This episode begins with Filicia running the squad through a combat simulation using tanks simulation mode. After destroying a simulated target, Claus shows up bringing the squad some letters and communications from higher. Kanata gets a letter from her mother, and Noel gets a letter from her professor.
A bit later, Rio gives Kureha a key and tells her to get Claus a gift; Kureha seems very happy at the prospect. When Kureha gives Major Claus a bottle of wine we can see that she’s quite taken with Claus. Filicia walks up and shows Claus some paperwork from HQ, and Claus wishes Private Kureha good luck.
Filicia assembles the squad and tells them they’re taking a field trip, Kanata’s overjoyed. Filicia tells them that three observation stations on the south side of Seize, near the border with no man’s land, need to be inspected on the trip. Kureha says this is a mission, but Filicia says it’s a field trip. Noel says they can’t repair them if their broken because they’re black boxes.
Rio tells Noel, Kanata, and Kureha that just walking isn’t good enough, so they have to carry rucksacks. Well, those packs are very heavy and none of the three girls can manage to even get the packs off the ground until Rio gives them a demo, and it kicks her ass too.
After the girls are up and loaded, Filicia tells them that she and Rio will be waiting at their last stop. As the girls head off, we see that Rio will be following them (with a much lighter pack) while Filicia heads to the objective.
Well, as they march along, Kureha keeps complaining about how heavy the packs are and asks Noel how much further (are we there yet). After a bit of marching, a butterfly catches Kanata’s attention and when she looks over she spots the first observation post. When Kanata runs over and touches the station some Japanese style writing flashes in the air and Noel says it’s operating correctly.
The girls ask Noel where the next station is, so she pulls out the map and compass and points towards a mountain. Kureha isn’t very overjoyed about humping up a mountain, and she lets everyone know it. As they’re humping up the mountain, Kureha keeps bitching about the packs, and how Filicia and Rio must hate her, and even Kanata is at a loss for words. Then Kanata rushes ahead saying she hears it; Noel wonders if she’s broken until they discover Kanata as located a mountain stream.
Kureha takes off her boots and socks and jumps in the stream, and she’s soon joined by Kanata and Noel. While they splash and play, and Kureha keeps bitching about Filicia, we see Rio observing them from above. Once the girls go back to their unsecured packs they discover some “animal” has ransacked the packs, and their food and compass is missing.
Well, the girls decide to leave the packs hidden saying the most important thing is to finish the mission. Noel leads the way using terrain association to guide them since the compass is missing. When hunger strikes the group, Kanata uses her foraging skills and locates a Bayberry tree, but Kureha doesn’t want to stop saying that Major Claus once traveled three days across a desert without food to attack an enemy fortress. Kureha informs Kanata that Major Claus was once called the Desert Wolf, so she pushes the group on.
After locating the second device, the girls head towards the third and final device. Noel continues to use terrain association to guide the group, and Kanata even climbs a tree as they try to locate the third and final device. Just as the sun is setting, Kureha starts to go off on Noel for not having the compass and not being certain they are heading in the right direction. Then she starts yelling at Kanata for not being serious, but Kanata spots the last device in the distance. As the girls are rushing off towards the last device we see that Rio has their compass, and she decides they’ll be alright, so Rio heads towards a Bayberry tree where she runs into a wild boar.
When the girls reach the last device, Noel tells Kanata and Kureha to look towards the direction of the setting sun; no man’s land, the end of the inhabited world. Filicia walks out from behind the device and tells the girls that they wanted them to see this, and all the maidens of the fortress make this trip at least once and leave their signatures on the device, so they can say they saw the end of the world.
Kanata asks if this is history. Yes, and Filicia tells them they left them something else. Filicia leads them through a tunnel to a hidden hot spring. Once the girls are all inside the cave they find Rio waiting for them looking the worse for wear telling them they’re late. We see that Rio brought a load of Bayberries for the girls.
As everyone is relaxing in the warm waters, Filicia asks Rio if she won. Don’t ask. As the other girls are enjoying the spring, Rio asks Filicia if it was worth the effort, and she gets no reply, but we see that the girls have added their names to the device. Well, that’s all for this episode.
As I watch more episodes of Sora no Woto the more I find myself falling under the gentle web that the series is weaving around me. The first thread of Sora no Woto’s web I find myself being caught in is how the series mixes technology from the “lost world” with the much lower tech of the current world, and I also love how the current world’s culture is a mix of European and Asian culture. The second thread of Sora no Woto that’s wrapping itself around me is of course the military life the girls find themselves experiencing.
