K-ON! VS Sora No Woto

April 8, 2011

It was inevitable. Sooner or later I would have done a versus blog on this. Since K-ON! came out first and then followed by Sora No Woto approximately a year later, I guess many viewers felt how similar the characters looked and perhaps to some extend a rip-off. But I suppose that is just first looks and things at a glance. Otherwise both animes are quite different from each other. Of course there are some other similarities and that is why this blog is here to examine them. In my opinion of course.

Meaning of series’ title name
K-ON!: Short for Kei Ongaku which means Light Music (pop music, that is).
Sora No Woto: Sound of the skies.

Era setting
K-ON!: Modern and current day.
Sora No Woto: Post apocalyptic world after the great war that has ravaged mankind.

K-ON!: Tokyo, Japan.
Sora No Woto: Seize, the outskirts and border of Helvetia.

The group
K-ON!: A group of high school girls forming a band called After School Tea Time.
Sora No Woto: A group of military girls of the 1121st Platoon.

K-ON!: Mio Akiyama, Ritsu Tainaka, Yui Hirasawa, Tsumugi Kotobuki and Azusa Nakano.
Sora No Woto: Kanata Sorami, Rio Kazumiya, Filicia Heideman, Noel Kannagi and Kureha Suminoya.

The leader of the pack
K-ON!: Ritsu – club president.
Sora No Woto: Rio – Master Sergeant.

The other higher ups
K-ON!: Sawako Yamanaka – the club’s advisor.
Sora No Woto: Klaus – ranked Major and a despatch rider to the 112st Platoon.

K-ON!: Azusa.
Sora No Woto: Kanata.

Yui vs Kanata
K-ON!‘s Yui is your typical airhead, clumsy, easily distracted as compared to Sora No Woto‘s Kanata he seems more level headed even though as a newcomer she has lots of things to learn. Yui joined the band because she thought the club would be playing real simple instruments and for her case: Castanets. Kanata joined the platoon because she was inspired by a mysterious trumpeter’s song. Also partly, she thought that she could learn music for free! Both are nice girls once you really get to know them and have the gift of absolute pitch, that is the ability to tune their instruments without using a pitch tuner. As the series progresses, you’ll see how they both improve playing their respective instruments.

Mio vs Rio
Hmm… What is this near similarity with their first names? Oh well, K-ON!‘s Mio is shy and is prone to get scared of things that are macabre and horrific while Sora No Woto‘s Rio is the no nonsense and strict. Mio joined the band because she was forced to by Ritsu while Rio joined the army as a means to escape from her strained family relationship.

Azusa vs Kureha
K-ON!‘s newcomer Azusa is the second choice guitarist who is usually subjected to ‘skinship’ and pet name calling especially by Yui while Sora No Woto‘s Private Kureha is a gunner in the platoon and initially does not hesitate to boss around newcomer Kanata to show who is the senior one around. Azusa is always bewildered by her band mates nonchalant ways and laziness not to practice and even so they can make good music together. Kureha believes strongly in the military code and obeying orders as a soldier.

Tsumugi vs Filicia
Both K-ON!‘s Tsumugi and Sora No Woto‘s Filicia feel like big sisters of the group in the sense that Tsumugi often treats her pals to cakes and desserts while Filicia often looks out for her underlings. They both also have quite a casual and gentle personality. Tsumugi hails from a wealthy family and Filicia is the only survivor of a combat tank platoon.

Ritsu vs Noel
I guess by deduction that these 2 would be the ones that mirror each other. Obviously personalities of both girls are very much contrasting. K-ON!‘s Ritsu is like the irresponsible and lively troublemaker of the group and plays the drums while Sora No Woto‘s Noel seems like a sleepy and tired mechanic who pilots the platoon’s battle tank, Takemikazuchi. Ritsu’s obvious facial trait is her forehead while Noel’s is her sleepy looks. Ritsu is the childhood friend of Mio, thus their ‘inseparable’ friendship. Noel was once a child genius in resurrecting a fearsome bioweapon as ordered by the military officials that caused destruction and loss of many lives.

Other casts
Refers to the other supporting characters that are not part of the main group.
K-ON!: Ui Hirasawa, Nodoka Manabe and Jun Suzuki.
Sora No Woto: Yumina, Mishio, Seiya and Naomi.

Pet mascot
K-ON!: Ton-chan the turtle.
Sora No Woto: Shuuko the owl.

K-ON!: Azusa has been nicknamed “Azu-nyan” by Yui because of looking cute with cat ears.
Sora No Woto: Noel was dubbed as The Witch of Helvetia because of her role in resurrecting the destructive bioweapon Invisible Reaper. Klaus was mistakenly known to Kureha as Miracle Klaus or Desert Wolf because of his uncanny and similar resemblance to a brave tank commander of the Helvetian army who also shares the same name.

K-ON!: Yui has a more responsible and mature little sister named Ui.
Sora No Woto: Rio has a late half-sister named Ilya who was the first princess of the Archduke of Arkadia.

Field trip
K-ON!: In episode 4 of season 2, the third years go to Kyoto on their school field trip.
Sora No Woto: In episode 5, the squad hike the mountains and the outskirts of the border to check on observation devices from the old era as part of their field trip.

