Sora no Woto


       This episode picks up with Aisha being shot but not killed in front of Noel, and Filicia pulling a gun on Hopkins and saying she’ll shot if he doesn’t escort his men from the fortress.  Well, Hopkins’ men have left the fortress, and he’s now tied up while Yumina treats Aisha. Filicia demands to know what’s going on, and Hopkins says that they detected the movement of the Roman army over a month ago and have been following in from the rear, so far, the Archduke has ordered them to do nothing.

         Hopkins says the peace talks are a farce, and if they execute a POW in front of the Roman’s they’ll attack, he wants to restart the war because he says that Rome needs to be destroyed. Hopkins asks Noel if she agrees, and he calls her his Witch of Helvetia. Filicia gets mad at Hopkins saying he used Noel, and Yumina asks if Noel had something to do with the invisible reaper. Hopkins tells Yumina that Noel is one of the greatest scientists and helped revive the old weapons, Filicia orders Kureha to toss Hopkins in the cellar, but he says his men are already moving to attack the Romans.

 

       After Kureha returns from locking up Hopkins, she says it’s messed up because the Flame Maidens are supposed to protect the city not cause a conflict. Yumina chimes in with what Aisha told her of the Roman version of the legend and it’s different from our version. The scene then switches and we see Hopkins preparing to escape, and we see Kanata reliving Kureha from her guard duty, Kureha asks Kanata if she could shoot someone, and Kanata says if she felt it was right then she thinks she could. As Kureha and Kanata discuss the legend of the Flame Maidens, Kanata hushes Kureha and says she hears something, and the scene switches to Claus telling someone he doesn’t know how good her ears are.

          Kanata rushes in and tells Filicia that she heard the signal to stop fighting, Kureha says she heard nothing and Kanata could be wrong. When it’s suggested that they inform Hopkins about the signal, Yumina discovers that he’s escaped. Well, it’s decided that they still have to be informed but Noel says he won’t listen, when Hopkins saw the reaper kill all those people all he did was laugh, she says he’ll fight and kill until no ones left, and it’s her fault for helping him. Yumina tells Noel that if she really feels that way than she should save more lives than she took.

 

        Naomi informs Hopkins about the ceasefire order and he says no way and orders the arrest of the civilians, and when questioned about his love of war he says “war advances civilization and science”.  Then the girls find out that the Romans or Helvetians (?)Are going to attack the next morning, and they find out about Naomi’s arrest, Kureha thinks war can’t be avoided. Kanata says she still wants to go and deliver the sound she’s been given, Kureha says it’s a selfish request, Yumina asks for them to stop the war and Aisha tells Noel that like her ,she’s killed, and if no one else does, she forgives her.

 

         Kureha says if they do this there’s no going back, Filicia says OK, Kanata says OK, Kureha says do what you want, and she says she doesn’t want a girl her age to be tortured either and Kureha breaks down in tears. Noel says it’s time to go, and Yumina asks for god’s blessing to be upon the Flame Maidens.

        Well, the girls power up tank-kun, and they have also brought along the wounded Aisha. After Filicia orders Kanata to signal attack with the trumpet, they fire the main cannon blasting a hole in the fortress. When Hopkins sees the fully operational spider tank exiting the fortress he orders his forces to stop it but the civilians and Naomi say they’ll stand in his way, they don’t want more war. After Hopkins backs down and heads off to use another route, we hear the retelling of the Roman version of the legend. Long ago, god sent an angel to punish the world, but the angel was wounded so it landed to rest near a western town, and the maidens that lived in the fortress saved the angel. Even though he was sent to destroy them they took pity on him, and using the help of a giant spider they gave refuge to him in a nearby valley. They each took turns embracing the angel’s neck to staunch the blood flow, and in return he gave the maidens a golden horn but the townspeople found out and set fire to the valley. They burned the maidens, and took the angel’s head. Then a army of angels appeared and covered the sky, but a glorious sound filled the air and the angels left, the last maiden using her last breath had sounded the golden horn. While this retelling is going on; the girls use tank-kun to fight their way through (disabling but not killing) Hopkins’ forces.

        Just as dawn is beginning to break, the order is given to charge, as both sides charge towards battle tank-kun basically flies through the air to land near the Helvetia forces.  Tank-kun climbs atop a ruined building and Kanata gives the ceasefire signal but the Helvetia forces refuse to stop. Kanata exits the tank and plays amazing grace as the sun rises across the plain. The forces come to a stop and they listen to Kanata’s song. Some of the soldiers from the first episode remember Kanata from the train. A Helvetia officer starts yelling at the men for stopping the attack, but he’s soon interrupted.

