were quite a contrast to the flashbacks of the “great cataclysm”. In the “great cataclysm” we see war and destruction on a global scale, masses of modern armor and cities being leveled, but through Filicia’s eyes we see the brutal nature of war up close and personal.  In combat, the job of any combat arms soldier is to close with the enemy and kill them, its kill or be killed, and you pray that you’re better trained, better equipped, or just plain luckier than the other guys. Filicia’s battle experiences show us the arbitrary nature of warfare, one minute you’re moving through the fog of battle making a kill, and the next minute you’re the hunted. I felt that Filicia’s reaction to being wounded and the sole survivor was pretty spot on; I could really understand how she would be left wondering “why me, there has to be a reason”.

       The conversation that Filicia has with the dead soldier where he asked her if life was worth living in its current state reminded me of some similar conversations that took place between Princess Nausicaa and the Keeper of the Garden, and then with Master of the Crypt of Shuwa. In those conversations the Keeper and the Master both try to convince Princess Nausicaa that life is too miserable to bother going on with.  They use the argument that because of all the suffering, all the death, all the pain, and all the struggling wouldn’t it just be easier to just give in, and fade away. Nausicaa and Filicia both reject the offer for similar reasons even thought it takes Filicia longer to come to her understanding of why.   

       When Nausicaa has her confrontation with the Master of the Crypt of Shuwa she is told that the path of humanity only leads to more suffering and possible extinction, so give in and let the current humans die out and be replaced by genetic engineered humanoids that were created to replace the current humans once they die out. The Master tells Nausicaa that this is the true path of light, the path of science and technology. No, Nausicaa rejects their offer as a false light, human life is right, and the human ability to adapt and survive should the sole determinate of whether human life continues or fades away, while humans may struggle and suffer there’s a beauty and righteousness to the human will to live that must be defended. In the end, Nausicaa destroys the Keeper and the Crypt leaving humans and their ability to adapt and evolve to determine their own fate.

       So, when Filicia tells Rio that she’s come to the conclusion that life has no meaning, but she tell Rio isn’t it beautiful, she’s come to Nausicaa’s conclusion, there’s beauty in the everyday struggle to live, love, and survive, she treasures Kanata’s innocence and vitality, so her meaning is to protect these treasures. This is the same lesson that the priest was trying to explain to Kanata in the previous episode; there’s sadness and bravery as humans struggle to live in the face of loss.

       I also loved how Kanata’s cheerful mood concerning Obon contrasted with Filicia’s more somber mood. While Kanata probably views Obon more as a welcome back to lost relatives who died at their proper ages, Felicia views Obon through the experience of having lost friends and comrades too soon in the flower of their youth. This difference is kind of like how Americans who’ve lost close friends, relatives, or comrades to war observe Memorial Day differently than people who’ve just view it as another day off.

        This episode also gave me some interesting food for thought concerning Rio, and Noel. It was heavily inferred that Rio is most likely a Princess, maybe the younger sister of Princess Iria. This would explain the vibe that I’ve been getting that Rio’s father was a high ranking military officer and they’ve had a falling out, ala Eika and her father from Sky Girls. This episode also let us know that there’s more of a connection between Noel and Filicia than we were lead to believe since Noel admitted to have firsthand knowledge of Filicia’s combat incident.

       Overall, this was another great episode that manages to keep a good balance between a series that could be considered lighthearted slice-of- life moe and a series that could head in a much darker direction, all I know is that I’m hooked.

For those who think that war is sometimes glorified and coveted by soldiers, remember the words of General Douglas MacArthur from his farewell speech at West Point May 12, 1962.

“…..This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” 

      Well, here we are, Valentine’s day, the day when our thoughts turn to love, or the possibility of love. If you have a precious loved one by all means enjoy the day with him or her, and if you don’t have a beloved, go find one, quickly.

       In Japan, Korea, and Taiwan they celebrate Valentine’s day differently from how we observe the day here in the west. For those fans new to anime and Japanese culture, on Valentine’s day only the girls give choko (chocolate)  to the boys/men. There are three types of choko gifts that the girls usually give, guri, tomo, and honmei. The first type is know as guri-choko (duty or obligation choko) and this type of choko doesn’t have to be handmade and it can be the generic store bought type, this type of Choko is given to almost all male coworkers and so forth.