Place of idling
Well, not much to do but to hang out, right?
K-ON!: The club room – drinking tea and eating desserts and snacks.
Sora No Woto: Clocktower Fortress – what else is there to do all day long other than to stand guard in this sleepy town?

Falling ill
K-ON!: In episode 12 of the first season, Yui gets a cold from Ritsu and this almost jeopardizes the band’s practice for their upcoming performance (though Yui tries to come to practice or even Ui covering up for her!). In episode 26 of season 2, it is Sawako’s turn to fall sick.
Sora No Woto: Kanata comes down with a fever from malaria after practicing hard with her trumpet in episode 3 but thankfully she is treated and cured three days later (the fortress was low on medical supplies so panic Rio had to rush all the way to the Orthodox church and request Yumina’s help).

Get inside it!
K-ON!: The girls don weird animal outfit and costumes to attract potential new members to the club. Not going to work.
Sora No Woto: All the girls can fit inside the spider-like tank relic, Takemikazuchi, do mock simulation, play music and it still works during times of war.

K-ON!: In episode 11 of the first season, Yui takes her guitar to the shop for maintenance.
Sora No Woto: In episode 4, Kanata accompanies Noel to obtain maintenance parts for Takemikazuchi.

K-ON!: In season 1’s episode 10, Ritsu organizes a kimodameshi (test of courage) and to Mio and Azusa’s shocking horror, they see a ghost while trekking through the dark forest, which actually turns out to be badly messed up Sawako.
Sora No Woto: In episode 2, Mio orders Kanata and Kureha to investigate ghostly sightings at the abandon section of the barracks. Though the commotion turns out to be Shuuko, however if your eyes were sharp enough, there were actually several real ghost sightings! Scary!

Wet weather
K-ON!: In episode 6 of season 2, the rainy season wrecks havoc and ‘separates’ Yui and her guitar.
Sora No Woto: In episode 9, the town braces itself for the coming typhoon as the girls have to go search for missing Seiya in the storm.

First snow
K-ON!: Episode 13 of season 1 sees the gang going about during winter.
Sora No Woto: Episode 10 whereby Rio and Kanata upon Yumina’s request to go check on an old woman living in the mountains.

Festival and celebration
K-ON!: Episode 6 of season 1 sees the school organizing a cultural festival and episode 7 a Christmas party at Yui’s home.
Sora No Woto: Episode 1 and episode 13 (OVA episode) see the town having their own traditional festival to commemorate the Fire Maidens. Also in episode 7, the girls attend the Fiesta des Lumieres, which is something similar to the Japanese Bon Odori.

Greatest challenge
K-ON!: Playing a live concert and aiming for the budoukan.
Sora No Woto: Preventing the tension and escalation of war between Roman and Helvetia army instigated by Hopkins.

Music instruments featured
K-ON!: Rock band instruments such as guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.
Sora No Woto: Trumpet/bugle.

Music genre
Refers to most of the background music or insert songs in the series.
K-ON!: Rock, pop and jazzy and casual tunes.
Sora No Woto: Orchestra and classical.

Insert song of the series
K-ON!: Fuwa Fuwa Time.
Sora No Woto: Amazing Grace (rendition).

K-ON!: A cassette tape turning on to Side B.
Sora No Woto: Chibi drawings of the platoon girls holding a giant flag and having a meal together.

Opening and ending themes
K-ON!: All themes are sung by the After School Tea Time’s seiyuu. First season’s opening theme is Cagayake Girls and first season’s ending theme is Don’t Say ‘Lazy’. For the second season, the first opening theme is Go! Go! Maniac and the second opening theme is Utauyo! Miracle. The second season’s first ending theme is Listen!! and No Thank You! is the second ending theme. Yui’s seiyuu (Aki Toyosaki) takes the lead vocals for all the opening themes while Mio’s seiyuu (Youko Hikasa) does all the ending themes.
Sora No Woto: The opening theme is Hikari No Senritsu by Kalafina while the ending theme is Girls Be Ambitious by Haruka Tomatsu.

Number of episodes
K-ON!: The first season has 13 episodes. The second season has additional 26 episodes.
Sora No Woto: There are 12 episodes in total.

Other special episodes
K-ON!: An OVA called K-ON! Live House was released back in January 2010. A film was planned after the end of the second season. For each Blu-Ray Discs bought, there are several short comical skits called Uraon!
Sora No Woto: Two OVA episodes were released back in June and September 2010 each.

It is hard to pick which one is better overall but personally I like K-ON! is because of Mio! Haha! Because of the popularity of this series, fans got their wish as a sequel was subsequently made and then a movie announced. Because of that, viewers get to see more character development of the girls as compared to Sora No Woto, whose run is much shorter. One thing I like about the latter series is the beautifully drawn sceneries. Might not be the best but at least they are quite pleasant to the eye. Anyhow both shows see how the main group of girls bond and interact with each other as their relationship deepens with each time passing by, making them family. K-ON! may lack any action bits and is usually more focused on the slice of life, daily drama that the girls go through and lack any action that adrenaline junkies would look forward too. Although Sora No Woto has this little fair share too, the tension and little action were just towards the end at the climax of the story. Perhaps in the future, there’ll be another anime about music with new characters that combines traits of the characters in these series. It would be really interesting to see how they turn out and look like. For now, let’s just enjoy the music that they play.