Lost tech and mixed cultures.
I continue to find myself enjoying how Sora no Woto mixes the tech from the “lost world” with the much simpler tech of the everyday. It’s a jarring contrast to see all the futuristic goodies popping out of the tank like its holographic combat displays then we see that the current world has to communicate via landline rotary dial phones and bugle calls. The current humans of Sora no Woto’s world know what they’ve lost, but they also know that if man once made it that knowledge maybe someday be reclaimed.
While this anime continues to show us viewers a world of mixed Japanese and European cultures, make no mistake, this series is Japanese through and through. This has been made clear at several points throughout series so far; Kanata comes from a village that celebrates O-bon, Kanata signs for her mother’s letter using a Hanko (Japanese signature stamp) thus confirming her adulthood (only adults in Japan can use a Hanko for official business). Oh, one scene in this episode really caught my attention further confirming the Japanese-ness of the story, when the three girls headed out on their fieldtrip they passed under a series of torii normally signifying a transition from the normal profane world to the sacred world of a shrine or temple. While the girls’ passage wasn’t one of a religious nature it did symbolize that the girls weren’t in Kansas anymore, or as Kanata asks Filicia “this is history”, Yes.
Here’s some additional information about the girls ages I found while looking through a 2Chan thread.
Filicia-age 19, Rio-age 18, Noel-age 16, Kanata-age 15, and Kureha-age 14; adulthood sure comes early in Sora no Woto.
Tropes and troops.
Like I mentioned in previous posts I find Sora no Woto satisfying because being a former long time member of the military (23 years) I feel the series hits the right tone in how it portrays military life in a non-combat outpost type of setting. While at first glance, Kanata, Kureha, Noel, Rio, and Filicia might seem to be tropes, but I can tell you for a fact that I’ve meet many a soldier that I could just change their names to any of the girl’s names and it would be almost a perfect personality match.
I think that every former member of the military can relate to the little “field trip” the girls experienced. Almost every squad I’ve ever been in has had a “Private Kureha” who’s always bitching and complaining about how heavy the packs are, or saying the Sergeant hates us, or is always asking “how far is it”, or keeps asking “are we lost”, and the beat goes on. I’ve had many experiences with the always chipper and enthusiastic “Kanata” types, and the quiet and not very outgoing “Noel” types.
But, I can really relate to both Filicia’s and Rio’s leadership styles. I’ve always felt that training should be serious but fun, and make no mistake about it, the “field trip” Filicia sent the girls on was real training. During the conduct of the mission, the girls operated as a small team lead by a junior leader (Cpl Noel), and it involved physical training (humping a rucksack), land navigation (compass method and terrain association), and above all, team building and small group leadership. While the girls didn’t fully succeed with their mission they did learn some lessons from their failures like, they need to be in better shape, and they need to secure their equipment better or a slickly boy (Rio) might just steal your stuff.
While the girls were going about their business they were never in any real danger because they were under the watchful eye of Sergeant Rio who would have stepped in if something really bad was going to happen. Sergeant Rio was doing her job nicely by making the training tough but safe, and if you noticed Rio never complains in front of the junior troops, only to her superior officer; bitches go up hill, and shit rolls down hill.
At the end of the world I find beauty.
While I’ve seen many people express the notion that Sara no Woto is invested with a feeling of Mono no Aware or loss that’s our, the viewers’ reaction to the world that Kanata and the others inhabit, not their subjective life experiences. We view their world though the prism of our experience of the joys of our modern world; don’t those girls know how backwards and behind their world has fallen, or man it must suck living in that country coming out of a terrible war experience.
“Bees are not as busy as we think they are. They just can’t buzz any slower” –Kim Hubbard
What I mean by this little quote is that we all live our lives through our subjective experiences in the world around us, and the observations of outsiders don’t affect our subjective reality. So, when I look at the world of Sora no Woto, I see a world beginning to recover from a great ecological disaster and a terrible war, but I also find beauty.
I find beauty in the fact the while the world might have decayed, the peoples’ spirits haven’t decayed. Kanata works hard at following her dream of learning music, and she takes joy in the natural world around her. Noel takes great pride in her job as a tank mechanic, and is a craftsman in her own way. I see beauty in watching Kureha trying to get the attention of the object of her affections in her inexperienced way. I see beauty in how Filicia and Rio take pride and satisfaction in their roles of being surrogate mothers and fathers to their motley crew. While the world might have decayed, the human spirit is still strong and life is beautiful, they just can’t buzz any slower.