        Rio appears with the royal guard, and declares as second in line for the Helvetia throne and the finance of the Roman emperor that the peace talks are concluded and both sides are to disband. Rio holds out a peace treaty signed by both royal leaders, and she goes on to say that anyone disobeying this order will be punished by the royal guard in the name of both royal rulers.  After this news sinks in both sides begin to celebrate the end of the war with Kanata getting a shout out from those guys from the first episode.

          Well, spring has sprung and the cherry blossoms are falling at the Time Keeping Fortress, and the girls are talking about a letter Noel received from Aisha but they haven’t heard from Rio. Just then, Kanata hears Claus’s bike approaching, a new girl is arriving, no, Rio has returned. Rio is now a lieutenant who asks Captain Filicia for permission to enter, make it so. Well, Rio says the emperor isn’t really a bad guy, he’s a pretty decent guy, and he told Rio that he’d grant any wish for stopping the war, so she chose this. Rio is given a warm welcome home.  Well, that’s all for this series until the bonus episodes.

 

       Well, all good things must pass, and on the whole, Sora no Woto was a wonderful but slightly flawed series. Before this series began, I like many others had sort of dubbed this series K-On! goes to war, and one could hardly be blamed for jumping to this conclusion when we saw how close the character designs where to one another. But, as I watched this series progress I became engrossed in the many mysteries the post apocalypse world of Sora no Woto presented me with; I fell in love with the legends, the history, and the characters of Sora no Woto.

      Before I continue with the series review I’ll cover the events of the final episode, for me this episode consisted of three parts.

      Part one, Hopkins and the girls; in this portion of the episode we discovered a lot of information about Hopkins and Noel, and Hopkins’s true intentions. We and girls learn from Hopkins that the Helvetia army has known about the Roman army’s movement and intentions for a long time, they’ve been following it for about a month. We can also assume that their actions are meant to apply pressure on the Helvetians during the peace negotiations; it also seems that the Archduke has made the same conclusion due to the fact that he ordered Hopkins to take no actions. We also learn that Hopkins is off his rocker, while he might have been a good and efficient soldier in the past he’s decided to take matters into his own hands and restart the war with the Romans. I support Filicia’s decision about taking Hopkins into custody when he pretty much admitted that he doesn’t care what the Archduke’s orders where, and he’s going to do what he wants to do. Also, I thought that Aisha’s act of granting forgiveness to Noel was very well done and pretty realistic, only a person who’s killed in war can truly understand the burden that taking another’s life places upon one’s self. When Kanata heard the ceasefire signal in the distance it left Filicia with a pretty important decision, if Kanata is right and they do nothing the war will restart, if Kanata is right and they take action they could still be killed and the war could restart anyways, if Kanata was wrong and they take action they could be viewed as traitors and executed, if Kanata is wrong and they don’t action the war could restart and they be killed anyways, or they could take action and they could stop the war, well, that’s 4-1 for a bad outcome, but they decide to act. 

       Part two, the charge of the light brigade the Flame Maidens. Well, it was pretty sweet seeing the fully operational tank-kun in action and it was even more advanced that than I thought it would be. While tank-kun didn’t cut through Hopkins’s forces like a hot knife through butter, the girls’ intentions were to disable and not kill, plus speed was of the essence, if the girls were out to kill they could have stood off at a distance and put the tank into stealth & sniper mode and just picked off the enemy one by one with center mass kill shots. I didn’t think that the ending was as good as it could have been but I wasn’t totally bummed out about how it finished. So, the girls and tank-kun appear on the scene, and once Kanata figures out that playing ceasefire won’t work she goes and plays amazing grace which has a universal appeal for both sides buying enough time for Rio to appear on the scene with the signed peace treaty, while this ending does stretch the bounds of reality it wasn’t totally impossible. I had wondered as the series progressed how the writers where going to incorporate the legend of the flame maidens without sending the series into BS mode , so I was quite delighted when Aisha played the role of the demon/angel, with the girls protecting her instead of killing her. It was also very interesting seeing how different the Helvetia and Roman versions of the legend where. While I had hoped that the girls and Rio would have kicked some ass and made the Romans back off, I guess Rio trading herself as a royal wife was probably the better outcome for the two war weary countries. I also think that while both countries and their leaders where tired of war, Rio had to pay her pound of flesh if the Roman side had someone like Hopkins demanding something more than just a signed peace treaty with a return to status quo prewar relations, now the emperor can tell his hardliners, see we got our war reparations and our honor is restored, now STFU.