Sora No Woto

December 6, 2010

Everyone has been saying how Sora No Woto is the military version of K-ON! Okay, if you look closely to the characters, sure they have that uncanny appearance to the all-girl high school rock band. At first it bugged me since the official English translation of the title meant Sound of the Skies. Now, ‘sound’ in Japanese is ‘oto’ so what the heck do they put ‘woto’ instead since there is no such meaning? My guess is that the ‘wo’ hiragana/katana is rarely used so it is set in a way to make viewers of the language not to forget that uncommon word. Just guessing.

Instead of the hustle and bustle of the modern Tokyo life, the setting here is a quiet and sleepy countryside town named Seize (pronounced say-iz) based on a real life town of Cueca in Spain, located at the very edge of civilization in Helvetia (that’s another name for Switzerland for those who don’t know. Like me). And another big war has recently ravaged mankind so it’s no surprise to see the many ruins and scars of war left behind. So we have a group of military girls playing music in this peaceful town in a nutshell, isn’t it? Well, only the newcomer to the Clocktower Fortress, Private 2nd Class Kanata Sorami, a 15 year old girl who is being newly drafted to serve the 1121st platoon in the said town. She is a bugler and has exceptional pitch in identifying the slightest sound and could even give its accurate pitch! However, the same couldn’t be said about her music prowess. Just like K-ON!’s Yui, eh? Note how similar they look and behave? Only difference is Yui is more airhead than Kanata. While I’m at this, let’s just size up the rest of the look-a-likes. Sora No Woto’s Sergeant Rio Kazumiya resembles to K-ON!’s Mio, 2nd Lieutenant Filicia Heideman to Tsumugi, Private Kureha Suminoya to Azusa and well, the leftover means Corporal Noel Kannagi has to be Ritsu. Is this an alternate world? Oh yeah. I also saw a chart whereby if you mix the K-ON! girls with those in Strike Witches, they really do look like the ones here! A new way to create anime characters, eh?

Episode 1 starts off with young and orphaned Yui dreaming how she met a beautiful blonde bugler and is taken in by her. In present, she departs from her male comrades while riding the train coach and is taken by Major Klaus to her designated post. Eager to start her new duties, Kanata finds the town in the midst of preparations of a festival. Like a country bumpkin, she is awed by the several sights of the town. Then she gets caught in the middle when the festival begins. Everyone is splashing coloured water everywhere! Well, just join in the fun. Drenched and her green military outfit now dyed in orange, Rio picks her up. After cleaning up, Kanata hears the sound of Rio’s necklace and identifies the sound as A-flat. An owl soon steals it and Kanata could’ve fallen to her death from the fortress if Rio didn’t stop her. Rio leaves for the festival’s main procession. We learn the legend of how this town was nearly destroyed by a fire breathing winged demon. It took all the maidens and trapped them in the underground maze. But they didn’t give up and called each other using the golden horns given by the angel. They got out and with the help of a spider-like being, defeated the demon. But fire spewed out after cutting its head and this threatened to burn the town down. So the villagers continue to pour water on them every day till the fire was put out a year later. To honour their sacrifices, this is how the water spraying festival started.

At the same time while Rio is performing the ritual, Kanata heard the sound of Rio’s necklace and follows it to a canyon. In her attempts to retrieve the dropped necklace, she fell into the river below. She sees a giant fossil of a winged creature. When she resurfaces, she notes how she doesn’t want to be alone and blows her bugle. The people at the procession (which is near its end) are of course startled as they think it’s the sound of the golden horn. When Kanata wakes up, she is back at the Fortress. Though Rio got her necklace back, she tells her not to do something that reckless again. Bringing her to the top of the tower, Rio who is a pro trumpeter blows her trumpet and Kanata is awed by her beautiful melody. She decides to train Kanata to become one. However she is so horrible that the townspeople even shook their heads! Yeah, she probably needs more air. It’s going to be a long road, Rio.

Kanata is introduced to the rest of her platoon members over breakfast in episode 2. The gentle and big sister of the pack Filicia, the seemingly cocky gunner Kureha and the sleepyhead pilot-cum-mechanic Noel. Wow, such colourful characters. Why not? This looks like a dull town, isn’t it? You can tell Kureha isn’t fond of the newcomer but has been tasked by Rio to show Kanata around the base. So a little geographic lesson like Seize is the at the edge of Helvetia’s border in which beyond that it is Nomansland (no-man’s-land, geddit?) and protocol like the telephone hotline in their base is the only line connected to the Capital (it rarely rings but in the even if it does, it’s either big news or big sh*t). After showing her around the places, Kureha takes her to the garage and introduces her to their huge Vector-class Zero Autonomous Tank Walker, Takemikazuchi. Seems to be one of those old relics from the war and it’s always being fixed due to lack of parts. Later on a rainy night, Kanata thinks she spotted some ghosts in the barracks. Oh, why is Rio and Kureha panicking? Since the duo firmly believe ghosts do not exist, what better way to confirm that as Rio orders Kureha and Kanata to thoroughly investigate it! Bummer. Trekking into the abandoned and dilapidated section, Kanata realizes this was once a school music room. Kanata hears Kureha’s woes how they’re just a tiny army always neglected since their supplies always reached late and never get to do real missions. But Kanata notes how she loves it. Then the ‘ghost’ turns out to be the owl but it scared the daylights out of them as they make a dash out. Kanata tripped so Kureha fired a shot. Thankfully the owl fainted due to that fright and didn’t get killed. Or else they could’ve had owl meat for dinner. Just kidding. As they cage the owl, Filicia calls the owl Shuko and it becomes some sort of their mascot. Well, their emblem has an owl, right? Rio sometimes takes over Kanata’s morning trumpeting duties. Or else the townspeople will complain… Kanata gets closer to tsundere Kureha when the latter finds her a chair of her own.