        The second type of choko  that girls can give is called tomo-choko  (friendship choko), this type of gift is usually given between girlfriends, but can be given to close male friends.

        The last type of Valentine’s gift is called honmei-choko  (loved one or favored choko), the girls give this type of choko to their boyfriends, or guys they want to make their boyfriends, and this type of gift is usually handmade or very fancy store bought.

        If you think that this stops after high school you would be wrong because in the work environment this practice is viewed as an office popularity poll where the ladies can send messages to the men about how they feel they are being treated. If a man is considered an asshole he is given no gifts or very cheap gifts, sending a message to treat the women better. On the other hand, if a man is popular he is given fairly nice gifts by the OL (office ladies). Some women like to play games with men they don’t really like by giving a gift to the man that could be considered either a Guri-choko or a Honmei-choko,  confusing the man as to her intentions.

     Now you might asks what does the girl/woman get out of this? Well, thirty days later the boys/men must return the favor to the girls/women. This is called white day, because in the past, the return gift was usually marshmallows or white choko. Nowadays, boys/men can give any type of choko or cake in return. But, be advised, if you received a Honmei-choko gift and you want to say you’re interested in her, the return gift will be of equal or greater value, like 2-3x more costly. Now do you see why a lady might play games with a guy they don’t like, the return gift will hit him in the wallet.

       Now, if I lived in anime land, I would like to recieve honmei-choko from the following girls/women; Yui from K-On!, Kureha from Sora no Woto, Taiga from Toradora!, Kuroko from Railgun, and Beatrice from Umineko.

        Picking what girls I would like to get candy from was the easy part. So, now I’ll switch roles and decide what guys I would give choko to if I was a girl, and my choices are Ryuu from Kimi ni Todoke & Kanon from Umineko.

So, who would like to get honmei-choko from, and who would you give your honmei-choko?

         This episode begins in November with Chizu telling Sawako that she can’t wait of the New Year to arrive. Sawako tells herself that her feelings towards Kazehaya are advancing but Sawako also notices that others around her are having relationship problems. Sawako and Chizu notice that Ayane is having a problem with her boyfriend, he seems to be getting very possessive of Ayane by constantly calling her and demanding to know what she’s doing and whom she’s with. Well, Chizu asks why she’s going out with him. Ayane laments that he hit on me, and it’s always guys like him that seem the most mature in the beginning.

         Sawako also notices how alike Chizu and Ryuu are, how they even have the same aura, and she wonders if Chizu likes Ryuu.  Then the scene switches to Ryuu’s place where we hear Ryuu’s father tell Chizu that sometimes he wishes she was his daughter, and she wishes she could. Chizu casually walks in on Ryuu while he’s changing, and they hangout playing games and Chizu talks about Ryuu’s birthday. While they’re hanging out we see two things; firstly, that Ryuu has been attracted to Chizu since middle school, and secondly that Chizu gets all flushed and it’s not over Ryuu.

         The next day, after school, Chizu invites Sawako and Ayane to go shopping with her. Ayane begs off saying she has to see her boyfriend right away, so Sawako and Chizu head off to shop for Ryuu’s birthday gift. As Chizu and Sawako are leaving the school grounds they see one of Kazehaya’s friends (Jo) chase after a girl and confess to her only to be rejected in a humiliating way.

         While at the shopping center, Chizu picks out Ryuu’s gift, and the girls look at clothes. On their way home, Sawako sacks up and decides to ask Chizu if she likes anyone. Well, as Chizu tells Sawako about her unrequited love Sawako thinks its Ryuu she’s talking about but it turns out to be Ryuu’s older brother (Tooru). Chizu basically laughs off the idea of liking Ryuu in that way; she loves him like a brother and doesn’t think Ryuu knows she has the hots for his brother.

 

       Back at school, Chizu continues to show Sawako more pictures of mini-skirts wanting one by New Years. Well, Chizu drops Tooru’s name and New Years in front of Kazehaya and Ryuu causing an awkward silence.

       Then the relationship shit really hits the fan when Ayane walks into class with a bandage on her face.  Ayane tells them that she met with her boyfriend, told him her true feelings, told him she was dumping him, and he slapped her. She goes on to tell them that he told her stuff like I only have you, and she concludes that he didn’t even listen to her. She tells them it’s not like she wanted it to end this way, and Sawako thinks to herself that love is tough and comes with break ups.