       Part three, the ending, and the return of Rio. OK, this was probably the hardest part of the episode for me to accept, I could actually see the emperor giving his future wife a very long leash especially if my above conjecture is correct, but I can’t picture the Roman emperors future wife and the second in line for the Helvetia throne being allowed to return to an isolated and understaffed fortress, it would present to many opportunities for peace haters like Hopkins a shot at killed Rio and undermining the peace.

        Now, for the series review; like I said earlier, I found Sora no Woto to be a wonderful but slightly flawed creation. I loved the mysteries of the past wars, the lost technology, the mixed cultures, the conflicting legends, and the political intrigue, but what I didn’t like was the many unresolved plot threads and unanswered questions. I’ll forgive Sora no Woto these faults because it was probably impossible to cover all the issues and ideas raised in the series due to the nature of it being only twelve episodes long. I think Sora no Woto would have been better served as a 24 episode series, but that’s water under the bridge. I think Sora no Woto did a great job at portraying the laid back nature of secluded military garrison life, and showing the interesting things that make up a soldiers life when not at war. I think that Sora no Woto did a believable job in portraying how a military unit might function where the age of adulthood has dropped to as low as 13-14 (Kureha is 14 at the start of the series, so she probably was 13 in basic training), so I wasn’t very bothered by how Filicia and Rio sometimes acted more like mothers and fathers to the girls rather than hard assed leaders. Overall, Sora no Woto managed to provided me with an entertaining and enjoyable viewing experience that included just the right balance of Moe, Mono no Aware, drama, and lighthearted comedy.

      This episode begins while winter is in full swing with Kureha and Kanata conducting a patrol that was ordered by HQ. While deep in the back country, near the observation stations, Kanata spots a fallen person in the snow. When Kanata and Kureha are examining the fallen woman they discover that she’s a Roman soldier.

 

      Back at the fortress, we watch Noel standing near the completed tank having a flashback from several years ago, Noel is getting praised for completing a project and we hear a military officer tell her that we can win with this.

 

        Then Filicia brings Noel in a room where Kureha and Kanata are working on the woman and Filicia tells Noel that they found a Roman soldier, Noel seems to go into shock. As the woman’s condition is touch and go, Noel says she’ll care for the woman. Filicia, Kanata, and Kureha search the woman’s pack finding a bugle, pistol, map, and other things and Kanata says she thought the enemy would look more evil.  Well, Kureha gets angry at Kanata but Filicia defuses the situation by reminding Kanata that she has to play recall. Kureha asks Filicia about the peace conferences not going well, no.

 

      Kureha asks Filicia about reporting this, Filicia says if so, she’ll be taken and interrogated, Kureha says she’s in enemy territory, so torture can be expected, Filicia says interrogation and asks Kureha for more time to make her decision, Kureha tells Filicia to remember that they’re soldiers. Filicia asks her if anyone saw them bring her back but Kureha doesn’t know since they were busy with her.  Alone, Filicia asks what Rio would do. Then the scene switches to the observation posts where we see a Roman army unit making their way through the area, and we see part of the observation post light up.

 

      The next morning, the Roman soldier wakes and tries to overpower Noel but a quick breast grab puts her back in her place with a scream. Kanata and Kureha come rushing in and Kureha tries to question her but all they get out of her is her unit, name, and serial number, (she’s A’ishah Aldora, from Company B, 13th Tank Battalion, 1st Tank Division of the Roman Empire) none of them speak Roman. Filicia enters the room and makes some pretty racy comments seeing if she can get a reaction out of her to determine if she understands any of their language.  Filicia says they need to find someone who speaks Roman, they’ll hold her until they interrogate her and file a report, and Kureha says whatever happens it’s not her fault. When the Roman girl hears the name of the Time Keeping Fortress she begins to breakdown saying she made it.

 

      Well, as Kanata and Noel feed the captive and attempt to communicate with her, Noel says she wishes she had studied Roman, and Kanata gets an idea. Later, Kanata plays the trumpet for the captive, and Kanata offers it to the prisoner and she plays a few bars of amazing grace. Kanata tries to ask her about the song but they still can’t understand each other.  Well, at that very moment Naomi shows up with Yumina, it seems that someone saw Kureha and Kanata returning with the Roman soldier after all. Well, Naomi tells Filicia and the girls that the army is on the move to this town and if it has anything to do with this Roman soldier then there’s trouble.