In episode 3, Kanata may still need lots of practice with her trumpeting but she sure makes a good cook. Filicia takes Kureha and Noel to the nearby town of Treize to receive their much needed supplies. Rio has Kanata undergo intensive trumpeting training. During break, they learn each other’s reasons on why they join the army (Kanata thought she could learn music for free?). Suddenly Kanata starts to develop a fever so Rio panics. Since their medical supplies are low, Rio takes drastic action by heading into town. She seeks the help of the local priestess of the local town’s Orthodox Church, Yumina. She treats Kanata’s malaria though it won’t be life threatening. Yumina leaves after giving instructions to Rio on how to treat Kanata. Kanata dreams of the blonde trumpeter again as she played a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. When Kanata wakes up, she tells that to Rio that she heard that song long ago and wanted to play it herself. The song that seems to resound from the sky. Rio takes her to Takemikazuchi and starts it up. She plays that Amazing Grace song, which is probably the complete version of it. With that, a few senpai advice for her kouhai like how no one is useless and someday she’ll be in a position to protect someone.

Kanata and Noel are given a mission to buy items in the list in episode 4. They stop outside the glassware shop of Naomi. Kanata is fascinated by a little glass sculpture of a dolphin. Apparently from what they said, that mammal is already extinct! As they continue to buy more stuff (they trade in Yen?), they bump into a couple of orphaned kids from the church, Seiya and Mishio. They are under the care of Yumina. However Seiya does not have favourable views on the soldier girls so he says harsh words on them and reiterates his hate towards them before running away. The duo’s next destination is the big glass factory run by the owner Carl. Seems Noel is trying to make the perfect lens for Takemikazuchi but all the while it has failed due to some distortion error. Not that I can understand Noel’s technical explanations. Kanata learns how the glass industry thrived during the war because the military had high demand for it. Noel likes machines but sometimes feels they hurt people and wonders if they are scary so Kanata comforts her by saying the people who use the machine to kill is even scarier. Probably it’s Noel habit to suddenly just fall asleep just like that. Kanata observes Carl and his assistant make glass and learn valuable insights like probably why her trumpeting isn’t good because she’s trying to force the sound out. She gets inspired and thanks him. She rushes out on top the cliff and starts blowing her bugle. Now it really does sound beautiful. Goodbye to needless headaches. As they return to their fortress, Noel tests the new lens and finally it worked. Kureha notes how happy Noel is that this is the first time she sees her smiling.

As the girls are having mock simulation in Takemikazuchi in episode 5, Klaus arrives to bring them some letters. From Kureha’s body language, we can tell that girl has feelings for that guy. Filicia announces an excursion tomorrow at the border of Nomansland. Kanata, Kureha and Noel are to trek by foot to examine several observation devices from the old era. Oh yes. They have to carry heavy backpacks too! OMG! They can’t even lift it up, how can they walk?! Yeah even Rio talks big and tries to show them how it’s done but she looks so uncool in her own struggle. Well, you can’t disobey your commander’s orders, can’t you? Sure they can give up but I don’t think Rio will allow it before the excursion even starts! The trio slowly trek to designated points while watching the breathtaking scenery. Unknown to them, Rio is following and keeping an eye on them from a distance. They decide to stop by a river and have fun for a break. When it’s time for food, they return to find their backpacks plundered and their rations gone. Oh dear. They journey to their next goal and even if Kanata wanted to pick some bayberry fruits of the tree, Kureha insists they finish their mission. Rio decides to go pick some but encounters a wild boar. The trio finally reach the last post and see the overwhelming but catastrophic view of Nomansland. Several ruins of the last era’s war machines lying to waste and rust in the desert. Then Filicia appears saying how she just wanted to show them this as every maiden on the fortress have been here at least once and carved their names here. And she shows them 1 more surprise, the much deserved hotspring for them to rest their weary bodies. Rio is there too but she looks a little messed up. She’s got some bayberries as the girls enjoy their bath and dinner. It was definitely worth the trouble.