        Later, Kazehaya and Ryuu talk about Chizu with Kazehaya asking Ryuu if he’s told Chizu. No, should I tell her. Yes. Then we switch scenes to the girls where Chizu says they’ll have a sleepover on Friday to help cheer up Ayane.

         That evening, Ryuu stops by Chizu’s place and enters her room, and Chizu is a little bothered when Ryuu enters her room in the same casual manner she entered his room. Ryuu sits next to her and moves in close for the confession when she hops away from him to stop him from seeing is birthday gift. Chizu then tells Ryuu to leave and hustles him out of the house leaving Ryuu to wonder WTF. As Ryuu is heading home we hear Sawako comment on how she never thought about love before, and that it must be difficult and this is because she’s fallen in love with Kazehaya. Well, that’s all for this brew of teen hormonal angst.

        Well, after resolving the Kazehaya/Sawako/Kurumi love triangle, and slowly moving Sawako’s and Kazehaya’s relationship forward, Kimi ni Todoke focuses its lens on Chizu and Ryuu. While Sawako’s and Kazehaya’s dance was one of shyness, longing glances and tentative touches, Chizu and Ryuu’s dance is more complicated and fraught with dangerous land mines.

       Chizu and Ryuu, childhood friends, as close as brother and sister, both sharing unrequited loves, Chizu loves Ryuu’s older brother and Ryuu loves Chizu. While both unrequited loves might be filled with equal longing, Chizu’s longing is for is a virtual stranger she hasn’t seen in two years, and she might find out that her love is for a shadow, a past image, a fondly remembered vision of a boy that’s now a man who might not still exist in the present. But, I feel that Ryuu’s unrequited love for Chizu is far more painful, his love sits right next to him in class, sits next to him on his bed, so close that he can feel the warmth of her body, smell her scent, so close that he can reach out and touch her hair. While Kazehaya advises Ryuu to come clean and confess his feelings to Chizu, it’s a dangerous approach that could backfire and drive Chizu away from him. I really liked how Ryuu decided to go for it and let the chips fall where they may but due to Chizu’s reaction to him almost seeing his birthday gift he was left even more confused than before, girls and women have that effect and it doesn’t get better with age.

       Also, Sawako continues to show slow but steady progress in her maturation into a normal teen aged girl. When the series began, Sawako never really noticed the subtle byplay occurring between boys and girls, but her newly awakened feelings for Kazehaya has made Sawako more aware of the world around her, and she discovers love is tough.

       Well, this episode starts out on a bright and sunny morning with Kanata getting ready to head out to town, it’s her first payday and she wants to buy a present to send home to her mother. Kanata is surprised to learn that she’s getting paid in real money, not scrip, to which, Kureha tries to reply “that’s why we have our other job” but Noel grabs her and stops her from talking.

         After Rio and the others she Kanata off, Rio chews out Kureha for almost spilling the beans about their other job. Kureha says that no one would really believe that they got paid on time all the way out here, but Filicia says that what makes her Kana-chan. As the other girls walk down to the locked storage area Rio said that neither Noel nor Kureha believed it, so today we forget about our main job.

       As we see Kanata wondering around town we see Naomi (the shop keeper, and Rio’s friend) pay a little visit to the fortress telling the girls they have a little problem. Then the scene switches to a building sitting below the shop where it appears that Filicia and the girls are making a deal to sell wine and other beverages to some shady characters in a black market deal. The transaction goes bad and Rio, Noel, and Kureha end up gunning down three guys in a gun fight.

       Afterwards, we find out that this was all done as a show to scare off two men that have been hanging around town and snooping around the shop. After the two men run off, the three men that were gunned down get up and are thanked by the girls. They call the girls the Central Area Mafia and they agree to a “you help us and we help you relationship”.

       In the confusion, the two “bad” guys’ car was smashed up before they fled so everyone agrees to take the stuff and split the profit. A little while later we find out that the girls are distilling the wine and spirits at the fortress violating the federal monopoly & tax codes and could be court marshaled for treason if caught. Also, we find out from Filicia that the fortress maidens seem to have been doing this for quite a while, and that Rio didn’t object when she arrived at the fortress.

