A spoiler-free review of the 12-episode (+2 OVAs) winter 2010 anime “Sora no Woto” or “Sound of the Sky,” produced by A-1 Pictures, directed by Mamoru Kanbe (original work).
In the outbreak of world war between namely Rome and Helvetia, Kanata Sorami was saved by an enchanting trumpeter who appeared to her like a goddess. Years later, 15-year-old Kanata, still driven by the savior music, enlists in the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army to learn not to fight, but how to play the bugle. This particular all-female platoon is located on the edge of “No Man’s Land” in a tiny town called Seize, however, and as a result becomes the butt end of a joke, isolated from combat and mocked by other platoons and even townspeople.
This doesn’t faze the lackadaisical girls, though. Instead, through Kanata’s cheery smile, they seek sounds of joy and beauty even in a world ravaged by war.
I already know the first thing you’re probably wondering: Rome?
Why yes, Rome.
Sound of the Sky is set in a post-apocalyptic world where that “No Man’s Land,” hundreds of miles of desert wasteland, presumably dominates most of the continent – Perhaps even the world. What we zoom in on is the budding town of Seize and its Strike Witches-esque vibe minus all of the, well, boobage. Clearly, the story is set in the future, as both armies pilot giant spider-like mechs and tear each other to shreds. Plus, Japan is but an ancient culture by now. What’s interesting is that the overall tone and use of technology is reminiscent of WWII, heck, even WWI.
And that’s when this anime strikes a favorite ambience of mine. The “Old Ruin Dystopia.” It’s a term I invented for European-inspired worlds where, despite the obvious advances in technology, people still cling to old-fashioned devices and living (no offense to Europe, that’s just how the architecture looks). Familiar settings include Castle in the Sky, Fractale, Megaman Legends (not an anime, but it fits) and very few others. Call it what you will, but the concept’s interworking with not only the setting but with the characters, too, is what truly makes this a kind of utopia for myself.
The 1121st is not a platoon, but rather a family considering its lax position. Commanding officer Filicia Heideman functions as the squad’s mother, being at times aloof yet completely wary of the moods of others. Sergeant major Rio Kazumiya AKA 2nd-in-command would be the metaphorical father of the family, whipping the other girls into shape yet with a compassionate demeanor. Private Kureha Suminoya is the easily-flustered and strong-willed “younger sister” that begs for attention but is easy to talk to. Meanwhile, Noel Kannagi is that “younger brother” who, although always falling asleep, is both smart and supportive. That leaves Kanata, the runt of the litter whose optimism is overwhelmingly contagious as she tries her hardest to progress in trainings – Athletic and musical.
The structure of the story manages to round out each of the characters wonderfully, even placing backstory for each girl logically within the plot. They might be based on regular anime tropes, but WHO CARES? Contrast between these fine women works brilliantly in the military theme, while the personality also uplifts many pleasant slice-of-life moments. These characters just work in Sound of the Sky’s favor!
‘Moe’ is one word to describe the animation, but ‘lovely’ is a better one. Characters are drawn up in that slice-of-life firsthand look, which is odd coming from A-1 Pictures. Regardless, their naturally pure look and moving flow gives them an adorable aesthetic quality that helps lighten the mood. CG combat with the tanks was also pretty badass. Even better yet was the astounding scenery of Seize and its neighboring land, like wow! The atmosphere established in the animation department brings out those rare moments where no words could describe the enchanting landscape.
And yes – An anime about music is complete with a fantastic soundtrack provided by Michiru Oshima! Her rendition of “Amazing Grace,” albeit not my favorite song, was made most appropriate for this anime. The rest of the score encompasses heavy string and lute tunes with solo trumpet that are all equally enchanting. Music has not made me so emotional such a long time, however, until “Servante Du Feu,” a French ballad, played during the most impactful moment of the show (episode 12). Guys, it’s a feels trip.
But we can’t forget the reason I got hooked on this anime – the opening, “Hikari no Senritsu,” and I’m proud to announce, my all-time favorite Kalafina song! If an opening had ever fitted its show so well, it’s right here! Rich and bold, yet delicate as a flower at the same time. Not to mention, its animation depicting the girls in the goddess garb is hauntingly beautiful. Ending theme “Girls, Be Ambitious.” by Haruka Tomatsu also deserves a shout out for being so radically upbeat!
Sound of the Sky, through the tragedy of war, remains a tale dedicated to finding beauty in music and friendship even during desperate times. It shines in revealing how music can really change the world and empower minds to overcome the toughest of challenges. Though the characters might slide you by, the ambience of the show is unforgettable. It’s a shame that it leaves us believing there is so much more for Kanata and friends, but what we got is – without a doubt – a phenomenal anime. Don’t let the obscurity of this title slip by – Its message of peace is simple, powerful, idealistic, and full of heart. So much heart . . .
“Hey, Rio. You were asking if there was some meaning in this world. When I was the only one who survived, it was all I could think about. Why had I, alone, survived? What did it mean? And I realized, I’m sure there’s no meaning in this world. But isn’t that wonderful? That means you can find your own. And I’ve found mine. The meaning to my being here . . .” – Filicia Heideman
+ Characters guide the show and its message fittingly and passionately
+ “Old Ruin Dystopia”ambiance established perfectly
+ Quality of scenery is astonishing
+ All music nails the atmosphere
– Poor localization (no Blu-Ray nor English dub)
This one stole my heart. Let it steal yours by watching it for free on Crunchyroll! Just know that if you own that Limited Edition 2011 version released by Nozomi I’d be willing to trade my SOUL!!! That’s right, if you want Takuto’s soul, just send LTD ED moe soldiers my way. A “Caffe Mocha” whipped with happy and sad feels. Thank you for reading! I’ve nothing more to say. Enjoy your day 🙂
– Takuto, your host