Kanata gets her first salary and day off in episode 6. Unknown to Kanata, the rest knows that their salaries are always delayed so it seems they’ve been making extra cash from… Gasp! Something dubious? We see Filicia in a sexy black sleeveless gown, Rio, Noel and Kureha in some Smooth Criminal-kind suits doing some illegal trade with a group of mobsters. The trade doesn’t go well and both sides took out their guns. OMG! Why is Kureha and Noel carrying heavy chain machine guns?! In the end those foolish men didn’t learn their place and got shot!!! Their pair of accomplices outside got scared and decides to flee and to hell with the goods. However their getaway car is crushed by falling rocks so they run as fast as their feet could carry them. However it’s revealed that all this is a setup to deceive those duo and the shot mobsters aren’t dead. After making an agreement to split the profits they see the crushed car but note that this isn’t part of their plan. This was what happened earlier. Kanata went to Naomi’s place to buy that glass dolphin but doesn’t have enough money. She pleads to Naomi to reserve it for her. Then she meets Mishio in the street market as she is looking for a box. Mishio didn’t want her help so she runs off. Then Kanata meets Yumina and was told Mishio was finding a precious memento from her late mom which she believed to be in the market. Dejected Mishio sits on top of an abandoned building located precariously over the edge while thinking back the happy times she spent with her family. She got startled by a gunshot sound and slips. This is followed by several machine gun shots. She is hanging by the edge but was luckily saved by Kanata who came in search for her. Kanata manages to pull her up before the gutter breaks and falls, causing the rocks below to collapse onto the car below (remember that scene?). The duo feeling guilty decide to compensate for it. Of course it’s not enough but Naomi says she has already been ‘paid’. Then Mishio spots her box in the car. She returns to the church as it reveals inside the box a pair of precious hair braids her mom left her while the priest tells Kanata her sad story of how she became an orphan. Kanata returns back and helps Rio dry her hair as they talk about fate and meetings.

Episode 7 begins with Filicia’s past. Back when she was with her comrades, she seemed like an anxious person. During the war, her comrades were killed in an ambush right in front of her eyes though she was the only survivor. In the heat of summer, seems this town too has a similar tradition to honour the departed souls like Japan’s Bon Odori festival. As they’re cutting wood, Filicia accidentally skims the skin of her thumb and relives horrifying memories of the war. She remembers the time she spent with her comrades and her senpai’s words of the wondering what humans are fighting for since they’re going to completely perish eventually. During Filicia’s lonely wandering and trying to recover from the shocks of war, she fell into some ruin and I guess the effects of war is so great that she starts talking to a dead soldier corpse! That soldier seems repentant that he is unable to protect and how war has left many miserable and that there is no reason to continue living in such conditions. Filicia disagreed and got the will to continue living and shouts out for help. Thankfully she was saved by that blonde trumpeter, Princess Ilya, who apologized this wouldn’t have happened if she arrived half a day earlier. Back in reality while the lower ranked girls play sparklers, Rio and Filicia talk it out. Rio feels she shouldn’t bear the burden herself. Later they sail their lanterns at the river. Kanata could feel Filicia wasn’t her usual that day so she becomes emotional and says she was worried and how much she loves her. Filicia hugs her and also the rest. Then she tells Rio her meaning of being here is to not let those girls suffer those emotions she did.

The platoon has a Mission to Initiate Action for Maintenance of a Direct Line to Headquarters for Extraordinary Emergency Situation in episode 8. Phew. That was sure a mouthful. If they fail, the entire platoon will face disciplinary actions. So their job is to make sure the phone line is working every 6 months because nobody knows when it will ring. And if nobody here picks it up, yeah, some wild imagination of what happened will go through the head of whoever is at the other end of the line. Excited Kanata volunteers to stay by the phone all day. Plus, this is Kanata’s first time answering a phone. Hey, seen anybody here holding handphones? Filicia and Kureha are going to the Capital to rush some documents. Naomi comes by and talks about the ceasefire agreement between the warring sides still having difficulties. Rio leaves her trumpet music book for Kanata to keep her company. Then it started to rain so Kanata is in a dilemma to leave her seat to keep the clothes hanging outside. She eventually saves the clothes. Luckily the priest, Seiya and Mishio came by to help. They learn of her mission and agree to help her practice by using the good ol’ tin cans and string. As Kanata practices with Seiya, Mishio got a little playful as she tries to catch Shuko. The inevitable happens as everybody starts tripping everything starts falling. Even the phone. Oh no! Luckily Kanata saves it.

When Yumina comes by, she sees the messy place and some of them in compromising position. Like the old priest in the bunch of clothes. Panties, that is. Yumina reprimands the trio for fooling around. Yumina has Kanata change into her spare clothes since her uniform is all wet. That night Kanata has the urge to go to the toilet but decides to hold it in. The phone line isn’t long enough to reach the toilet. I don’t know how long she held it in (call it bloody dedicated or just naive) but Rio returned so off she goes. During that, the phone rings so Rio picks it up. She isn’t happy with the person on the other line who feels she hasn’t forgiven him but wants her to save Helvetia. Kanata bumps into Noel just outside the toilet door. You know what? Noel was sleeping in the toilet the whole day! And what a good sleep she had! WTF?! Since Kanata fell and is in a sitting position, she can’t get up or else she’ll wet everything. Then Kureha and Filicia just return to see Kanata in that position and help her up. Oh no…

