Adventure


        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.

       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.

       This episode begins on “Holy Night” with Lag asking what “Holy Night” is. So, it gets explained to Lag that the holiday was set up for the people to honor the Empress and pray for a happier life, and the Bees will be delivering packages to the needy children in the northern areas.

 

      Well, we soon see that the Bees have to wear Santa outfits while making their deliveries, and Lag gets partnered with Zazie for the night. This night is also new experience for Niche since the Dingos have to stay behind, and it takes some convincing on Aria’s part to explain it to her.

      As Zazie and Lag make their way up the snow covered path to the delivery address they both fall a couple of times, and Zazie’s in a pretty foul mood. When they get to the front door they’re greeted by a little girl (Sonja) who is very happy seeing the Holy Night messengers for the first time. Lag and Zazie present Sonja with her gift which happens to be a picture book. Then Lag asks Sonja for her wish, the messengers are supposed to grant one wish to the recipient of the gift, and Sonja chooses to have them stay for dinner.

       Sonja tells them to wait inside while she gets everything ready, and Lag notices that Sonja seems to be all alone. Zazie says it’s none of their business but Lag goes outside and helps Sonja chop wood and shovel snow. Then Sonja remembers that she has to shop for ingredients, so Lag asks Zazie to go with her while he finishes with the snow. Zazie declines Lag’s offer and says he’ll finish the shoveling and Lag can go shopping with her, but Zazie is forced to go with her since she wants to talk with the other messenger.

 

      Well, Zazie isn’t very friendly with Sonja while they’re walking to the village, she asks him many questions and he gives the shortest answers possible. Once they reach town and begin shopping, Zazie notices that the villagers aren’t very friendly towards Sonja and even seem to shun her.  When Zazie waiting outside a shop for Sonja a village resident walks up to Zazie and warns him to stay away from that girl.

 

      Later, we see that Sonja has cooked a tremendous Holy Night meal for the three of them, turkey with all the fixings. Lag digs in with gusto while Zazie remembers the warning and is a little more reserved. After they finish dinner it’s snowing so hard that it’s impossible for them to leave so Sonja offers them shelter in exchange for one of them to read the book to her. Well, guess what, Lag does the reading and he and Sonja are soon reduced to a pile of tears. Zazie makes the comment that they’re both crybabies. Lag asks Zazie didn’t he cry when he first read the book, and he says he did but he was a kid when it happened.

 

      Sonja then tells them that her dream is to be able to draw good enough where she’ll be able to make a picture book everyone will want to read. The storm continues to rage outside so Lag and Zazie play cards with, draw pictures with, pray with, and finally call it a night and sleep with Sonja. While Sonja and Lag are crashed Zazie is still awake because he remembers the warning the villager gave him.

 

       Just as Zazie is about to crash Sonja thanks him for making her dream come true, and Zazie finally asks her why she’s alone. Sonja asks him if he heard the villagers. Yes. She tells Zazie that she’s alone because both her parents were killed by a Gaichuu and now they shun her because they believe that children whose parents are killed by a Gaichuu will draw other Gaichuu to them. Zazie gets angry and says that’s not true, but Sonja says try telling them that. Sonja goes on to say that’s the reason she doesn’t go to the village, plus this house contains all the memories of her parents.

 

       After Sonja says goodnight to Zazie he lays awake thinking back to when his own parents were killed by a Gaichuu, and he wonders why he became a Letter Bee. Then next morning when Lag and Zazie are leaving, Sonja thanks them for the gift and for all the help with the chores. Just as Zazie is about to say something to Sonja a panicked villager runs up to them saying a Gaichuu has attacked the village.

 

      As soon as the group reaches the village, people start to blame Sonja’s visit to the village for attracting the Gaichuu there but Zazie goes off on them telling them it’s not her fault.

       Zazie tells Lag to distract the Gaichuu and he’ll attack its weak spot from above. Lag gets the Gaichuu’s attention and Zazie attacks from above destroying the Gaichuu. When Zazie is charging his gun we see that he charges it with hatred and malice while Lag uses his precious feelings. After the battle is over he tells the villagers that a Gaichuu isn’t attracted by a little girl, but they’re draw by heart, so all the holiday gift giving probably attracted the Gaichuu. Zazie goes on to tell the villagers if another Gaichuu appears just call him and he’ll destroy it.

