Suspense


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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

       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.” 

      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 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.

Next Page »