While picking planted potatoes in episode 9, they hear Rio’s jazzy trumpet play. This causes Kanata to be slightly down. That night, Kureha, Kanata and Noel discuss something may be wrong with Rio because she ate the green peppers she hates most. Then Kanata sees a picture of Klaus in Kureha’s desk so Kureha tells her this person she admired who is also known as the Desert Wolf or Miracle Klaus. After the trio fall asleep, Filicia talks to Rio and wonders if she regretted hanging up that call from her father. During that night as the storm is picking up, Klaus stops by to hand them a newspaper (apparently such print media is rare too) and Rio a message. The peace talks are going nowhere. Klaus notes that if Ilya was still alive, things would’ve been different. Then Naomi rushes in because Seiya is missing. The platoon goes all out to search for the missing kid. Kureha and Klaus then learn from Mishio that Seiya is trying to save eggplants they planted at the riverbank. The duo go save him but he is still adamant in wanting to save the eggplant. Klaus picks some of the ripe ones for him. The violent river current flowing at a dangerous speed. Soon help arrive as they manage to take Seiya to safety. However their only path is crumbled by the river so Klaus and Kureha take refuge in the hut below. Kanata believes that some miracle will happen but as Rio and Filicia reveal that this Klaus isn’t the legendary one Kureha looks up upon to. So happen he had the same name and uncanny resemblance. He couldn’t tell Kureha because she was so excited when they first met and got caught along with it. When the situation gets worse, Kureha discovers that this Klaus isn’t the one she admired because of a missing mark on his chest. Noel has an idea to pull them out to safety. The other platoon girls and townspeople use Takemikazuchi to fire a cable and pull them up just in time before the bank os washed away. Klaus is going to tell the truth but Kureha insists that he’s the person she has always admired. Next day it’s the clear blue skies. Before Klaus leaves, he tells the rest he was afraid of shattering Kureha’s dreams of admiration of him than anything, the reason why he was able to pull off amazing stunts.

In episode 10, Kanata learns from Kureha about Ilya. She died 2 years ago. Though she was also a famous tank operator, she was assigned to the royal guard but decided to dedicate herself to travel around the country to enhance national influence. During 1 of her trips, she died while trying to save a child from drowning. Ilya was also to marry the Emperor of Rome to improve relations but that would make her third in line for the throne. Practically that was like being hostage but when she died, everything fell through. Yumina comes by to request Kanata and Rio to help check on a frail old woman living by herself deep in the mountains, Jacott. They see her trying to build another house in hopes that her son will come back. But can she do it since winter is coming? She is confident she will so both girls decide to help her. Meanwhile Filicia has heard that the Roman army on the Eastern border has been mobilized. As Rio and Kanata go around town, the latter learns about Rio’s late half sister (Ilya) whom she admired. Rio felt she wanted to run away from it all and end up lost here. Kanata denies it because it allowed them to meet. As they stay with Jacott that night, she remembers how she met and fell in love with a man. They bore a son but she found out he was already married and conveniently his wife couldn’t conceive. He took the child back but promised her he will return one day. Filled with nostalgic memories, Jacott rushes out into the snow that night after seeing illusions of her beloved one. She never returned as Rio and Kanata only saw her footsteps in the snow the next morning. A narration about pain and lost. Back at the fortress, Rio shows them a photo of Ilya and tells them the truth (Shuko also in it?). Rio plans to leave the place to help improve relations between the warring sides. After learning Kanata has also met Ilya, she hands over her trumpet to Kanata. No matter how far they’re separated, the sound will echo and reach out.

As Kureha and Kanata patrol the snowy land in episode 11, they encounter an injured Roman scout solider, Aisha Aldola. They bring her back for treatment but when Noel sees her, she starts panicking. An expression you’ll never see in her. Seems Noel had a traumatic past. She was a child genius who used her abilities to make destructive weapons that killed many under the feared Colonel of the Helvetian army, Hopkins also known as the Demon of Vingt. Filicia decides to keep her here rather than sending her back to the Capital though Kureha opposes. However Aisha speaks Roman so you can tell both sides can’t communicate. And really, she’s speaking Roman (German actually as I found out later)! Though they can’t communicate well, when Aisha realizes this is Clocktower Fortress, she is relieved that she has arrived. Though she is suspicious, gradually Aisha opens up when she learns Kanata plays the trumpet. She too plays that Amazing Grace rendition. Then Naomi and Yumina come by. Naomi mentions that a majority of the Helvetian army is on the move and if it is connected to Aisha, it’ll be big trouble. Fortunately Yumina speaks Roman as she translates for the rest. Aisha can’t tell about her mission but is here to see the Angel Fossil because her grandmother was a maiden of this fortress (the one Kanata saw underwater in episode 1). She got captured and heard stories from it. Aisha wants to see the Angel that destroyed the world though Yumina insists that it was a demon instead. Their fortress is surrounded by the 9th Independent Mobile Division led by Hopkins. Noel goes into trauma mode and is paralyzed by fear. Filicia, Kureha and Kanata greet Hopkins while the rest hide at the abandoned section. Hopkins asks Filicia of an escaped Roman scout in which she denies. So he has this fortress under his control and his army search every inch of the place. When Aisha learns of Noel’s name and her nickname as the Invisible Reaper, Noel goes hysterical and runs out. Kanata picks up the telephone’s call that a large Roman army has appeared at Nomansland. The guards corner Aisha and Noel still in trauma. Aisha gets shot.

