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.”