       Then we switch scenes and see Yumina trying to get the orphans dressed up and ready for a visit to the church, and she has problems with Mishio who ends up running off alone.  A bit later we see Kanata getting pushed into Naomi’s shop’s window where she sees the two guys from later gunfight play. After Naomi speaks with Kanata for a while about the dolphin she likes Naomi tells Kanata that she’ll save the dolphin until she says she doesn’t want it.

        While Kanata is walking away, she says she’ll buy everyone a gift before she buys one for herself, and it seems that it’ll be quite a while before Kanata gets her dolphin since she’s got a lot of gifts to buy (mom, dad, grandparents, and even a great-grandmother). Once Kanata reaches the main market she runs into Mishio who who’s looking for a certain box, a box that we’ve seen sitting inside the bad guys’ crushed car.

        A little while later, Kanata runs into Yumina who’s looking for Mishio, and we find out that Mishio’s mother died and all their property was taken, and Mishio searches the market hoping to find that family memento. As Kanata is searching for Mishio, she spots her on the roof of Naomi’s shop. As the “firecrackers” begin to go off it startles Mishio causing her to slip, and she ends up hanging from a gutter calling for Yumina. Kanata rushes to the roof and saves Mishio in the nick of time but their struggle causes debris to cascade down crushing the bad guys’ car.

       Later, Kanata takes Mishio below and apologizes to Naomi for the car and even offers her paycheck in compensation for the damage. Naomi begins to laugh and tells Kanata to keep her check when Mishio spots “her” box inside the spoils taken from the car.

       Inside the church, Yumina tells the priest that no matter how hard she tries to be Mishio’s family she’s not good enough. A few seconds later, Kanata brings Mishio to the church where Yumina sees that Mishio has found her box. Mishio gives the box to Yumina, the box contains hair braiding trinkets, and Mishio tells Yumina that she mother told her to give this to the person the person she’s closest to and have her hair braided by that person.

       While this is going on, Kanata and the priest have a conversation about how Mishio’s father joined the army and never came back (KIA?), and how the invisible/phantom killer struck Mishio’s town and her mother became ill by the time she arrived in town then died. Kanata and the priest then talk about how man can live on even though we lose the one’s we love, and how it’s a very sad but brave thing.

      Back at the fortress, Kanata sees that Rio has washed her hair and offers to dry it for her. While drying her hair, Kanata and Rio have a discussion about fate, Kanata believes in it, but Rio doesn’t. Rio hates the idea that things are decided or given to you at the beginning but she says it’s possible that something that happens by coincidence can go around and around and change someone’s life in a big way; maybe you can call it fate. Rio falls asleep as she’s talking to Kanata and the charm she’s wearing jingles a D-flat, and Kanata says Rio must have had a good day. Well, that’s all from mafia central.

 

       First of all, I have to say that this was an extremely enjoyable, interesting and enlightening episode.  I found it very enjoyable watching Kanata going through the town and its market exploring the wares. I did the very same thing when I was first stationed in Korea; “must get gift to send home to mother (or else)”, and it wasn’t unpleasant watching a cute girl doing cute things (oh-no, I’m falling for Kanata Moe).  I also really enjoyed the gangster shootout scene because it was such a contrast to what I had come to expect from the girls, and I never would have thought that the big secret the girls have been keeping from Kanata was that the fortress maidens are bootleggers, quite a nice surprise.

       What I found enlightening in this episode was we got another glimpse into the real state of the country and its military in the current post conflict stage. This episode showed us that the military is in quite bad shape because it can’t pay its soldiers on time or with real cash. In the military we had a rule called the three M’s when it came to taking care of the soldiers (meals, mail, and money), meaning that the morale of the soldiers depended on the soldiers receiving those three things.  Also, it was quite shocking how poor the room conditions are for the girls at the time keeping fortress, notice that Kanata sleeps on a pretty ratty looking mattress/futon and she doesn’t even have a basic military wall locker to put her uniforms in while she not wearing them. The issuance and use of scrip inside the girls’ home country is quite surprising.

       Note: When my father was stationed in Japan in the early 1950’s they were paid in military scrip and they hated it. Scrip is used to control the soldiers’ spending, and is also used to control the local economy. The government authorizes what stores can accept scrip and also basically sets what prices the stores can charge for their services, so if a soldiers wants to spend scrip at a place that doesn’t accept it they can usually spend it there but they’ll be charged a huge markup because that store must then exchange that scrip with a store that can accept the scrip. Stores or businesses that are authorized to take scrip then exchange the script for real currency but the government can put the screws to the businesses by not giving them a full exchange rate if things are fiscally tight or if they just don’t like them. 