Though Aisha is still alive but deeply injured in episode 12, Hopkins kicks away the telephone and orders his troops to convene at the border. Filicia pulls out a gun at him and orders him to have his men stand down. As they hold Hopkins hostage, he reveals how they’ve been following Roman soldiers mobilizing at the rear of Helvetia. Since the Archduke didn’t do anything and remained passive, they decide to give him a little ‘push’. Hopkins continues to mentally torture Noel as the Witch of Helvetia causing more trauma for her so Filicia has him thrown into the underground distillery. But soon he escapes with a hidden knife in his shoe to cut himself loose. Aisha tells the gang the Romans’ different version of the maidens of this fortress when Kanata hears the faint sound of a ceasefire code. Noel is still traumatized by the fact she had a hand in killing lots of people with the machine she revived then and notes how Hopkins wants to fight till no one is left. The rest lift her spirits by asking her to save more lives then. Even Aisha knows that they’re both the same doesn’t want her to blame herself anymore. As Hopkins return to his men and orders a commence attack in 10 minutes, Naomi confronts him about the ceasefire. He isn’t amused and has her arrested. Kureha who was against Filicia’s plan finally gives in. The girls activate Takemikazuchi and blasts out of the garage. Hopkins orders his men to go after it but the townspeople prevent them in support for their soldier girls. He has no choice but to reconvene at the rear. As Takemikazuchi swiftly dashes across the plains, Hopkins men try to stop them but were no match by the old technology. Yeah, old is gold. Takemikazuchi is one tough mother! Eventually Hopkins gets hammered by it! Serves that guy right!

Yumina narrates the Romans’ version of the story of how God sent an angel to pass judgment but was injured. The maidens took her in despite knowing she came to destroy them and hid her under the valley with the strength of the spider-like creature. To prevent her blood from spilling, the maidens took turn embracing her head and as gratitude she bestowed them a golden horn. But when the townspeople discovered the angel, they set the valley ablaze and the maidens devoured by it. At that moment, angels appeared from the sky but a miracle happened. The townspeople were saved upon hearing the sounds of the golden horn as the angels disappeared. The maidens in their final breath used the horn to save them. Meanwhile both sides are metres away from a bloody battle. Takemikazuchi arrives in between as Kanata plays her ceasefire code. But commanders of both sides order their reluctant men to continue. Then when she starts playing Amazing Grace, everyone stop and listen. A famillar side ordering both sides to lay down their weapons. Declaring herself the daughter of the Helvetian army and second in line to the throne and fiancee to the Emperor of Rome, we see Rio representing her father, the Archduke of Helvetia, to convey a message from the Roman Empire. A peace agreement has been signed and both sides are to disengage immediately. Those not willing to obey will face the might of the First Helvetian Royal Guard. After showing the signed treaty as proof, soldiers from both sides rejoice as they don’t have to fight anymore, much to the delight of the 1121st platoon girls too. In the aftermath and spring time, the girls are waiting for the new recruit but get a pleasant surprise when they see Rio return. Requesting to resume her duties and command of this platoon, Rio mentions how the Roman Emperor is a pretty understanding guy as he granted her wish to return if she stopped the war. The girls rush to hug their beloved Sergeant as Filicia welcomes her home. Their fortress is going to take time to be repaired, seeing the hole Takemikazuchi left.

There is an extra episode for those who buy the DVD. Dubbed episode 7.5 because it takes place between episode 7 and 8, we see Kureha recording a shameful event that recently happened at the fortress. It started when Yumina paid them a visit and Kanata almost found out about the illegal wine distillery in the fortress. Because Kanata kept pestering Rio whose body language indicates she really does have something to hide, compound with Yumina’s curiosity, Filicia decides to hold a war simulation via water gun using dyed water and if Kanata wins, they’ll tell her everything. Rio’s team consists of Filicia and Kureha while Kanata’s team Noel and Yumina (yeah, she’s joining too). Rio’s team is going to finish their opponents for good but are caught offguard by Noel’s creative machine gun invention! Run for your lives. When Filicia ‘sacrifices’ herself, rageful Rio shoots Noel (she ran out of ammo then) and Yumina. Kanata confronts Rio in the forbidden room so Rio tells her how they’ve made their money through this wine distillery. She also tries to play guilty mind games on Kanata like how she had her share in it like the cash and good food she ate. The final face-off ends in Kanata being the winner as she emotionally embraces ‘dead’ Rio. Later after bath, it’s revealed that Yumina was weak against alcohol and initially drunk when she first sipped their tea (the reason why she was enthusiastic to join the war). Filicia has Kanata promise to keep this a secret but it seems Yumina is now even drunk! She’s drinking alcohol on her own! Oh God! So I guess what better way for the gang to join and let Kanata have a taste of alcohol. I suppose the shameful incident was how everyone got drunk and acted rowdy and wild. Including Shuko! Except Kureha who is able to hold her cup was the only one who is still sane after many rounds. Eventually the horny girls decide to do some skinship with her and the rest is history. Thankfully this incident passed without any commotion simply because Yumina didn’t remember anything. Thank God. And Kureha’s advice about drinking and getting drunk? Well, I’m sure she went through lots of embarrassing torment and has to go on living remembering it.