 

      Yumina knows how to speak Roman and starts talking to A’ishah and she calls Yumina a heretic, Kureha starts to get pissed. Yumina asks A’ishah why she’s here, she won’t say anything about her mission but she does say she wanted to see the bones of the angel that’s supposed to be in this town. A’ishah says her grandmother was at this fortress and was captured on the Eastern front where she met her grandfather, and she told her about the bones when she was a child. I’ve always wanted to see the angel my grandmother had seen. The angel of apocalypse that brought retribution upon the world and it seems that A’ishah and Yumina have a slight religious disagreement.

 

       A bugle call sounds in the distance and Kanata decodes it saying that the 1st Royal Guard Battalion, 9th Mobile Division has arrived. The unit is commanded by Colonel Hopkins, the demon of Binnenland who revived ancient weapons that wiped out three towns in one night, at the mention of his name Noel slides to the floor in a fetal position. Filicia hugs Noel and says that the Colonel doesn’t know she’s here. Naomi says whatever you’re going to do you better hurry, Kureha says they have to hand her over but Kanata argues that Rio wouldn’t what her to suffer, so Filicia issues an order as the commander and takes sole responsibility.

 

       A few moments later, Colonel Hopkins tells Filicia and the group that a Roman scout was captured in Treize but due to an accident during interrogation, well……. He says there were reports of Roman forces in the area and maybe even a prisoner, Filicia says she doesn’t know anything, and the Colonel says effective right now command of this fortress is transferred to the 9th Mobile Division.

 

       Meanwhile, Noel, A’ishah, Naomi, and Yumina are hiding while the Colonel’s forces search the fortress.  Yumina and A’ishah share a private conversation on the legend of the fire maidens and it gets a start out of Yumina. A’ishah asks Yumina what Noel’s name is so Yumina tells her it’s Noel, and A’ishah calls her Noel Kannagi which Yumina says is correct. A’ishah calls her Noel Kannagi of the invisible death; Noel screams and runs away from the rest of the group.

 

      When the Coronel hears the scream he begins to grin, A’ishah follows Noel into the hallway as soldiers are drawn towards the scream. The phone begins to ring as soldiers stumble into Noel and A’ishah in the hallway. Kanata answers the phone and is informed that a large Roman force has been spotted massing between no man’s land and the town of Seize.  The episode ends with Noel and A’ishah being surrounded by soldiers with their rifles at the ready, a shot rings out and……Well, that’s all for this episode.  

 

       Well, here we go, war has shown up on the doorstep of the Time-keeping Fortress, and what the hell was Felicia thinking. While we’ve been shown that the peace talks between Helvetia and the Roman Empire weren’t going well the beginning of the episode gave us a hint that Helvetia is getting really worried because it struck me as highly unusual to see Kureha and Kanata out on winter patrol which is later confirmed by Hopkins mentioning the capture of a Roman scout a few days earlier.

       I think that Kanata and Kureha did a great job handling the injured Roman soldier; In the Army we had a procedure for handling EPW’s (Enemy Prisoners of War) called the 5-S’s which stood for #1-Search the prisoners for weapons and documents, #2-Segerate the captives by rank and status, #3-Silence the prisoners so they can’t plan with others for escape, #4-Speed the captives to your HQ or other collection point, and #5-Safeguard the prisoners while in custody, a dead or abused prisoner has no intel value.

       But, I have to ask Felicia what the hell was she thinking; Filicia was supposed to be the combat experienced leader that would keep the girls as safe as possible even in a war situation, and make no mistake, once the girls found a Roman soldier inside Helvetia territory Filicia should have known they were back at war. Once Kanata, Kureha, and Filicia searched A’ishah’s pack even a fool could tell by the light nature of her load that she was an advance scout and the main force would be close by. It might have been a different story if they found the scout lugging an 80 pound pact with a few weeks of food in it but that wasn’t the case. Filicia didn’t call HQ and report the incident. Hell, the least she could have done was put the fortress and town on higher alert, she could have sent the girls out on a rotating basis checking for the enemy. What was she going to do, just sit around like normal and wait till the enemy captured the town and fortress and end up having the girls captured, raped, killed, or maybe all three. I have to agree with Kureha saying that they should have reported it, when you’re a soldier you know what can happen if you’re captured by the enemy, sorry, but that’s the breaks.

