SiFi


       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 with us watching Kanata playing her bugle/trumpet with not much success on a rainy morning, and we also see that Noel has been working on the tank’s optical system also having little success.

      Later, we see that Noel and Kanata are being sent into town on a supply mission; they’re given a list of supplies they need to purchase for the fortress. As Noel is driving through town Kanata tries to talk with her but Noel won’t answer her until she arrives at their destination (it’s not safe to talk and drive).

       The first stop on their supply run is the shop where Kanata met Rio in the first episode. While Kanata is looking around the shop, the shopkeeper (Naomi) asks Noel if Kanata “knows”? No. As Noel and Naomi are conducting business Kanata asks Naomi if she can check out the glass sculpture. Yes. Kanata asks if this is a fish. Noel tells her that the sculpture is called a dolphin and it’s a mammal, not a fish, and it lived in the ocean when there used to be life in the sea (not a good sign). Naomi tells Kanata that the sculpture is made at a factory just outside of town. Kanata expresses an interest in seeing how it’s made, and Noel says they’ll be stopping there later.  Outside the shop, Noel tells Kanata that Naomi is trying to locate parts for the tank, and Noel is having a part made for the tank at the glass factory.

       While the girls continue their shopping, Noel confides to Kanata that she likes machines because they won’t betray you (she’s never had me as BF, get with it).

       As they continue their shopping, Noel and Kanata run into the nun (Yumina) that helped Kanata and the little girl that Kanata had so much fun playing with during the festival in the first episode.  But, the mood is serious because a young boy (Seyia) runs into Noel causing them both to fall, and when Noel offers the boy her hand he slaps it away calling her a murderer, I hate soldiers, and runs off. Later, Yumina tries to apologize saying Seyia is a war orphan but Noel refuses saying, he’s right, we’re soldiers. Later, while on their way to the glass factory, Kanata tries to make Noel feel better by agreeing with her saying, we’re soldiers.

      At the factory, the biggest one Kanata’s ever seen, Noel converses with the Meister (Carl) about how the latest lens he created for the tank was a failure. While this is going on, Kanata talks with a young female worker (Maria) who tells Kanata that Carl is one of only five masters in the whole country. Noel then explains to Kanata the problem with the optics; the tank requires two lenses and they only have one, so Noel is having Carl make a second one but none of them seem to be working right. While they know the composition of the lens they just can’t get it quite right.

       Later, while Kanata and Noel are sitting on a beach, Noel tells Kanata that she likes machines, but sometimes machines hurt people and she’s sure the tank killed many people in the past, and she asks Kanata if she’s frighten of a machine that has killed people? Yes. But, Kanata tells Noel that she’s more frightened by the people that operated that machine. Kanata tells Noel that when she plays the trumpet it sounds bad, but when Rio plays the trumpet it sounds beautiful, and the tank plays beautiful music so she’s sure it’s a good tank. Then Noel falls asleep on Kanata’s shoulder. Carl tells Kanata that Noel probably worked all night, so let her sleep.

      Then Maria and Kanata have a conversation about craftsmanship with Kanata telling Maria that no matter how hard she tries she can’t get her trumpet to sound like Rio’s playing, maybe she doesn’t have the talent. Carl jumps in saying that lack of talent is an excuse to give up, and goes on to ask her if she trying to force herself to make the sound instead of feeling how the sound should be made. Carl shows Kanata some glassblowing, saying he’s not forcing the shape, but the glass wanted to be this shape.

       Kanata jumps up and rushes outside just as dawn is beginning to break, she tells herself to feel it as the sound wants to play itself. When Kanata finally begins playing, the sound is right and true surprising those in the factory.

      When Noel awakens to Kanata’s music she and Carl realize that they can use Kanata’s fine sense of sound to choose a replacement lens for the tank that most closely matches the original; Kanata chooses the one that most closely matches the original. Opon returning to the fortress, Noel uses the lens that Kanata picked and she installs it inside the tank with the original. This time the tank’s optical system boots up properly accepting the replacement lens. After the success, Kureta makes to comment that this is the first time that she’s ever seen Noel smile. Well, that’s all for this episode.