        Also, we found out that Kanata’s basic training was only one month long, and she received no pay for basic training. Well, it seems that any military that can’t afford to pay its soldiers for basic training is pretty poor, and it’ll probably only attract only those who truly want to join the army for some reason (like Kanata wanting to learn music), or those who have no other way of earning a living or have no family. This information seems to line up nicely with the soldiers from the first episode’s surprise when they found out that Kanata was a volunteer.  One month of basic training is a very short time indeed since Kanata probably spend one third of that time traveling to and from basic training, filling out paperwork, and getting uniforms and equipment issued to her leaving very little time for real training. 

         This episode also highlighted how naïve and idealistic Kanata is compared to the rest of the girls. While Kanata doesn’t even wonder why she’s getting paid on time, and in real currency when all the previous stories she’d heard contradicts her experience while Rio confirms that neither Noel nor Kureha would have believed it to be true.

         So, the fortress maidens have been bootlegging wine to supplement their incomes for quite a while, and this was confirmed when Rio has a flashback from her childhood of her mother drinking the wine. Soldiers bootlegging and black marketing stuff is as old as the wind, and in times of war and financial stress it’s often overlooked. This doesn’t mean that the higher ups won’t crack down if it gets out of hand it just means that they understand that the military can’t properly care for their force the way it needs to be taken care of. When I was stationed in Korea in the mid 1980’s, I and several of my fellow soldiers did a little black marketing of booze, smokes, and other items to make some extra pocket cash.

         While I think this series has been very lighthearted with a few somber moments I think that it’s going to take a dark and more serious turn in the future. I think that the higher ups must be aware to some extent that fortress maidens are doing their bootlegging thing but I think that they believe that there’s some purpose to having those maidens at the fortress, so they tolerate the back dealing. We’ve been given too many hints about past legends, invisible demons, fate, and destiny for this to be red herring. When Kanata and Rio had their little discussion about fate with Kanata saying she believes in the concept and Rio hating the notion we’re entering a pretty well trodden anime path. Many great anime series such as Princess Tutu, and Escaflowne use the conflict between free will and fate/destiny as a major theme, or maybe the writers are going to keep this a military slice of life anime with heavy themes of mono on aware, fooling me, and most other viewers.

        It’s quite possible that the creators intend us to just watch and enjoy Kanata and the girls trying to live life to the fullest in a society starting to recover from a devastating war and ecological disaster, life is beautiful, or as the priest comments how man going on in the face of loss is both sad but brave. Well, if that happens I guess I would have fallen for the concept of synchronicity, this is concept that Rio tried to find the words for when she was discussing how seemingly unrelated events could have a large impact on someone in an unforeseen way. But, I’m siding with the idea that Kanata appearance at the fortress is like placing a small stone in just the right spot in a river causing the river to change its course (idea swiped from Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass), so I feel that something big is going to happen, but I don’t know if the girls will find it very pleasant.

On Synchronicity see this entry.

For more info on scrip see this entry.

For more info on mono no aware see my review of.

Natsu no Sora episode 12.

Toki o Kakeru Shojo.

      This episode begins with school’s holiday starting and we watch Sawako pass her day by feeding the birds, going for a jog, picking up trash, and so forth. But, today is a special day because Ayane and Chizu are stopping by to hangout, so Sawako works on a homemade cake.

      When the doorbell rings, Sawako’s father answers the door and is a little put off by Chizu’s size and casual nature. He thinks Ayane is OK but she wears too much makeup, and has quite a few ear piercings. A few seconds later, Sawako gives Ayane and Chizu a proper introduction to her parents. After the introductions, Ayane gives Sawako’s parents some cake they brought with them and they head up to Sawako’s room.

      In Sawako’s room they share cake and coffee, and look over the pictures Ayane took at the party including some of Sawako’s and Kazehaya’s staircase moment. Ayane, not being one to beat around the bush tells Sawako to just confess her love to Kazehaya. Sawako is caught off guard and says she’s happy with things the way they are. But, Ayane tells Sawako that if she does that then they can go out as a couple. Sawako is still not convinced, and Chizu says another girl might step in and steal Kazehaya from Sawako. Eventually, the girls end up watching some horror flicks that Sawako rented.

