Monday, 15 February 2010

Sora no Woto - Episode 7

If you've bought into all the talk regarding Sora no Woto being all about cute girls having fun, then you'd be well advised to watch at least the opening couple of minutes of its seventh instalment before revising your opinion appropriately.

This particular episode brings us the town's Obon festival... or rather, the Fête des Lumières, an opportunity to remember the dead and appease their spirits by sending a paper lantern bearing their name downstream. Of course, such an occasion was always likely to have plenty of resonance in a series set in the aftermath of a vast and terrible war, but in terms of this particular episode it's Felicia who becomes our focus, as we live through some of the horrors she saw during her time serving in the army while the war still raged.

Compared to much of the light and fluffy scenes we've seen from this series so far, Felicia's story is truly a harrowing one, as we see her injured and the rest of her squad-mates killed in an attack, leaving her to trapse through the war-torn landscape to reveal yet more horrors strewn throughout. This story also gives us more of a grasp on how the war which has wrecked the country progressed, with evidence that the conflict was an extremely long-running one where much of the damage was done by some kind of super-weapon which reduced those left to fighting with relatively traditional arms instead in the wake of rumours that mankind was entirely doomed anyway.

Of course, all of this is offset against the Felicia we see before us now, and although she still struggles with those ghosts of her past she has clearly found a present which suits her, making for some emotional closing scenes as she does her bit to soak up the emotions of the other girls, all of whom appear to have lost something precious during the war (with the exception of Noel perhaps, the only one not to send a lantern downstream?).

Overall, this was an episode that could easily be marked as superb if only on account of it being so surprising - While I've suspected from the start that Sora no Woto wanted to be more than "K-ON! meets the army", even I wasn't expecting such a harrowing and frankly upsetting portrayal of war as this. There's certainly no sugar-coating on show here, leaving us instead with a raw portrayal of a world on the brink of destruction and the devastation that humanity has wreaked upon itself, a fact that can't be escaped even when we move from Felicia's past back to the present only to be faced with the loss of her current charges in the cruel world left behind. Of all the things I expected of Sora no Woto, bringing me to the brink of tears wasn't on the list, but this episode succeeded in doing just that. It's been a while since I've seen such an absolutely brutal portrayal of war in anime, and kudos to this series for taking that brave step.


JW said...

That "Army Corpse" scared the beejeezus outta me.

JELEINEN said...

I think it was explicitly stated that Noel experienced some sort of trauma from the war when she states that she's the one that understood what Felicia was going through.

What I liked most about this episode was it gave a really good explanation behind how Felicia acts. She doesn't want the other girls to go through what she did, so she's doing everything to protect and shelter them. Especially Kanata, who is the spitting image of what she was like before her war experience. It took a seemingly shallow part of the show (the idyllic, every day lives of these girls) and gave it meaningful context.

I also liked the big reveal on Rio's background.

Anonymous said...

This episode managed to hit almost all the right notes. For what started as only 'K-On in the army', it comes a long way, and I think it'll continue to shock until the end.

Sumire001 said...

This was an amazing episode. The war scenes were not overly exaggerated but were real and solid. I was teary eyed at several moments. I loved the ending scene at the festival, it was a beautiful conclusion to this episode which dealt with death and loss. It was like a picture of life continuing on in a painful but still powerful way. This episode also only worked well because of the episodes that preceded it. For example with regards to Noel's doubt of her machines and Felicia's protection of the girls, like Jeleinen says. I love the close attention to detail in all aspects of this show.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Rio knew about Felicia's past as she'd read the records, but Noel said she had first hand knowledge, and I guess that might play out in an upcoming episode.

Another incredible thing about this episode is that glimpse of what a fully operational Takemikazuchi can do. The tank Felicia was in during the war was much more basic and primitive, but the tanks in the Old Era we saw looked the same as the Takemikazuchi when you compare the turret... Wow!

Also, the big reveal on the mystery blonde from earlier episode flashbacks and Rio's heritage...

Best episode of the series so far, I'd say.

dlp said...

In addition to the episode's emotional resonance, I was also impressed by the effort they put into designing and animating the war scenes.

The walking tanks were actually reasonably realistic for mecha, and the scenes were up there with a high end mecha in general quality.