      OK, this was a very interesting episode that answered a few question while raising many more. This episode gave us a little look into Noel’s personality, while I wouldn’t say this episode qualified as a Noel back story episode I can say she’s pretty interesting. First of all, we understand that Noel is more comfortable around machines, but her comment that “machines won’t betray you” raises a lot of questions like who screwed her over/betrayed her, her parents, a lover, or the government. I feel a bit sad for Noel if she feels that she needs to retreat to the cold solace of a machine instead seeking human interaction. I could see how emotionally dependant she is on her relationship with the tank is when she basically sought out Kanata judgment/approval of the tank. I think that Kanata’s line of thought on the tank is quite right; basically it’s a version of the old line, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, but I say guns make it a hell of a lot easier to do the killing. This brings me to a quote about the intentions of tools.

      “The intentions of a tool are what it does. A hammer intends to strike; a vise intends to hold fast; a lever intends to lift. They are what it is made for. But sometimes a tool may have other uses that you don’t know. Sometimes in doing what you intend, you also do what the knife intends, without knowing. “

Phillip Pullman, from The Amber Spyglass

      After seeing the different modes of operation in the tank’s command menu I wonder if they really want to make it operational, because it could be something as deadly as the God Warriors from Nausicaa. I would start worrying if Kanata starts calling the tank Ohma.

      We also got further information about the decay of the world when Noel informed Kanata about the dolphins, making clear to Kanata that life no longer exists in the ocean. Plus, we also discovered that while Noel and Carl understand what the tank’s lenses are made of they have no idea how it was made. This still leaves me wondering if the war caused the decay and destruction of the environment, or if the war was a result of humans fighting over the dwindling resources of a decaying world.

      Who would have thought that Kanata only needed a little Zen training to become better at playing the trumpet; don’t fight the flow, be the flow. Use the force, Kanata.

      Now, to the most interesting aspect of the entire episode, what is everybody (-Kureha, I assume) keeping secret from Kanata, it’s quite obvious that some people think that Kanata will be a trigger, or her arrival will herald something. If we assume that town places a lot of truth in the legend of the fire maidens could they believe that now that there are five maidens in the fortress something will happen?

      This episode begins with Kanata getting the honor of sounding the morning wake up call, and she’s as bad as before. Then the platoon enjoys a breakfast cooked by Kanata, and her cooking is much better than her bugle playing. Later, Felicia informs Rio that she’ll be going into town in the afternoon with Kureha to pick up a shipment of supplies sent by HQ.

       The squad spends the morning doing typical army things; cleaning the area, cleaning & practicing with their weapons, and conducting classroom training. Kanata also cooks lunch for the squad, and Rio takes her lunch with Felicia in her office where Felicia talks about how well Kanata is fitting in. Rio tells Felicia that Kanata works hard and tries hard but those qualities aren’t enough by themselves, Felicia just smiles at her.

       After lunch, Felicia heads off with Kureha and Noel to pick up the supplies leaving Rio and Kanata at the fortress. Rio has Kanata practice with just her mouthpiece, and later she asks her what she things about military life and why she joined the army.

        Well, Kanata tells Rio that she found out that the military would teach you music for free, oh protecting the country is also important. Kanata than asks Rio why she joined the military. Rio says her reason were almost the opposite of Kanata’s. While Rio is explaining her situation to Kanata she notices that Kanata is looking really sick. Kanata starts to collapse, and she starts babbling about how Rio’s music sounded like music she heard as a child and that was the sound of the sky.

       As Rio rushes to Kanata’s aid, when Kanata starts calling to her mother saying she’s burning up. Rio carries Kanata inside where she gets Kanata out of her uniform and into bed. Kanata thinks Rio is her mother and reaches for her saying she wants to eat snow (ice?).  Well, Rio rushes around the fortress looking for snow (ice?) and medicine where she discovers the first aid supplies empty and ends up cursing the supple corps. Rio has a flashback from her childhood where her (mother?) was sick and jumps on the unit’s motorcycle and rushes to town for help.

       Rio ends up in front of what looks like a church where she asks a young female (nun?) for help. Once the woman has a look at Kanata she says it’s most likely Malaria, and she gives Kanata some medicine. She (Yumina) tells Rio that Kanata should be fine with the proper rest, and she gives Rio some additional medicine for Kanata before leaving.

       While Kanata is sleeping, she has flashbacks of her encounter with the bugle player from her youth where Kanata is standing there listening to her play amazing grace (?).  Kanata awakens from her feverish sleep to hear Rio humming that very same tune.  When Kanata gets Rio attention she apologizes for being useless, and she asks Rio the name of that song. When Rio doesn’t reply, Kanata begins to hum the tune and Rio says that it’s amazing she knows the song so well after only hearing it one time. Kanata tells Rio that she heard the tune long ago. Rio takes Kanata to the tank and powers it up, and she hits a command key and the tank begins to play the tune.