        While I found Noel’s further back story interesting it does strain the bounds of reality; in this world only a loli girl can unlock the secrets of the past to recreate a weapon of mass destruction. Also, Filicia is completely wrong, I’d be willing to bet that Hopkins knows damn well where his angel of death is hanging out; Noel’s too valuable a military asset to just forget where she’s located. 

        Now, about the ending, I can accept a lot of different endings. I could accept all the girls dying in battle together, or Kanata being the sole survivor just like Filicia was. I could accept Hopkins coming out with some crazy nuclear weapon and the harmonics for Kanata’s music being the key to deactivating it. I could accept the war being fought and Kanata having to play amazing grace to remember the fallen. I can accept the girls’ using the tank to kick the shit out of the Roman’s whose equipment looks a lot older. I could even accept Rio showing up at the last minute with a peace treaty and all three of the girls playing amazing grace to signal the end of the war since the Roman emperor got his third piece of ass. But, one thing I won’t accept is Kanata using her trumpet to cause everyone to sit around the campfire together drinking, smoking, and hugging each other. Well, only time will tell, make love not war, Claus keep your dirty hands off Kureha she’s all mine.

I’m sorry this post took so long but I’ve been sick lately and work has been a real bitch these past three weeks.  Also, this episode was so loaded with juicy themes that I wanted to get my thoughts in order before dropping this post.

      This episode begins one chilly fall morning with Rio burning the letters she’s been receiving from her father. We also hear that Kanata has made great improvements in her playing abilities since she’s had six months of practice time at the fortress.

      Then the scene switches and we see a Yuuko and an old woman up in the hills above the fortress and the old woman seems to be ill. Later in the morning we see Kureha and Kanata helping Noel refurbishing the tank, and it looks almost ready to rock. Then Kanata asks Kureha about the princess and they look for the unit’s army almanac, but its missing and Filicia’s no help in finding its location.

      Over tea, Kureha tells Kanata more about Princess Iliya; she says that Iliya was the eldest daughter of the current Archduke and she was a famous tanker. Kanata asks her about what Claus said. She died two years ago when she assigned to the royal guard, on her way to visit a city, she drowned saving a child from a river. Kureha goes on to tell Kanata that she relieved because the rumor was….

      Later, Kanata gets a visit from Yumina and Yuuko asking for a favor. Kanata goes to Rio room and asks her through the door for help. Yuuko is the daughter of Martin (one of the shop owners they do business with) and she wants them to check on the old lady (Jacott) who sells them stuff at the market. Rio is just lying in bed in a semi-cationic state but gets up and tells Kanata that she’ll listen to her request.

      Soon, Kanata and Rio are off to the hills to check on Jacott. While they’re walking towards Jacott’s house we hear the rest of what Kureha told Kanata about Iliya; it was rumored that Princess Iliya was going to be married off to the Emperor of Rome to improve relations with them, she would have been his third wife, and Kureha says she would have been a hostage. The idea stopped when Princess Iliya died and they fought with Rome until this year’s peace treaty.

       When they arrive at Jacott’s house they find her working on the construction of a new house, and she’s not in good health. Well, they take her inside and fix her some tea. She tells them the new house is for her son who lives in the city but will return home some day. When, Rio asks. Soon, Jacott replies. Rio tells the woman she must move to the city before winter comes, but the woman refuses, she has to finish that house. Rio says she’s not ready for winter having no firewood or provisions. She laughs and says she’ll be OK.

        Back at the fortress, we see Rio chopping firewood and complaining to Filicia about the stubborn old woman, and Filicia says it reminds her of Rio. Filicia then asks Rio why she showed her the letter, and she goes on to tell Rio that the military is reporting that the Roman army on their eastern border has started to move, Rio expresses shock.

        We then see Rio waiting in the car while Kanata is inside Martin’s shop picking up supplies for Jacott, and another customer asks Kanata for news about the peace conferences. Martin laments, if only Princess Iliya was alive, and the princess had a younger sister, the rumor is that she was an illegitimate child but she’s third in line for the throne. Just as Kanata is asking about the younger sister, Rio walks in the store and asks Kanata if she wants to take a walk.

       They talk about Kanata’s village and her family, large fields and lots of cows and goats, but not many people, and Rio says she can tell Kanata had a good family. Rio grew up in a small town near the capital with pretty lakes and forests, and she lived with her mother, it was boring and nothing happened. Rio’s true joy was her half sister who loved her very much and would stop by to play with her. Rio looked up to her because she was kind, and her sister accepted her fate with pride, she learned the trumpet from her, but her kindness was her undoing. Rio goes on to talk about the town, she got lost and ended up here and felt she had reached her goal, but realized this was a dead end.