Then another OVA came out in late September 2010. Many call this episode 13 and it takes place after a year Kanata joined the 1121st platoon. Her bugling has very much improved but she gets ‘reprimanded’ by Mishio when she mentions her dream of just playing the bugle. When Kanata receives an important letter from the Roman Emperor delivered by Klaus, Kanata goes around town looking for Rio so that she could affix her signature and Klaus return it as soon as possible. Kanata meets various characters like Yumina, Naomi and Maria to learn about their dreams and other unexpected stuff like Mishio likes Seiya and Naomi and Carl were once married thus their daughter Maria came to be. When she finally finds Rio, they talk about those dream stuff and the devastating effects of war on mankind. The letter turns out to be a world map and may not be accurate since the expansion of the Nomansland desert encroaching especially towards Rome. Rio then shows Kanata her dream. They fly up in a hot air balloon and looking at the breathtaking horizon, Rio wishes to seek a land that nurtures new lives and to fly far ahead to the unknown even if it’s the end of the world. It’s that time of year again where the citizens prepare for the festival to honour the fire maidens. Kanata has been chosen to do the honours this time and before she leaves, she hopes to follow Rio because she believes her dream is the same as hers.

Ah if everyone could have just agreed to live in peace in the first place, wars would never have come, right? Of course there are those power crazy people who would even kill for their so called ideals. I’m not sure if war is necessary to bring advancement and technology to mankind but I know for sure that it won’t bring any glory to us just as what Hopkins believed in. Say, what happened to that guy in the end? Who cares? I hope he gets court marshalled or thrown into prison for his atrocities. I don’t know what Rio did or said during the negotiations but I guess it was bloody effective for the peace agreement to be signed immediately. Was that the reason why her dad called her? Was she the key to the final jigsaw puzzle after Ilya’s death? Looks like it. But it’s better than running away from her responsibilities to a secluded area of the world. Eventually her past has caught up with her. But I’m really glad that the girls of the fortress are back together again. It would’ve been totally like a bad aftertaste in the mouth if she hadn’t return.

The interaction between the characters especially the girls of the fortress are the main focus of the series. Though the show is too short to flesh out their development but it is enough to know about their characters. Each of them have their sad tale and affected by the scars of war. Like Noel who has always been putting up a monotonous face, when she remembered her frightful past, her facial expressions contorted to ways that you would never thought you’d see this sleepy head to. Filicia is always smiling even though she holds the pain of losing her comrades in her heart. You can’t have a lively platoon if your higher up is gloomy, right? Kureha seems to be the liveliest one in the pack. Probably as a comeback for Kanata. Is it me or did I notice that her admiration for Rio diminishes when Klaus took over? As for Kanata, she’s filled with lots of hope and positivism for a newbie. As she gradually learns the ways of the fortress, in no time she’ll be a true member just like the rest. Just like how we see her trumpeting improve. I thought I could see a little military brass band here but I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

I have mixed feelings about the drawing and art of the series. The characters seem to be drawn in a simple matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I feel it lacked some details. But compared to the art of the background and sceneries, they are much more breathtaking and astonishing though they may not be the best. Because of that, I tend to note the obvious difference. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like paying attention to the characters and rather focus my sights on the background whether it’s the buildings and roads of the town or the lush mountain greeneries or even the sky. The animation for the spider-like war machines is fluid and smooth. I felt that they were like living beings especially when Takemikazuchi came alive during the final episode. The military uniforms and vehicles seem to take after German designs of World War II. So don’t go thinking the producers are pro-Nazi or whatsoever.

Surprisingly the opening theme, Hikari No Sentritsu by Kalafina is quite upbeat and to my liking though it felt like a song for a traditional festival. Even the animation here depicts the fortress girls like the story of the town’s legend. The ending theme is also upbeat but leans more towards pop. Entitled Girls Be Ambitious by Haruka Tomatsu seems to be of my liking too with its jazzy feel. Even the insert song caught my attention. Sung during the festival in the first episode, the lyrics are totally in French. Servante Du Feu, I think that’s what it’s called. Nice mix of the string instruments if I should say. The other variety of background music are mainly jazzy, slow and classical pieces or those that project an orchestra feel so it’s quite pleasant to the ears too. I’ve always thought Amazing Grace was a song played during funerals only due to its sombre feel but I never realized it could be a music for peace too! It could’ve been any other song, just that perhaps it was the song Ilya loved.

I’m sure this series tries to subtly hint the bad and devastating effects of war. But even up till today man still fight among themselves for the most pathetic. Everyone suffers with war. So why don’t we give peace a chance? I am thankful that I live in a country that isn’t ravaged by or in the midst of war. It would be very troublesome indeed because I won’t get to watch my favourite animes anymore :p. If I have to be in Kanata’s place, would a harmonica or recorder suffice? I mean, those are the only wind instruments I can play. That would be more like cacophony echoing through the skies then.

 Sora No Woto
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