       Kanata and Rio listen to the tune together, and Rio explains to Kanata that music and a squad function alike, every note and member is needed. She tells Kanata that she needs to tell her if something is wrong, and she’ll help her.  Rio goes on to tell Kanata that it’s all right to not be able to do something right the first, and she should remember how it feels to be helpless because someday it’ll be her job to teach someone.

      Once everyone returns to the fortress they discuss Kanata illness, and Rio’s use of the tank. Felicia asks Rio why she listened to the song when she swore that she’d never listen to that some again? It’s a secret. Well, that’s all for this episode.

Getting the feel of military life right.

        After finishing this episode I have to give the writers and creators credit for getting the feel of what it’s like to be stationed as small military away from the main force correct. Back in the day, when I was a young soldier I spent six months performing duty with the Multinational Force and Observers Group verifying the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace accord in the Sinai Peninsula. When we were stationed  at the remote checkpoint we (about 12 soldiers) lived at a camp that consisted of about three trailers for a period of two weeks at a time and our day went pretty much along the lines of what the girls are doing at the Time Keeping Fortress: we had first call for PT at about 5 AM then ate breakfast together; then we performed weapons/equipment maintaince and barracks cleaning in the morning, then we ate lunch together; then we would conduct some classroom type instruction during the afternoon then we ate dinner together. Of course, we had our observation patrols and watch shifts, but overall it was very low stress and mellow duty unless a higher up decided to stop by.

       Also, I thought that the episode captured the nature of a relationship between the sergeant (Rio) and the young recruit/private (Kanata) nicely. A sergeant, contrary to popular media portrayals (movies), is much more than someone who yells at you when you screw up; they’re combination of a leader, a teacher, a surrogate mother & father, a marriage counselor, a motivational speaker, and on occasion an amateur physiologist. When you receive a private fresh out of basic training they’re going to suck, the recruit was taught only the most basic military skills necessary for survival, and it’s your job as the sergeant to bring them up to speed, it’s like going from kindergarten to high school. I also loved the conversation that Rio and Kanata had about joining the military, my first squad leader asked me that very same question, and I also asked every new soldier that got assigned to my team/squad/platoon that very same question. Like Kanata, I also told the truth, I joined the army because I was bored with college and because the navy’s nuclear program wouldn’t take me because of a color vision defiency. 

Rio, religion, and mythology.

       I found the entire Kanata illness segment to be fascinating insight into Rio’s views on religion and mythology. On one hand, Rio seems to have a dislike/distrust of religion stemming from a childhood incident involving her (mother?) and a priest, while on the other hand, Rio’s mind flashed to the legend of the fire maidens as Kanata was falling ill, and she also played the major role in the town’s annual festival.

Oh, I found this interesting forum post  concerning a Chinese myth that’s strikingly close to the myth in the series.

The tank, the apocalypse, and lost technology.

       When I watched Rio activates the tank a couple of thing struck me. Firstly, no matter how you want to argue the point, the tank clearly originates from a technological base that’s totally beyond anything that’s currently operating in the world of Sora no Woto. When the interface popped up, one of the options on the screen was for stealth mode. Hell; none of our current modern tanks come anywhere close to being as advanced as that tank. I also liked the navi reference, could that be a shout out to Serial Experiments Lain, her computer interface was a navi.

      So, I’m tending to assume that Kanata’s world is a future version of our world that underwent some great apocalypse that caused the loss of technology and culture. I’m almost to the point where I’m going to assume that something much deeper and darker is hiding/obscuring the truth of the world ala, Green Legend Ran, Scrapped Princess, A Wind Named Amnesia, or the Matrix. 

The Sound of the Sky: Amazing Grace and the promise of salvation and power of redemption.

       I really liked how we were shown that the music that touched both Rio’s and Kanata’s souls was Amazing Grace. While I’m not very religious, I’ve always be touched by the powerful emotions that Amazing Grace manages to stir up every time I hear it played, it gives me the feeling that no matter how bad something gets that there is always hope for salvation and redemption just around the corner. 

So, in the context of Sora no Woto, here’s my crack at the meaning of the song.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
We have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John Newton, 1779

       So, I think that the playing of Amazing Grace with the proper internal understanding of the beauty and the joy of life will unlock some failsafe in an illusion or program that’s currently obscuring that truth of the world. Maybe, the world is being punished by someone or something because of past behavior and that punishment will only be lifted when some person is able to sound the correct call for salvation and redemption.