      Kanata tells Rio, no, she gets lost all the time, I like to get lost, and who cares if your where lost or if it’s a dead end because that’s how I met you.  Rio tells Kanata that she jealous of her at certain times and she wishes she could be true to herself. The scene switches back to Jacott’s place with Kanata and Rio stocking the firewood and readying it for winter.  Jacott asks Rio why she cares, Rio says she reminds her of her mother, and Rio says she was born of a forbidden love, but her mother waited for him and he might come by once a year and she died living unhappily like that. Why do you think she was unhappy, Jacott asks, I’m quite happy here.  He promised he’d come back for me, it’s all I could do, what could I have done. Is that enough, yes, because I have my memories and the hope I’ll see them again.

      As Jacott and Rio talk, Kanata listens from outside the door as the first snow of the winter begins to fall. Back in the fortress, Kureha comments that it’s cold out there as the snow begins to descend on the countryside. As Kanata and Rio sleep inside Jacott’s house we get a flashback of Jacott’s life and how she ended up this way, she fell in love with a young married merchant and bore his child, because the man’s wife couldn’t have children he took the child and left her there, but promised to come back someday. Later, Jacott thinks the man has returned and rushes to the door to welcome him home.

      In the morning, Kanata and Rio awaken to find Jacott missing and follow her tracks into the snowy countryside, but to an avail.  We hear Jacott’s voice saying in order to lose you have to have gained, and the greater the joy of gain the greater the sorrow of your loss. Kanata’s voice counters with if you have memories of your happiness, with that, you can live on.

      Back at the fortress, Naomi says that she’s found the pictures of Princess Iliya that Kanata was interested in, Filicia tries to stop Naomi, but Rio says it’s OK. The pictures were of Iliya’s unit at the Timekeeping Fortress from five years ago, and in one of the pictures we see Iliya with the owl and Rio’s trumpet.

          Kanata looks to Rio, and Rio nods to Kanata and they head off to the tower together. Rio begins to play amazing grace and Kanata joins in and their duet resounds throughout the fortress and the town. After, Kanata tells Filicia that she thinks her parents wanted her to marry and take over the farm, but she fell in love with the trumpet and ended up here. It was Iliya, wasn’t it she asks Rio. Yes. You met her, too. Kanata says her music welled up inside of me.

       Rio gives Kanata her/Iliya’s charm and tells Kanata that she thinks she ran away to this town, I knew I’d leave someday. Now, I don’t want to leave, but that’s why I have to go to do what only I can do.  She then gives Kanata her trumpet and says she won’t say goodbye, no matter how far away…..Kanata says sounds fills the air……and reaches peoples’ hearts.  Kanata was I a good teacher? Yes.  As Rio walks off, she salutes the fortress and Kanata. Kanata says she’ll forever hear her music, the sound of the sky. Well, that’s all for this episode.

      Here I go; this review will be slightly different than my previous reviews of the series since I think that the real meat of this episode deals with Rio coming to a mature understanding of her nature and her position. One of the main reasons this review has taken me so long to complete is that I had to spend a lot of time looking up, reading, and watching other media to include in this review.

1 Corinthians 13

 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. 

 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(King James Version with “charity” rendered as “love”)

      I feel the highlighted portion of 1 Corinthians 13 really explains Rio’s internal battle that she’s been waging over the past few years. Rio saw/viewed her mother’s relationship with her father through the eyes and understanding of an immature child judging her mother’s action through her impression of their relationship rather that asking her mother what she really felt. I think that Rio and Kanata’s encounter with Jacott served to awaken Rio’s understanding that she was judging her mother on only half knowledge; did she ever ask her mother if she was unhappy, did she ever ask her mother if her father lied to her mother or did they have an understanding, all Rio ever did was become angry and bitter without ever understanding if there was a reason to become so. I’ll get back to the “a glass, darkly” part later.

      I found Rio’s comment to Kanata about “her sister’s kindness being her undoing” to be quite interesting because this is the main struggle that caused all the problems in the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena. A person’s nature can only be what it is, Iliya’s nature as a person and a princess was to be brave and kind and she could no more change her nature then an eagle could change its nature. While Rio might have wanted her sister to be more careful and less kind that would have caused her sister to change from the sister she so admired and loved into something else, think Anthy and Akio.