      We switch scenes and see Kazehaya walking Maru when he runs into Ryuu near the river. As Maru and Ryuu are bonding, Kazehaya mentions all the messages Pin has been leaving on his phone. Kazehaya finally answers his phone and Pin says he needs to see Kazehaya and Sawako right now. It seems that Pin ran into Sawako at the video store, and Sawako warned Pin to take care of himself but he just ignored the advice and spent the night drinking and watching porno, and now he’s in bad shape. I think he wants Sawako to lift a curse that might have been placed on him. Ryuu tells Kazehaya that Chizu and Ayane are visiting Sawako, and doesn’t he want to see Sawako anyways.

      Back at Sawako’s place, Chizu comes downstairs and cleans up the plates and cups while talking with Sawako’s mom. She makes the observation about how Sawako inherited her features from both of her parents, and Sawako’s mom is now convinced that Ayane and Chizu are nice girls.

       Back in Sawako’s room, Ayane gets a phone call from Kazehaya about Pin, and Ayane hands the phone to Sawako. Well, everyone agrees to pay Pin a visit and see what’s up. Once they arrive at Pin’s apartment they find Pin looking like shit, and his apartment looking even worse.

       Well, Pin thinks that Sawako is going to use spiritual powers on him, but he’s just coming down with a bad cold. As Sawako begins to nurse Pin, Kazehaya gets jealous and nurses Pin. After Ayane puts Pin to sleep with a bedtime horror story, the kids clean up the Pin’s garbage dump apartment. While all this is going on Sawako admits to herself that she’s good at this and she likes to clean (hell, I wish my GF liked to clean my condo). As darkness falls, Pin wakes up feeling a lot better and sends the kids off. Before Sawako walks off, Pin pulls her aside and tells her that he knows Kazehaya’s and Ryuu’s weak spots, and he also whispers something into Sawako’s ear about Kazehaya.

       Once they reach the point where Sawako has to split off Chizu tells Kazehaya it’s dangerous so he should walk Sawako home even though Sawako’s says she won’t scare anyone. As Kazehaya, Maru, and Sawako walk quietly down the road, Sawako wants to thank him but can’t find the words. So, Sawako does what Pin told her to do, she grabs Kazehaya’s arm stopping him and she stands there with her eyes closed. Kazehaya slowly decides to take this as an invitation and moves in for a kiss, and just as he has her lips in range Sawako opens her eyes and jumps back. When Kazehaya finds out that Pin set this up, he gets angry and tells Sawako that if she does that again, he doesn’t know what will happen.

       As Sawako and Kazehaya continue their walk in silence, Sawako thinks to herself that she wants to be by his side, and Kazehaya asks Sawako to not look at him for awhile. The episode closes with Sawako thinking that that someday the day will come when she’ll want to tell Kazehaya her feelings. Well, that’s all folks.

      Well, basically we have another hanging with the friends’ episode with the only difference being that the girls hung out at Sawako’s house. At least we learned a few things about Sawako’s parents, number one being that Sawako’s father is much more traditional about how he expects girls to behave, and the second being that Sawako’s mom is more easy going and doesn’t judge on appearances.

      It was very funny watching Chizu unravel the secret of Sawako’s looks; it’s all about the genes, baby. I think the most interesting development of the whole episode is how everyone is working hard towards hooking up/advancing Sawako’s and Kazehaya’s budding relationship. Ayane tells Sawako to confess so they can start dating, Chizu tells Sawako to confess or maybe lose to another girl, Ryuu knows that Kazehaya wants to see Sawako, and even Pin in his own silly way almost got Kazehaya a taste of that sweet fruit.

       My only frustration with the progression thus far is Sawako’s inability to communicate her feelings to Kazehaya. Sawako’s come to the internal understanding that she loves Kazehaya, and wants to be near him, but she’s unable to even reach over and take his hand. I can understand Kazehaya frustration towards the end of the episode; he’s asked her out and basically confessed to her, and her response has been vague at best. Hell that young man needed to taste those lips or he’ll end up at Pin’s apartment with the two of them drowning their frustrations in booze and tissue paper.

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