       While, Lag and Zazie are returning by wagon, Zazie thinks back to the parting gift of ribbons that Sonja gave them, he seems quite happy with his experiences with Sonja. When Zazie returns home he places the ribbon that Sonja gave him around the neck of a stray cat that he took pity on at the beginning of the episode. Well, that’s all for this episode.

 

       I found this episode to be quite interesting and fulfilling despite it being a filler episode. Getting a little back story on Zazie was very nice, and I found it quite interesting that Zazie powers his gun with hatred and malice VS Lag’s use of precious feelings. This leads to an interesting question, if a Bee like Gauche used up too much of his heart and bad things happened what happens if Zazie uses up all his hatred and malice. Does he become unable to function and just lay around and cry every couple of hours like Lag does.

        Also, this episode raises a major question about the Gaichuu, if the Gaichuu are so numerous that a lot of orphans are being created what the hell is Amberground’s government doing about it, and why are they just letting it happen, isn’t the first responsibility of a government the safety of its citizens. I’m starting to get this weird feeling that the Amberground government has something to do with the Gaichuu problem, and could they just be a tool used to keep its citizens in fear and under control. I really feel that there has to be some linkage between the Gaichuu, the Empress, the artificial sun, and the day of flicker.

Damn, another sad girl in the snow

She’s cute, she chops wood, she cleans, she shovels snow, and she cooks. Hell, I’ll adopt her, and buy her a Snuggie.

 

           This episode begins with us getting the first verse of Amberground’s scripture, and then we see Sylvette seeing Lag and Niche off to work. Then we get a little Skit involving Niche and her underwear, we find out that Sylvette has gotten Niche to wear more girly ones in exchange for not making that nasty soup for three days, and Niche’s not happy with the new style.

          Then Lag runs into another Bee while traveling to a pickup and Moc Sullivan tells Lag that he wonders if someone like him should be a Bee. He goes on to tell Lag that it’s not necessary to know anything about a letter, or its heart, only that it was delivered properly.

           When Lag arrives at the pickup address, he finds out that he’s early and the man (Vincent) hasn’t finished writing the letter. Vincent asks Lag for some lies/tall stories to put into his letter and Lag is shocked about the idea of putting lies in a letter. Then Vincent tells Lag to look around him and see how shitty of a situation he’s living in, of course he can’t tell his mother the truth because she’d worry about him.  Vincent tells Lag to shut up and just deliver the letter, and it’s none of his business what he writes about anyway.

         Later, just as Lag is about to deliver the letter to Vincent’s mother, they get attacked by a Gaichuu while walking across a rope bridge.  While Lag has Niche carry Vincent’s mother to safely he has to decide whether or not a letter of lies is worth risking his life for, and he decides that it’s worth the risk. After a short battle, Niche and Lag defeat the Gaichuu, and some of the fragments from Lag’s Shindan hit Vincent’s letter.

         Well, Vincent’s true situation is revealed, he’s been writing novels and stories but keeps getting rejected over and over. Lag tells Vincent’s mother not to look at that, but read the letter instead. Vincent’s mother is in tears when she tells Lag that she’s glad that her son hasn’t given up, and she tells Lag that her son has a great imagination. She goes on to tell Lag that Vincent is a terrible liar so those BS letters he had been sending her just made her worry.

          Later, guess what? Lag shares a nice cry with Vincent’s mother before heading back to town.  Then we see Niche showing Lag that Steak has swallowed one of Vincent’s books along with an unposted letter. Next, we get another skit involving Niche, Steak, and underwear, because we and Lag can see that Niche has taken off the girly underwear and Steak is now wearing them, and Lag has to promise Niche to buy her some baggy ones with his first paycheck. Well, that’s all for this episode.

         Well, I’m going to go on a small rant about this series. I don’t mind filler episodes as long as they make sense, but it looks like we’re getting back to back filler episodes, this one, plus the upcoming  Christmas episode. Other than the beginning of this episode where we got to hear the first verse of Amberground’s scripture everything else was pretty much recycled Letter Bee tropes; Lag cries, Niche underwear skits, Lag cries some more,  Sylvette’s terrible soup, and Lag cries again, you get the picture.

         With Letter Bee episodes being only 20 minutes long including the opening and the ending songs you would think that the creators/writers would consider every minute precious, but it seems that we’re going to continue getting bad jokes about Niche’s underwear choices, Sylvette’s poor cooking, and Lag crying at every possible moment instead of progressing the story forward.

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