The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Sora no Woto

Title: Sora no Woto aka Sound of the Sky
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 5 Jan 2010 – 22 Mar 2010

Synopsis: Sorami Kanata, a happy-go-lucky novice military bugler, transfers to her new station at Seize, a sleepy border town in in the Kingdom of Helvetia. There, she meets the members of the 1121st Platoon, a friendly, quirky bunch of women who help her hone her craft and settle into her new life.

The Highlights
Animation: Incredibly smooth.
Setting: A beautiful and interesting world.
Kalafina: What a charming OP.
Plot: The definite weakness in the series.

When I first began watching Sora no Woto, I immediately thought it was going to become a moe-fest with no plot and no character development. The focus on beautiful animation and gorgeous character designs indicated to me that plot and character development may very well be cast aside. I was ultimately proven wrong, but still found the end result somewhat unsatisfying.

The show excels at producing atmosphere. I was absolutely intrigued by the sleepy but gorgeous city of Seize where the series is set. From its old cobblestone streets, to its stark cliffs and mountains, to every single one of its buildings, rendered in meticulous architectural detail – I could immediately tell that the artists did their research. I found myself falling in love with the city more than its inhabitants. The show endears me not through its stellar plot or its memorable characters (though they certainly have their moments), but through its setting. Many times, I found myself wondering: Why is everything written in French? Why does war still exist, if there is no one left to fight? How did the world become like this? Little off-hand comments, distributed sporadically throughout the series, give observant viewers subtle clues to the lore and history of Sora no Woto‘s world. They also serve to create a sense of unease: a world where the oceans are dead, Japanese is extinct as a written language, cities are named after numbers, and music is used exclusively as a military tool is decisively different from the one in which we live. And indeed, the show is most interesting when it reveals the dark secrets buried within its characters, allowing us to see a different side to them, solidifying the thought in our heads that in this world, nothing is as it seems.

All this makes Sorami Kanata, the protagonist of the show, that much more irritating to watch. Her innocence and naïveté directly clash with the darker and deeper themes of the show. Even the show’s characters seem know to know this: in one episode, they purposefully send her off to make sure she doesn’t interfere with an illegal bootlegging deal. Her happy-go-lucky nature makes her unfit for her chosen profession, and makes her character unbelievable. When the enemy is at the gates, soldiers do not plead for peace. They fight.

Her presence in the series shifts the focus away from war, and more on her exploration and discovery of Seize and its surroundings. This is the tragic pitfall of Sora no Woto‘s grand experiment: while the show attempts to combine the moe aesthetic with decisively anti-moe themes such as war and death, it is far too easy for the writers of Sora no Woto to regress into moe pandering without consideration for the circumstances surrounding the characters. We see Kanata stare at pretty objects with girlish wonder, or stare at a phone for twenty minutes, and can’t help but wonder, “What is this doing here? How does this contribute at all to either plot or character development?” Sadly, it does not. And since the first half of Sora no Woto focuses mostly on Kanata adjusting to her surroundings, the plot moves at a glacial pace. Herein lies Sora no Woto‘s biggest flaw, or perhaps its greatest success: it captivates us with its promise for plot. Viewers wait, episode after episode, week after week, for some semblance of movement. Although the plot does move every episode, it does so in millimeters – just barely enough to keep us intrigued and engaged. It is not until far into the series when things actually begin to happen, and when it does, it is both interesting and enjoyable, albeit rushed and sorely in need of expansion. Had the series focused less on exposition, dropped its subtle hints a bit faster, and done away with several pointless episodes in favor of more real content, it could have been one for the ages. In its current form, Sora no Woto is a beautiful, enchanting portrait of a marvelous world; all it needs is a little bit more life breathed into it to make it brilliant.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Akira

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