For further reading on this subject please see Ghostlightning’s post on Utena, and my comments on personal identity and characteristics.

Kanata and Rio; the free bird, and the caged bird.

I know why the caged bird sings, by Maya Angelou.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

        This poem perfectly explains Rio’s jealousy of Kanata, to Rio, Kanata is the free bird that glides along on the current of the winds letting those winds take it to new and interesting places while Rio is the caged bird that dreams of having Kanata’s freedom . Rio lives in a cage constructed by the nature of her birth & her identity, and the responsibilities that society places upon her. No matter how much Rio may wish to be free like Kanata, she’s still a princess and owes her country and the memory of her sister a debt. Some might say that Rio could keeping running away from her father but what would that solve, Rio would still be the caged bird. I think that the only way Rio will be truly be free of her cage is for personal death.

The legend of the Thornbird from The Thornbirds, by Colleen MuCullough.

“There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth.

 From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles.

 For the best is only bought at the price of great pain… or so says the legend…”

       Rio struggles her whole life against the chains and bars of her cage only to discover only in death can she truly be free. On top of the tower, Rio impales herself upon the thorn of her destiny and sings her perfect song and in the process she undergoes death, the death of one existence and she experiences her rebirth into her perfected self.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

       When Rio finally put aside her childlike thinking she was able to see clearly through the obscured glass/mirror that she’s been using to view herself. The darkness is now pulled back and now the light of self understanding illuminates Rio knowledge of her true nature and her responsibilities. The caged Rio dies on top of that tower, her fears and uncertainties fade under the light, and Rio is reborn into her true form. The bastard princess, third in line for throne, now assumes the role she was born to but fled from; she must do what only she can do, and Iliya smiles.

        This episode begins with the girls working in their garden harvesting the fruits of a bountiful summer. While going about their labors, Kureha tells Kanata about her parents, her father was a pretty famous tanker who was wounded in battle, and that’s where he met Kureha’s mother who was working as a medic in the hospital. Filicia informs the girls that Claus will be stopping by and Kureha gets all excited. Kanata says that Kureha must really like Claus, no, I just respect him.

        At that moment we see and hear Rio start to jam out on her bugle, Kureha comments that she didn’t know Rio was that good, but Kanata seems very unsettled. Filicia looks to the sky and says the wind is starting to blow and the weather is going to get bad soon so they need to head inside.

       Later, after dinner it begins to storm and Kanata, Kureha, and Noel lounge around in their bed clothes with Kanata bringing up the fact that Rio is acting strange including the fact that she ate pepper when she can’t stand them. As the girls continue the small talk, Kanata notices that Kureha has a picture of a much younger Claus, and Kureha calls it her treasure and tells Kanata she can’t have it. A few seconds later, Noel falls asleep in her chair and Kanata has to catch her before she goes crashing to the floor, Kureha and Kanata place Noel in Kureha’s bed.

 

       Later, we see that the three girls are racked out in Kureha’s bed, and Filicia has talk with Rio. She asks about her hanging up on her father, and she brings up the fact that while Rio seems on top of things she really not, she tells Rio she’ll cover for her but act like a good leader in front to the other girls.

       A few seconds later, Claus shows up in the middle of the storm with a priority message for Rio. Filicia calls Claus the desert fox and invites him inside where he gets mad because he says he asked her not to call him that. Filicia says how about some hot tea and a bath as an apology.

        Soon we see Kureha serving Claus some of her cooking and he makes the comment that she’ll make a good wife someday. Kanata walks in and sees Filicia reading a newspaper that Claus brought with him, the peace conferences aren’t going well, and Claus laments that if princess Iliya was still alive things might be different. Kureha tells Kanata that Iliya was the hero of Vingt and the first princess of Archduke Arcadia and Kanata looks over to the book Rio gave her. Kureha goes on to call her the Helvetian army’s goddess of victory, and a tanker goddess like Claus the Desert Wolf. As the Claus and the other discuss the peace conferences, Rio is in her room agonizing about opening the message tube when Naomi and Yumina show up asking for help, Seiya is missing.

        Well, the army jump into action, Claus and Kureha head off in his motorcycle and sidecar, Noel and Filicia head off in the car, and Rio and Kanata search by foot. While Kanata and Rio are searching near the river by the waterfall, Rio has a flashback of the princess and she comments that she fell. While Kureha and Claus are searching they run into Mishio and Kureha grabs her and says the only reason she could be out here is because she knows something about Seiya, where is he, the fields.