       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.

        Well, this episode begins with Lag renting Gauche’s old room from Sylvette, and we see that Sylvette has her hands full with getting Niche to do things like brush her teeth. Later, Lag thanks Sylvette for letting him rent the room, and Sylvette makes Lag promise that as long has he’s living here he’ll come home. Then Sylvette makes Lag and Niche her brother’s favorite dish, and it tastes just like that crappy soup Gauche fed him in the first episodes.

 

         Later, Lag is saved from having to eat more of Sylvette’s food by a knock on the front door; Aria Link has stopped by for Lag’s first work day. Aria gives Lag a bag and tells him to hurry up and change. Outside, we see Lag reappear in a Letter Bee uniform with both Aria and Sylvette waiting on him. Sylvette hands Lag her brother’s old gun and lunch for him and Niche, as Lag departs with Aria we see that Sylvette has tears in her eyes.

 

        Lag asks Aria where she’s taking them, and she tells them they’ll know when they arrive. During the ride, Lag finds out that Aria knows about Lag being a letter, and Aria finds out that Lag knows her because he was shot by Gauche.

 

       They finally arrive at an elevated part of the road where Lag and Niche are given a spectacular view of Amberground’s artificial sun.  Aria tells them that this is the Hill of Prayer, the place where you can feel closest to the sun. Aria goes on to tell them that Amberground was founded by the Empress who rules over the country and whom we worship, and this hill is a holy place where we pray to the Empress under the light. Lag asks Aria why she brought them here, and she says that Gauche loved this place since we were little.

 

         She tells them that she and Gauche would come here every day and pray for their safety until twelve years ago on day 311, called “The day of Flicker”, on that day Gauche lost a precious part of his heart. Lag asks what happened. On that day, while Gauche was on the hill, his mother went into labor and was in a very bad way, and Aria was sent to get him. As Aria was running up the hill the sun went out and only starlight was visible, Aria watched as a government airship crashed from the sky. When Aria reached Gauche the sun was back on but Gauche was in a trance/daze talking about the sun flickering on and off.

 

        Well, when Aria and Gauche return, Gauche’s mother is dead but his infant sister is born. Gauche grabs his sister and names her Sylvette shocking everyone around him. They ask him if he’s giving his sister the same name as his dead mother. It seems that Gauche has lost all memories of/feelings for his mother. Gauche promises to always be there for his sister, and he notices that something is wrong with her legs.

 

        Lags asks if the Flicker caused this, and Aria says the government announced that it was doing an adjustment/examination of the sun that day and they claim the airship crash was unrelated. Lag asks if that’s true, and Aria says that’s what the government claims and she doesn’t know. Aria gives Lag a bit of advice telling him that if you get to close to the sun darkness will grow in your heart, and that’s what it means to aim for the Head Bee position.

 

        Just then, Conner runs up to Lag and Aria and tells them that Zazie ran into trouble with a whole lot of Gaichuu and is requesting backup, Aria tells Lag to get going. Lag thanks Aria for the word of warning as he heads off, and he also tells Aria that he was also born on The Day of Flicker.

 

       Well, Lag arrives on the scene to help Zazie and he has to learn to control is Shindan energy levels. Lag and Niche work as a team with Zazie and his dingo to take care of the Gaichuu, and after the battle is over he joins Zazie and Conner for a snack from Lag’s canteen, oh no it’s Sylvette’s nasty soup. Well, that’s all for this episode.

 

        Well, after watching this episode the mysteries only deepen and the connection between Gauche, Sylvette, Lag, and Lag’s mother only grow stronger. I sure wasn’t expecting to find out that Lag was born on the same day as Sylvette, and I sure as hell wasn’t expecting that to be the day that Gauche’s mother died and the sun flickered.  It’s really going to be interesting to figure out why the Day of Flicker took from Gauche his memories of his mother, Sylvette the use of her legs, Gauche’s and Sylvette’s mother’s life, while giving Lag an spirit amber eye.  Also, this episode raises the question of why Gauche had to work hard at becoming a Bee if his family already lived on the “good” side of the river, doesn’t being a citizen have its bennies.

        Also, it was quite funny finding out the source of Gauche’s poor taste in soup, of course he’s goanna love his sister’s soup even if it tastes like shit. For me, Niche continues to be one of the best characters in the whole damn series, and for god sakes can Lag go more than a day without crying his eyes out.

“Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN SHONEN ANIME!”

       All I can say is that it’s going to be an interesting ride watching Lag getting to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the artificial sun and finding out if/how Amberground’s government is corrupt. Another interesting note was Aria warning Lag about getting to close to the sun, and getting darkness inside your heart.  Her comments to Lag raise an interesting parallel between Gauche’s actions in attempting to become Head Bee and the myth of Icarus, and did he like Icarus fly to close to the sun?

Question; did the creators use Saaya Irie as Sylvette’s body model, both are twelve?

        This episode begins with Sylvette having a flashback of her brother vowing to work hard to become Head Bee so she can live better and walk again, Sylvette thinks to herself what did he accomplish by losing his heart. Lag walks in on Sylvette crying and they reach out to one another, and Lag spirit amber eye charges, so he fires the shot at Gauche’s gun.

 

        Then we get a flashback/vision of Lag talking with Gauche about his mother, Sylvette’s birth, his lack of previous memories from before Sylvette’s birth, and why he became a Bee. We Also see flashbacks of Gauche’s battles and his deliveries, and his fights seem to take a ever growing toll on him. Then we see Gauche asking the Head Bee for ever more work in order for him to get a job in the capital, and we also see Aria telling Gauche that she’s worried about his heart.

         Then the scene changes for a bit to Conner, Niche, and Steak where we see that Conner easing Niche’s worries about Lag. Back inside Sylvette’s house Gauche’s gun is still giving off memories where we see Gauche being followed by some suspicious characters. After giving them the slip we see Gauche buying a new custom revolver and being warned that the new gun will use more heart than his normal gun, and we also see that the seller telling Gauche that his old gun is worth a lot of money if he wants to sell it.

 

       After eating a meal with the merchant, Gauche tells him that he’s heading off to the capital this weekend, and Gauche refuses to sell his old gun. The merchant asks Gauche if he was followed. Yes. The merchant tells Gauche that they are rumors of a anti-government group called “reverse” forming that wishes to reform the current government, and he tells Gauche that the word is that they’re targeting Bee’s that work in the capital.

 

        Then we see Gauche giving his gun to Sylvette and telling her that if his good friend comes calling please give him this gun, Sylvette asks if it’s the crybaby boy her age? Yes, his name is Lag Seeing. As Lag reaches for the “memory” all the memories and illusions vanish.

 

       A tearful Lag tells Sylvette that no matter what happened to Gauche he’ll become a Bee and travel the world and find and return Gauche to her. Sylvette tells Lag that he’s first person she’s met that’s a bigger crybaby then her, and she give Gauche’s gun to Lag. She also tells Lag that she’s sorry for not giving it to him earlier because she was afraid of a flood of memories about her brother.

 

       Once Lag returns to the wagon he’s in better shape and thanks Niche for her help, and that he’s counting on her in the future. Inside the Bee Hive, the Head Bee informs Lag that having passed his exams he is hired as a full-fledged Bee, and that only he and Jiggy come from Yokada. Lag tells them that his dream is to deliver hearts and dreams, and his goal is the same as Gauche’s. Well, that’s all for this episode.

 

       Well, while this episode answered some questions it also raised many more, like did Gauche lose his heart or did he find out that the government of Amberground is corrupt, or is he dead? Another interesting question is why Gauche felt it necessary to get a more powerful gun that drains even more heart than normal? Also, I would like to know why Aria didn’t go looking for Gauche after he disappeared if she was so close to him. 

       Regardless of the new questions, I’m glad that Letter Bee seems to be reaching the meat of its story; Lag finding and returning Gauche to his sister. Well, Letter Bee sure is a shonen series because every female except Niche is racked and stacked whether or not they’re thirteen or thirty. The only thing that separates this series from a normal shonen series is that our male protagonist cries more than any male lead I’ve ever seen, and for a while I couldn’t figure out who was supposed to be the girl, Lag or Sylvette?

        I also worry about Niche’s long term future, while she claims to be Niche’s dingo her feelings have to go deeper than that, Niche is a girl after all. While Niche may be the “child of Maka” she has to feel more than just loyalty towards Lag, and I wonder if she’ll get jealous or emotionally hurt if Lag becomes romantically attached to Sylvette. Maybe, we’ll see a Conner/Niche relationship develop or maybe Niche will be happy just being a dingo. 

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