        Well, Kureha and Claus find Seiya near the raging river trying to protect some eggplants, Kureha goes to him and he says he didn’t ask for help. Kureha is about to hit him but instead hugs him and says that kids without parents have to be stronger than kids with them because she’s an orphan too.  After Seiya gets pulled to safety, Claus tells Kureha to go next, but the path collapses and Kureha and Claus are trapped near the river with no way up, Filicia tells Rio, Kanata and Noel that it doesn’t look good.

        Kureha tells Claus that she’s not afraid because she’s with him and Claus is about to tell her something but he changes his mind. Above, Kanata says she not worried because Kureha with miracle Claus, and Filicia and Rio says that’s not true, Claus just happened to have the same name and was close in appearance and Kureha got all happy, and Claus just never found the right moment to tell her. But, Filicia says the important thing is we have to figure out how to rescue them.

       Noel suggests they send them a rope, Rio says they’re too far down and too far away, but Noel says there’s a way. Below, Kureha tells Claus that when she first met him she thought that her father would have been like him if he still lived, and she tells him that she says she knew her dad well but its all second hand since he died when she was little. Claus’s and Kureha’s little patch of ground continues to erode and Kureha clings to Claus when she notices that he’s missing the wolf tattoo on his chest that her picture has.

       As a watery death closes in on Claus and Kureha they hear a bugle call, and we see that the townspeople have pulled the tank to a spot overlooking the river. Noel is going to use a previously unseen function of the tank to fire a rescue line to them. Kanata uses her instrument to signal to Claus that a line is coming, and Claus tells Kureha that he’ll protect her in her father’s place. As the line is fired over, Claus grabs the line and reaches for Kureha as the last bit of ground washes away, nobody can see if they have grabbed the line when Filicia orders it retrieved.

       As the line is pulled up, Claus has managed to hold on to Kureha, he says now that we’re safe I have to tell you that…..Kanata interrupts him saying she knows, he’s the one she admires. After it’s all over and a sunny day has dawned, Claus says that in the end he was more afraid of ruining someone’s dream than dying, so he’s a coward, but Kanata says she still admires him. Claus tells Kanata that most of the time what you see in a person and what they’re feeling is different, and admiring someone makes your vision blurry. Filicia asks Claus if he’ll stay till Kureha wakes up. No, he tells her to tell Kureha that his face wound is the most honorable wound he’s ever received. While this is taking place, we see Kureha sleeping while holding on to her beloved picture.  Well, that’s all for this watery episode.

       OK, this was a pretty nice episode that focused on Claus and Kureha. We find out that Claus wasn’t the famous Desert Wolf, he just didn’t have will to break Kureha’s hero worship. Hell, I really don’t blame Claus for letting Kureha go on about the whole thing, who doesn’t want to be worshiped by a cute girl from time to time.

       Also, it was nice getting some background on Kureha, and it goes a long way to explaining her attraction to Claus. We find out that Kureha’s father was tank commander who might have had some pretty good moments, and he met Kureha’s mother when he was wounded. Kureha told Claus that he’s how she pictured her father looking if he had lived. It seems that Kureha’s whole life has revolved around and been affected by the military, her father was a good tank commander, her mother was a military medic, and both died in the war and Kureha was an orphan until she was old enough to join the military which became her new family. So, It’s easy to see why Kureha would fall for a military guy who she pictures as the image of her brave and courageous fallen father, go for it girl, it’s better to marry a Major instead of a Private, better billets and pay.

       Well, Sora no Woto is continuing it’s cold path to the finish, like many slice of life anime series, Sora no Woto is showing a heavy seasonal influence, we began in the freshness of spring then lazily drifted through summer to feel a stormy fall, and are now heading to the cold embrace of winter’s kiss, the only question left is how cold it’s icy embrace will be for Rio and her friends.

Earth’s Answer, from Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, 1794

Earth raised up her head
From the darkness dread and drear,
Her light fled,
Stony, dread,
And her locks covered with grey despair.

‘Prisoned on watery shore,
Starry jealousy does keep my den
Cold and hoar;
Weeping o’er,
I hear the father of the ancient men.

‘Selfish father of men!
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
Can delight,
Chained in night,
The virgins of youth and morning bear.

‘Does spring hide its joy,
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the ploughman in darkness plough?

‘Break this heavy chain,
That does freeze my bones around!
Selfish, vain,
Eternal bane,
That free love with bondage bound.’

       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, 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.

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